In 1976, I figured I had the world by the tail when I discovered I was using reference points while riding and racing. That realization set me on the twisty road of rider-improvement discovery and began my first maiden voyage of exploration into rider training. I began training students one-on-one, developing a curriculum that relied heavily on reference points and how to use them at racetracks. More data was gathered from that exercise and the California Superbike School was finally born in 1980 when I retired from racing.
Back then, reference points (RPs) usually meant having braking markers. Line selection was a topic of discussion, but no data was available on how to break it down and make it happen or how to stitch a track together with RPs. The "how of it" came out in the first A Twist of the Wrist book in '84.
In 2009, we now know that resolving riding problems can be done with a very short list of factors: the space we're in, the speed we're traveling and the necessary three reference points. With those five factors defined, you can figure out almost any riding problem.
We can begin to sort out our orientation in space with two external reference points. We find two points or objects, which give us a reckoning of our own location (the third point of orientation) and the direction of our motion in relation to those two. Our eyes can begin to create 3D space, which in turn allows for our perception of relative speed and direction in it. Our sense of time switches on automatically. Altogether, these give us perspective.
The action of riding is simple: arrive at a known location in space at the right speed. Since without our three RPs we cannot accurately gauge our time, space or speed, they take the lead in importance; our riding falls apart without them.
Michael Laverty eyes two reference points to help position himself on-track during this ye
In riding, there are many barriers but only two freedoms: changing the speed and direction of the bike. At any speed and in any riding situation, where and how much speed and direction are changed are the only factors that determine control.
Arriving at a location simply means staying in your lane, missing a pothole, not running wide, picking your turn entry, finding a line, recognizing you are on a line at all or avoiding an object such as a car-any of the sundry things you intend to do on a motorcycle. Gauging when and how much to gas, brake and turn so we can arrive somewhere depends on us having a minimum of three RPs.
RPs themselves have a viable range of application. Too close or too far away on the road's surface are chief problems. Too far to one side or the other of your intended line can also create issues. The art of using RPs is nicely wrapped up in a half-dozen drills which can be coached by someone trained to recognize when they're being done right or wrong. That's the good news.
The bad news is we've run smack into every rider's mortal enemy: target fixation. Target-fixed is the worst condition, not because we are in some stage of panic and terror, but because we lose our other RPs. How did we get into panic? We've suddenly lost everything that is near and dear to our survival: a solid grasp of space, time and our ability to judge speed.
Back to the good news: Drilling and coaching in correct visual techniques with simple and doable procedures heads off target fixation, not by eliminating it (which seems impossible) but by replacing it. With what? A wide view. By maintaining full awareness of your peripheral field, you've taken a giant step toward that goal.
This may not be new, but it is worth repeating. Instinctually, target fixation and tunnel vision kick in the moment we lose our control of space. Regaining that control is the only hope, and clicking on your wide view is the quickest route to finding those three vital reference points.