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dooopie
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
With all the focus on displacements, seating ergos, most people forget one of the most common mistakes new riders make!

Target Fixation

Target fixation

Target Fixation is real. Your motorcycle goes where you're looking. But why? Your eyes, after all, are not holding the handlebars and you frequently scan directions other than the one you're traveling in without your bike wandering all over the road. Is it magic? Or perhaps an undiscovered law of physics?

The idea that your motorcycle will go where you're looking is merely phenomenon that virtually all drivers (of any kind of vehicle) have experienced before: that if you turn your head you tend to STEER in the direction you're looking. In fact, it might be clearer to simply acknowledge that it is almost impossible to steer in any direction other than the one you are looking at. ALL of your prior experience has taught you how to steer your vehicle where you want it to go. So, if you look where you want to go, you kick in all that prior experience and AUTOMATICALLY steer in that direction.

There is no magic here nor is there a hidden law of physics involved. Your bike (or automobile) TENDS to go in the direction you are looking because, via experience, you have taught yourself to steer, more or less subconsciously.

To take advantage of that phenomenon you merely need to actively look in the direction you want to go - away from danger. The rest is virtually subconscious reaction. Of course it takes more than a turn of your eyes or even your head. You still need to steer away from danger. Since it is HARD to steer away from what you're looking at, and easy (almost automatic) to steer in the direction you are looking, surely it makes sense to look where you want to go.

But we have also been well advised to keep our head and eyes 'up' and pointed at the horizon. Surely looking down will not cause a motorcycle to go down, or will it?

Well, not directly. If you are in a skid, however, and look down the odds are overwhelming that you will go down. That, because you will have failed to actively steer the bike in such a way as to try to keep it upright. But that's only one reason why you should keep your head up and eyes looking at the horizon. The other is that only by doing so can you actively scan for hazards or know, for sure, if your bike is vertical. But that's another story.
 

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You can use the same phenomenon to your advantage. Look where you want to go, and chances are thats where the bike will go. Pretty simple and obvious, but I bet crashes would get cut dramatically if people did it.
 

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Agreed...looking through the turn was one of the harder things for me to get used to...but now that I do it without thinking it makes turning that much easier.
 

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dooopie
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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
You can use the same phenomenon to your advantage. Look where you want to go, and chances are thats where the bike will go. Pretty simple and obvious, but I bet crashes would get cut dramatically if people did it.
Yup, in the OT it mentions that too. It really is a useful tactic to get used to, everyone! Don't focus too much on what you're going to hit, chances are you'll hit it if you keep staring.
 

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Yup, in the OT it mentions that too. It really is a useful tactic to get used to, everyone! Don't focus too much on what you're going to hit, chances are you'll hit it if you keep staring.
It is there, but it bears repeating over and over and over again.
 

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Good post.

Target fixation is one of the biggest obstacles to overcome for most new riders, and a lot of experienced riders as well.

The problem is, target fixation becomes deadly in panic situations, and it's hard to practice these panic situations. Praciticing what to do is a little easier than what not to do.

Aside from looking through turns, and being aware that I'm intentially doing that, I often will practice counter steering and changing lines in a turn. These panic situations that often result in target fixation are when we find we're into a turn too hot, or come across an unseen obstacle mid turn, so I like to practice changing my line through a turn, and practicing countersteering is key to this, push on the inside handle bar and the bike turns sharper, and by all means don't chop the throttle! maintain throttle, or slowly and smoothly accelerate.

So now that the new rider knows that this is a serious problem, what do you practice so that you won't instinctively fall into target fixation when you have that pucker moment. So let's list what we each practice to minimize that possibility.
 

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Live to ride
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its mind over matter, it can be taken in different perspectives of life. your brain is very powerful.
 

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FWIW, I don't think the phrase "look through the turn" is particularly good advice on its own. It can lead to simply staring off into the distance. I would say something like "once you know the turn is clear (no rocks, sand, etc.) find an object at the turn exit and lock your eyes on it until the turn is made."
 

