“So, you’ve finished your introductory training in the single-engine, prop-driven plane which you have only ever flown in perfect weather with perhaps a slight breeze and the odd cumulus cloud drifting by maybe a hundred miles away?”
“Good. That means you know where all the controls are, and you know the difference between the wings and the propeller.
Here’s the key to that F-16 sitting out on the flight line. Don’t look so worried. All the controls are in the same place — well, kind of. Just take it easy at first; you’ll get used to the power after a while. This is part of the Air Force’s new cost-cutting training program…
We figure being checked out in a light civilian aircraft is good enough and it’ll save us billions. Happy flying!”
Colonel Robert S. Mackie (army and biker’s trainer) opened one of his article in the now distant 2004 with an imaginary conversation at a training centre for fighter pilots.
As absurd this conversation may sound, but not too different from the persuasive pitch of some dealers when trying to convince new customers to buy, as first bike, a 180 HP missile. In this way, several new born bikers turn rapidly into subject of accidents chronicles.
Mr. Robert S. Mackie continues his inspirational article: “The truth about training is pretty obvious to those of us who’ve put in thousands of hours of blood, sweat, study, and pain to be good at what we do.
Shooters, pilots, navigators, whoever: we know risk when we see it and we know how hard someone has to work to get real good at minimising risk and maximising results. Buying the biggest, baddest, tire-smoking, asphalt-eating machine your pay-check will allow is the dumbest thing you can do when it comes to bikes. And the idea that a little training on a little bike will stand you in good stead on a 185-mph machine is about as sensible as thinking that 40 hours in a Cessna 150 qualifies you to pilot a 747”
Useful considerations about minimising risk and maximising results.
When approaching new skills or new enterprises the reduction of risks and the search for maximum result are the key considerations for any human: it does not matter the field nor the gravity of the risk nor the beneficial effects of the results. Facing the new, we all want to control the BAD and augment the GOOD.
One can go as far as saying that this balance is the whole texture of life and with the years passing we become (or at least we are presumed to become) expert and skilled in the art of keeping away the bad of risk and bring home to good of results.
We understand this important act of balance in many forms and motorcycling is a demanding teacher where minimising risk and maximising results is the rule of the game.
Without the capacity of minimising risk motorcycling is the realm of undiluted fear and, at the same time, of exceptional stupidity.
Enough to look at the definition of Riding: “To sit on and control the movements of an animal or a vehicle” The full control of the vehicle and the ability to perform the intended actions and movements are the real source of pleasure when riding.
Moving without (or with partial) control raises the level of risk above acceptable levels. And this includes risks from your vehicles, risks from road and road conditions, risks from other road users.
An impressive list when detailed in each point but an incomplete one: as in all activities the single major risk comes from the actor, in this case the rider.
She or he are the protagonists of the decisions, the makers of choice, the one who ultimately controls the GOOD and the BAD by taking one action.
Facing situation, choice, alternative and decisions the key element for the best possible one is TIME or the two aspects of time when deciding.
One can require more time to select the right action or one can be faster in selecting the right one: here a simple example, the selection of restaurant.
“Mr. A” is an occasional user of restaurant and uses time to read and interpret signs on the outside: name, type of cuisine, menus, decoration, clientele etc. He may also move from one restaurant to another before making the choice.
“Mrs. B” knows restaurants better, reads guides and articles on new chefs and new establishments, passionate of food she can take hints for a tasty choice. She may analyse different restaurants as well but her analysis is fluent and fast.
Both reach, in the same time, a possible good result; “Mrs. B” uses time differently. And this is what knowledge and training in knowledge gives: more time for the best decision by storing in the brain of the learner data and elements that make the choice faster and/or by giving the confidence to take more time before deciding.
S.I.P.D.E. is an acronym that I like as much as I hate the use of acronym from military slang. -Scan Identify Predict Execute- summarises in a memorable form the process of acting to control the BAD and augment the GOOD.
The three processes before decision and execution (Scan Identify Predict) are part of a system that consciously or unconsciously everybody uses when decide to marry Doris or joining the Foreign Legion, buying a car or moving to Dubbo (NSW Australia).
Here knowledge, education, experience and training come to play: by knowing in advance the situation (theoretically or practically), by knowing the tools to use for analysing the situation, by learning “what if…” increasing the skills of prediction, by the acquisition of the skills necessary to read the situation and the hints offered, by simulating the situation before it happens and by instinctive use of the “tools” effective in the situation.
All this gives more time to select the execution or makes faster the process of using the executional tools.
Back to biking and consider the feeling after the BAD happened – “if I had two more seconds… I would not have crashed… I would not have been there”- More time I gain, more time I have for reading the situation, more I know and faster I can select the appropriate reaction. Safety is a matter of time at disposal.
For the newly-born-biker, time is never enough: his vision is short and everything comes to him unexpected. His attention is divided between controls, road, traffic, signals, feelings and millions of ever changing information hard to process correctly.
Jon Taylor writes: “In the early stages of learning to ride this increasing Time-to-React happens instinctively with most, and is what may best be described as hesitation. The rider doesn’t have the experience to make quick decisions based on experience and therefore needs more time to react. The rider does this, generally by being more cautious, by reducing speed. As knowledge, experience grows less time is needed for this decision-making process to work. But it’s still vitally important for the information, on which this decision-process is made, to be accurate. After all, just one wrong decision can prove fatal ultimately.”
Robert S. Mackie continues: “Sure, I’ve heard it a gazillion times at the local watering hole: ‘Ride within your limits and the limits of your bike, and you’ll be fine’ Well, on the face of it, it’s pure crap”
After all, experience is the worst teacher: it always gives the test first and the instruction afterward. To maximise results, we need knowledge to use as reference to evaluate practice and build up valuable and usable experience.
The amount of time spent on riding is not a guarantee for competence and knowledge. As going through life without time dedicated to knowledge will not increase our wisdom and our capacity to reduce the BAD and augment the GOOD.
“The unexamined life is not worth living” and the process of self-examination never ends and it is the entry door to the acquisition of knowledge. Without the capacity of honestly evaluate oneself, progress comes very slowly.
“What I can do” versus “What I pretend to do” is a hard question and, as H.H. Dilthey often teaches “Realistic self-evaluation is the balanced appraisal of the level of knowledge and a correct judgment of the mental and physical skills”.
Improving, maximising results, augmenting the GOOD using the acquired knowledge is better done in small and measurable steps because, as K. Code told us “It is impossible to modify several elements of riding in one go. On the contrary, it is beneficial to fix small objectives and to modify one simple action at the time, sampling the results. Complex activities such riding are the results of smaller sub-actions: practice will make these smaller acts perfect, instinctive and linked together”
Keith Code is a trainer of great motorcycle champions and his teaching applies, in my opinion, perfectly well to life. To continue Socrates quotes “There is only one good, knowledge, and one evil, ignorance”