Riding and the brain, its amazing!

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by NJ-Brett, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. NJ-Brett

    NJ-Brett Brett

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    I was out dirt riding my XT250 today, flying down double track, and thought about all the mental processing going on without me even thinking about it.
    There I was, buzzing along at 40 to 60 mph, picking my lines through the sand with ruts, dodging roots and mud holes, scanning for jeeps and other bikes and deer, so I am looking 10 feet ahead, 30 feet and maybe 75 or 100 feet away, while modulating the throttle, the gearbox, shifting weight, and also thinking about where I am overall and where I am going.
    There is also the calculations of how fast you can go around a turn if something should be coming the other way or something being IN the turn.
    That is a lot of high speed mental processing going on without me even being aware of it.

    It must keep your brain sharp.

    Its habit, I tend to do it on the street as well, but its not as intense.
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  2. steve68steve

    steve68steve Long timer

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    I've read that the amount of processing required to ride crowds out other thoughts, and that the resultant peace is the reason riding is addictive. We crave a quiet mind, or maybe at least a focused mind.

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  3. Tripped1

    Tripped1 Bitch called me a feminist.

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    Then you aren't going fast enough.
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  4. 51%

    51% ReadyToRide

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    I believe that one of the main benefits of dirt riding is the increased level of training the subconscious muscle memory parts of your brain to deal with disturbances in the locomotion process. Things that used to require thought become automated reactions. More than once it's saved me on the street from going down in unexpected loss of grip situations.
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  5. NJ-Brett

    NJ-Brett Brett

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    Not going fast enough for it to be intense, I agree, but much safer and a LOT less tickets!
    I would like nothing better then to street ride like I dirt ride, run at about 85% my ability, but you can't ride like that around here without some sort of get out of jail free card.

    Still, its been about 40 years on the street without a crash or drop of a bike, from reading the trail/road habit maybe...


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  6. outlaws justice

    outlaws justice On the Fringe

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    When you first start riding on the street, it can take all of your concentration to ride and survive but as the skills become part of you your mind does not need all its processing power. I also ride dirt and it also comes down to the level of challenge, there was a time when a double track as you described took most of not all of my processing power, then to the single track trails and now onto the single track trails with the 950 Adventure. Just keep building so I can be in that zone where all other thoughts are pushed out due to the need to focus on every aspect of what I am doing and whats might be coming up.
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  7. Baconologist

    Baconologist Been here awhile

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    Sure you can....track days
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  8. oic

    oic not dead yet

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    yep, but also riding a smaller, less competent bike. Its like a James Bond chase scene with out the risk of getting thrown under the jail.
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  9. D R

    D R Been here awhile

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    What's really strange is while all you described is going on without thinking about it, when you do actually start to think about it, you suddenly find you're giving more attention to what you normally don't think about, and not actually thinking about riding.

    Did that make sense, or did I just fry a couple of neurons?

    :hmmmmm
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  10. PT Rider

    PT Rider Been here awhile

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    A greatly oversimplified picture of the brain will have three parts. The lowest part is the section that controls the body functions--breathing, etc.--that take no thought. The upper part is the thinking part. The middle is where things we've learned hang out.

    When we start to learn something new we need to think about it. Think it through. This is relatively slow, and it's tiring. The brain can only think of one thing at a time, so anything else to think of is shunted aside. (No such thing as multi-tasking, just giving slices of concentration time to one thing or another, one at a time.) After we've repeated something new a few hundred times we've "learned" it. New neural connections have formed in this middle part of the brain so this new thing becomes automatic where we can do it quickly, easily, much less tiring, and the upper part can now think of something else. Motorcycle clutching or arithmetic or anything is learned about the same way. Replacing something already learned takes a few thousand repetitions--old habits are hard to break.
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  11. daveinva

    daveinva Been here awhile

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    Totally makes sense. I'll find that my sloppiest corners are generally the ones in which I overthink things. Call it "The Pace" or flow or what-have-you, my best riding is when all the required processing is going on just underneath the surface.

    Thing is, that kind of processing only comes with lots and lots of practice...
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  12. steve68steve

    steve68steve Long timer

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    Just remembered another amazing brain story:

    Years ago, I was in the car with my wife approaching a traffic knot at 60mph. She was driving. As the gap closed between us and the gray SUV in front us, they suddenly locked up their brakes - front end dive, smoke pouring off their tires. My wife stood on brakes but it was obvious we were going to rear-end that gray SUV ... hard.

