Into the Unknown

A Simple Fact

Every time you get on your bike and ride you are entering unknown territory.

This is for a number of reasons.

First and Foremost

You never know what is going to happen out there on the circuit, whatever plans or ideas you might have in mind.

For example, one season I was helping a racer out at the first national round. All the practical and psychological preparations were in place and I was receiving feedback that everyone was noticing a difference in the rider and his attitude already. It was all looking positive with qualifying progressing well. The start of the race was good and we had confidence in the rider's ability to pull this off as a positive start to the season. Within about 50 seconds all this came to a crashing halt. Out of the 4th corner, the rider gets t-boned by another bike which has careered across the track at well over 100 miles per hour after chucking its rider off during a highside. Red flag, race finished. Now we had to wait nervously for the medical update.

Not all of the racers in the photo above finished the race either.

Of course, this is part of the wonder of motorcycle racing.

There's more to it than meets the eye

It is a common belief that we get better at something by repeating it over and over again. It is thought that this is how we train our brains and muscles. Repeated actions turn into a memory of movement and it gets programmed into us so we don’t need to think about it any more. We think that we get better because when we practise we are doing the same thing repeatedly, that our movements are alike.  In riding we think we should strive to do the same lap every lap - the same line, the same braking points and turn points etc. We naturally assume that this is what brings consistency and speed in racing.

But in reality, this is not the case.

Scientists who study our nervous system and the function of living systems have found that when a person repeatedly completes even simple tasks like picking up a matchbox from a table, their movements are never the same. This is because the mechanisms of human function are so complex.

With all the complexity of completing a lap of a race circuit on a motorcycle it is impossible that any lap will be alike. Your actions and the timing of your actions will never be repeated in the same way. Every time you complete a lap, you are doing it on a different circuit - even if those differences are barely noticable. This means that every time you ride, you are going to be doing it in a way you haven't done it before. You are, in effect, forever in a unique situation.

And then every experience we have changes our brain so it is never the same and never will be.

This realisation can be quite scary for some, for others I have received feedback that it has been one of the most liberating realisations they've had, with lap records and podium finishes rapidly  following as a result.
There are, in my view two major things that come from this. The first is that it opens us up to the possibility of continuous learning. The second is that to deal with the unknown, we have to alter our mentality so that is brings us into the moment:

(Image credit: ARE YOU READY? by Ben Henderson licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)