Target fixation is a problem that we, as riders, need to recognize and deal with every time we get on the bike.  Like most of you, I've assumed that target fixation only becomes a problem when your balls get just a bit too big and you go hot into a corner that maybe you shouldn't have, or when one of nature's precious beings darts out in front of you, or when that gravel patch surprises you in a blind corner.  We all know what happens - you lock a stare onto the threat and, inevitably, the bike heads for where you're looking.  If this is a cigarette butt on the interstate it doesn't matter much, but if you're losing composure through a turn and that big telephone pole is what has your attention, the consequences could be problematic for the longevity of you and your machine.

Take a look at this rider - he makes a lot of mistakes including entering the turn on the inside of his lane and locking up the rear wheel in a panic, but watch his helmet.  All of his issues stem from the fact that's locked onto the part of the guardrail that's already smashed in.  He assumed his only option was to slow down, when in fact all he needed to was move his eyes through the turn and lean the bike over.  He was going plenty slow to make the turn safely, but unfortunately not slow enough to stop safely if going in a straight line (and even less so with poor braking technique).

The solution is quite simple in theory, but hard in practice.  Look where you want to go, and your chances of heading there are much better.  Spot the gravel, then move your eyes to the safe path of travel - that gravel isn't going anywhere, I promise.

Now, what's new to me and hopefully and eye-opener for you guys is that target fixation is also a problem when just riding normally as well.  Take a look at this little animation provided by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation and see what I'm talking about.  I'm sure everyone is a little different and while the notes on the animation say the yellow dots disappear at "surprisingly slow speeds", I found that they'll even fade in and out when the animation is stopped.

Obviously we can see why this is a danger - we can't have things vanishing on us.  Seems mother nature built this feature in back in the caveman days and we've been slow to update to our current world.  Thankfully, the remedy is simple - keep your eyes moving.  Even blinking will make those dots come back.  Really, you should be scanning all of the time, anyway, so hopefully this solidifies that practice.

Something else to think about is this little dot-disappearing phenomenon is not unique to motorcyclists - that inattentive driver who may be zoned out and staring at the license plate of the car in front of him can suffer the same lapse in visual accuracy, and a motorcycle is not exactly a large target to conceal.  Be on the look out, anticipate the worst, always have an escape route and ride defensively.
Dave Tweed
2/12/2012 12:14:10 am

Nice piece I also noticed the rear wheel trying to catch the front indication of the dreaded FREEK AND SLAM back brake BAD. The other thing I noticed is improper positioning in the turn I always follow or try to: weight inside a turn in other words I try to position my body more to the tank side I am turning into. For me this does a couple things it can sometimes automatically change your view braking an inadvertent lock secondly allows the feel of the turn to come through the bike so I don't crack the throttle to hard. I try not to use my brakes only a little to set muy line before the turn. I have a bigger problem with picking a line though:).

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