Life is a race and we do not know our position

There was something wrong and it was me. The ride did not click as it normally does and I felt really uneasy with a glooming sense of incoming mistake. And the group was riding briskly, making goodprogress on the roads skirting the south side of the Kakcar mountains in North Anatolia. Not good to ride with an albatross round the neck and better to stop, examine, think.

I left the group go and while they were passing by my side I realized where the problem was (at least for me). Positions on the group were assigned by the leader of the ride and he placed the fastest rider at the head followed by riders ranked in decreasing skills. Obviously the ones in lesser position felt challenged and a competition ignited to keep up with the “best”.

And nothing spells worst than a competition in a group of “macho” riders: the spirit of the ride became challenging for all and unsettling for my taste.

While the God-of-the-Ignorant protected the ride, it was a good opportunity to consider the damage that the concept of “competition” creates in our life.

Competition in modern times starts early with kids denied of the right to freely play in order to satisfy the “ambitions” that parents have on them. It continues with an educational system that is based on competition with grades, classifications, numbers or letters used to define the humans. The working environment solidifies the competition culture with positions, titles, ranks, medals and bonuses. With goals to be reached at all costs.

The violent meaning of competition entered the sacred area of sport distorting the vision of Pierre de Coubertin founder of the modern Olympic games: “The most important thing in the Olympiad is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well”.

Now it is sufficient to spend little time in front a TV channel dedicated to sport to see how distorted is the concept of winning or loosing: every point scored or every “victory” is celebrated as a triumph over the opponents, enmity among “rival” is fostered by the media as element of entertainment, excess and extreme is the name of the game with many sports looking more as circus events than enjoyable achievements.

And the virus of competition poisons daily life: It is not enough to succeed: others must fail and social media ram the sentiment of “revenge” home. All friends, in all applications, are better than you or they are doing better than you… you have to race and to compete even when choosing where and who with to spend the next weekend.

Competition is fuelled by vain ambition: by the desire to look better, to be different, to be superior.

In old (not so old) times the word “ambitious” was considered a negative element of human character: now is the pearl in any CV. The Cambridge dictionary defines ambitious as “having a strong wish to be successful, powerful, or rich” and I believe it is a very correct definition. And so ambition and egocentric, individualistic competition push the biker to take risks in front of the group, push the riders on the back to try above their skills, push the group in a territory where limits are not considered, respect is not paid and kindness is considered weakness.

Closed the side stand, turned the key and started the bike: I will meet the group at the next stop while enjoying the journey not the race.

At the end to enjoy life and bike “is to leave the streets, convenient but misleading, the idols of this world: the success at all costs, the power at the expense of the weak, the thirst for wealth, pleasure at any price

New Year’s biking resolutions Face to face (or on your knees) with the bike

“PROGRESS” is the magazine of LAM (London Advanced Motorcyclists) one of the largest group associate with IAM in UK. You can learn more about the exemplary activity of these bikers on the LAM web site where you can also read about a ride in Turkey done this summer by one of the members. Among the interesting articles of the last issue I present an excerpt of “New Year Biking Resolution” that invites to become more acquainted with the vehicles we ride.

With the dawn of a new, fresh and exciting year riding your motorcycles here are some resolutions

For some of you, your New Year resolutions might be to give up smoking, lose weight, actually use your gym membership……And on the other hand below are several you might just keep.

