Friday, January 23, 2009


"Wherever you go, there you are."

These are certainly sage words to live by. We see the truth of them all around us. People change partners, geographic locations, vehicles, and a host of other things. I hear them say things like they're looking for a new life or a fresh start. They tell me that if only they had ( fill in the blank ) then things would be so much better for them. Sometimes these things can be the correct answer. Oftentimes not, though. It depends on the question, doesn't it?

Mostly, though, what happens is that attitudes and shortcomings follow the person no matter where they are, what they drive, or whom they live with. I see this exemplified in the world of motorcycling over and over again.

Make no mistake about it. People bring existing attitudes to riding. As an instructor I feel lucky to have a chance to help shape these attitudes. My hope is to create an environment where a student is comfortable sharing what's on their mind. Knowing where they're at, I can maybe nudge them in another direction. I firmly believe that education and shaping attitudes is a much more powerful force for positive change than the punitive measures government takes.

Some people are much more free about sharing attitudes than others. A recent example drives this home. I thought you might be interested in a follow-up to a previous post.

Remember this tire? It was on the back of a Yamaha sport bike I saw in a parking lot. Here's the rest of the bike.

This bike's had a hard life. My question in the post was whether the tire was in this condition due to neglect or economic necessity. I believe I now have the answer to the question.

We're having a small sunny spell, as you can probably tell. Being out and about for work, I found myself near the mall again. Curiosity was running high, as usual for me. On a whim, I decided to see if the Yamaha was in the lot. You can see why I wondered what condition it was in. How much longer could someone ride a bike with a rear tire in that condition? There was no Yamaha, but the KLR belonging to Cass was there. So I thought I'd go look him up and get the 411.

You probably noticed that I'm riding Sophie. I just love that bike. I keep trying to make the posts short but I always seem to end up adding these little side trips. My riding is like that, too, interestingly. Talk about attitudes coming with you wherever you go, huh?

I advertised Sophie for sale for a few months with no success. Maybe the market is partly to blame. Part of it is probably the mileage of the bike. With average mileage being somewhere around three to four thousand a year, people expect an eight year old bike to have twenty five or thirty thousand miles. Fifty thousand is considered pretty high. When they see a bike that's waaaay over that average, it must seem like a million mile bike.

I'll put the ad back in during February sometime. In the meantime, I'm happy. I really don't need to sell her. I'm certainly not going to just give her away. With the FJR ignition switch recall pending, it's just another excuse to give Sophie some more miles. Yamaha doesn't officially have the recall in the system, yet. The kind lady from Yamaha gave me the official line. Don't ride the bike until it's fixed. You know me. I'll take the chance anyway. Still, I'm more than happy to throw a leg over my dear old friend Sophie.

Ok, back to the planned route.

I was really hoping that the young man riding the Yamaha was just poor. I'd learned earlier that he was hired to do deliveries for the store. They sell large appliances, televisions, home theatre systems, and so on that customers can opt to have delivered. Our young rider didn't last long, it seems.

There's an abundance of scraped bodywork on the bike. When you hear the rest of the story you'll understand how the attitude thing applies.

In the beginning I really wanted to like this rider. As the Christmas season approached, I'd toyed with the idea of helping a financially challenged rider get a new rear tire. We always want to believe the best of people. Ok, mostly I'm a grouchy cynic but I have my moments of weakness.

Here's the story as told to me.

So the kid gets a job driving a delivery truck. According to Cass, who rides the KLR, things were quiet for a few days. There's two or three guys who work in the stock room that are sometimes riders of sport bikes. Cass is more or less their supervisor. He'd come in from time to time to find them standing around exchanging stories of crashes and acts of bravado, if you get my drift. Now, Cass is your typical hardcore commuter. He's taken training several times and rides responsibly. Polar opposite of our young Yamaha rider. Two examples of different riding attitudes.

So far we've got a rider who's taking credit for every scratch and scrape on the bike. True or not. Not only taking credit, but bragging about how it happened. Was this attitude confined to riding or did it show up other places?

It wasn't long before a complaint came in. A delivery presented particularly difficult spatial challenges. LG makes a large, double compartment, stainless steel refrigerator. Get this. Not only can you get cold water and ice from the door, but there's an LCD television in the door, too. Seriously. It can be hooked up to a DVD player, cable, or satellite. You can watch the news while fixing a meal, I guess. Someone with a little over three large just had to have this appliance. Enter our rider.

Room to maneuver was scarce. Have you heard the saying "If it don't fit, don't force it"? Our young rider had his own intrepretation. "If it don't fit, use a little more force."

A running start and a big shove got the box through the small archway. Fortunately, the damage was confined to a few tears on the box and some scrapes on the sheetrock. Young rider was later made to profusely apologize to the offended customer. Given a reprieve, our rider was calm for a bit. Until The Freeway Incident.

Our young protagonist had an out of town delivery. Things were conspiring to make him run late. According to Cass, the kid had a party he was planning on attending after work. Now he would be late getting back to the store. Thus being late to clock out and get to the party. In what was described by a later witness as "aggressively working traffic" our rider was making a lot of lane changes in the panel truck. Normally we'd make sure the lane was clear and then move over. The first, but very vital step, got left out.

The truck crashed into a small pickup that was to the right of it. Nobody was seriously hurt but the accident was enough to warrant a police response. You know what happened this time, don't you? Yeah, there is no longer a job position open for the young man.

