Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Listen to that voice in your ear, even if you can’t hear it.

As experienced bikers we often talk about our sixth sense, that unknown something that somehow alerts us to imminent danger. I have often attributed my own many drama-free (relatively drama-free, that is) years of riding to that spidey sense, and even though it has sometimes let me down, on more than one occasion it has also saved my skin. There have been days when it has been tingling to such an extent that I just leave the bike parked and take 4 wheels. Fortunately those days are infrequent, and there’s really no way to know whether my concerns were well-founded or not, but I always felt better listening to that voice whispering in my ear.
spidey-senseBut it’s not all about paranormal messages. Sometimes it’s just good, defensive driving practices, practices that have become so deep-seated that we don’t consciously think of them at all, and so when something does happen and we avoid becoming someone’s hood ornament, the immediate response is to credit that sixth sense for our preparedness and situation avoidance.
I thought of this today when I rode into the city to run a few errands. I was travelling a two-lane country road at about 60 mph, coming up to a crossroads. There were cars waiting at the stop signs on both sides of the road, ready to cross as soon as there was a break in traffic. I saw them in plenty of time and was obviously watching them as I approached the intersection, but it wasn’t until I had passed them that I realised that I had, unconsciously, covered both the front and rear brakes and the clutch lever. A habit so ingrained that it actually caught me a bit by surprise to realize what I had done.  It may not have helped much if one of them did pull out, but that split second extra response time could make the difference. In fact, as I look back upon that incident referred to earlier (Two-legged, four-wheeled buffalo) I’m now thinking that my little voice probably didn’t desert me at all, but was fully functional, buying me those few milliseconds between a near miss and disaster by making sure that I was ready for the worst – whether I knew it or not.
What I also know for sure is that voice is fragile. The slightest impairment, whether caused by exhaustion, stress, alcohol, drugs, or even an overabundance of testosterone, will see it shut down and go into hibernation, leaving the rider without that most important yet usually over-looked defence. Totally exposed. Like a knight going into battle without his chain-maille.    
So when I see novice riders out there (of any age) I wonder how long it will take them to develop those skills and learn to listen, subconsciously, to what years of experience will teach them. Taking an accredited rider training program will give them a good head start, but time in the saddle is the true teacher. I only hope they make it that far.


  1. This is awesome insight. I am a young rider myself (5 years), and still trying to develop that sixth sense. Great blog keep this up.

  2. Canajun

    I truly hope that I have it. Many times I have listened to that voice and slowed down, just to find a radar trap ahead. Other times, like yourself, I park the bike and take the car. There are warning signs like the other morning, while riding, I was cut-off a few times so more caution is required. Rather than taking a left turn in the middle of a busy intersection, I am in the habit of making 3 rights instead

    Wet Coast Scootin

  3. ive decided to call rides and take the car, that voice needs to be heard. funny canajun, i found myself in a situation Sat PM where i had covered the controls just ready and knowing. fortunately it turned out smooth.

  4. I always listen to the "Voice" and it has saved my bacon on several occasions. I won't leave the bike home when I feel it, but I will take extreme precautions.

  5. twowheels - Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Stay with it and be safe. It will come.

    Bobskoot - Haven't done the 3 right turns thing yet (although I did do 3 left turns when trying to make a right in Australia while I was still trying to get used to driving on the wrong side of the road). The warning signs are there, we just need to be attuned to them.

  6. Ms. M - Turning out smooth is ALWAYS the best outcome. I bet you cover all the time, so it is odd that you just happened to notice it that time.

    AZHD - Just being aware that the voice is trying to tell you something means you'll be extra cautious. It is really quite a phenomenon.

  7. You hit the nail on the head! There are times that for some reason I take the 4 wheel route.

  8. Harley Rider - Thanks for stopping by and weighing in. I think quite a few of us have those days where it just doesn't feel right.

  9. Great subject, and it inspired a blog entry about an experience I had.

  10. You are right, listen to that sixth sense we all have. Yes.. we all have it, find it, use it, work it and most of all listen to it when it comes THE FIRST TIME. Enjoy the ride.

  11. Dear Canajun:

    The last time I said to Dick Bregstein, "I don't feel right about today," I got hit by a car six hours later. I don't hesitate not to ride when I'm spooked. You just can't get spooked about everything.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  12. Ken - Thanks. Good post btw.

    KT Did - Finding it and working with it is the key.

    Jack - You're right, but if you DO start to get spooked about everything (or even most things) it's time to give it up because you'll no longer be able to focus on enjoying the ride, safely.


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