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I haven't posted on here in a while but I think I've had an epiphany about my survival reaction to a corner that I've charged into too hot.  It's been a few years since I've been to a CSS camp (L4 repeat offender).  I'm humbly asking for you to help me think through the thing I'm still struggling with on target fixation.  Apologies for this long post to get to my question.

Panic, brain freeze, survival reaction - all characterize what happens to a rider when things aren't going as expected in a corner and the natural result for vast majority of riders is target fixation - they look at the thing they don't want to hit and then go there.  They say that confession is the first step in recovery so here goes:

Hi, my name is Wes and I get target fixed when I've charged a corner.  :)

I think that the problem with telling riders things like "the bike will do more than you think,' or "look where you want to go, not at what you don't want to hit," or "double down on your lean angle" is that, while it's all the proper advice that's dispensed often on forums and over a beer after a ride, I think it's useless to someone in that moment unless it's deeply engrained in your reptilian brain as your survival reaction.  To put it another way, if you are mentally behind the action enough to have gotten into the corner too hot, then your thinking isn't going to speed up to work the problem.  Just the opposite - you're going to mentally freeze up - and the only thing you have working for you is what's engrained in your reptilian brain.  I know all this because of years of aerobatic upset and recovery practice in aerobatic aircraft.  In aerobatic upsets (falling/tumbling/spinning out of control in the air) we call it "brain freeze" and we counter that with lots of repetition.  We go up high and intentionally get the airplane out of control and then practice a reaction over and over again that is always the same:

- Admit/declare that I'm out of control (anytime the airplane is doing something I didn't expect, this declaration is triggered)

- Do the same thing every time - which in an aerobatic airplane is center up all the controls and pull all the power off  (that stops making things worse and makes some space for the recovery)

The only way to get a proper reaction is to be spring loaded to declare I'm out of control followed by recovery repetition.  We have to learn to be ready to admit in the moment that this isn't going like I thought.  My own mental model is that this is like a circuit breaker in my mind.  So to bring this back to cornering a motorcycle, I try to always be ready to immediately realize that I've blown the corner, or that something is happening in front of me that I didn't expect and pop the breaker.  Once I've admitted that I've charged the corner, then the thing I've tried to engrained in many hours of practice (look, go) can kick in, or so I thought.

One of the hardest habits for me to break at the California Superbike school camps I've been to is that the bike goes where I look.  I can't tell you how many times I've gone back to practicing the 2 step drill.  I think it was my L4 rider coach that gave me the advice to actually say it out loud on every corner: LOOK, GO.  I could do it if I was thinking about it but tended to abandon it if it wasn't in the front of my mind.  After I'd been through that drill at CSS, I started trying to practice it out on the road when I was out in the twisties.  It worked for me there as well as on the track to keep me mentally ahead of the action as I tipped in to a turn.  I thought this is a great drill to allow me to ride with more margin and with more pace. But I was still having the problem that I'd sometimes charge into a corner too hot and get target fixed on the edge of the pavement where I didn't want to go.  It occurred to me that I was practicing the 2 step to keep everything under control with good margin but that it wasn't helping me when I truly needed it.  Repetition wasn't making this my survival reaction, I suspect because I wasn't practicing the first step in my aerobatic training - declaring I'm out of control.  

It seems like the 2 step should be the right answer to target fixation.  If I can recognize that I've charged the corner and trigger a LOOK (where I would rather be going) and the GO (push on the inside bar and double down on making the bike go there) I will have the best chance at rescuing my charged corner.  But how do I practice that?!  I don't think I should be out intentionally charging corners and rescuing it when I'm out in the hills on a ride. But, as in my aerobatic training,  if I don't practice being confronted with "oh s**t" moments, how can I truly make this my survival reaction?  I've seen the positive results of that kind of practice in the air.  How can I get there with my cornering out in the wild when nitwits cross the center line at me or there's gravel in the turn or I've just charged the corner too fast?  Is there a drill (maybe on track vs. the street) where this SR can be deeply engrained and refreshed so that it's there and unconsciously ready to be triggered when needed?

 

 

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*crickets*  I'm guessing all the school coaches are out helping riders at track days.  I'll just keep checking back here from time to time hoping to have the discussion.