  1. Regular Maintenance. Keeping to a regular maintenance schedule is easier said than done. Firstly, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ve got to learn. It’s far cheaper in the long run to invest the time and energy to learn what’s going on behind the fairings; a set of tools and a manual cost infinitely less than a professional mechanic and their time, so start the New Year by tackling the smaller tasks yourself.   A fortnightly inspection can go a long way; you can nip problems in the bud   before they become major issues, you can learn what makes your machine tick and you can have a lot of fun doing it. Get the tools, buy the manual, join a forum and be prepared to watch a lot of instructional videos online.
  1. The Regular Wash. A regular bike wash is an essential part of keeping your motorcycle healthy. Keeping your bike looking like a million dollars is pleasing to the eye but a wash provides more than just aesthetic value. A regular wash will certainly keep your paintwork in shape but your chain, rubber pipes and metal work will thank you the most. A chain needs to be cleaned thoroughly any clinging dirt particles on your metal work will breed corrosion. By giving you bike a decent wash at least once a month you can keep your motorcycle healthy AND get a close look at any potential trouble spots that might develop in future.
  1. Ride To Work. Of course, there are jobs that aren’t ideal for motorcyclists but fortunately, they are few and far between. Riding to work instead of driving adds a new dimension to the day: most people hate the drive to work, so make it better with an awesome ride and you’ll arrive at work refreshed, energized and wide awake. Riding home is great too; it’s the perfect way to leave any trouble and stress at the office rather than bringing it home with you. See the ride to and from work as a bit of meditation; it’s good for you. Ride in ALL weathers. If you’re a bit timid about riding when the rain starts to fall, it’s time to man up and challenge yourself. Riding in the rain and strong winds can be a pain but that’s no excuse for avoiding it altogether. You’re missing out on a whole load of important riding skills and experience. Don’t let the weather dictate your next ride… go out and learn some new tricks. (For more about Ride to work click here)

Obituary for Selim Demirel

Monday, February 20, 2017
An important part of the family of One More Mile died yesterday. All friends of OMM are invited to spend a minute of silence to remember Selim Demirel and his soul. Below my instant memory of Selim.
Paolo

A cold January 2003 on top of Karamursel – Selim is last on the right in HWYellow

“What I felt as we completed the ride was a deep feeling of satisfaction which actually resulted from a state of peace of mind rather than a feeling of success” Selim Demirel wrote to me these simple worlds in 2001 and they stayed with me portraying the man he was: a modern stoic aiming to improve the only possession he had, the self now gone.

I met Selim at the end of the last century since we shared a common passion on motorcycling: it did not take me too long to discover that the complex humanity of Selim was crossing many interests, passions and competences on the other side of biking.

I have long lasting and vivid memories of him on the road but more memories belong to the time spent exchanging knowledge, experience and personal stories.

Selim was passionate about history and about travelling combining geography, history and motorcycling. While travelling to see and learn from the antiquity of Turkey, we talked for long hours about the meaning of life, the destiny in front of us, the lessons to be learned: we shared more than miles, more than knowledge, more than time.

Selim, as all great humanists, was a man of kindness and compassion: building and giving with love to Basak, his wife, to the family and to friends.

Yesterday night it was hard for me to sleep and the pain was unstoppable inside. I know why: Selim built a big space in my mind and in my spirit and now this space is empty and no word nor memory will ever fill it up. From now on all will be different.

Requiescat in pace

Forget and Remember: a cheer to all bikers

In 1998 with some friends we were looking for a name for our group and One More Mile was born. To celebrate we published a “small peana” That it may still sound true 19 years later.

LET US RAISE A CHEER FOR THE INDOMITABLE SPIRIT OF THE LONELY RIDER.

THE LAND AND THE ROADS ARE LONG SINCE MAPPED BUT THE RIDER WILL STILL PUSH THE BIKE ONE MORE MILE TO EXPLORE NEW PLACES OUTSIDE AND A NEW STRENGTH INSIDE.

RAISING THE GLASS, WE CHEER TO WHAT TO “FORGET AND REMEMBER”

Forget the bikers who let you down canceling ride at the last minute.

Forget the riders who turned around because the night is made for sleeping not for riding.

Forget the bikes left in the garage because it is raining, it is cold, it is muddy, it is hot.

Forget the parades, the grand groups showing their courage by riding from bars to restaurants and to hotels.

Forget the uniforms, the line up, the convoys, the rules.

Forget the titles, the status, the kudos, the ones who stay to wear a badge or to show a sticker

Forget the prudence, forget the clumsy slow riding, incompetence presented under the camouflage of fun and safety.

Forget accessories, farkles, last models, fancy gear.

Forget the days when you had to sit at the table wasting when the road was waiting for you ahead.

Forget that crossing, where you decided to turn back, while in just one more mile, new lands were waiting for you.

Forget the roads done millions of time, always the same, to feel secure and comfortable.

Forget the Sundays you stayed home because… the family, the rain, the time, the job, the movies, the TV.

Forget “I am the best, the oldest, the stronger, the braver, the faster”

FORGET ALL THIS. LET IT GO OUT OF MIND, LET IT SLIP OVER THE WINDSCREEN LIKE RAIN OF SPRING.

