Monday, March 26, 2007

Whose Ride is It Anyway?

When learning to ride we all probably dealt with people who told us how dangerous motorcycles are to ride. Suicide machines. Hondacides. Name some derogatory term for the machine or the sport and I bet I can recall a time it was said to me. Without fail non riders' eyes would get suspicious and some advice or story about someones brother, cousin, or friend of a friend would fill my ears.

Oddly the reason for the crash or accident wasn't given. I had to ask that question on my own. Because we all know people don't cause accidents, the machines they're using suddenly take over and operate independently of the user. It happens all the time and motorcycles are notorious for displaying this characteristic normally reserved for living things.

People rule the majority of things and situations they find themselves involved in. They either take control or relinquish it. Its that simple. The responsibility lies with the individual.

When people relate these fearful stories about how Bob sent himself into a ditch some early morning sometime after bar closing they always leave out the part about the bars closing. Never mind that Bob helped close a certain bar. Bob was the victim and his dastardly motorcycle forced the liquor upon him.

They might tell the story with vivid detail but ask a few questions and chances are you're going to make them angry because they just got caught in a half truth or a flat out lie. If you point out Bob relinquished his control of the situation voluntarily or that Bob just assumed he could operate a motorcycle the way he would anything else in his life, they'll walk away angry.

People tell me how dangerous motorcycles are all the time. I tell them in all the years I've owned them, going into my teens, I've never walked by them in the garage and had one jump out and try to bite me yet.

Is that a dumb reply? No it really isn't. Because it always reminds them responsibility lies with the operator. Before they can utter another word the gears in their heads are turning. They stop talking and start thinking. The common response afterward is "just be careful out there" and that's something I appreciate hearing.

Now something new is happening and I can't seem to get past it. Riders who normally understand the individualism imbued in the spirit of riding motorcycles are giving faux warning about riding in bad weather. Here's the point those folks are missing: When someone tells you about a ride in bad weather and they're still a fully functioning human being, it means they rode well enough to get through it just fine. Regardless what the naysayers whine about, it already happened. Its a done deal. It happened without incident. And its up to the teller of the tale to decide if such a ride will be undertaken again. The person begging them not to do it again is forgetting two important things. First, Teller of said Tale doesn't need any one's permission to ride any time anywhere on the public roads of these United States. Secondly, Teller of said Tale probably learned a few things about being safer about riding in any conditions that the naysayers may need to know for their own safety someday.

When someone makes the choice to ride, they already took a leap against the grain. They've determined its worth the experience even if becoming the focus of naysayers' attention is drawn to them. Why? Because they really don't worry about what other people think. And they shouldn't, either.

People have ridden truly bad weather and did more than survive they found they enjoyed the experience, they explained to others how they got through it and then others learned to be better riders. Some riders have been in those same conditions and said they would never do it again. But from what I've seen both groups will share what they did and how they got through it.

We all have our limits where we feel we can handle a given condition well enough to get through it with relative comfort. Its not the same bar for any two people. Trying to bring anyone to our personal level of operation or comfort is an exercise in futility. Some riders will lay a bike low through the turns even on wet pavement. Others will baja off through the woods, beginning at the fire trails and working their way deeper and deeper into the steep terrain of canopied forests. Some take a go at snow while others like me enjoy riding in the rain on a warm afternoon.

It all starts with the idea that you or I could actually get through this situation. After all, none of us in this generation are going to be the first to do it. Millions have done it. They remember riding motorbikes through the woods. Or across fields, soaking themselves in muck. They remember the fun it was, the little two strokes tooting at high rpm for all they were worth.

No, before the naysayers condemn us for riding in bad weather or deride us for the way we're "influencing" the riding public with our disregard for safety and the "image" we present, they should remember some of us did these things before. Maybe as kids. They should also take notice that we ourselves are using all of our fingers to tell the stories. What riders who've done these things know, the rest of us can learn.

The Roadbum


Combatscoot said...

Ha,ha! I really like the retort about walking past the bike in the garage and never getting bit by it! I might have to use that sometime.

American Scooterist Blog said...

Thanks, John. I came up with that a long time ago but it still applies. hehe


irondad said...

Just wanted to let you know I read the post. I'd like to offer a comment but I want to think about it for a while. It's a great post about responsibility.


American Scooterist Blog said...

Thanks Dan, I'll take to heart anything you have to say.