Until then, my post was probably too long so "let me sum up..."  - paraphrasing Inigo Montoya

How does a rider overcome the SR to target fixate when things don't go as expected?  My main point is that the drills like the 2 step and 3 step are fine for having good throttle control and setting lean angle but not as an antidote for target fixation when dangerously hot into a corner.   I always try to ride "The Pace" when out on a twisty public road but sometimes I still make a mistake and a switchback comes at me unexpectedly.

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You are correct that everyone is on the road right now, myself included.

Short answer for now but I will say that visual skills are the tools to combat target fixation, so a review of the sections on visual skills in Twist II would probably be helpful in answering your questions.

For the experience YOU have had that you are describing, at what point in the corner do you realize that you are in too hot? Is it before you turn the bike or after? Do you end up off-line mid-corner, or do you get the entry and apex you want but end up wide at the exit?

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Thanks for the reply Hotfoot.  It's before I tip in to the corner.  I generally try to ride with the attitude that I will not charge any corners on the road but during a weekend out in the mountains it'll happen once or twice that a corner surprises me (in one case I came over a rise that revealed a 90 degree turn).  Yeah I know, I shouldn't have been outrunning my vision and I feel I'm pretty good with that.  So this isn't a chronic problem for me.  Still, I'll come upon a situation from time to time where I'm kicking myself afterwards for target fixing on where I don't want to go.  

A few other observations - it's not fear of lean angle.  I feel like I have pretty good BP and have no concern getting the bike over in a properly executed corner.  It's not fear of using the brakes hard - that I do in this situation.  But maybe when I get surprised before corner entry I fix on the edge of the road and I'm not watching when I could release the brakes and tip in properly - because I haven't moved my vision to the apex/exit.  

This never happens to me at the track (not racing, track days) because I know that I can exit the corner with more pace if I set it up properly to begin with.  This just happens when I'm surprised out on the road. 

I feel like I need practice with suddenly realizing I came at it too hot (or something revealed itself too late in setting up for the corner) and then engraining the SR to LOOK & GO.

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Given what I know about the effectiveness of upset training in aerobatics, I'm thinking this is something missing in our training as motorcyclists.   I'd contrast this with the training I got on the skid pad at my level 1/2 camp at VIR when we got rained out of our last couple of sessions.  We took the bike with outriggers out and practiced locking up the front and felt the negative effect of the SR to tense up on the bars.  Through repetition we eventually "got it" that if we were locked on to the bike with our lower body and stayed lighter on the bars during the braking, we got to the point that we could slide the front a bit without tucking and slamming down an outrigger. That was a great eye-opener of the effect of the SR to get a death grip on the bars during braking beyond the threshold.  But as great as that opportunity was (thank you Superbike School!) I have to wonder if out on the streets when a car pulls out right in front of me, if I can overcome the SR to grip too tightly.  Even with this experience, is this a perishable skill that needs frequent re-training to keep engrained?  (ABS is a wonderful thing)  What could be the analogous drill to break the SR of target fixation and how would we keep that fresh as we begin each new riding season?

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What spring to mind is a big space with a painted corner outline, but with tons of runoff. Each rider could then charge the corner, based on their own limitations, with no risk of crashing while going too fast to (belive they can) make the corner. By always adding enough speed to maintain this "I cannot make this " you should hopefully have a similar training situation to that of the airplane.

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On 6/13/2019 at 3:54 AM, faffi said:

What spring to mind is a big space with a painted corner outline, but with tons of runoff. Each rider could then charge the corner, based on their own limitations, with no risk of crashing while going too fast to (belive they can) make the corner. By always adding enough speed to maintain this "I cannot make this " you should hopefully have a similar training situation to that of the airplane.

That might be interesting and there's probably several different ways to set this up.  So we've got a defined corner, maybe 90 to 120 degrees of turn, with ample "no harm" run off area.   Now let's say we've got set of cones that establishes that you must approach the corner on a "low line" where you are forced into an early apex.  You start out on your first couple of passes at a speed that is easy to make the corner but then you increase the speed by 10 mph on every subsequent pass.  It would reach a point that they have it in mind that  on the next pass it's going to be difficult to make the corner.  Will that create tenseness on the controls and target fixation?.  Even knowing the corner and what's coming, there would be a certain amount of stress associated with trying to make the corner going "too fast." Would I fixate on the outside edge in this exercise?  Don't know.  But it would tend to engrain the thought that "I'm going to keep looking where I want to go" and making the control inputs to get me there.  

