Target Fixation

Stefan Bradl

Biker Sidebar CrashAccording to many sources, target fixation is the number one cause of accidents with bikers (when the fault is the bikers own). A term originally coined in WWII when pilots would end up flying into targets they were strafing or bombing, it is now most commonly associated with bikers, cyclists and drivers.


So what is it? Wikipedia describes is as such:Target fixation is an attentional phenomenon observed in humans in which an individual becomes so focused on an observed object (be it a target or hazard) that they inadvertently increase their risk of colliding with the object.Basically put: Whilst travelling forward, It is when you focus on an object you’re trying to avoid, which then causes you to aim towards it.

For example: you come into a right hand corner faster than normal, spot the crash barrier to the left side, and feel that the bike isn’t going to make the bend, you fixate on the barrier thinking “I’m going to hiStefan Bradlt that”. The then self fulfilling prophecy gives you some what of a rude awakening.

Even the best riders can suffer with target fixation. A momentary lapse in concentration, an event at the side of the road on a bend, and before they know it, they’re aiming for it. Perhaps it’s not the actual fixation that’s the problem, but moreover the survival reactions we put into play once we have already fixated? A fistful of brake in a corner whilst fixating is only going to end one way: badly, when what we should be doing is looking through the bend to the exit.

This applies to pretty much any style of riding or type of bike. We all have our own way of dealing with target fixation, whether it be a conscious or subconscious action, for the most part, we’ll avoid it. Some of the suggestions I’ve found for dealing with it (I’m sure you’re already doing most of these already):

  • Look where you want to go, not where you think you’ll go.
  • When cornering turn your head, not your eyes.
  • Don’t ‘look’ at the road ahead, ‘Scan’ it, never fixing on any point for long.
  • Plan a mental ‘kick’ when you realise you’re fixating – Say ‘Scan’ or ‘Concentrate’ to yourself
  • Avoid survival reactions wherever possible. That brake lever is not your friend mid corner.

A quick search on YouTube reveals a plethora of crashes as a result of target fixation. Conversely, there are numerous articles on how to avoid target fixation, all worth a watch/read to better arm yourself against a potential disaster. Do you agree/disagree? Have you had a run in with Target Fixation and avoided it? Or even succumbed to it? Let us know in the comments below!