This is one of those phenomena which is difficult to explain, but causes so much havoc for bikers around the world. It is based on a trick our brain plays on us, and if you listen to your brain, you will end up in a world of hurt.
It is called “Target Fixation”, something that got discovered during the second World War when bombers would fly straight into the target instead of avoiding them. The pilots would have their eyes directed on whatever they had to bomb, and would fly their airplane straight into it.
The same applies to us motorcycle riders. Wherever you are looking is where your motorcycle will go to. See a pothole in the road? That is where your motorcycle will go to.
It is one of the main reasons you are taught to look to the end of a curve when entering one; by looking at the furtherest point of the curve, then that is where the bike will go to. If you look just in front, i.e. your apex, your bike will end up not taking the curve. You will find that at low speeds you will need to readjust your lean angle, and at higher speeds you will become intimately acquainted with the countryside.
When riding on a straight road, if an animal jumps in front of your path, often bikers will not avoid it. That is because their brains are fixed on the target, and they end up crashing into the animal.
How to avoid this?
There is no simple way of avoiding target fixation. You need to train your brain to think otherwise. The only way is not to look at the “target”. If you see that pothole in the road and you are heading straight for it, then look elsewhere. Anywhere but the pothole, and then let your reactions kick in.
Get used to the fooling your brain when riding. Look for something small on the road, like leaves or a small discoloring of the road, then look for a path away from the object and follow that path. Keep doing this until your brain starts doing it automatically.
And always remember; you go where you are looking!
(inspired by Nelson’s BMW airhead motorcycles article)