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Preemptive Learning
Learning before you need to is the key to behaving properly in a crisis

By: James R. Davis

Even if you have been riding motorcycles for 20 years, when you get up on a new bike - one that you have never ridden before - EVERYTHING is different.

The differences are subtle, of course, but they exist.

For example, if you have ridden Honda motorcycles all your life and then get a chance to test ride a BMW, you will find that signaling a right hand turn is just a bit different than you are used to. (If the turn signal switch for a right turn happens to be accessed with your RIGHT thumb instead of your left one, that surely is not enough to ruin your day, of course, but it is an example of what I'm getting at here.)

Yesterday Cash (my business and riding partner) and I did a 225 mile ride. It was the first long ride for her on her new Magna. She handled the bike expertly, though a bit timidly at first as she became familiar with it. Bravo!

So we had gone about 30 miles and I observed her reach down with her left hand, fiddle a bit, then return that hand to the grip. Nothing else was different about her riding except that 'odd' movement of her left hand.

At the next stop I asked her what she had been doing earlier. She responded that her other bike had a fuel light that indicated when she was low while this one does not. So, she was LEARNING where the reserve valve was so that when she felt the bike begin to lose power because of low fuel she could find that valve immediately. She was preemptively learning. Bravo! Bravo!

"It's right here just above my knee right next to my leg." Something she no longer had to learn - certainly not when she was out at highway speeds and suddenly found herself without the ability to accelerate. That would not be the best time to look down and try to find that valve.

We had done some parking lot practice a couple of days before so that she got the feel of her brakes and the steering geometry of the new bike. Now she was building muscle memory by learning the little things - ONE AT A TIME - that she knew she would have to know sooner or later.

Good thinking!

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(James R. Davis is a recognized expert witness in the fields of Motorcycle Safety/Dynamics.)

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