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Paying Attention

Discussion in 'New Riders and Riding Tips' started by adprom, Dec 4, 2012.

  1. Best to post here than elsewhere... I figured it is a good topic for discussion

    I see the advice given lots of times that you can't afford to let attention lapse for a second and it is dangerous. While I agree with the sentiment, and the intent - the fact is conscious attention is a lot more complex than this.

    Attention is not an on-off thing. There are so many varying levels and we only have so much. In every day life, we naturally vary the attention needed on given tasks depending on the state of those tasks. That is fine - however as many are all too aware, on a motorcycle, a loss of attention at the wrong moment can end in disastrous effects.

    Hence I believe managing attention levels is key, knowing that we can't give 100% brain to attention all the time. Choosing when to ramp up attention and training yourself to look for those indicators is needed. Whether its a varying road surface, unusual corner, unusual driver... Anything unusual should automatically raise the senses a level or two. For an experienced rider, that is easy to identify. The problem with a learner, is that it isn't necessarily clear when that should happen to all. Not to mention, their attention is often taken up with wobbling down the road and all attention on staying upright.

    The mind simply can't focus on something continuously, without diverting for a fraction of a second. It has to - we couldn't live otherwise.

    My point is, the mind has limits and ideally we would give all the attention all the time. In practice not possible - so managing attention is a must and being conscious about just where it is at as often as possible helps you to be safe and manage the environment. Knowing your limits, and attention inadequacies can help you combat losing attention at just the wrong moment.

    Wonder what thoughts others have on this, how they manage attention. I expect there will be some debate and disagreement.
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  2. Hmm, I'm not sure I agree with that. If you're cruising along and can actively 'ramp up' attention levels, why not ride at 100% all the time?

    It shouldn't be a case of picking and choosing when to pay more attention. You should maintain a constant state of awareness and as much attention as you can muster all the time. This will enable you to identify high/low risk situations and vary your riding (not attention) to suit.

    I.e. The country road scenario with no traffic and no apparent hazards can still surprise you with a roo. Not a good time to tune out.
    My view is, full attention all the time. If your mind is wondering, take a rest or get off the bike for a minute.

    Don't think about work, dinner, that funny joke you heard etc. Just focus on the bike and the road.
  3. AdProm is completely right. Attention is something to be managed while riding.

    If you're heading into a 5 way complex roundabout and need to change direction, you're going to need full vigilance and a much higher level of alertness and concentration than if you were cruising along on an empty road with good sight lines of possible intrusions from the side.

    No one is talking about tuning out. It's about managing the level of concentration.

    If a rider COULD concentrate 100% of the time... what would their state of mind be like a few hours into the ride?
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  4. Here is a little test for u. Just look at a clocks second hand going around for 4 minutes. Dont look away, just concentrate. It is very differcult to concentrate for only 4 minutes, never mind for hrs at a time. Just my opinion, but i will put my flame suit on.
  5. You in fact don't pay attention 100% of the time, even when you think you do. When you're looking at someothing (paying attention), the brain is receiving messages at an incredibly rapid rate. This is too much information for the brain to consciously process so it uses Attentional Selection to deal with the deluge of information. It picks out the most inmportant messages and makes assumptions about the rest. So when you're casting your eyes around a room or riding around a corner, your brain is only processing significant points and ignoring what it considers benign information. Goes a long way to explain the effect that stress, tiredness and drugs can have in terms of processing performance.
  6. My instructor said "While on a bike, you don't have time to look at that hot chick on the side of the road."
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  7. Good advice, I did that once and ended up in the back of a trailer. :(
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  8. adprom I agree entirely.

    For me there is a continual state of concentration but you are right in that the level may be at, say, 80% generally. Entering what looks to be an area where the utmost care is required that level goes up to 100% - but it maybe only for a few seconds. I actually often verbalise this in my helmet - 'danger here Graham' - when coming up to a dodgy junction, after just spotted aggressive driving going on near me, or a car pulling up to a side street to pull out etc...

    Riding an intense bit of road hard requires the same very high levels of concentration and can be utterly draining. Regular breaks or reducing speed help here if you are not feeling it.

