It was a beautiful Saturday as seven of us rode out to Ojai, CA. My brother and I stayed in Ojai for lunch while the other five rode up Highway 33, one of the best motorcycle roads in all of southern California. To my surprise one of the riders was still a beginner; he had only been riding for four months or so and was brought along by a more experienced friend.
His crash was a classic beginner’s mistake; he target-fixated (more on that below), drifted into the dirt on the shoulder and went down. There are two things to learn from this experience for any new rider.
First – on group rides, never ride beyond your comfort level. Always stay at a comfortable pace for yourself and don’t worry one bit about what the other riders are doing. He was riding in a group and was trying to keep up. In hindsight, his friend should have ridden at a slower pace with him at the back of the pack to help keep him comfortable.
Second – target fixation is something that takes practice to overcome. This is the term we use when a rider visually locks onto something that they’re trying to avoid, but end up going right toward it instead. It’s best to keep your gaze where you intend to go, on the road ahead. He lost his concentration in the turn; then his inexperience caused him to drift toward the edge of the road instead of looking ahead through the turn.
The bottom line is that he was going too fast for his skill level, something that causes trouble for any rider pushing too hard. Case in point; the very next Saturday on the very same road, a fast rider on a sportbike passed me at a pace that looked like he wasn’t leaving room for error. About a mile down the road I saw him sitting in the dirt, his bike having just flown about 20 feet down an embankment. He was lucky to have only minor injuries, but his bike was was going to require a tow truck with a winch to drag it up the hill. One of his cheap gloves had also torn, bloodying the inside base of his palm.
Take it easy out there, wear good gear and play it safe.