Posted On 26 Mar 2024
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This entry is part 11 of 26 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#26


A n automatic decision, no need to think about it! Or it should be…

The words ‘automatic’ and ‘motorcycle,’ though increasingly interlinked, don’t always go well together, but there are times when your life could depend on both.

How often, when you were a kid, did your parents tell you that you had to practice to be a famous tennis player, or league star, or, well, just about anything you considered good in life?

As a child, this doesn’t always come easy. There’s always fun stuff to do and practice carries overtones of ‘work’ to it.

Then you discover motorcycling. No matter what age you commence this journey, the thrill and freedom offered are incomparable and it becomes one of those things you just don’t know how you lived without for so long.

For some of us, riding becomes an extension of who we are. We simply geton, have a look at where everything is, and then go.

But for the rest of us, who would like to do that but don’t seem to acquire the ability as quickly, we have to think a bit more about it.

We try to hear what is being told to us from the many sources willing to spew forth wisdom, but sometimes wonder what to do when these expert views conflict (“Steering? Just move your hands and weight around and it will go around the corners”… “All you need to do is push your knee against the tank”… “It’s all in the counter steering action which requires you to do everything exactly the opposite to what you do in a car- steer right and you’ll go left- easy”*).

So assuming you latch onto someone who can provide sound advice, what happens then? Learn the skill, then practice.

Did you know that there are four parts to learning a skill?

Unconscious Incompetence: you don’t even know a skill exists, so are surprised when you see it performed.

Conscious Incompetence: Now you see it done, you know it can be but you still haven’t a clue how you will.

Conscious Competence: Now this is where the skill is broken down into steps and you begin to try it out for yourself.

And now the most significant part of that skill, Unconscious Competence: This is what happens when you continue to practice a skill and develop it to as high a standard as you can.

When I was training Paramedics and Police Officers for their emergency riding accreditation, the participants often felt that the exercises were being dragged out a bit, and that they could comfortably ‘move on’ to more exciting stuff.

But what is required is the continual application of skills you have learnt, ensuring that when it all goes wrong, what you do is automatic, and you don’t need to think about it. Because you won’t have time.

And like the sports star you wanted to be when young, you have to keep working at the skills in order to be smooth and consistent – at any time and all the time.

In the recent Motorcycle Council of NSW Forums, 63% of riders who were asked the question “how you improve or maintain your skills?” indicated that regular training courses achieved this. A total of 86% indicated that frequent road riding improved skills, and 94% felt practicing skills whilst riding made the biggest difference to their riding.

Your parents were right, all those years ago.

*All this advice is exactly what I have heard provided to those trying to find out the black art of turning a motorcycle.

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Australian Motorcyclist Magazine is Australia's leading motorcycle travel magazine.
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