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Troubleshooting my Attendant Visual Skills

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I’ve probably ridden ViR about a dozen times in my lifetime. I feel like I should know it. Parts of the track are familiar, other parts seem new with just a memory of having traveled that asphalt before.

Now that I’ve had a week to think about my 2days with CSS there, I recall the semblance of some words that I spoke to my coach when asked about a particular turn at the end of a session: I feel that I spend too much time looking for the TP and then start looking for the Apex RP too late (and then feel rushed, and overbrake or blow the turn, etc). This was a clue, now I am beginning to unravel it.

ViR has it’s fair share of blind sections of pavement, and the sun sometimes reflects at the places where you want to put your eyes, track memory certainly helps. For me, it’s toward the end of day 2 where I begin to feel like I remember where I want to be and what I want to do next. This is about the time where I have enough attention to be able to articulate what’s happening and almost enough to listen to what’s coming out of my own mouth (LoL).

I discovered that I don’t drive on the road this way. The way I use my eyes on the street is very different from the way I use them on the track. Although I can, I don’t 2-step, 3-step on the street in the car and I occasionally do it on a bike, but not usually. Which is correct?

TOTW1 pg2 it says: “Highways are constructed so that motorists can travel from Point A to Point B very easily…A racetrack is another sort of beast. Not much of anything is done for your convenience. The designers have purposely constructed a course…to fool and challenge (the rider).” 100% in agreement here.

Buried in my subconscious was the idea, and I find on p19 wherein it says: “You must work from the end back to the beginning of the turn to establish your product. Decide in advance, before you go in to the turn, where you are going to exit. You must be able to “see” the product of the turn in your mind as you enter it. This enables you to keep the pieces and parts of the turn working toward that product. This overview allows you to figure out each step necessary to arrive at the product or destination.” This accurately describes how I drive on the public road. This next sentence that follows describes how I felt at ViR: ”You can become hopelessly lost by continuing to “look” at a turn from beginning to end instead of from the end back to the beginning.”

This idea of working the turn backward has my mind going. I am now “looking” at this completely different, and now this sentence on p99 of TOTWII has new meaning for me: “Am I saying to abandon RPs? Yes, when they are just distracting things and not true Reference Points.” I can tell you, I don’t recall ever having read that sentence this way before now.

One of the things I observed is that when I can use a piece of pavement and decide that I want to use that piece of pavement it becomes an asset. At all other times, it’s a liability to me.

I believe that once I get a handle on this vision thing, I will have overcome the obstacles occupying my attention and can reach a new level in my riding. The question is: How do I get my eyes to work on the track the way they do on the twisties near home? On the track, my limits are my visual skills. On the road, the limits are checked by the law, the idiots, vermin, debris and compromised pavement.

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We have some very cool Level 4 drills that revolve around visualizing the whole turn, and making a plan for the line based on that. Some riders are able to visualize a turn as if they were viewing it from overhead, and can imagine their line through that turn as if there were a continuous chalk line drawn for them to follow. Other riders find this difficult to do, and are much more comfortable finding and relying on specific reference points that they can follow, in a smooth visual flow. 

For example, if you think of a place you are familiar with that has a blind hill, especially on a turn or curving road, you can probably recall the feeling, the first time through, of being very tentative and not knowing which way the road will go, on the other side of the hill - is it straight or will it turn? Which way? After going over the hill a few times, you have a better idea of what's on the other side and are willing to approach it faster.

That's still imprecise, though. The next step would be to have CERTAINTY on where the road will go on the other side and exactly where YOU need to be, going over the rise, how fast you can do it and how much lean you can (or must) carry over the rise. Some riders can solve that by having a very clear mental picture of what is on the other side, so they know just where to put the bike cresting the hill. Other riders are more comfortable picking a reference point to know where to be at the top of the rise, perhaps a mark on the track that they can see, or they can just know they need to be, say, 1' from the left edge of the pavement, to be correctly lined up (for whatever comes next) as they crest the rise. 

If you are someone who thinks well with visualizing the whole turn or the whole line, and especially if trying to focus on a series of RPs becomes a distraction for you, you can mention this to your coach and consultant, and they can get into some drills like apex orientation, wide view, line plotting, envisioning the turn, etc., which may suit you well.

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