Wednesday, April 3, 2013

LD Riding on the Clock -- An Organizing Framework

RIDE CRAFT:  The collection of knowledge, skills and abilities used by a long distance motorcyclist to maintain a consistent ride pace, manage risk and achieve navigational objectives.

In my opinion, successful Iron Butt Rally riders are those who reach the final check point, in one piece, on time and with enough points to achieve their goals.  A rider applies his or her knowledge, skills, and abilities using the tools of the sport, in a balanced way among several interacting performance elements to achieve success.

Goal-setting ideally involves establishing specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bounded (S.M.A.R.T.) objectives.  Complex activities involving people, tools, and performance requirements can be described using a systems approach; the process of understanding how things, regarded as systems, influence one another within a whole.  Contrast systems thinking with linear thinking, where the least important element is at one end and most important at the other and all others somewhere in between.  The graphic below represents an organizing framework and systems approach for understanding long distance riding under the constraints of a rally event.  (See: Concept of a system)

RIDER & TOOLS:  Riders physical condition, characteristics and aptitudes combine with the function and capabilities of the tools they choose.  A riders physical attributes -- strength and conditioning, circadian rhythm, visual acuity, mental faculties and emotional temperament -- are brought into play.  The rider selects tools, such as the motorcycle, riding gear, navigation, computer/communications equipment and administrative aids to use in the operational environment (roads, traffic, weather, while subject to event rules).

KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS & ABILITIES:  The rider acquires knowledge of how things or processes work, gains skill using the appropriate tools, and develops abilities to achieve event task objectives.  The rider brings his/her life experiences into the sport.  These life experiences can enhance a rider's ability to be successful.  Knowledge, skills and abilities are acquired through experiential learning or learning by doing.  Still other insights are gained through task analysis, modeling, simulation and purposeful practice.  Skills honed after many miles in the saddle, hours behind the computer, and drills using the tools in the operational environment strengthen the rider's ability to achieve task objectives.

PERFORMANCE CATEGORIES: The long distance performance elements work together, interactively and somewhat mutually dependent.  Each has a relative importance with some critical to success.  Balancing these performance elements helps develop skills and abilities. Managing the various elements together develops efficiency and effectiveness, which increases the chances for success.   Mismanage the performance elements and the system becomes unbalanced, causing problems.  

  • Riding and Risk Management -- Fundamental to the sport is being able to ride the motorcycle for long duration, over long distances and in all operational environments.  Developing riding skills takes training in the basics and purposeful practice.  Managing risks means riding good risk offset, within the limits of ones skills and abilities, the limits of the motorcycle capabilities and the limits of the riding environment.   Maintaining situational awareness and managing the risks of the ride is critical to success and avoiding a crash.
  • Ride Pace and Resource Management -- Effective use of time for riding, pit stops (refuel,refresh,repair,replan), task stops, and rest stops while efficiently consuming fuel, water, food and rest.  A grasp of the relationship between time, speed and distance is at the heart of the ride pace.  This can be expressed and measured by the moving  and overall average miles per hour metrics. (See ride pace analysis)  Understanding how the operational environment affects these averages is important.  Managing the resources to sustain a riding pace can be crucial to success.  
  • Planning and Navigation -- Plan the ride and ride the plan.  Planning is a continuous activity while on the clock.  Crafting a route that achieves individual goals and being efficient navigating the route is a challenge. The rider employs knowledge of routing techniques and skill using tools to develop an achievable route plan given his/her consistent ride pace.  Rider skills and ability to navigate the route are challenged by the dynamics of the operational environment.  Plans are almost always revised during navigation so planning skills are a key to success.
  • Problem and Stress Management -- Problems lead to stress....stress leads to problems.  Developing a solution for the right problem, that adapts to dynamic conditions, requires critical thinking and an understanding of the operational environment.  If problems are not dealt with effectively stress builds and eventually affects the balance among the performance elements.  Small problems can quickly lead to catastrophic failures. 
  • Personal Courage and Commitment -- Facing uncertainty, adversity, fear and significant risk requires confidence, integrity, discipline and a commitment to do the right thing at the right time.  Mental-emotional attitude, competitive drive and commitment to fair play affect motivation in ways that enhance or hinder reaching the objectives/goals.

The various elements of the performance categories are the subject of study among long distance enthusiasts.  Some of these elements are objective and can be examined in quantitative terms.  Ride pace and resource management in particular.  Planning encompasses more than just selecting a goal achieving route.  Routing is fundamentally tied to ride pace and resource management.  But, optimal routing is very much a creative process. It incorporates the riders understanding of the whole system to achieve the desired goal..  Managing risk of the ride is an individual concern, but it interacts with all elements.  Still other performance elements are subjective, like solving problems, maintaining a positive attitude, dealing with stress.  Examining the interaction of the performance categories can lead to ways to enhance training, fine tune skills and get more enjoyment out of the whole experience. 

All LD riders balance these elements in ways that are unique to their individual knowledge, skills and abilities.  Abilities lacking in one category may be compensated by competencies in others.  Iron Butt Rally podium finishers have demonstrated their mastery of the complex relationship among these factors and performance elements.  Given their personal characteristics, knowledge and skills, they have developed the ability employ the tools of the sport to achieve near legendary status.   

After thoughts...

The tools of the sport get a lot of attention among LD riders.  Which bike is best, getting the right aux fuel tank, aux lighting, GPS, riding gear, and on and on.  These tools are important and there are qualitative advantages to be gained.  But, when they become the primary focus, out of the context of the organizing framework, it's easy to over emphasize the tools significance.

There are many paths to knowledge and multiple routes to success in long distance riding.  The LD community as a whole is tolerant of differing views and challenges to the conventional wisdom.  In my opinion this makes the arena of ideas much more informative, exciting and sometimes amusing.