Thinking back, when was the last time you had a “UH-OH” moment whilst out riding a motorbike.
And I’m not referring to an adrenaline moment from a scare or close call.
You know that “you’re not 100% sure things will turn out okay queasy feeling when you’re thinking about something else”.
These feelings can manifest when faced with potentially life-threatening situations or even relatively benign situations that we complete on a daily basis, and they can also trigger an anxiety response.
Very few of us are masters of every aspect of motorcycling, and we all may experience episodes of low-level anxiety at times.
Here’s an example …
You’re riding along when you notice a sign warning of a steep descent with a hairpin turn thrown in. You start thinking how much you hate hairpin turns, and as you approach the turn you start to tighten your grip on the handlebars and lower your eyes to the pavement immediately in front of you. The bike just doesn’t want to turn, but you somehow manage to get around the bend. Your immediate thought is that you hate this section and will avoid it in the future.
Denying these feelings and emotions can lead down a very dangerous path.
Stress will affect many aspects of a day’s ride, everything about the enjoyment, your stamina (you will be absolutely stuffed at days’ end) and right down to how your motorcycle performs.
It can manifest in many forms such as simple muscle tension and narrowed focus, which may make your bike seem reluctant to turn in, hold a line in corner and running wide or even difficulty finding and following cornering lines.
Your tension is preventing the bike from doing what it is designed to do.
Being stiff makes it nearly impossible to use “soft” brake, throttle, and handlebar inputs that are key to maintaining bike control.
Keeping anxiety and tension in check is important even under ideal conditions.
Elite racers who corner at the very edge of traction are constantly aware of the dangers of stress.
The best riders frequently check themselves for signs of stress, address the situation acting to regain relaxed composure so they can enjoy a safer and more gratifying ride. This may be as simple of repeating a mantra they use, relaxing their shoulders or even flapping their arms about to force themselves to drop their shoulders.
Now to identify where the stress is coming from …
It may be a lack of confidence in a riders’ ability or trepidation about a particularly risky environment, such as a rain-slick corner or a route riddled with dangerous intersections.
Whatever the source, good riders use their awareness of stress to recognise their comfort limit and then back off so that anxiety does not affect control, safety, or fun.
Anxiety and stress are very powerful tools for keeping us out of trouble – be self-aware enough to recognise the signs of its presence and responsible enough to heed its warning signs.
Don’t get me wrong stress can be good in the right situation, helping you define your own personal limits and identifying areas that may need further development and training.
Be very aware and take responsibility to what environments, manoeuvres, situations that stress you and feed your anxiety. Acquiring knowledge and a good skill base will lead you to become more proficient at handling these situations.
For information about our SMART Rider course that will help you improve your riding skills, click here.
Own the situation! Learning these skills will be a challenge but a rewarding one, and do it before you need to use them on the road.
Take it slow and keep the rubber side down.
Should you or anyone you know need help dealing with stress, anxiety or depression please contact Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline 135 247, or just present to your GP or even the hospital for guidance.