RIDE OUT ALONE. FOCUS ON THE BIKE AND LISTEN TO THE ROAD.

NOW YOU WILL START TO REMEMBER.

Remember the friend helping you at the beginning of the trip.

Remember who stopped when you were in trouble, the rider that sacrificed his pleasure to share with you the pain of a broken bike.

Remember who was there when you overshot that corner to mend your bike and your pride.

Remember the crystal clear day of Anatolia when bike, rider, landscape, air, sun, clouds and all was moving perfectly around you and your machine.

Remember the long night when destination was far, the brain was finally empty of all worries, thinking bike only.

Remember the speed whispering in your ear words that you only know.

Remember the smile in your face, just out of the helmet, when you rode so well, so long and so happily more than you thought possible.

Remember the places you saw, the people you met, the stories you wrote.

Remember the friends who went a little further pushing you to try the new, the undiscovered, the exciting.

Remember the dawn, still cold on your fairing, waiting for the first sun to come out and signal the beginning of a new trip.

Remember the winter Sundays, alone in the rain, strong in the cold leaving behind you all commitment, all problems, all conventions.

Remember the waiting at the beginning of a trip, the lights of your friends coming from distance to wake you up for a new freedom.

Remember the bikers crossing your road, met at petrol station with the dust of distant lands carried by a foreign registration plate.

Remember riders without colors and without clubs, perfect riders and good mechanics always ready to welcome and to help you.

Remember the thousands and thousands of kilometers still unexplored, the historical place of this rich Country, the Castle, Palaces, Walls, Beaches, Ruins and the People that are still waiting for you and your bike. 

FOR WHAT YOU FORGOT AND FOR WHAT YOU REMEMBER RIDE ONE MORE MILE. ALWAYS.

Start Seeing! About Target Fixation

A long stretch of straight road, sun beating down on a lonely rider, no traffic ahead, behind or around. While kilometers pile up, the rider notices a large hole ahead: the bad asphalt gave up to the pounding of tractors and trucks, the surface broke down and in time the hole grew in dimension and depth. Not a major hazard: the modern bike and technically advanced suspensions can easily take care of the hole. The rider is a careful one… he does not like to put forks on trial so he plans to avoid the hole: now the mind is locked on the plan “get away on the right of the obstacle”. Plenty of space on both side but, as we said, the biker is careful and he makes a habit to avoid obstacles (when safely possible) moving on the right side. The plan is clear, the road is empty, the hole is approaching and the mind is locked on the plan to steer right.

Unfortunately the mind is not the only thing locked: the vision is in the same condition. Locked on the hole, the eyes fixed on the place to avoid, looking at the hazard coming fast… and, like a magnet, the bike, with all the space in hell, bumps into the hole, wobbles for a second and regain straight position on the way out.

“How can it be possible?” considers the shaken (but not stirred) rider. He had a good plan, he tried steering with all his knowledge and the bike kept rolling into the “enemy”.

It is called Target Fixation and it happens to the best of us. When emergency calls it is not so easy to take the eyes from the problem-danger- threat and focus instead on the solution-opportunity-answer.

It was in front of me, a good friend on a good bike dancing in a set of fast sweeping bends: joy and the art of cornering in a one smooth flow, from one delayed apex to the next one, always safe on a controlled line, looking well ahead. Then it happens: exiting one corner the look of the next one was not the most reassuring.

Sharp on the right, closing rapidly and with negative camber quite evident. I knew the story as a déjà vu: we saw a Ducati going “agricultural” in the same corner months ago: it was just some scratch on the plastic and dust on the rider but, few kilometers after, the engine seized with a valve bent by the debris bypassing the filter. This time it was not a Ducati but the rider reaction was quite similar, I saw the brake light coming in with a desperate flash and I could not stop focusing on the helmet ahead of me: it was in straight line with the field on the left, to the unkempt bushes where the camber was attracting the bike, to the place he wanted to avoid. At the last minute the head turned inside the corner, looking at the “solution”, the portion of the asphalt available for cornering… the bike leaned right into the corner and this time was just an “unpunished” line violation. Another exampled of “avoided” target fixation.

One of OMM Riders wrote: “If target fixation is the most frequent problem even for a good rider… how can we eliminate this weak point?”

