Street Savvy - Proper Scan Technique

The Scan, Revisited, Again

By Mitch Boehm, Photography by Kevin Wing

Yes, we know, we covered this important subject several years ago-and probably several years before that. But as we just wrote, proper scan technique is important, a vital part of every rider's personal skill repertoire. So there's nothing wrong with a bit of brush-up.

For most of us, today's riding environments are busier and more congested than ever, especially in urban settings. We've got a lot to watch for while riding: cars and trucks going every which way (including turning left in front of us, a scenario that remains the number-one killer of motorcyclists), pedestrians crossing the street in places where they are and aren't supposed to, and all manner of sidestreets, alleys and sidewalks from where danger (kids, dogs, Bigfoot) can suddenly spring. There's also moisture, gravel, oil and other slippery concoctions, and don't forget those pesky stationary obstacles such as potholes, speed bumps, railroad tracks, curbing, Armco barriers and signposts. It's ugly out there!

Of course you've also got to monitor your bike's instruments and mirrors, which means you've got stuff ahead, behind and below, all at the same time. This is precisely why a proper scan technique can pay dividends in terms of bodily safety and continued machinery intactness. Hey, no one ever said this street-riding thing was easy.

The key to keeping ahead of all this motion and danger is to not dwell too long on any one zone. Ideally, your eyes and attention will move systematically from what's ahead (left to right and back again) to what's behind and then to your instruments. Obviously, you want to spend the majority of your time looking and analyzing what's directly ahead. If one complete scan cycle takes, say, 10 seconds to accomplish, you should break the cycle down thusly: 50-60 percent ahead, 30-40 percent behind and 10-20 percent at your instruments. So, for a typical 10-second cycle, you'd spend 5 or 6 seconds looking ahead, 3 or 4 seconds using your mirrors and a second or so checking speed, rpm and other instrument data.

Learn to do this over and over effectively and you'll have gone a long way toward making your street miles safer than ever before.

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