The ugly truth – and how to make things better. If you ride a motorcycle, you need to check this out.
In part one, we looked at new developments in adapting vision to enhance riding performance. While working on that, we undertook some research of our own – with 189 full licence road riders based in the USA and Europe. The astonishing results form the second part of our inquiry into performance vision.
The idea was to find out whether or not there is a common corner preference (i.e. left handers / right handers) among riders, irrespective of whether they ride in a right or left hand drive territory, and write up the results. We undertook poles on websites dedicated to Street Triple owners, Kawasaki ZRX owners (on American and British ZRX boards), and Aprilia RSV owners to ensure a cross section of different types of machine were involved and a spread of rider ages: Street Triple owners being on average the youngest group, followed by the RSV riders and finally the ZRX owners. The headline results were little short of astonishing.
- 77% of all riders cited a definite corner preference
- 68% of those citing a preference nominated a left hand corner preference, equating to 52% of all riders questioned.
That 68% is an interesting stat, because studies in the general population have consistently shown that 66% of those with a dominant eye favour the right eye – and one suggested reason for corner preference is eye dominance: i.e. a right eye dominant rider will be able to see further into a left hand corner and vice versa. At the very least, our stats appear to lend this hypothesis strong support. We also asked riders if they had been diagnosed with eye dominance, and the majority of those citing a preference referred to the condition. We didn’t include their responses in the data because many of the respondents had self diagnosed. Nevertheless, a pattern of right eye dominance / left corner preference emerged. The reverse also held true, but to a lesser extent.
How do we interpret these results? Clearly that 77% is the attention seeker – it is a deeply sobering thought that less than a quarter of riders are equally confident irrespective of corner direction – but the real story is that for the first time we have some data which establishes the notion of preference, along with its probable cause.
If we accept that eye dominance is behind corner preference, it begs the question as to what can be done about it. The first thing is to get your eyes properly (and regularly) tested. If the dominance is not severe, and distance vision otherwise satisfactory, it is possible to get a strengthening prescription for the weaker eye, leaving the stronger one with a clear lens in front of it.
However, in cases where dominance is very pronounced, strengthening the weaker eye can cause problems, since the brain suddenly has to start using stereo vision all over again. For riders who fall into that category – as for those who display a degree of dominance deemed to slight to correct – the only solution is to deal with the problem from the saddle.
It works like this. Assuming right eye dominance, approaching right handers try moving your head to the left, so the right eye is roughly in the position that the left eye was in relative to the corner. This allows the strong, right eye to see further into the right hander. If the left eye is dominant, you apply the opposite movement when approaching left handers. You’ll be surprised how much more efficiently you cope with your weaker cornering side.
A word of warning. The brain has a fair bit on its plate when approaching a corner on a motorcycle, and you will have to practice shifting your line of sight. After a while though, it comes naturally. The pay off is simple: you’ll be a better rider – safer and smoother. On track, that equates to faster.
In the final part of Visionaire, we’ll look at the relationship between visual response and those who can lay claim to being the greatest on two wheels: motorcycling world champions.