Get Your Head On!

The lock-down is coming to an end (we HOPE) and Spring has arrived, so time to dust off your leathers, oil that chain and polish you helmet - if you have not already.

As a bloodrunner, I have been out on the bike, so have stayed "ride fit" in the main. But for riders coming back off a long spell staying home, and with the skills built up with regular riding now rusty, our Advanced Riding Group called on the superb talents of Claire van den Bosch, a practising therapist (website here - n and IAM Observer and she has granted me permission to repost her notes here. Well worth the read I am sure you will agree....

Before riding…

Firstly, let’s talk about what we can do before we ride.

Route/destination: My strong suggestion to everyone getting back on their bike after a break of little or no riding is to decide, at least the day before, where you’re going to go/how long you’re going to ride for. For reasons that I’ll get into a bit later, it’s not a bad idea to plan for your first ride or two to be local-ish, familiar, and relatively brief. Don’t try a new route, ideally a pick a route that isn’t heavily reliant on a sat nav, and maybe even have a think beforehand about where you might be able to pull up during the ride.

Build in slow control at the beginning:

An additional suggestion from another very smart member of the group – maybe start off in a car park somewhere where you can do a bit of slow control to bump-start the ‘muscle memory’ of handling and manoeuvring your bike.

Check your kit: Because I don’t know about you, but something weird has happened lockdown and kit seems to have been shrinking on its hangers…

Bike checks: It wouldn’t be a LAM session without reference to the famous “POWDERS” check. Now there are much more mechanically minded folks here than me and I’m not going to drill you on what to look for when it comes to Petrol Oil Water Drive Electrics or Rubber, but I did want to say something about the psychology of the POWDERS check.

Firstly, there’s the question of:

When to do it: And my recommendation for first rides after a break is to do it the day before for one main reason. Because if there’s something that seems a bit amiss, you’ll be less likely to say “It’ll be fine” and get on the bike and ride off anyway, because you’re all revved up and ready to go.

Secondly, when it comes to the psychology of POWDERS… If you’re doing it in the right frame of mind, the day before you plan to ride, it marks a mental transition, and creates an opportunity to reconnect with your beloved bike, Avatar-style.

Because of the highly associative nature of the brain and memory, by doing your bike checks you’ll be unwittingly firing up the implicit procedural memories of riding itself.

And now to the final letter of the POWDERS acronym. S for Self. And this is the main focus of today.


When it comes to checking your Self, the acronym is I-AM-SAFE. Again, I’m not going to go over the more obvious and factual items of Illness, Attitude, Medication, Sleep, Alcohol, Food, or even Emotion.

When it comes to your ego, leave it at home.

Almost all the greatest riders I know are very little focused on their greatness and greatly focused on continually learning and improving. If you’re going to be on a mission to prove to yourself - or anyone else - that you can still ride the way you were riding at the of Summer 2019 then have a word with yourself and get that idea out of your head now.

An aside about group riding…

Even iI can’t emphasise enough doing your kit and bike checks and planning your route and destination the day before. This will affect you psychologically as well as being practically necessary. They’re reassuring familiar rituals which – because memory is fundamentally associative – will start to fire up the

So, ride leaders looking forward to starting back group riding – don’t forget your ride briefings, and be sure to pay attention to PACE, and SPACE.

The ride itself

And the thing I concluded was the most important thing to talk about.


Fun, skilful, smooth, SAFE riding depends absolutely and fundamentally on the gathering and processing of the maximum amount of accurate relevant information of all sensory kinds, from a diverse range of sources, in the shortest possible amount of time.

And therein lies the current rub – because if you’ve not been riding, if you’ve been mostly at home, if you’ve been going on long ambling walks in the countryside, then your information processing speed is WAY SLOW. You’re going to be missing a lot, from places that you’ve not been used to gathering it from, at speeds your brain isn’t used to anymore. You wlll need time to adjust, process and be on your game!

And speed is going to feel faster. Objective speeds will feel subjectively faster and a lot of that will be because you’re not processing the incoming information fast enough. If you want to stay safe, you need to process maximum information, and if your information processing is slow, there’s only one way to gather the information you need.

Back It Off

If you want to get back to the riding standard you were at before bats fell into soup in China, as fast as you can, go slower.

I mean this in the sense of on any given road at any given time, but also in terms of how you “go at it” trying to get to back to previous standard of riding.

Slow is fast.

Strip it right back and focus on information gathering again. And remember, it’s not just your information gathering and processing speed that’s going to be off. Your vision is going to have gotten low, and narrow. Your depth perception will have deteriorated, as well as your ability to judge speed and distance.

And there’s another psychological benefit of getting really conscious again about information gathering. If you’ve not been riding and you’ve been home a lot, you may well have developed a much shorter attention span and ability to concentrate. Getting conscious and deliberate about information gathering will keep you focused and help keep you from zoning out.

Or what my patients with dissociative disorders refer to as “glassy penguin”. (Maybe I’ve sent some of you into this state by now?).

As well as the risk of zoning out/losing concentration, you’re also going to be at risk of getting fatigued more quickly. For those of you who know the learning model, what I’ve basically been saying is that you’re likely to be back into more conscious forms of competence (or even incompetence),

When you’re having to think about riding, and especially information gathering, you’re going to get fatigued more quickly, which means that zoning out, getting fatigued adds danger.

As well as all the more obvious sources that you’re going to need to gather information from – road signs, window reflections, hedgerow directions, tree lines, signals given by other road users, there are two types of information you need to pay particular attention to on your first couple of rides.

Don’t just keep checking your speedo. Check your state of mind.

And finally…

The second type of information you need to pay more attention to on your first couple of rides is information coming to you from the bike, which if you’ve not been riding will have become a little less familiar.

The day before the ride –

• decide where you’re going – local, short, and familiar.

• prep your kit and bike.

On the day of the ride -

• leave your ego at home/calm any nerves;

During the ride –

• group ride leaders think PACE AND SPACE

And whether you’re riding together or alone,

• back it OFF,

• go back to basics with information collecting,

• remember vision will be low and narrow

• speed will feel faster and

• you’ll have lost an edge at judging distance and speed

• you could zone out or fatigue much more quickly

So, make sure you’re gathering Information about your own state of mind and, how the bike feels.

Thank you so much Claire, ride safe readers.

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
No tags yet.
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square