Oct 1, 2007

The peripherals of motorcycling

When you're playing a game like Doom, where enemies come at you from any and all directions, one of the things that don't get any rest is... you fingers... Yes, but also your eyes. They are perpetually moving across the screen scanning for the enemy, right?

Well, my point is that motorcycling in traffic isn't that different. Usually, when we concentrate, our vision tends to start 'stabilising.' This is further bolstered by the rising speed we're travelling at. As the rate of information flow rises, the brain tends to tell the eyes to stop 'wavering' and focus on the point where the bike is heading towards. This effect is pronounced if you are accelerating very hard (think superbike/supercar) where it produces tunnel vision.

This is not necessarily a good thing, and you need to actively, consciously counter it. Just like I depress the push-cancel indicators periodically to stop any stray indications (and scan the meters, mirrors at a more or less fixed rate), I also 'remind' the eyes to keep scanning. As the speeds rise, actual eyeball motion may be replaced by a detailed mental scan of the blurred peripheral vision (almost as effective, but much faster). I find that whenever I stop this – it happens – I find a hazard that I didn't spot in time. Usually I'm lucky (and it doesn't happen very often), but luck has a way of running out...

While active scanning is just a matter of being regular at it until you get in the habit, peripheral scans need a bit of practice. Keith Code (or was it Nick Ienatsch) offer a neat practice drill. Sit in front of a wall and focus on a fixed spot. Now, without any actual physical ocular activity, move the mental focus to other points on the wall. As in, roam the full image in your mind, absorbing what you can see. You will notice that a lot of the 'information' you gathered is out of focus, but, your brain is able to interpret/recognise these things/patterns with remarkable clarity.

For instance, right now, as I type this, the text on the word processor is in focus. And yet, I can clearly make out (as opposed to see) The Wife's lid on the right of the monitor, resting on top of the Cramster tankbag, which I can see, has one of the side pockets zippered halfway. I can also spot various other objects clearly enough to recognise them.

And these are all static objects. Peripheral vision scan work even better with moving objects. Moving objects get picked up faster and if the brain thinks there's danger (or it is worth looking at), recentering your focus takes a sec.

Try it, this complex sounding thing is actually very easy to learn, and has the potential to be a lifesaver.


Gopalakrishnan said...

Moving objects get picked up faster and if the brain thinks there's danger (or it is worth looking at), recentering your focus takes a sec.

that part works. Too well :(

fr instance was on QrS yesterday about 250 k from home, mildly distracted by flashing icon (no 4, low fuel oil level (sic), indeed!!) and an amazing sunset that was happening, watchful and wary for herds of cattle getting home, when i found myself on the horn, and going through a panic braking set of actions on a somewhat dusty surface.

which i mostly got rsnbly correct, excepting that i ended staring at the effing cyclist who was running down a bushy slope with his mount and emerged and skid stopped a little short of where i was more or less perfectly stopped - admittedly a little beyond projected point of impact (: (: :(
Oh and I locked that damn rear disc yet again

having gone through the only cuss word I could come up then with made a mental note to 1) practice braking 2) write to rearset asking for advice on handling rear disk and avoiding object fixation

and here's that note :)

advice/ suggestions.

ps QrS = Silver 22

Hrishi said...

Great writeup..

Did try this out.. need to make a habit out of this.

Revhard said...

And mine won't lock if I stood on the rear brake lever with a hippopotamus on my back.

Hrishi said...

U know what, the peripheral vision also helps when walking down the mall, specially in 'delicate' situations when wifey is around ;-)