    Impossible to maintain 100% concentration 100% of the time.
  9. #9 gsxrjames, Dec 4, 2012
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2012
    Ok, so if for example you're alert but fairly complacent on a quiet street, will you actually be able to identify situations that require more attention?
    E.g. the rider who didn't see a red light and locked up, if he was riding at 60% is this enough to identify a dangerous intersection and up to 100% for the approach? OR is it more likely that you'd continue along at 60% and not identify the need for extra awareness (as what happened)?

    If you're consciously able to look at a situation and say 'ok, this looks dangerous, time to up the concentration,' chances are you're very alert anyway (90-95%ish).

    It's just a minefield of a topic, everyone has different concentration abilities so I think (especially for new riders) the safe bet/message is to be as aware and alert as possible, all of the time. Don't let yourself be distracted and if you find yourself daydreaming, take a break.

    It is much more mentally draining but ultimately more enjoyable and safer IMO.
  10. yeah, that is good advice, I advise against riding along the tan or the beach on nice days....
  11. I think it's good to start off paying 100% attention all the time. If you do this you should be just as safe on your first ever ride as some one with 10 years riding under their belt.

    As you get more experienced things become automated. E.g An oncoming car is coming past, move to the left of the lane. A learner rider will think I should move to the left. An experienced rider does it without a conscious thought.

    As you get more experienced, more riding events become automated and you can think about other things. It doesn't mean you are not fully aware and active. One of these automatons is your mind being able to tell you "start thinking about your riding, something complicated is happening".

    It's actually a lot like learning a language. You start out thinking in English, and translating, you are 100% aware that you are trying to talk in another tongue. As you progress you are just talking in that other tongue without thinking about it. With riding you become fluent, you are no longer thinking I need to do this, you are just doing it in a perfectly safe manor.
  12. I like this idea of becoming fluent at riding.. it's a nice analogy.

    Like when you ride and your 'muscle memory' kicks in for many actions whereas, as a learner every action required a conscious thought.

    I certainly have to pull back my attention some days, especially when commuting home after a long day..If I feel auto pilot kicking in too much and my mind wandering on work crap I will actively think to myself..."concentrate on the task now, you're in peak traffic, you're tired, you're on a motorbike, you're not in an automatic lounge chair..."

    Other times when concentration needs to override your innate human reactions are when road rage scenarios creep in... those times I bring out my mantra 'calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.." hahaha, it works for me, and then I'll get over it and have a laugh at the dickhead who was doing whatever was so stupid and predictable and think to myself how nice it is to be on the bike and chilled out and not letting the stresses of the world occupy my mind.. and affect my riding..

    I agree with the OP on this topic... hmmm my minds starting to wander,, moar coffee needed..
  13. By definition YES. You can't be alert AND complacent at the same time. There's always a minimum level of alertness and concentration required to ride and manage a motorcycle. Reminding yourself of the risks you need to manage should keep a required minimium of alertness maintained.

    How does an alert rider miss an upcoming red light? You don't need to be concetrating 100% to observe the red light ahead and roll off the throttle in anticipation.

    That might be, or it's just someone managing their mental resources.

    It's not a difficult topic actually. If you ride with a system then you will always have the right amount of alertness and move the concentration onto the right things when needed.

    How do you as a rider, maintain 100% alertness and 100% concentration? How do you as a bloke maintain sufficient awareness and plan for every possible risk you've identified in your sphere of awareness/view?
  14. I would think the cases of people dying whilst playing videogames for incredibly long hours is proof that it is possible to concentrate on something for extended periods. Though perhaps not always advisable.

    I'm reminded of footage I've seen of Police training in the UK where they're required not just to drive a set distance without crashing, but will also be quizzed as to the colour or make/model of vehicles they've passed along the way to see if they were paying attention. I do a similar thing in traffic, trying to keep a mental picture of where all vehicles are, where they might be, and what they might be likely to do next - as well as looking for potential gaps or opportunities to get past cars in front. So in effect it's not that different to a video game, and makes it very easy to stay focused especially if not distracted by an ipod.

