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Better Riding: If you're tense, go slower

Shubhabrata Marmar  | Published: July 06, 2013, 02:54 PM IST

Human beings are simple biological devices that have a sense of self-preservation built in. We call this the fight or flight response. As in when faced with danger, we naturally prepare ourselves for battle or to escape from it. On motorcycles this causes loads of problems but  in there are things that you and I can use for our well-being.

Most of us know when we are riding in a manner that appears dangerous or foolhardy to yourself. It's when you have a feeling inside you that says you're going too fast for the situation. Or the feeling of your pounding heart after a close call. But there are other signs as well.

Most racers will stabilise their breathing on the straights where the intensity of inputs is less and there is time for the brain to pay attention to these thingsMost racers will stabilise their breathing on the straights where the intensity of inputs is less and there is time for the brain to pay attention to these things

When you're in danger, your brain causes a few things to happen. First of all, it prepares all your muscles for intense exertion. You tense up. As you read this just make a hard fist with your hands. Feel the tension in your forearm. It's easy to overlook when you are busy on a motorcycle, but if you feel like that on the motorcycle, you need to slow down or learn more about riding a motorcycle. Tensing up causes all manner of problems, most related your tense body structure preventing the motorcycle's parts from doing their work. A tense rider will hamper the shock absorbers and therefore the chassis and make bumps, for example, seem like they are bigger and harder. Result is you think the motorcycle isn't right and you slow down. Slowing down make take care of the perceived danger, but it doesn't solve the issue – you tensed up in response to something.

Breathlessness is another sign that you aren't comfortable. Most racers will stabilise their breathing on the straights where the intensity of inputs is less and there is time for the brain to pay attention to these things. It's well established that without oxygen, we die. Holding your breath, however, is a natural extension of the brain paying attention to a perceived danger rather than your immediate biological needs. If you find yourself breathing hard or feeling a bit breathless after a short ride - say when you come to a halt at a traffic light - chances you are busy scaring yourself. Once again, time to re-evaluate your riding plan.

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