That might be of value even without the key element of surprise.  I say "might be" because I think there's a missing component - the surprise that invokes the SR - and the need in that instant to mentally declare that I need to invoke the anecdote to a charged corner "LOOK....GO"  In aerobatic upset/recovery, that's what breaks the SR and gets the pilot back out of the reptilian brain and thinking again.  However, for the more novice to intermediate rider, would that would lead them to the understanding that the bike is capable of more than they thought if they stay focused on where they want to go?  Would repetition at charging a corner and using the LOOK-GO antidote be the enough to get that SR engrained in the reptilian brain?  

Interesting thoughts.  This would be difficult to set up on my own outside of an organized, coached training exercise.  I wonder if this would be a valuable training option to put in the program with the options to ride the slide bike, panic braking, etc

 

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You could add the surprise with å flashing lamp. No lamp, go straight or into å gentle corner, lamp turned on, turn hard. Even better if you could have lamps for left and right, and nothing for straight on. Light must come on almost too late.

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Now thinking this through, I wonder if this isn't a better topic to talk about with something like the MSF training rather than a cornering school?  I brought it up here because I feel like I got a tremendous improvement from the California Superbike School in my skills out on public roads but this is one thing that I don't mind admitting that is still a work in progress for me.  Because of the skid bike training I got at my Level 1/2 camp, I thought this topic might be of interest here.

It'll be interesting to see what other reactions we get from this discussion from the CSS coaches.

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We had an exercise we had run at our military schools:

Rider approaches a set of lights, one set on each side.  As he goes through a trip light (while looking ahead at a radar board indicating his speed), one light goes off  on one side, and he learns to steer the OPPOSITE direction.  This was quite an exercise and would be performed at higher and higher speeds.  Riders would make up their minds before they got there and often turn in the wrong direction (towards the light).

This would train them to hold a wide view visually, not pre-decide which way to go, react and also turn quickly.  This was the culminating exercise in an intense 2 day program...often took a little while to gradually get riders to do this at higher and higher speeds.  Valuable exercise!

CF

 

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That's interesting Cobie and thank you for responding.  They had a similar exercise at the school my son attended to get his motorcycle license.  They were basically teaching that when confronted with a sudden decision to turn (obstacle avoidance) to push the bike down under you dirt bike style to get it turned more quickly.

A question for the rider coaches on here - do you still catch yourself getting target fixed on those rare times when you've blown a corner or something surprises you out on the street?  If not, what was it that you feel contributed most nulling out that survival reaction?

Yours is the only cornering/track day school that I've attended but I can't find any treatment of this topic anywhere else either.  It seems like there's great advice out there (look where you want to go and not at what you want to avoid, the bike goes where you look, etc) but I don't see anyone acknowledging that it takes repetition with an anecdote to this SR to train riders to avoid the problem.

Looking at motorcycle accident statistics, single vehicle mishaps are way too common and most of those seem to me a rider departing the pavement and hitting something (ditch, fixed object, etc).  So it seems that target fixation could be one of the top most dangerous tendencies of motorcyclists and some specific treatment of this would yield some real world results for riders that got the training.

Personally, I've got 100's of thousands of street miles and off-road adventure miles and many track days in my experience.  I'm a fast intermediate to advanced track day rider. That great amount of experience helps me ride in a way where I don't have this happen to me very often and I feel like I'm pretty good at not taking the bike to someplace that my vision and my thinking hasn't already been. But in all those years of great experience, it hasn't solved this target fixation problem for me and I'm going to guess I'm not the only one.  I suspect the answer is somewhere in the comments here about repetition in recognizing when it's not going like I planned and invoking the target fix anecdote - Look....Go.

Thoughts?

