How will you react in the event of a crash?
Riding skills: How not to crash part 1
13 March 2009 09:47
Riding skills: how not to crash, ever
Bikers are sometimes the victims of crazy or careless car drivers no doubt. But don’t kid yourself – most bike prangs are things we could avoid if we mastered our brains, our brakes, and the bends.
ollow our series of guides on how not to crash, and start adding the years of accident-free biking to your riding life…
Part 1 – Understand your biking brain 1
It has the processing power of a supercomputer yet when it comes to the crunch it’s prone to making bizarre decisions.
Psychologist and former grands prix racer Tony Head explains why – and how to overcome its frailties.
‘My reactions are great. They’ll save me in an emergency, surely?’
There are two main elements to accident avoidance – your reactions and your response.
Reactions are hard-wired into the body, and while you can improve them to a degree, they’ll always be in the region of 100-150 milliseconds. Pretty quick.
Your response – what you do – is far more important, and no-one is born with fast, correct responses. Your response can either be automated – a deeply ingrained motor skill – or require thought.
While reaction times are finite, thinking time is infinite.
Think about diesel on a roundabout – the novice is sliding on the floor before he’s realised what’s happened.
The expert may not know what has happened either – the only difference is he will have controlled the slide and be carrying on down the road, rubber-side down.
‘How can I tell how I’d react in an emergency?’
To answer that question you need to examine how the brain will respond to a sudden, unexpected hazard.
First your fight-or-flight response kicks in, triggered by adrenalin. Your heart rate increases, blood pressure goes up, muscle tension builds and blood flow is diverted from your gut to your brain.
Next your focus narrows, your attention constricts but your awareness of what’s going on in that field increases. A blood-clotting chemical is activated to stop you bleeding to death if you’re injured.
Your mouth dries and your physical strength increases massively. All the time, your brain is reverting to its most deeply-embedded programs – the skills you’ve got lurking in the most basic portion of your brain.
If you haven’t got the specific program needed to deal with the situation there, then you’ll panic and either freeze or use your sudden boost of strength in the least subtle but most certain way – by grabbing the brakes and abandoning ship.
Next time: Understanding more about your biking brain