MIKE WAITE served in the Dorset Police for 20 years as a police motorcycle instructor training police officers to the very highest level of high-speed pursuit riding. Now you can buy his expert training DVD on Amazon.co.uk & Amazon.com.
Alan copied me in on your last e-mail as I look after PR and publicity for the Association of British Drivers. At the same time, I've just got a copy of your video, having been off bikes for the last 14 years and just started riding again. Videos like yours are, I believe, essential. I agree with Alan in that road safety is now solely a stick to the number on the stick game with no thought whatsoever to education - the only thing that really makes a difference in the long term and over the whole road network. The more routes to educating people we can have, the better. Thoroughly enjoyed the video and learned a hell of a lot from it, although I'm still a very long way from making progress at the rate you do!Mark McArthur-Christie
In my opinion the visual point is one of the most important features of riding and driving. I will explain in detail the basics of knowing what it is and how, where, why and when we use it.
Many riders have heard of the VP, or vanishing point, and have some knowledge of it but I would ask you to question yourselves whether you use it all the time. If not then I would suggest that your knowledge and use of it may be limited. This is because if it is not used all the time your concentration may be lacking and your eyes may not be looking to the farthest point. The visual point should be used at all times, giving the rider a discipline which, when perfected, will reward his or her efforts 100%. If everyone knew what it was and used it accidents would be dramatically reduced.
There are several elements to the VP. Let us explore them. As you face a typical road your eyes should be looking to the farthest point. There will be several types of view ahead with the majority having a visual point. Exceptions are roads with an acute blind summit or when there are adverse weather conditions or during the hours of darkness with no streetlights.
Let us look at right and lefthand bends first, as the VP is the same for both. As you lift your eyes up to the bend you will see the point where the nearside edge and the offside edges meet. These can be of several types. There could be two hedges, a hedge and a grass verge or a verge against a building. The point to remember is that the two points are fixed and are opposing and they do not move.
We have now established what the VP is. The second element is the distance from you to the VP and the third element is when the point appears to open up or move. This movement will give you very precise information with regard to the severity of the bend.
Let us see what the distance to the VP does for us. If you are some distance away from it and the two edges start to open up or appear to move it will tell you the bend is easy and is classified as a sweeper. However, as the distance closes and the VP does not move or open up then it is a tight bend. The closer you get with no movement the tighter the bend. It depends upon the speed you are approaching at and at which moment you start to reduce speed is where the expertise comes into it’s own. It would be advisable to get to the bend at a slower speed than to arrive there too fast. The skill is to arrive at the bend at the correct speed for your capability and correct gear engaged and to be able to accelerate just before the point of entry, i.e. while the bike is upright and you totally relaxed. It takes skill to combine all the elements at the same time.
As we enter the bend we keep our eyes on the VP, as this leads our sight line through and around the bend. If distance is constant the speed will be constant the bend will be constant.
If the distance shortens it means that the bend is getting tighter. This is the biggest hazard for the rider. If this occurs the throttle can be eased back very gently; which is not in itself desirable. If the distance starts to lengthen then we can turn our throttle on depending how fast that distance lengthens. This is called powering out of the bend.
If we keep our eyes on the visual point it will allow our eyes to follow the VP to its conclusion and in doing so trains our eyes to look farther ahead. The VP is constant except on an acute blind summit.
By chasing the visual point we train ourselves to extend our visual distances. This is very desirable. We must teach ourselves this very important feature. Remember it is not a natural thing to do.
To conclude. The visual point is where two opposing edges, one nearside and one offside, meet. Judging distance to the visual point and the movement of the opening up is the expertise we desire. You must have concentration to use this feature at all times. If not your eyes will revert back to automatic viewing.
Dead ground is a very simple feature. If we look at any part of any road and find that parts of it are hidden either by hedges buildings other vehicles it is called dead ground.
Let me give you an example. We are riding along a road and are confronting by a righthand bend. We cannot see the road beyond the hedgerows. This is referred to as dead ground.
Dead ground is always a problem until it is eliminated. Once eliminated it no longer is a problem.
What problem? If you cannot see part of any road you must assume that a vehicle or other obstruction could be blocking your path, or possibly there is a junction ahead. It is desirable to clear this area by holding position to get an early view. If we get an early view we can react to it that much sooner so increasing our safety margins.
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