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Just Kiss The Tip
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FWIW, I don't think the phrase "look through the turn" is particularly good advice on its own. It can lead to simply staring off into the distance. I would say something like "once you know the turn is clear (no rocks, sand, etc.) find an object at the turn exit and lock your eyes on it until the turn is made."
not questinoning your riding experience as I am sure it is definitely more than mine...

...but what happens if you can't see all the way through the turn to asses no rocks, sand, gravel i.e. behind an SUV, truck or simply the turn just has a far away vanishing point?
 

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FWIW, I don't think the phrase "look through the turn" is particularly good advice on its own. It can lead to simply staring off into the distance. I would say something like "once you know the turn is clear (no rocks, sand, etc.) find an object at the turn exit and lock your eyes on it until the turn is made."
I wouldn't agree. This leads to looking down at turn out.

There may not be a perfect single thing to say. But target fixation is genetic -- focusing on danger. This is one of those genetic things that is programmed for slow speeds and counter-productive at vehicle speeds.

Its not caused by how we teach turning.
 

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Something I have heard experienced riders say is that when they find they misjudged their entry speed and start to run wide they look at a spot several feet inside the turn to try to get the bike over harder to make the turn. and fight the temptation to look for a place to crash.
 

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Something I have heard experienced riders say is that when they find they misjudged their entry speed and start to run wide they look at a spot several feet inside the turn to try to get the bike over harder to make the turn. and fight the temptation to look for a place to crash.
I'm not claiming any great experience, but this is absolutely key....the moment you start looking for a place to crash it is OVER.
 

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I'm not claiming any great experience, but this is absolutely key....the moment you start looking for a place to crash it is OVER.
+1. But I'd say it differently

The moment you decide you're going to crash and hope to miss that tree, you'll hit it.

Yours is more elegant, but what people hit is what they were staring at to most trying to miss.
 

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not questinoning your riding experience as I am sure it is definitely more than mine...

...but what happens if you can't see all the way through the turn to asses no rocks, sand, gravel i.e. behind an SUV, truck or simply the turn just has a far away vanishing point?
Lock onto something you CAN see, then find something else further downrange as the turn opens up. A sign, a bush, a telephone pole, something. It really works for me. As soon as my eyes are locked onto something, the whole bike settles down and the turn is a lot smoother.
 

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I wouldn't agree. This leads to looking down at turn out.

There may not be a perfect single thing to say. But target fixation is genetic -- focusing on danger. This is one of those genetic things that is programmed for slow speeds and counter-productive at vehicle speeds.

Its not caused by how we teach turning.
It is tough to give a hard and fast rule because there are so many variables that any plan can be what-if'd to death.

I will say that target fixation is not inherently good or bad. It is simply a phenomenon, which can be helpful or dangerous, depending on how you use it.
 

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Lock onto something you CAN see, then find something else further downrange as the turn opens up. A sign, a bush, a telephone pole, something. It really works for me. As soon as my eyes are locked onto something, the whole bike settles down and the turn is a lot smoother.
+1

Why the hell is that? Its pretty amazing how once I fix on an exit spot, everything on the bike feels like it clicks into place...and the only change is where I am looking...
 

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+1

Why the hell is that? Its pretty amazing how once I fix on an exit spot, everything on the bike feels like it clicks into place...and the only change is where I am looking...
I read in a racing book that the further you look downrange, the slower you seem to be moving. Maybe that has something to do with it.

However it happens, you're right. It's like a freakin' magic trick.
 

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It is tough to give a hard and fast rule because there are so many variables that any plan can be what-if'd to death.

I will say that target fixation is not inherently good or bad. It is simply a phenomenon, which can be helpful or dangerous, depending on how you use it.
I think we may have different uses of the term. Picking a turn in, braking or exit marker is not actually the same as being unable to look away from a hazard. And, I think, even when you've picked an exit marker, you'd find that you're still aware of a pretty wide area and set of factors.

Target fixation, to me, is more akin to "tunnel vision." It's a psychological function of acute traumatic stress, seen in everything from bikers to rape victims (who might only be able to describe the perpetrator's one eye,) to the person who can only remember the barrel of the gun that was pointed at them.

I also think, BTW, that many car drivers succumb to it, but its not even considered in teaching driver's ed or in accident investigation.
 
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