3. Looking Straight Down
Another rookie mistake, especially in the dirt, is looking directly in front of you as if you’re trying to track where the front tire is going. This means the world is coming at you quickly, causing your brain to have to process your surroundings and where you’re headed extremely fast. If you need to avoid something ahead of you, by the time your brain processes it, it’s too late. There’s simply not enough time to react.
Instead, look up and scan ahead. Knowing what’s in front of you allows your brain to process your surroundings at a much slower pace. And if you do see something up ahead you need to avoid, there’s plenty of time to change direction or react appropriately. Your periphery will keep track of what’s immediately in front of you, but if you’re scanning far ahead, chances are you won’t get spooked by any surprises.
Looking ahead is still one of my biggest challenges and something I train at weekly while behind the house on some single track or out for spirited street rides and during the multiple training courses (both off-road on road racing courses) I complete yearly.
During a recent two-day adventure riding camp at the BMW U.S. Rider Academy in Greer, South Carolina, I had one demanding goal—not to drop the R 1250 GS while pushing it as hard (and focused) as possible. I nearly made it until I dropped it during a mockup sand race.
I made it to the finals and wanted to win, but allowed my nervousness and focus on looking straight down at the tire in some of the deepest sand I have ever ridden through—a huge no-no for not crashing. The second-place finish wasn’t a bother, nor was the dropped bike. It was the fact that I reverted to a bad habit of looking straight down, something I’ve been working on reverting for decades.