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To answer your question above, yes I do sometimes still catch myself getting target fixed when I enter an unfamiliar corner and think I've come in too fast. My personal solution is that I've trained myself that, whenever I feel compelled to pull the brake (as opposed to doing it in a controlled and conscious way), I look in to the apex. 

I've associated that feeling of "needing" to brake with being target fixed so now as soon as I feel that desire to pull the brake, I look to the inside to get my eyes moving the right direction. 

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Hotfoot, that's a great solution, or what I've been calling an antidote, for the SR. It's encouraging to know that it's something I can train myself to do if I've got it spring loaded in my mind to do that.  A great aviation coach has famously said "Good judgement comes from experience; and, experience comes from bad judgement."  

Whenever I'm setting out on a fast paced ride with friends, I remind myself that there's always going to be riders willing to ride faster than me on the street - ride my ride.  There's no checkered flags out on a twisty road..  The other reminder is to ride "the pace" has discussed in a couple of articles by Nick Ienatsch (i.e. no charging corners, light brakes all day, fast in the corners, slow in the straights, etc).  Fortunately, in doing that I don't have many bad experiences so it really bothered me recently when out with some fast riders in the hillbilly twisties of West Virginia and I got target fixed on the edge of the road in a hot corner. I was kicking myself thinking I know better than that but did it anyway.  

I hope not to repeat that very often but I'll try a third reminder before I start those rides:  Hard on the brakes triggers a focus on the apex. 

 

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Hi Pitts,

I follow you on all the points above...it's a big subject (the visual skills, and what cause problems with being able to continually keep them working well for you).  I"m just going to touch on this with a few comments.

I'd say one element in keeping one from target fixing, is familiarity with the environment.  Is one less likely to  have target fixation on a road/track that is known well?

Another will be controlling that environment, at a suitable speed for each person.  Some can handle a quicker rate of this than others.  Then gradually increasing that speed.

Some just go too fast on the street for what I consider a speed that allows for enough margin for error.  I just don't go fast on the street any more (had a few close calls, don't care for that).

Lastly, what condition is the person in physically at that time?  Well fed, well rested, not dehydrated, etc., can have a huge effect on a person's mental state.  And the mind is a whole other subject!

This are all pretty big stabs at this, so I might just be opening can here :).

 

Best,

Cobie

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On ‎6‎/‎16‎/‎2019 at 4:29 AM, PittsDriver said:

Hotfoot, that's a great solution, or what I've been calling an antidote, for the SR. It's encouraging to know that it's something I can train myself to do if I've got it spring loaded in my mind to do that.  A great aviation coach has famously said "Good judgement comes from experience; and, experience comes from bad judgement."  

  Hard on the brakes triggers a focus on the apex. 

 

Glad you found that info helpful, but I do want to clarify a bit  - it is not the fact that I have to brake hard that tells me I'm target-fixed - it is the feeling of being COMPELLED to brake, instead of consciously deciding where, when and how much to brake. Have you ever had that feeling that you know you should let off the brake but you are afraid to? Or the 'Oh crap' feeling that makes you want to grab at the brake? Compare that to a familiar corner on a track where you know exactly where and how much you want to brake, and how THAT feels. It is the feeling of compulsion that tells me I have encountered an SR, and I use that sensation as an instant reminder to look in to the apex (or expand my vision with wideview). It has become an nearly immediate reaction now, due to practice.

I know you specifically were looking for solutions to surprises on unfamiliar corners, but I have to echo Cobie's sentiments above, on controlling the environment. I totally agree about not riding fast on the street, and I don't do canyon rides anymore. Group rides, especially, were always nerve-wracking for me, once I started riding on the track I stopped riding on the street, it is just so much nicer not having cars on one side and cliffs on the other. :(

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On 6/17/2019 at 7:50 PM, Hotfoot said:

Glad you found that info helpful, but I do want to clarify a bit  - it is not the fact that I have to brake hard that tells me I'm target-fixed - it is the feeling of being COMPELLED to brake, instead of consciously deciding where, when and how much to brake.

That came through in your original post and I just paraphrased it poorly.  Thank again for all your (and Cobie's) insights on this!

