Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School - Concentration

Text: Kevin Schwantz • Photography: Kevin Schwantz

Plain and simple, concentration and your ability to think faster than your motorcycle covers ground are key factors in determining how quickly you can ride safely. It's not how much weight your muscles can lift or how swiftly your reflexes react but how focused on the job at hand the gray matter between your ears is.

Think Ahead

Speaking of focus, remember to keep your attention focused in front of (and never behind) your motorcycle. It sounds simple, but all too often we find ourselves thinking about the mistake we made in the last corner while we're rushing into the next corner at 100 feet-per-second (just over 68 mph) or faster. Every second you spend dwelling on what surprised or scared you in the last corner, you lose 100 feet of distance which, in turn, makes you more hurried in your thinking when you arrive at the next corner. In fact, it compounds the problem.

Obviously, we need to focus solely on the rider, the bike and the asphalt ahead, blocking out all other distractions. By focusing on what's ahead (looking two to six seconds in front of you), we begin actively anticipating and predicting what inputs we need to put into the bike, rather than passively waiting and reacting, then feeling as though we're falling behind.

Get Rhythm

It's this ability to stay focused far in front of the bike that allows top-level riders to find their rhythm, where their thinking gets so comfortably in front of the bike that their bike's perceived movement actually shifts into a type of slow motion in their minds.

There were times in my career when the bike was set up just perfect and I had the track so figured out that things seemed to happen in slow motion. It didn't happen every weekend, because everything needed to be just right - no distractions - but when it did, it gave me the edge to have enough reserve concentration to think about strategy for the next corner, the next lap or even the last lap of the race. And remember, this is all happening in slow motion while I'm riding a 175-horsepower, 286-pound motorcycle as fast as I can. It's an almost eerie feeling, but it's something to strive for.

Slow Motion

A motion picture camera films action by taking 24 still frames per second, which is then played back at the same speed to trick our mind into seeing motion. A slow motion sequence is shot at 36 frames per second, then played back at 24 frames per second, effectively slowing the motion. By focusing ahead, taking in and compressing all the information in front of us more rapidly while the motorcycle travels at the same speed, our minds, in essence, are operating like a motion picture camera shooting slow motion.

It's easy to think that a second is just an insignificant moment to let your mind wander, but as we've shown, it's enough time to travel 100 feet at just 68 mph. When you're concentrating effectively, your mind breaks timing down into milliseconds. There are 1000 milliseconds in a second, so make use of every one possible.