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Country Trax Adventure Riding Tips - The 'error counter' technique.

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Being in the business of training, and widely proclaiming that Country TRAX is in the “people” business first and foremost, made us think through the concept of “training” for a few minutes.  Training is future related and requires planning within the conscious self of every rider.  Training is goal orientated, it results in something. Things like achievement, proficiency or conditioning come to mind - things that are to be improved or at least maintained. Consequently, training success does not come automatically, it must be developed.   And it needs sufficient readiness for critical self observation and sufficient capability to accurately perceive one’s own level of competency.

written by Stefan Boshoff (Senior Instructor - Country TRAX Off-road academy, Free State)

In all sports, trainers are faced with the same dilemma.  The trainer comes into contact with an athlete who has already reached a fairly high level of achievement.  But there are self taught bad habits that are limiting progress to the next level.  It is no-good to just tell the trainee that these habits are detrimental and that he / she should not do it any more.  These bad habits or erroneous behaviours would be harmless if it was not for the fact that they are now so deeply entrenched that they have become automated.  The challenge is replacing an existing “program” with a new one.  Relatively sudden conversions have been evident in various sports in recent decades – just look at high jump techniques from years gone by! 

It is not a matter of just replacing the old “program” from one day to the next.  Repetition (the mother of skill) results in the conversion and the more deeply the new habit has sunken in, the less likely disruption by reverting to the old technique becomes.  Especially in situations of panic or fear.  In practical motorcycle rider training, it is often not just a matter of building onto existing behaviour, but rather the change or correction of certain actions or bad habits.  It is impossible to fully achieve that conversion in a day or a weekend of contact.  So what is the answer?

A rider who boasts with 20 years of riding experience has said nothing about his perfection as rider.  All he is saying is that he has ridden and lived through numerous situations and collected lots of experience.  However the extent to which he has translated these experiences into improvements in his riding technique remains an open question.  There will most definitely be gain in his capabilities over time, but without the intent to learn, he would stagnate at a level determined by his natural talent. 

We have seen young riders, obsessed with perfection and learning, who after two seasons can ride better than the 20 year veterans.  Improvement requires constant intent to improve.  A passive openness to learn is not enough.  At the core, it requires an active desire and intent to train before any significant progress will follow from training.  Learning and improving is therefore a job, call it a “leadership duty” for the “conscious self” more than anything else.  Arriving at any training event with that attitude will result in exponential increase in what you gain from the learning – after the event.

error counter technique error counter technique

The constant down playing of self-criticism soothes the ego of a rider, but it throws away a great opportunity to stamp out error.  This is one of the biggest reasons why there are so many riders with vast experience who still constantly make the same errors.  20 years without an accident…..  The only thing that they have gradually learnt is to deal better with their mistakes. 

What is lacking, is the intent to learn, and with it the readiness to criticize one’s own actions.  How does one arrive at this higher ability to be critical of oneself?  This is a matter of motivation.  There is a technique called the “error counter”.    Imagine something on the bike – like a bolt head close to the left hand grip or even the indicator cancel switch.  Practice becoming self critical by pressing the “button” every time you make a mistake on the bike.  Every mistake you notice is treated the same way – it does not matter who’s mistake it is or how big or small the mistake may be.   Deliberate errors don’t count.  Like exceeding the speed limit on purpose of passing on a white line intentionally.  To make it even more interesting, a simple counter can be mounted on the handlebar, and each time the button is pressed it “counts”.  You now have an “error counter” on the bike.

What follows from this is that, as useful as the counting of errors can be, the actual recording of errors (by pressing the “button”) is more important.  By means of this technique, the rider is forced to increase his sensitivity to his own errors, and in so doing keeping his critical observation skills finely tuned.  It does not matter if the error count is ever read, what matters is the ability to accurately perceive one’s own level of competency.  And the ability to recognize mistakes by applying the principles learnt during training, long after the event brings about more benefit from the training you attend than the good weekend at a nice venue with like minded people.  That is only the (essential) start!  It results in continuous improvement as a rider and life long learning where you will never reach “perfection”.

The process of developing into being the best rider you can be kicking off with attending a training course which Country TRAX presents all over South Africa.  Visit our website www.countrytrax.co.za or find us on Facebook.  You can also phone Celia on 082 895 5009 or e-mail her on info@bikebookings.co.za.  She hates being called a secretary, so please do not accuse her of that! 

Until next month….

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