Ran into a conversation on the web and a rider was talking about how he wanted to be “more skilled” and “safer”. Direct question here: What does “more skilled” and “safer” really mean? For background this rider had been attending track days and decided they weren’t helping him be more skilled or safer on the street. The measuring stick he was using is that as his speed increases on the street, so does his discomfort.
Duh. The faster you go the more, ahhh, energy you might have absorb should things go astray.
Often when speaking of being “more skilled” folks are actually saying something along the lines of, “I want to know I’ll be able to get myself out of a jam if I end up in one.” The easy answer is always, “Don’t get into a jam.”
Duh. That runs along the line of “If you don’t want to be in a motorcycle accident–don’t ride motorcycles.” On my bikes I get into jams once in a while. Generally minor ones which lead to that palm on face slap of “shoulda known better.” Therein lies part of the root of what a rider’s desire to be “more skilled” and “safer” actually means; I believe they are saying, “I want to be more comfortable on the bike, in traffic and on the road. I’m frightened I may get hurt…and I don’t want that.”
This is a bit of convolution I admit but we’re talking about where desire & ego met pragmatism & reality. Ride long enough and you’ll suddenly understand the risks you’re taking, desire to minimize them often gets twisted into desire to have enough skills to evade them at close range. To put this in military terms they seek to improve their close quarters combat skills instead of working to be able to solve a problem with a “stand off” weapon.
A stand off weapon is one that you use from a safe (or safer) distance. Remember the old “Never bring a knife to a gun fight”? Well, the knife is a close quarters weapon and the gun is a stand off weapon. In fact, the saying should be “Always take a gun to a knife fight” because you then have the clear stand off advantage. In motorcycling this is the difference between simply reacting to a situation as opposed to using SIPDE (Search, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute) to avoid the problem completely. Or, as the saying goes, “Use your expert judgement to avoid using your expert skills”.
I will not argue with the idea that the more skilled you are the more confident you will be. If you know you can get yourself out of a jam that’s good…unless it leads to complacency because you figure you’ve got the chops to handle anything in which case you’re probably in the situation where you’re bringing a knife to a gun fight.
If you want “more skills” and to be “safer” you need to ask yourself: what do I really want? Odds are you’re getting surprised by events and that’s not a matter of physical skill that’s a matter of honing your mental skills and solving problems before they real dangers.
Be Safe. Live a little further into the future.