Wes

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Pitts- I thought about your willingness to identify and resolve a training gap and I’m reminded of an online conversation about stress reactions that I think you were a participant of in our POA days. My recollection is that the forum was lopsided in the notion that one could train responses to any emergency situation, after all that’s what the FAA teaches us. Henning was dead set on the notion that SRs were hardwired into a person and that each person may only modify their personal SRs to some degree with training but in the end, there they were - a pessimistic approach, I agree but experience tells us that a morsel of truth is present.

Even in my days as a student pilot with Jon, my instructor yelling at me and trying to intentionally induce stress, nothing  happens in the cockpit very fast, perceptually; motorcycle - different ballgame. I don’t know why that is but I think what Keith Code describes as Sense of Space may apply.

I am of the belief that stress cannot be induced in a laboratory, sans chemicals, and even that is different.

In the times before me, the FAA emphasized stall recovery training, then they went to a model of stall awareness and avoidance in effort to curb low altitude Loss Of Control In Flight incidents. I haven’t done a statistical review to say if it is working or not, but I have had the experience of putting my training into real life practice, and I and my passengers are still here and they are none-the-wiser as to how close we came to LOCI on takeoff one hot summer day years ago.

Perhaps it may be a worthwhile venture to revamp the HURT report to include a review of the efficacy of training methodologies on single- vehicle accidents. While it may or may not solve your particular malady, I perceive that you are motivated to discover something overlooked to benefit the community at large.

Lastly, I also took note of your mention of “The Pace”. I do believe that is a definite gap in training and you may be in a good position to advance this ideology earlier in the training cycle and to also benefit by a review and dissection of it.

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Didn't the FAA stop requiring a student pilot recover from a spin a long time ago?  I'd think that stressful.

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3 minutes ago, Cobie Fair said:

Didn't the FAA stop requiring a student pilot recover from a spin a long time ago?  I'd think that stressful.

Spins are no longer part of the required training syllabus. However many, including your truly volunteered for that particular brand of stress.

Edit: I did spins with an Aerobatic Instructor after I got my ticket. IIRC the FAA prohibits instruction to some degree for student pilots, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been intimate with those particular set of regs.

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If you think spins can't induce some brain freeze, let's go do some cross-over spins where we'll go from upright spinning to inverted before recovering.  The first time I did those with my acro instructor he told me just to fly straight and level after and say airspeed.  As I was just trying to keep the wings level I said, we're at 3500 feet.  Yep, I was that confuzzled.  But the point is well taken that it'll be difficult to set up a target fixation SR to work on an antidote like the one Hotfoot suggested - when compelled to brake, look in at where I want to go.  

 

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Not an experienced pilot, so I'm missing something  here: inverted spins, then instructor said to fly straight and level and call out altitude, and you said 3500 feet...were you higher, lower, something else? 

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Instructor asked for airspeed and instead he was thinking altitude.

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3 hours ago, Cobie Fair said:

Not an experienced pilot, so I'm missing something  here: inverted spins, then instructor said to fly straight and level and call out altitude, and you said 3500 feet...were you higher, lower, something else? 

Yeah, I was so brain locked that when asked for airspeed I kept giving him our altitude.  

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 Came across this and thought it might open something

 

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On 7/23/2019 at 6:21 PM, Jaybird180 said:

Henning was dead set on the notion that SRs were hardwired into a person and that each person may only modify their personal SRs to some degree with training but in the end, there they were - a pessimistic approach, I agree but experience tells us that a morsel of truth is present.

 

That sounds right to me. As long as we are under control - and what we can control can be practiced and learned and expanded - we can act in a calculated way. But once you are out of control, you will revert to your personal SRs. With practice, and also personal abilities will help here, there is a grey zone where you are out of control, but still able to fight the SRs and act in a manner practiced. This could be looking into/around a corner despite the feeling of having entered too fast. However, if you enter way too fast, I reckon SRs will strike. For some, SRs will strike early and hard, others can be cooler customers. Still, at one stage I reckon panic will take over for everyone.

We can see this every now and then on TV even with the very best MotoGP racers, where they appear target fixate and go straight (off the road) when entering a corner too fast, even though it appears that the speed did get low enough to turn before they left the asphalt and hit the gravel. Then you have MM, who doesn't seem to have SRs at all 😁

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