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Proprioception, Or Why Some People Ride Faster When They Can't See


mugget
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I always enjoy seeing what Colin Edwards has to say, I mean what a character, right? But this one has always stuck with me:

 

 

"I like the night race. I think it's a cool little scenario. It's something special; you only have one a year. It's something a little bit different. I tend to ride faster when I can't see where I'm going. Everything works out better that way." April 2009, about the night race at Qatar

Source: http://www.roadracingworld.com/news/colin-edwards-on-the-world-at-large/

 

It must have just been coincidence because I read that after a ride home from work one night. Nothing out of the ordinary except for the fact it was the absolute fastest I've gone through this little chicane on my route home, only about 20-30km/h, pretty slow. But the thing that caught me by surprise and stood out to me this time was that going fast enough and grabbing enough throttle to lift the front wheel on the direction change - which I had never even done before. And which had just happened when it was night!

 

I never thought I might have something in common with a GP racer, but there it was: "I tend to ride faster when I can't see where I'm going." I thought to myself that he might actually be onto something there, given my very recent experience at that time it sure seemed like it wasn't just another quip. I'm pretty sure he said that again after one of the races at Indy when there was particularly bad weather.

 

So this got me thinking about how easily our vision can trick us - we can take in so much information that doesn't do us any good at all, and really just distracts us from the task at hand. For example riding a cambered corner - we might see a big sloping corner that sets off a bunch of thoughts and "what if" scenarios. But those things don't matter so much as the actual grip we have in the corner. It seems like a constant struggle to pay attention to the important things while making sure that we don't get overwhelmed by the unimportant things.

 

How many people have experienced this sensation of riding on a twisting highway at night with just your headlights to show you the way, but you actually seem to be able to, or feel that you can ride faster? I'm always surprised by this, if I'm just cruising along at the speed limit of 100km/h with my low beam headlights on I feel completely relaxed, nothing surprises me and I just react to the corners as they come. I would have thought that the opposite is true because with only low beam I can see only a small fraction compared to what is visible during the day. (This doesn't work so well if I'm using high beam, or I'd just have to ride faster.)

 

Doing some random internet browsing the other day I came across something interesting that made me think this sensation was actually a real thing that has a cause and an explanation:

 

tumblr_mvcdtusfTH1qkvbwso1_500.png

 

So does that actually explain what Colin Edwards was talking about??

 

Proprioception allows us to walk in complete darkness without losing our balance. Is it possible that when we can't see as much, we can actually tune in more easily to our sense of balance and our feeling of traction without it having to compete with the visual input?

 

I found this idea really interesting. Has anyone else experienced this or thought about it?

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I carve my backyard mountainside roads nearly exclusively at night so my 2c:

you see less = less visual processing (less noise to process in computing terms) = more free cpu cycles for other stuff... :P

 

You also seem to "feel" that it is slower at night (i feel it was 50 km/h but the odo says its 65Km/h at night)

 

another advantage at night :

 

near immediate and safe distance recognition of incoming vehicle (headlights) VS daytime

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..........

 

I found this idea really interesting. Has anyone else experienced this or thought about it?

 

You made me go to the dictionary for Proprioception, ........ what a word!

 

My experience has been the opposite: riding at night fools me regarding actual speed.

The tunnel vision and being able to mainly see things that are close to my eyes and seem to move faster, make me estimate my speed as higher than it really is, at least 5 mph above.

 

I don't believe that my proprioception, regarding sense of balance, improves at all due to darkness.

There is no way to be more perfectly balanced than during cornering: you are either doing it in balance or doing it dangerously wrong.

 

In summary, night street riding, besides being dangerous, messes up my evaluation of entry speed.

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That is a good article into Edwards. Thanks.

I really don't think it is Proprioception. If it were then the how would you apply the same statements about being able to go faster to people driving cars at night?

I see it as more of a situation of freed up attention that is being applied elsewhere for the better.

If you can not see it then can your attention be spent on it?

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I don't believe that my proprioception, regarding sense of balance, improves at all due to darkness.

There is no way to be more perfectly balanced than during cornering: you are either doing it in balance or doing it dangerously wrong.

 

The way I understand it is that it's not so much a case of proprioception/balance/etc. actually improving at night, it's just that it takes over as the dominant sense (rather than the sense of sight which is dominant during the day).

 

And yep I agree - if you're successfully riding a corner you've already got it "perfect", as far as there not being any other way to do it (you can't use the wrong lean angle and stay on the same line at the same speed). But there is a lot more going on than just being balanced in a corner, lots of need to sense distance and position in space as you're riding through a series of corners, choosing turn points, braking points etc.?

 

I really don't think it is Proprioception. If it were then the how would you apply the same statements about being able to go faster to people driving cars at night?

I see it as more of a situation of freed up attention that is being applied elsewhere for the better.

 

Interesting point about cars... but who says it doesn't apply to car drivers? Have you ever noticed a tendency to speed more while driving at night? ;)

 

I just remembered about night time karting sessions. Once I get into the groove my vision surely mustn't be giving me as much input? Because all I see is a constant twisting blur - it doesn't even feel as if I'm riding the track, so much as just remaining stationary and the track is coming to me and passing under my wheels! Now that I think about it that's the same type of feeling that I get when riding a set of corners at night. Not as intense as at karting though.

 

I would have tended to agree about more attention being freed up, maybe that is part of it... but now that I think about proprioception as being the dominant sense at night it makes more sense. Unless you have some kind of balance impairment (inner ear damage or infection for example) then it seems like it's reasonable to say that proprioception is a 100% trustworthy sense that won't lead you astray. Compared with eyesight, which of course is always accurate (unless you're hallucinating etc.) but it can trick us up while riding because we can easily pay attention to things which aren't really important. We also need to be mindful to direct our sight correctly. Whereas proprioception can only sense your current situation. So it makes me wonder if there is a way to rely more on proprioception and allow it to be the dominant sense, even during the day?

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Mugget, I think I understand where you are trying to go with this. I am not 100% sold that it is the correct word for what you are suggesting.

From the clinical side it is not. Learning new skills, yes. Training to become better or quicker, yes.

I think the overall topic is worth studying in more depth, if for no other reason maybe to find a word that fits better for what you are trying to achieve.

Whereas, Kinesthesia may be a more appropriate word for the car/kart driving because of the lack of impact from the inner ear dealing with the equilibrium/balance aspect. Then again that may be off target too.

 

Your comment about eyesight always being accurate.... I will disagree with that. Have you taken any visual test where you are watching the person talk and your eyes tell you they are saying one word but in reality they are saying something else? :D

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