To the editors,
Whenever I hear the term “biker,” it conjures up the reading of Hunter Thompson by a 14-year-old. It’s cool for a time, but the novelty wears off. I think “rider” is the better term, certainly more descriptive and inclusive for folks that are motorcycle enthusiasts.
I am an avid motorcycle rider. I ride 7,000 to 10,000 miles a year. I’ve been licensed to ride since 1968 (yikes!). When I read about motorcycle wrecks, a few thoughts cross my mind regarding riders’ safety. My advice is to make sure the rider:
- has taken a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course;
- wears a helmet, gloves, boots, jacket and even protective pants (ATGATT: All The Gear, All The Time);
- inspects and maintains his or her bike;
- is an experienced rider.
This advice is for all riders and perhaps even more so for passengers. And if a rider tells you their bike or riding is “different, this stuff doesn’t apply,” I’d avoid that situation. If a rider is delinquent in any area, I’d prefer not to ride around them and for sure would never get on a passenger seat. If they’re inexperienced, I would gladly ride with them and observe and tutor, provided they’re compliant with the remaining elements, but I wouldn’t be a passenger.
A rider learning the hard way
Yes, I’ve had a few wrecks, some scrapes and X-rays, even a removable cast on my hand for a couple of weeks. Thank goodness I had my gear on. It could’ve been much worse. My single ER visit was slipping down a friend’s driveway on a motorcycle while wearing swim trunks and flip-flops. Do you know what a hot engine does to your inner thigh when you use your leg to try keep the bike from falling? Second-degree agony. And the ride back home was really no fun. Yes, I learned the hard way about wearing protective gear.
A smarter guy than me said there are kinds two kinds of riders: those that have been down and those that will be (and no, it wasn’t Tuco).
Another smart guy said to “ride your own ride.” Don’t try to ride over your abilities to keep up with someone better or more experienced. There are always better riders — we all can’t be racing’s Valentino Rossi or Gary Nixon. And yes, I’ve fallen into that trap, too (literally, on Push Mountain Road in Arkansas).
Advice for other drivers
And I might offer some advice for drivers as well. When you see a motorcyclist buzz around you, rather than hold him or her up or getting upset, realize that the rider might be attempting to get ahead of the traffic in an attempt to avoid being tailgated or avoid someone’s blind spot. Speed and maneuverability are some of the techniques for a rider to stay safe by staying away from traffic. (OK, I’ll admit it, it can also be addicting fun.)
Also, when you’re at traffic light and you see a rider split between lanes and go to the front, don’t be upset. When the light turns green, you won’t catch him, and everyone behind was able to move up and more commuters can make the green light. A win-win for everyone.
But when you see an endless line of motorcycles going under the speed limit holding up traffic without a parade permit, in that case you have my sympathy, too.
Stay safe, whether on two wheels, three or four.
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