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Skill is NOT Enough
Survival depends on mental behavior

By: James R. Davis

With more than 50 years of experience on two wheels, I've faced innumerable 'tests' on the road and, thankfully, I've passed them all. That must sound like I've got super-human riding skills. I do not - and never did.

My skills have never been greater than 'competent' - an issue we've often talked about here. My opinion is that a competent rider has skills that are adequate to successfully deal with virtually any threat presented.

But there are others out there who possess particular riding skills that are enormously better than mine ever were, and yet several of those others are likely to be involved in life-threatening accidents sooner or later. Why is that?

Let's get past the obvious - some accidents are truly unavoidable. Larry Grotsky was perhaps the world's best known motorcycle safety guru. No question that he knew what he was doing and that he behaved with safety foremost in his mind, yet at 55 years of age, while riding in Texas a couple of years ago, he died after colliding with a deer. It was not the result of rider errors or lack of skills.

Every licensed motorcycle rider CAN apply their brakes and slow, or bring their motorcycles to a stop from any speed. They CAN shift gears. They CAN twist their right wrists in order to change speed. Those are only examples of fundamental skills.

Rider errors, the greatest cause of motorcycle accidents and the resulting injuries and deaths, are examples of DOING or NOT DOING something with skill. So, it might occur to you that the way you stay healthy while continuing to ride is to develop your skills. And I say, competence is sufficient for other than competitors. Surely I'm wrong - or am I?

In my opinion, merely being able to respond properly to any given threat is not enough - that is, having the skill to deal with a situation is important, but inadequate.

Motorcycling is a hugely mental endeavor. Judgment and caution are not skills - they are mental.

Becoming skillful is primarily a muscle management ability. MASTERY is primarily a mental management ability.

It is not a throw away line to suggest that being a master at something involves being able to, but positioning yourself to never have to, demonstrate that mastery.

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

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