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Look Ahead

We look ahead to many things. Maybe it is work related and we're looking ahead to starting an exciting new job or slipping into retirement. Perhaps we're looking forward to our favorite holiday, birthday or anniversary. We could be looking ahead to our upcoming overseas vacation or a road trip to someplace we haven't been before. Rallies and events are also something to look towards; be they Daytona Bike Week, the Run to the Wall in D.C., Laconia Motorcycle Week or the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.

Looking ahead as we're walking, running, driving or riding is important, too. We need to be able to see what we're about to hit, don't we? But how far ahead is far enough to be looking? I remember a single mother asking me how far to tell her son to look ahead as she was teaching him to drive. You'll know how long ago this was when she said she told him to look at the fender tip mirrors on their Ford Fairlane. Clearly I was rather young then, but even back in those days that was not far enough ahead to be looking while lumbering down the highway.

We should be looking twelve to fifteen seconds ahead of our bikes as we ride along the way. That means looking where we will be on the road in twelve seconds. At residential speeds of 30 mph, we're moving at 44 feet per second so that's 528 feet or about a block ahead. If we're look ahead that far on the highway at 60 mph, that distance becomes 1,056 feet or roughly 52 car lengths.

This may sound like an eternity to you. You may be thinking that if you are looking that far ahead, you won't be able to see problems like potholes, gravel and tar snakes that are closer to you. I would agree with your concerns if you are staring only straight ahead, but we need to keep our eyes moving as we're scanning our environment. On the other hand, it's amazing how much you can actually see while you look ahead far beyond where many riders focus.

Color changes in the pavement can be seen at a surprising distance. While we may not be able to immediately recognize whether that dark spot is a pothole, a pothole that's been filled in, an oil spill or a water puddle we can begin adjusting our position to deal with it. As we get closer, our quick glances can more accurately identify it, but by seeing the potential problem early we can make it a non-issue by the time we get to it.

If we see a sea of brake lights with cars swerving every which way two tenths of a mile in front of us, we may not know what's happening, but we darn well know we don't want to be a part of it. We won't be able to do that if we're trailer hitch centered behind an eighteen wheeler. We've got to be able to see past the vehicles in front of us.

Proper lane position and following distance will allow us to look ahead far enough to see things happening sooner and give us more time to respond to problems on the road. Responding to a situation, rather than reacting to it at the last moment, provides the time and space to calmly handle the issue. And that leads to a more enjoyable ride, doesn't it?

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!