Riding home one night after a good day on the road a person walked in front of me out of the darkness between street lights. The dark figure froze in my path when she saw me, (the deer in the headlight syndrome). I wasn’t ready and found myself grabbing a full leg of brake. Even among the well trained bikers when it’s panic time a rider will sometimes lock the rear wheel, and I did. I should have been scanning with my head and eyes and I should have slowed to give myself more braking and reaction time in a questionable area, but I didn’t and I had near miss that might have turned out worse than it did.
Remember grasshopper, it is better to over compensate for safety than to find yourself in an emergency panic mode. If you have to test your brakes in an emergency do you know how your bike is going to respond? If you haven’t practiced panic braking in a parking lot then it probably will be uncharted territory when you need it. Thousands of miles riding down the highway will not prepare you for emergency braking.
Be ready: keep your head up and your neck and eyes moving. A Smith Safe Driver Program instructor once described this to me as a "Happy Neck", he was kind of goofy in the way he presented it, but correct. Constantly scan your front and sides and mirrors for potential trouble. Identify potential hazards and adjust your speed. By getting into the habit of scanning with your head and eyes and doing the Happy Neck you will also avoid the big no-no of staring at an impending hazard, because you will be looking for a way out of such trouble.
Keep a cool head: Over-reacting can be as bad as under-reacting. Do not lock the rear wheel thinking you will slide to a stop like a baseball player. Joining the "Yuup, I had ta lay ‘er down" club isn’t that cool. Keep your motorcycle as upright and straight as possible. Cut the power to the rear wheel by squeezing the clutch in. Jump starting a dead motor or just letting the clutch out in the wrong gear can result in an unexpected slide. Quickly squeeze the front brake and press the rear brake at the same time. Increase the pressure on the front brake and use it to control the rate of deceleration. Maintain an even pressure on the rear brake. So many riders tell me they never touch the front brake because someone told them it would be a sure crash. Don’t believe that crap, the front brake is your friend. The front brake is 75% of your stopping power.
ALR Road Captain
Omaha Post 1