    After what seemed like an eternity, we hit. I remember being disoriented by the impact for a second, then I looked up and my whole field of vision was filled with gray, maybe a foot on front of my face and closing fast.

    I thought, "gray, wtf? Oh, shit. The back of the SUV in front of us is gray ..and it's a foot in front of my face and moving at me? This is it. This is how I die. I hope I'm not decapitated, I don't want to be a grizzly scene."

    Then it was over and my nostrils were filled with acrid, stinging chemical smoke. In front of me in a crumbled heap was the deflated -gray- airbag.

    So, in the time it took an airbag to explode, I was able to perceive it's distance, motion, and color, think (mistakenly) that it was SUV tailgate utilizing short term memory and comparison, conclude that my life was over, reflect on the possibility of decapitation, and have an emotional reaction to that reflection.

    Airbag deploys in what, 100ths of a second? I was left humbled by the what my brain is capable of. Imagine if we could access that speed of processing without being in a life-or-death crises.

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  13. pointerDixie214

    pointerDixie214 Been here awhile

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    Adrenaline is an amazing thing. I was in a bad car accident in 2009 when a jackass blew a red light. at night, without his headlights on, and t-boned us at 55 mph. I remember every spin, everything we bounced off of, and thinking about all of it.

    The brain is incredible.
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  14. shovelstrokeed

    shovelstrokeed Long timer

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    Fuck, if you had to think about and then perform every aspect of walking, you would be on your ass in 2 steps. It is not habit, it is learned behavior. Breathing is not really habit either, it is reflexive behavior and controlled by a different part of the brain. Our responses to visual clues and tactile ones from riding are a form of learned behavior as well. Over time, what you used to think about, such as moving your fingers onto the brake lever when approaching an intersection, become ingrained and no longer require conscious thought thereby freeing the conscious mind for other analysis. Same thing with speed control, you don't stare at your speedometer to see how fast you are going, you use your other perceptions such as the closure rate with surrounding traffic or how fast you are passing stationary objects. Beginners can't do it, seasoned riders do it without thinking about it.
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  15. TheProphet

    TheProphet Retired; Living the Dream

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    I believe a lot of this has to do with the "4 levels of Learning" concept, which can be applied to almost anything.

    [​IMG]
    We start with Unconscious Competence, meaning we need to learn a lot about something, but don't actually realize it yet.

    Then we (hopefully) progress at some time to Conscious Incompetence, meaning that we fully realize and admit that we need to learn more.

    We than become Consciously Competent, meaning we have learned the basics of something, but need to think about it and focus constantly. (I think this is what we are talking about in this Thread.)

    Finally, some reach "Unconscious Competence", meaning muscle memory, extensive learning and constant repetition have resulted in performing the learned task without needing to constantly focus on the motions, etc.

    IMO, reaching #4 CAN be dangerous in motorcycling, as regardless of the level of competence, we still need to focus and be vigilant about what is going on around us.

    It is also interesting to think about riders you may know, and how many are stuck permanently in level #1.
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  16. ttpete

    ttpete Rectum Non Bustibus

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    There are actually two facets to this. In addition to reaching #1 in motorcycle operation, it's possible to attain #1 in Roadcraft, which is the art of dealing with other traffic and surviving same. This is far more difficult than the first.
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  17. NJ-Brett

    NJ-Brett Brett

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    Video processing is peak when your vision starts to go from age and there is dappled sunlight all over the trails.
    Seems worse at different times of the day, but the brain is really working hard to read the trail at higher speeds.
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  18. cal08

    cal08 Been here awhile

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    I read about this phenomenon quite some time ago in one of my classes as a youth. I no longer remember the author. He spoke about the perfect balance between challenge and competence. The TL;DR: When challenge exceeds competence, it's stress; when competence exceeds challenge, it's boredom. When they match it becomes a timeless experience, of which you speak. Interestingly, he spoke about how our brains have little memory of the actual moment, and we only begin to reconstruct the event in retrospect, after the event. He also spoke that this balance is quite difficult to achieve. Rock climbers, surgeons also report this feeling. I'm impressed and glad for you: your riding is obviously evolving to a very peak state. Congrats. For me, unfortunately, it's mostly been stress. But I use your experiences as goals. All the best. Edit: "Flow" was the title, as I recall.
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  19. Tiutis

    Tiutis Adventurer

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    The Flow by Mihaly Chikszentmihalyi
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  20. cal08

    cal08 Been here awhile

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    That's the one. Long time since I had read it, but recall it was a good analysis of the phenomenon we discuss here.
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