Target fixation is something that I’ve been familiar with for a long time. Back during the drunken years (my early to late twenties) when I wore whiskey goggles instead of motorcycle goggles, I would often fixate on some ‘attractive’ girl from across the bar and find myself helplessly drawn to her. Inevitably, I would end up planted right in front of her, swaying gently side to side and whispering sweet nothings in her ear. And by whispering I mean slurring my speech. And by sweet nothings I mean vulgar propositions. This usually resulted in me being bawled out or dressed down, with the object of my attention occasionally being generous enough to give me her drink – in the face, minus the glass. Sometimes law enforcement officials were involved; sometimes restraining orders were filed. There was also one isolated incidence where it ended in marriage.
Motorcycle target fixation is a bit different and defined as an attentional phenomenon in humans in which an individual becomes so focused on an observed object that their awareness of hazards or obstacles diminishes. And by observed object they mean big ass rock, root, rut, or mid ’70s Buick. I suppose target fixation could come in handy when you’re looking for the landing ramp after completing the second rotation of a double backflip, but I was taught to write about what you know so I’ll stick to accidentally nailing the immovable object that I’d been staring at for the past mile.
The human brain is the most eloquent and idiotic of organs – we’ve all seen many examples of how it can compel intelligent individuals to be complete and utter imbeciles, even without the aid of alcohol. Unfortunately it also has direct control over the hands. By focusing intently on an object that you’re trying to avoid, your hands will inadvertently guide you right to it.
The good news is that this also works the other way around; take note of the object you don’t want to hit, but look where you want the bike to go. By focusing on optimal line choice instead of hazard avoidance you’re turning target fixation from a negative to a positive. You should constantly be scanning the road or trail anyway, bouncing between the horizon line, what’s right in front of you – and everything in between!