As your basic skills increase and you begin to feel comfortable speeding up your riding pace, it's easy to neglect sharpening your visual skills as well. The importance of good visual acuity and peripheral recognition (noticing things in your surrounding field of vision without actually looking or focusing on them) can never be over-emphasized. The first step, obviously, is having your vision checked regularly, and making sure your helmet face shield is clean and not scuffed up. The sharpest eyes in the world won't help you if your vision is obscured by faulty equipment.
A common habit, as you begin experimenting with higher cornering speeds, is not looking far enough ahead of your bike. As your speed picks up, you'll have to scan the terrain even farther ahead, so that your cornering decisions are thought of well in advance of your arrival. If you find yourself focusing on area number one, you're "riding the front wheel"-if there's an unexpected problem in front of you, by the time you get there, your riding plan will be hurried, possibly forcing you into a mistake. By looking farther ahead to area number two, you'll have more time to formulate a riding plan, allowing you to relax and ride more smoothly. Having clear vision and good scanning skills will permit you to spot dirt or other road hazards far in front of you, while your peripheral vision helps you recognize any problems at close range
Looking ahead into the corner also helps you to avoid an affliction common to many novice riders (and many experienced ones as well) known as "target fixation." Probably 95 percent of the crashes we see in the canyons involve a rider not looking far enough ahead, suddenly realizing that the corner tightens up, then panicking with a locked-up rear wheel as he fixates on the dirt outside of the corner. If the rider in this photo were to focus on area number one, he wouldn't notice that the corner is decreasing radius. By scanning ahead to area number two, he'd have plenty of time to realize this, and be able to alter his riding plan accordingly.
The principles are the same when encountering unexpected road hazards like rocks, etc. Peripheral vision and scanning skills allow you to quickly formulate an escape route, then focus on a line, looking past the obstacle. We can practically guarantee that if you continue to stare at the hazard instead of looking ahead, you'll hit it.
Although it may sound ridiculous, many video and computer games can help you with your peripheral vision and scanning skills. A large majority of these games emphasize good peripheral vision in order to "stay alive," plus they help sharpen your hand-to-eye coordination, always an important aspect of riding skill. They also help build good concentration, something you can never have enough of while riding. Of course, we're not suggesting you go to the nearest arcade and blow a whole paycheck or sit in front of a computer for hours on end, but a few games here and there can surely help.You've heard the phrase before, from racers and experienced riders alike: "Look where you want to go." The technique is nicely demonstrated in photos of fast guys like Colin Edwards or Valentino Rossi diving into a slower corner, with their necks craned way over, looking as if they're checking out a spectator by the side of the track. Of course, this is an extreme example, but the basic premise is the same. It sounds simple enough, but many novice riders don't realize that they often fail to follow this basic rule of riding.