Target fixation is the enemy and it is born out of bad vision habits.

First is the incapacity of separating vision from direction: if you remember your father teaching you how to move on push-bike you will remember his shouts “Do not look at the front wheel”. In a sense we are all still kids with a habit of looking at the direction of the front wheel. Noting good for the depth and the field of the vision: too technical? Easy to experience. We have a focused vision and a peripheral vision: the first one allows you to watch TV while the second one informs you that there is a spider moving on the carpet between you and the Box. Focus on the spider and you should be able to keep the TV screen on the peripheral vision.

How large is the field of your peripheral vision? Easy to test. Extend both hands with idexes raised in front of your eyes and focus on them. Keeping the focus straight ahead (do not look at the fingers) move the fingers along the extended arms on right and left toward the shoulders. Keep the focused vision ahead and you will see the fingers disappearing from your peripheral vision. When fingers disappear from sight, stop the movement of the arms and check the angle: this is the field of your peripheral vision and it varies from person to person (160° degrees is a good range).

How you exercise this kind of double vision: simply by moving your head and eyes around at any possible opportunity. It does not matter if you are riding or walking, biking or motoring, sailing or just lying down. Make a point of be aware of the large horizon (360° degrees) around you. Make a point of being aware of the zillions of “events” surrounding your positions at any time. Look up, look down, look right, left and back (as long as you remember that when you look back you do not look ahead). When on the saddle, we call this “scanning” and it is separation of vision from direction combined with the visual coverage of a large portion of the horizon. It is also acquisition of data, some immediately useful, some to be stored for future use, some irrelevant: intelligence and experience allow you to catalogue them properly.

Second step in eliminating target fixation is to keep vision well ahead: again “do not look at the front wheel”. How far ahead? That depends on how fast you go: higher speed demands distant vision and distance increases following the arm of the speedometer. If you can’t raise your vision you better control the twist of the wrist.

Now you have you eyes dancing and scanning, you focused vision is far ahead, your peripheral vision takes care of what is going on the near left, right and front. What else? Gorilla… that’s what else. If you are not looking for gorillas you will not see gorillas or, in a less esoteric form, you see what you are looking for. The gentle driver who crossed your path without warning and sent you spinning in violent crash down the road will surely and infallibly say “Sorry, I did not see you” while more appropriately should said “Sorry, I do not look for bikers and therefore I do not see them”. Andy Goldfine, the creator and master of Aerostich, once sent me a nice key ring produced by https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/ots/mmsc/Pages/default.aspx. If the drivers must start seeing motorcyclists, motorcyclists should start seeing problems well ahead by “wanting to see hazards and ways out”. Target fixation can be eliminated by using vision for accurate planning: do not just look, start seeing.

Finally are you looking at the problem or at the solution? Early entry in a left corner at sustained speed is not a good thing and it result inevitably on wide exit. Now the edge of the road is fast approaching with all the usual gifts: dirt, gravel and, sometime, diesel. That’s what you do not want to touch. Bordering the road, an elegant line of poplars placed there once upon a time for the pleasure of horse riders and passengers on coach: today it is not time for cuddling a tree. There is where you do not want to be. So if you do not want to be there why are you looking there? Why your vision is so fatally attracted by the “problems” instead of moving away to scan once more looking for a solution? Why don’t we turn head and eyes left, toward the inside of the corner and toward the ample section of asphalt available for good steering and leaning? Why? Target fixation is why.

More exercises? First do gyms with your eyes: eyes gymnastic or relaxation is a well-proven science and you can improve your vision with it. Just log in at http://www.stretchnow.com.au/exercises/eyes.htm or at http://www.program-for-better-vision.com/ where you can also buy the classic text “Better Vision”.

Then on the road and on the bike take some rides with a good companion in from of you and keep your peripheral vision on him while focusing and scanning the road ahead. Do not stay too close but keep it at two bikes length. Whenever you recognize that you start fixing at the bike in front of you, move your vision to the mirror take a fast look back. In this way you will not only create a good habit of checking the situation behind but you will also break the fixation ahead. If you go into target fixation too often it could be a sure sign of tiredness. Stop, take a break, relax body and vision and take to the road again refreshed.

Exercise vision and exercise your eyes: after you learn to see all you need is a brain to decide.