An Italian pharmaceutical firm, SIFI, conducted a study with the help of LCR Honda to learn the impact racing has on the eyes of professional motorcycle riders. The study found that MotoGP riders are not prone to dry, irritated eyes despite exposure to stressful conditions like headwinds and UV rays. More importantly, SIFI discovered that MotoGP riders blink fewer times than the average person, even when they’re just kind of hanging out — aka, not racing.
One rider went nine minutes without blinking, according to a Motorrad Online report. Just as a reference, the normal interval for most people is four to six seconds between blinks. Riders who compete in Moto2 and Moto3 easily went over the 4-6 second interval, but MotoGP riders beat their fellow, lower-division riders. It’s almost like there’s a correlation between displacement and time between blinks.
One of the researchers in the study posits that the MotoGP riders may have even overcome the reflex to blink as frequently as normal people in order to survive, given the high speeds they go during races. At these velocities, blinking is like flying blind, as RideApart notes:
At the first round of the 2021 MotoGP season, Pramac Ducati rider Johann Zarco set a new series top-speed record of 225 mph. At that speed, riders cover 330 feet in one second. The average blink takes 0.15 seconds, so riders traveling at that top velocity are effectively blind for nearly 50 feet of track.
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I mean, I wouldn’t want to blink during the maneuver below either, but I probably wouldn’t be able to fight the reflex — unlike these athletes.
The results of the study has prompted teams to include visual training in their rider regiments because, according to one of the lead researchers, there could be some connection between blink rate and concentration. From Motorrad Online:
“We also want to investigate the relationship between concentration and blink rate. From these results, we expect to understand whether one can work with little tricks, exercises, or eye drops to counteract fatigue, dry or sore eyes, and deterioration in vision.
Explicit training methods for the eyes are being planned for 2022 and 2023.
So I encourage you to go ahead and avoid playing the blinking game with a MotoGP rider, because chances are you’re probably going to blink first.