    Rural highway's are different since there's a lot less cars, but I do still like to somewhat focused by working out how/where to catch and pass a car that might be ahead in the distance - or even just doing rough calculations in my head on what time based on current speed I'll be getting to the next town. I've found anything that at least keeps the logical part of your brain working, rather than using the abstract portion daydreaming, certainly seems to help with reaction times should something unexpected happen.
  15. I would ask how many of us have reached our destination while riding and can't remember portions of the ride. I know I do this. The brain is on autopilot and I am aware of what is going on around me, but not focusing on everything at once and burning out my brain remembering details that do not matter. Note, I am not daydreaming about other things, just enjoying the ride. If I am riding in different locations or under different circumstances, I remember more of the ride in more detail, so obviously I have placed greater emphasis on noticing things then.

    I think we have a great ability to ramp up the focus levels when we need to, but should only ride like this when we are aware of situations that require it. A newby needs to have a higher focus, as they do not see situations in the same way as a more experienced rider.

    Interestingly, I have been teaching my kids to drive lately, and their situational awareness is almost zero when they start. Just dealing with gears and steering is enough and anything else overloads them. Then they become more automated, and we can start to talk about the truck that may pull out ahead, or the car that may change into our lane as there is a servo ahead that cars turn into, etc. Until you have instructed someone else, it is easy to forget how much you do automatically without even thinking consciously about it.
  16. Just to be clear, I agree with most of what Rob and adprom are saying. There are obviously situations which require momentary intense concentration and attention to specific risks that you've identified.

    My point is that without a constant state of high level attention, new riders can miss these events, fail to recognize hazards and leave themselves vulnerable. As middo pointed out, situational awareness takes time to build.

    Given this is in the new riders section, I don't think we should be giving the impression that it's ok to let your guard down or lower your attention level in seemingly low risk scenarios. Experience riders with highly developed hazard awareness can afford to relax a bit but still need high level attention. If I had to put numbers to it (mostly meaningless) I'd say;

    New rider:
    Constant - 100%
    Identified risk - 100%

    Experienced rider:
    Constant - 90-95%
    Identified risk - 100%

    Typical Camry:
    Constant - 30%
    Identified risk - 0%

    Anyway, I'm happy to keep bumping this as everyone is of the view that paying attention is important and it isn't often mentioned until someone crashes.
  17. Personally, I think we should ideally always be alert 100% of the time, even if we're not conscious of the fact. As adprom said originally (or at least, as I interpreted it, feel free to correct me), it's about training ourselves to be continuously subconsciously aware of danger signals so we can immediately switch from "background aware" mode to "foreground active alert" mode the second something happens.

    As a new rider, right now I still have to spend far too much time concentrating on things that I know will become second nature only with time, practice and experience. What gear am I in? What gear should I be in? Am I going too fast? Do I need to brake? Should I accelerate? Am I in the correct lane? If I am, am I in the correct position in that lane? Where should my chin be pointing to get around this corner safely? I just selected neutral again didn't I? What, to put it bluntly, the fcuk am I doing?

    If I go out for a day's ride, I can count on maybe ten minutes where I don't feel like I've been absolutely 100% focused on either the mechanics of riding, improving my roadcraft or my surroundings.

    In the car it's completely different. Twenty years of muscle memory and experience takes care of the details and I can relax, but I'm instantly "on" if I need to be.
  18. James, how do you as a rider, maintain 100% alertness and 100% concentration? How do you as a bloke maintain sufficient awareness and plan for every possible risk you've identified in your sphere of awareness/view?
  19. He he I was riding up a one way street, saw the guy I needed to see in his car in his drive. Thought you bewty got ya. Looked down to get something out of my shirt, looked up with just enough time to stop...well minus the front guard. The front wheel made it under his bumper but the guard didn't. He was in a 4bee.
    Dropped my eyes for two seconds and was only creeping...but he wasn't. He thought I was mad and going to kill him. I wasn't looking so had no idea he was playing chicken.
    Glad he didn't have the balls
  20. HI,

    One of the things I have found as a commuter doing the same trip at the same time each day it is way to easy to get complacent about it. Fortuntely all my other practice saved me a few weeks ago when I was busy looking at something else rather than where I should have been.

    Got a good piece of advice then which was to vary the route I take. Have been doing this and must say it has helped keep me more on the ball.

    Cheers Jeremy