Hermoine: “Feels strange to be going home, doesn't it?”
Harry: “I'm not going home... not really.”
These lines from the movie ‘Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone’ almost wrap up the feeling of what it is like to ride back from the India Bike Week 2019, the biggest biking festival in Asia. All it takes is just a whiff of that motorcycling atmosphere out at IBW 2019. Be it just the parking full of different genres of motorcycles or those motorcycle talks with friends and buddies alike or even that wave of a hand at a motorcyclist passing by on one of those simple straight blacktops that lead to Goa. It not only gets under the skin but no doubt splits your face into a big toothy smile.
But hey! You gotta do what you gotta do! Ride back home towards that malevolent Monday that calls you with a smug, evil smile.
So everything that I had covered in ‘How to ride to IBW’ almost remains the same but now the situation is a tad different than what it was like riding to Goa. How? Well, lets see what those different things are which factor in and what steps can you take to make the ride back to your second home, a safe one.
But, the first thing that your brain and the situation demands is awareness. So building that awareness around you when you are on and off the saddle on your way back is crucial. Something like what fighter jets have, their ‘radar system’. Although they have a really complex system that lets them know what’s going around them, you don’t have to do that, but something similar. (Psst! Until the helmet manufacturers launch one of their helmet-mounted phased-array setup that helps you find everything you need in that grid inside your helmet)
However, you can (to a certain degree) do something similar in your head by continuously scanning the inputs that the surroundings keep feeding you, then analysing and building your own internal radar of what is around you. It might sound a bit complicated now, but the best part is, we do it all the times when we are walking. It’s just that, while riding, we have to recognise, hone, and train that internal pattern of thinking which can really improve it to transform your ride into a faster yet safer one. Once this ‘radar system’ is built, the ride is all yours. But, take your time and build it, practise it.
It starts with the basics, the conventional inputs. That is what builds the ‘Mark One Human Eyeball’ and that’s a cracker of a system. It needs attention, it needs to be maintained and calibrated continuously with corrective lenses where needed. Everything in the surrounding will help you build and tweak it continuously, namely - other motorcycles, cars, pedestrians, cyclists, road hazards, etc.
One of the major assets that helps you assess is the RVMs, so keeping them well-adjusted and clean goes unsaid. Of course, focusing on the road in front of you is crucial but keeping an eye out on the rear becomes more vital when your travel speed quickens than the others on the highway and especially when there are other (faster) motorcyclists behind you approaching faster than you. Point being, sometimes there is someone faster than you who might be gunning it from behind you.
There are times when you might get a gut feeling for stuff on the road, a situation that might make you uneasy for reasons unclear. The reason being, your brain. It is such a wondrous thing that it subconsciously keeps reciprocating to things or even situations that have proven to be hazardous to you in the past, which in turn we are able to process them consciously and they are called ‘Instincts’. Listen to these instincts, roll off if needed and take stock, take a break, stop, listen to a song, even call someone. It is all to keep your peripheral vision updated, since it is an excellent additional input.
The human eye comes in handy, especially at the edge of it’s vision, which is better tuned to small movements, like a headlight falling right across (perpendicular to) the road you are travelling on, a parked car’s wheel turned or turning towards the road, a bus parked roadside or near a bus stop where a pedestrian might emerge smack out of nowhere. Hence, keeping that focus hard on the center of your peripheral vision can really enhance your overall sight. How do you think jugglers do it so easily without looking at everything they’re juggling, notice that their eyes are focused at the center of the act.
Like I said earlier, fighter jets have insanely fast on-board computers sensors that are always in sync and keep giving inputs, but you have something that is as amazing (if not better) as that entire package put together, your brain. I try to set a couple of modes when I am riding. This helps me prioritise everything after I analyse the inputs coming in constantly. So I get an input, I rank them, store them until I am in that situation and then off I leave them. This helps me paint a 3D picture in my mind at a point, whether it is while approaching a toll plaza or exiting a village, I basically have everything in my mind that is around me. The situation I am in right now, is matching the 3D picture I have in my mind. Is that truck going to take a U-turn, who is in the left lane? (They need that much space) Is that pedestrian on the divider going to cross depending on how much vehicles are there behind me? Will that car showing right indicator on the other side try a quick right turn in front of me? Those two flashing orange lights ahead of me are of a roadblock or a broken car parked ? Is that a pothole up ahead or just black backpack lying on road? Oh! There are a lot of them!
Okay, a constant switch from highway to village to highway again with a couple of tolls thrown in takes a toll on orientation of your overall mental tune and eats up a lot of energy and the crave is indefinite (because it uses more energy than any other organ). Of course, it does not come easy. But you might crank it up and down as needed, but your awareness gets tweaked here, even if it is by a notch. The best proof of this is when you get into a village on a highway and your of awareness changes.
Recognising these different levels of awareness and its requirements and continuously changing or switching them up and down can again improve your brain’s riding ‘software’. And this is where the ‘taken for granted’ phase hits you, whichever kind of rider you are. So if you are a newbie, you're welcome! If you are an experienced bloke who has clocked thousands and lakhs of kilometers, you know what to do.
Now get out there and ride too! Ride safe!