Crispin d’Albertanson is a Nurburgring coach, senior IAM observer and ex-endurance racer who now works with the well-respected Hopp Rider Training. You can book a course on road or track at www.hoppridertraining.co.uk or 07881 878989
Above: Stuck in a line of traffic is a prime moment to lose focus. Suddenly you realise you can’t remember the last five miles...
What does lack of focus look like?
Lack of concentration can take the form of silly mistakes like missing speed limits or I had one case where someone missed the priority of the road – it went round to the right, but there was a smaller road going straight on, and the rider just merrily went down it. He wasn’t focusing and seeing what was going on, despite his riding being otherwise at quite a high level.
So it’s all to do with not making silly mistakes?
Not entirely, no. Concentration is linked with making progress. If you’re concentrating, you slice smoothly through traffic without the drivers really noticing you. Lots of people confuse this with going fast, but they’re different. You can make a huge amount of progress without going fast, but you need to be focussed and alert all the time to take the opportunities when it’s safe.
What’s the difference between fast and alert?
The fast rider could rush up behind a car, see he can’t overtake for a while and zone out, whereas the alert rider would approach more calmly, but spot the first overtake and be away sooner. So many people go into a screen saver mode, where they ride along without concentrating and then realise they can’t remember the last five miles. Besides missing opportunities to make progress, this is potentially fatal.
How do you maintain the alertness?
The first thing is to be aware of what’s going on in your head before you get on your bike. This can pre-empt a loss of concentration. So if you’ve had a row with your missus, or had bad financial news, you need to recognise that those are the kind of external things that will affect your ability to focus, and stay focussed. We need to be able to recognise these factors in ourselves and decide that instead of going for a ride, we’ll stay and wash the bike, or watch a race on telly – anything other than go out for a blast.
What should I do if I start losing concentration?
It’s important to work out why it’s happening. If it’s tiredness, cold, or you’re bursting for a pee, obviously you need to take a break instead of soldier on ‘for a few more miles’. But it could be something less obvious like dehydration, which can dramatically affect concentration. If there’s nothing obviously wrong, then you can start doing a running commentary on your riding, saying aloud what hazards you can see and what you riding plan is. Talk to yourself. Ask yourself questions – what’s the white line doing, what signs can I see? This forces you to focus and sharpens your mind. It stops you thinking about whether you remembered to lock the garage, or what time you said you’d be back home.