Monday, May 16, 2011

Another Lesson We Can Learn From Our Pilot Friends

You've probably heard this bit of pilot wisdom before: Stay Ahead of the Airplane. In other words, look ahead and have a plan for every maneuver. If you don't the plane will happily fly itself, straight and level, into a fiery volcano, or any of a thousand other nightmarish scenarios that end in your screaming, flaming death. The plane doesn't mind, it's just going to do whatever you tell it to.

Stay Ahead of the Bike.

You should remember SIPDE from your rider training - Scan, Identify, Plan, Decide, Execute. I think Stay Ahead of the Bike is catchier. All it really means is pay attention to what's going on, decide if that fiery volcano is going to come to a complete stop at the intersection you're approaching, and maneuver accordingly.

So, imagine you're riding along and there's an SUV slightly ahead of you on the freeway, in the lane to your right. If you're like me, your first thought will be something like "What is this knob going to do to make my morning extra special?" The SUV driver could change lanes without signaling, swerve to avoid an invisible dog, throw rocks at you, explode for no apparent reason or, least likely, continue driving carefully and responsibly in his or her own lane.

You know something could go wrong, so what are you going to do? There's a breakdown lane to the left you could escape into if a collision is imminent. You could lose some speed in anticipation of getting cut off. What you shouldn't do is just assume everything will be OK without identifying a Plan B. The bike itself will be more than happy to ride into the SUV.

Aside from idiots in trucks, you need to plan ahead constantly. Let's say you're coming up on a right turn. Is your speed appropriate? Is there gravel strewn about? How speedy does that zombie sitting on the curb look?

The worst time to figure out how to deal with a bad situation is in the middle of it. Stay ahead of the bike. If you don't, it will be more than happy to keep rolling straight into that fiery volcano and bring you along for the ride.

Check out an earlier post on what we can learn from pilots here.