Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Good Rider, Bad Driver?

Fog draped the world when I rode into town on Sunday to meet a friend. Better planning would have found me wandering with a camera. Fog is a high alert situation and requires (me) steady concentration and skills at the ready. I’m familiar and experienced in these conditions. I’ve considered possibilities in general and specific options on the road. I feel I am a good rider and continuing two-wheeled learner.

Recently a postcard came across my desk advertising an advanced driver-training course offered by my employer. As I read through the description – evasive maneuvers, skidding, panic braking, and other things that I’ve only experienced in movies I began to wonder what kind of driver I am?

Riders tend to make sport of cagers and engage in tales of driver antics and idiocy. I suspect more than one character highlighted has been a rider who happened to be driving on that occasion. I have a lot of years behind the wheel, a lot of experience driving, but I’ve not thought much about it and aside from drivers ed class in 1970 haven’t practiced a thing.

Riding experience doesn’t necessarily translate to a car.

I was excited to take the driving course until I figured out it would cost almost 500 dollars. Sure, I would like to get on a track and learn some high-speed maneuvers and skid along like James Bond, but 500 bucks…

I’m thinking about my driving and what gaps exist in skill or temperament. I don’t often get angry anymore while driving. That’s a plus. And I’ve always had two-wheel drive pickup trucks and function fine in the Pennsylvania winters. I’ve even pulled a couple four-wheel drive vehicles out of snowy ditches. That has to mean something right?


RickRussellTX said...

My only advice: Drive (two wheels or four) safely and defensively. Don't drive paranoid. If you're constantly looking over your shoulder, questioning your own judgment and asking yourself what you missed at that last intersection, you'll fail to see what is right in front of you.

I think this is a potential pitfall for people who are not fundamentally risk-takers but choose to drive a two-wheel vehicle. It is difficult to reconcile the risk with the basic drive of risk aversion.

As a risk-averse person myself, it is difficult for me to walk away from a "close call" -- even though I've had few, and even fewer that were *really* close. I replay events in my head, trying to figure out if I *could* have done this or I *should* have done that. It can be healthy to engage in this retrospection with an eye toward future improvement, but it's poisonous to do it all the time.

Steve Williams said...

rickrusselltx: You make good points. The line between thoughtful consideration of circumstance that leads to improvement and obsessive thought about the same that leads to questioning every move probably has a lot to do with individual temperament.

I think my question goes right to your advice--- "safely and defensively" --- and the techniques of driving that constitute safety. I drive fluidly and at an intuitive level. At least I think so. But I notice a big difference in my awareness of the road. The distance from the pavement is greater and the glass enclosure of my Ranger cab separates me further. I notice how far away things feel and that creates an illusion of safety that may be unwarranted.

But I agree with everything you said. Thanks for the comments.

Orin said...

I am a graduate of Skip Barber Racing School and had seven seasons of SCCA club racing under my belt before I decided to get a scooter, and I always tell people that experience has been most beneficial to both riding and driving. Oddly enough, so has group riding--you need to keep up with the pack, and in so doing you discover things you might not otherwise learn (wow, the bike is more stable on the bridge grating at 45 mph than 30!)

But rickrusselltx's point about obsessing on close calls is one that is not made often enough. As in racing, if you make an error and avoid a serious shunt, you need to put it out of your mind and return your focus to riding/driving.

An acting class summed that up rather nicely. An actor does his/her job best by being "in the moment." If you're racing (or riding, or driving) you need to be in the next moment...

Scootin' Old Skool

American Scooterist Blog said...

My goal is to be the predictable auto driver that I as a rider would feel safer having to share the road with.

The majority of us are used to rating the skill and attentiveness of every car driving on "our" road (subtle reality?). All those little niggles which we score on the sheet they'll never see.

Its the meekness underpinning what you cite, the example you turn back upon yourself to score which is the lesson you're sharing, I think. Your introspective is my lesson.


Paul Rutter said...

I've had my Vespa 200L GT for about 6 months and 1400 miles. I think I'm ready for a day road trip of sorts around State College. I know about the motor cycle club that usually meets at Kissels. Are there ones that are for scooters or are Vespas welcome at their rides?


irondad said...

Some good thoughts are expressed here. If I were to add my two percent of a dollar, I sum things up this way.

Ride with a purpose. Ride prudently.

agirlwithacomputer said...

It is starting to get cold outside in the Northern states, riding your motorcycle is a little more of a task then it was in the past summer months, now you have to bundle up and ensure you have the proper gear for the weather. Helmets, while should be worn all year round, become more popular in the colder months as they protect our faces from the bitterly cold winds that used to be warm rays of sunshine. This fall and in to early winter for the die hards who can not garage that beautiful bike may want to dress up their motorcycle helmets with some bling and maybe even a Mohawk. Helmet hair has become pretty popular, there are some bikers who wear it faithfully and sport it as if it were their own doo. The affordable and fun helmet hair and helmet patches can make your helmet more colorful, get you more attention, and even match your personality. So don’t put away the bike yet, grab that helmet to protect your face and slap on a bright blue Mohawk to that old helmet and make it look like new. You can get helmet hair to match your bike, your gear, or just find one that matches your style.

Steve Williams said...

Girl with a computer: Helmets sure make the difference when the temperature goes down. As far as helmet hair goes I never thought about it. I'll have to take a closer look.

Or maybe I shouldn't.