Observation – keep your eyes peeled, by Roddy Benzies Get2Grips Training

Observation means using sight, hearing and smell to gain as much information about road conditions ahead as possible.

Observations may be categorised as follows:-

Far distance – The far distance is the furthest point you can see where the sky meets the land. This is so far away that it really has little effect on your riding plan. You may see low, dark clouds which could signify rain ahead.

Middle distance – The middle distance is closer than the far distance and so observations there will impact more on your riding plan. Any hazards identified in the middle distance will have an affect on us when we reach that point.

Nearer foreground – The nearer foreground is where you see your road coming back from and everything to the left and right of that. Observations in the nearer foreground identify hazards that must be dealt with immediately.

How far ahead you scan depends on where you are riding and what is happening immediately ahead. In built-up areas like towns your observations should be kept closer to you because of the additional hazards such as pedestrians crossing the road, parked vehicles and their occupants either pulling out into the road or opening doors and concealed junctions. Because of these immediate hazards your position in the road will be altered accordingly, speed will be low and your observations will consist of scanning ahead in short sections, working methodically back towards you, identifying hazards and planning how to deal with them.

While riding in National Speed Limit areas between hazards such as corners and junctions your observations should scan from the far distance, through the middle distance and into the nearer foreground so that you can plan your ride. To do this ask yourself, “Where do I need to position to see furthest?” and position your motorcycle accordingly. Always be ready to sacrifice that position for safety.

While scanning the middle distance it is a good idea to look specifically for ‘Man-made’ objects. These are easily recognised and they have the most impact on your riding plan. Link what you see to your road. Ask yourself, “How is that going to affect me?”

Common observation links are:-

Planted forests  –  Logging lorries using the road, debris and mud at an entrance,   wild animals in the road.

Farms  –  Tractors in the road ahead, mud at the farm road end.

Crossflow of traffic  –  A road junction ahead.

Person standing at the side of the road  –  a bus is approaching.

Always look as far as you can across corners to see where your road is going and to identify any hazards that you will encounter.

When turning onto a new road at a junction, it is a good idea to compare the new road with the last one. This will help your riding plan. A narrower road will have tighter bends so adjust your progress accordingly.

Good observation allows early planning and, for the motorcyclist, can mean the difference between life and death. If you do not know that something is there, you cannot react to it.

Roddy Benzies, Get2grips.co.uk or 07484 626516