Women Riders

Object Fixation

Written by  August 31, 2006

Dear Goldie,
I really have enjoyed reading your articles on appropriate motorcycle riding. As an 11-year veteran of riding medium size (Triumph Bonneville) motorcycles, I appreciate reading your pointers that allow me to continue reinforcing and upgrading my riding knowledge.

I haven’t had a chance to read all of your articles just yet, so forgive me if you have already covered the following point. I know you have alluded to it somewhat in your “stopping” article; perhaps an article dedicated to the point might make more of an impact on riders that haven’t realized it yet.

One of the very best pieces of advice the MSF instructor gave me was to “look where you want to go, not to where you want to avoid.” It has come in handy not only for me, both on my bike and in my car, but also for my friends. Perhaps you could find the time in a future article to expound in your easy to understand manner the benefits of looking where you want/need to go, and not focus on where you don’t want to be.

Again, many thanks for the most useful and enjoyable articles on safe motorcycle operation.

Larry and AnnMarie McDermott
Hollywood, Florida


Hello Larry and AnnMarie,
Thanks so much for your input on articles of interest for our readers. I appreciate your feedback and hope we can delve a little deeper into the “looking ahead” technique.

Let’s start out by saying there is a big difference between watching and looking. If you are watching as you ride, you are allowing the bike to go wherever it wants to go. If you are looking then the bike follows right where your eyes aim. If you follow the road by looking ahead, you will stay on it. If you look at the shoulder, the ditch or a tree, then you will run off the road or hit the tree. Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. Never take your eyes off the road, always stay alert and focused. Don’t concentrate on one object, look to where you want to go ( target fixation). When going through a curve, look through the curve, lean and accelerate to complete. In the MSF class it was referred to as, “Look, Lean and Roll.”

Another tip is to try to see everything at the same time by looking “wide.” Look far ahead, up close, to the sides and behind you. Train your eyes to see things that you normally don’t notice. Notice what is important around you, keep your head upright, and be prepared for negative situations.

A couple years ago a reader contacted me who just got her first bike. She lived in our area and after several e-mails back and forth we decided to meet and ride together. The extent of her riding had been parking lot practice and riding less than a mile from her house to a restaurant, never exceeding 25 MPH. We decided on a ride to Weston, Missouri by way of 45 Highway. She did a great job and seemed confident at speeds of 45-50 mph. When we stopped for a break, we all gave her kudos and encouragement. She was so excited and proud of her accomplishment.

On the return trip as we were coming around a curve, she was not looking through the curve, but looking at the shoulder of the road and ended up in a cornfield. Yikes! Luckily, she was not hurt, there was some minor damage to her bike but it was not disabled.

The person following her said, “One minute she was riding straight and two seconds later she was riding straight to the ditch.” She knew immediately what she had done wrong, “I wasn’t looking ahead.” We got her bike out and she was determined to ride it home. Gutsy girl! We offered to go get the trailer and haul it for her, but being less than 10 miles from home she assured us she could do it. She did fine, but was still a little shaken when we arrived. She was more upset with herself for not staying focused.

This is a good time to review another MSF technique: SEE

Search/Scan: Keep your eyes moving looking ahead, to the sides, behind and blind spots to avoid potential danger even before it comes face to face with you.
This will give you a clear picture of what you need to do in enough time to act accordingly whether it’s from road conditions, traffic from different directions or on-coming traffic.

Evaluate: Anticipate potential problems and have a plan to keep you out of danger. Look for traffic signals, warning signs and road markings. Leave yourself time to react if a hazardous situation arises.

Execute: Carry out your decision. Communicate using your lights and/or horn to make you more visible. Cover the clutch and brakes while you adjust your speed, position and direction to reduce your reaction time.

You can also practice your “look ahead” skills by riding in small circles or doing figure-eights in a parking lot. This will only enhance your riding ability, and it’s a good way to train your eyes to keep moving ahead, which in turn will get you to where you want to go.

I hope this helps you ride safer, and makes you more aware of looking ahead at all times.

Goldie Arnold

“Never rider faster than you angel can fly”

Photos by Goldie Arnold and Sharon Levinson

TIP OF THE MONTH: Always carry a camera, even a disposable camera works great. You never know when you may need pictures of something other than the beautiful scenery. In case of an accident, you might need photos of highway signs, markings, and damage to bike/vehicles, road and weather conditions.