Don't Get Caught in the Traffic Crossfire | CODE BREAK

Every street or track riding situation requires decisions. Keith Code talks about the effects of indecision and how to avoid it.

You see a hole open up in traffic in the next lane. To capitalize on it calls for re-aiming the bike and a brisk roll-on, but assessing the surrounding traffic takes too much time, and the moment to act decisively is lost. Indecision shrinks a 20-foot opening to 15 feet—still enough room to make it, but now it requires even greater acceleration. As that window of opportunity is passing, brake lights turn the cars ahead into potential hazards. Roll off, touch the brake lever, and adjust your steering to line up the bike in your lane once again. The car in front of you looks too close, so you lag a bit longer to make some space, prompting a look in the mirror. The car behind you is closing up. Gas it? Brake? Change lane position? Do all three? Whenever two or more actions or ideas overlap in importance, one—or all—will suffer in the crossfire of indecision.

Countless potentially indecisive scenarios confront us on every ride. Riders often misidentify moments of indecision as bad habits, but they aren’t. Poor results more often occur when indecision eats up the available time and space to act, not as a result of bad habits. Indecisive scenarios like the one above can nibble away at a rider’s confidence. Acting more decisively more often leaves you with room to spare. This isn’t to say that acting precipitously with no solid plan is the answer. The solution is to establish your priorities as a rider. Without clear priorities, indecision rules.

Indecision breeds compromise. Trying to get a smooth start and getting a jerky one instead, you might tell yourself, “At least I didn’t stall it.” That leaves you hoping for a “better start” next time. But without identifying why one start is smooth and another is not only leaves you with an uncertain roll of the dice each time.

Believing that luck has anything to do with it is fruitless; a good coach should get you past the problem of rough starts in five minutes or less. Rough starts are usually the result of indecision over what creates a smooth start—the gas or the clutch. Riders wrongly try using both for the same purpose at the same time, creating a three-way argument between the bike, its controls, and the rider. Steady with the gas while modulating the clutch with a deft hand usually solves the problem. Grabbing too much brake in a slow-speed situation is another example of indecision that is often confused for a bad habit.

Indecision also breeds more indecision. If your turn-in begins a half-second too early or too late, this has an enormous impact on the resulting line you’ll follow through the corner. This may very well require a correction, and a correction requires more decisions and more potential for indecision.

The typical “running wide” cornering scenario can generate (sometimes deadly) indecision about whether to brake or not to brake, to lean farther, or to straighten up and potentially run right off the road. When negotiating an unfamiliar corner, what should be your top priority? Should the radius be at the top of the list? Looking for the apex? Trying to see through the corner, or holding out for a later turn-in so you can see through more of the corner? By the time you can identify the radius, there may not be enough time to calculate the apex and turn-in point along with the degree of steering input and braking needed to achieve the speed required to safely negotiate the corner. There is no pat answer to this—different corners have different priority schemes—but approaching each corner with the idea of “straightening it out” is the safest, most universal, and time-honored solution.

Indecision consumes precious time, distance, and focus, and can change any riding situation into a knife’s edge of uncertainty. Taking the time to educate yourself on the underlying basics and learning how to establish clear priorities for every riding situation is the best way to work past the snag of indecision.

Every riding situation requires decisions. The more decisions you have to make, the more likely you are to be caught in the crossfire of indecision.