I'll let your draw your own takeaway conclusions from the story. Since I'd opened the book earlier, I thought you might find it interesting to know how the story ended. I do find myself a little peeved, however. Being a rider who's trying to be taken seriously as a legitimate road user, I'm probably a little over-sensitive. I strongly resent, however, anyone whose approach to riding gives the rest of us a black eye. You know the public and the government. It's so much easier to notice and judge the whole group by a few individuals.

I sure hope this rider gets smart before he gets dead.

Miles and smiles,



bobskoot said...

I agree with you about the minority that give the majority a bad name. In rush hour traffic I usually go with the flow and experience has taught me to just "follow like a sheep". I don't change lanes much as I can be tempted with the best of them. I now go the slow way just to get the Indy 500 temptation out of my mind.
Anyway, every day on my commute I take a secondary highway to work. Usual morning traffic, lots of vehicles with little open space. And every morning comes along this red CBR125RR zipping in and out, changing lanes and using max acceleration at every stop, passing on the right . . . anything to get ahead. Just goes to show -- size is everything.

Charlie6 said...


I fear the darwinian "natural selection" process coupled with this youngster's cavalier attitude towards road safety will ensure a shorter than average life span.

I remember feeling indestructible as a young paratrooper, perhaps its just as well I did not ride motorcycles back then.

Dean W said...

Dan wrote:
"people expect an eight year old bike to have twenty five or thirty thousand miles."

You need more bikes, to spread the miles out over.



David said...

Another incident due to a poorly trained truck driver. That's how most people are going to see that young rider's "accident". It was no accident, it was an inevitability. We have to have endorsements to ride a bike, I have a special commercial drivers license (CDL) to drive this truck I'm in. However, there is a loop hole in the CDL requirements, as long as the truck does not weight over 26,500lbs, max (If I remember correctly) you don't need a CDL to drive it. Oddly enough, most delivery panel trucks are just licensed to that weight. So the same license that lets you drive a Civic lets you drive a truck. Not a good idea, same as riding a bike with no training. Trucks and bikes are both different vehicles that require special training to operate safely. Oddly though, there are a lot of similarities. Brake in a straight line, late apex the corner, accelerate out. Same on my bike or in the big rig. :)

Dave T.

Tinker said...

Well, it looked to me from the effects on the tire, he was purely fast in a straight line. Wear in the middle, no wear on the shoulders of the tire says he is accelerating like a banshee through the gears, and he doesn't even attempt to get a knee down, or even to corner with any skill. I don't know that getting a knee down would make me appreciate him any more, but it couldn't hurt, I generally prefer competence to incompetence, safety to recklessness, ability and forethought to inability and stupidity. (I'd say, like you, for example, but you don't need me to suck up to you, do you?)

Bryce said...

Suspect a combination of young testosterone, available money (to initially purchase the two wheeled
toy) and the desire to have fun in life conspired against the driver of the panel truck. Then too being young, brash and more than a bit stupid just aided and abetted his demise. Not so much Darwin at work, rather sadly typical upbringing in this day and age. And with the economy tanking said person might not get another job easily.

Well recall walking through a parking lot in the early fall Dan
and noticing two or three similar crotch rockets, all parked in the same slot. All owned by those employed in the nearby large retail mall. Every one of the bikes had scrapes on the bodywork, bald or nearly so tires, and dings and missing hardware. I'd sometimes see these same three machines, and one or two others hurtling with their riders on an after work ride. All wore leather jackets and none wore anything other than cotton jeans and running shoes. They all had a fancy helmet. One or two wore gloves.

Where are they now? Who knows? Three feet of snow on the ground makes riding anything motorcycle difficult. And I suspect too those machines that I saw are now either in storage or sold. You have to have money to play and ride.

Guess I am getting old when I saw these youngsters having fun and thinking; have fun boys, before you fall.

Oh and one other side note. Was way north of my residence this January
22, 2008. Easily a good hour or more by car; six feet of snow in places. And the local municipalities have finally done something right. Where one goes from one jurisdiction to another the posted speed limit would either go up or down. Never the same.

These roads so posted were good roads for Sunday sport bike riders as well and also were great for the local police to issue tickets.

The new speed limit? 50 kilometres per hour. Not 50 miles per hour,
50 kilometres! That's 31 miles per hour, basically crawling for a rural road.

I c an many tickets being issued come riding season. If you want to speed, find a track. And there are few and far between race tracks around here too.

Biker Betty said...

You had great intentions, but it sounds like this young man doesn't deserve a helping hand at this time. I really hope he realizes he's not indestructible in time.

PS: I'm crossing my fingers and toes that it doesn't snow this weekend for you. Good luck on your lessons.

Lady Ridesalot said...

I'm the kind of person who goes trough life trying to maintain a great attitude. Not just about my riding skills, but at work and home as well. Thankfully, I'm a "glass is half full" kind of girl, so it just flows from one aspect of my life to another.

However, I have low tolerance for people who are ignorant of the fact that their risk taking behavior usually involves someone or something else. Kind of like the drunk driver who survives his crash, while others die from his poor judgment.

You had very good intentions here Dan, but after hearing the rest of the story... I'm glad you didn't waste your effort (and $$) on someone who probably would not have appreciated it nearly enough.

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

It's not just riding poorly that can reflect badly on the rest of us...
I pretty regularly see bikes illegally parked in the striped space between handicapped parking spots.
Once in a while the police will deign to show up & write a ticket, but it doesn't happen often.

Karl even got cited for disorderly conduct 'cause he tried to explain to some guy on a scooter that he was illegally parked. Guy got mouthy, hit Karl w/ the scooter, Karl got loud... (It was dismissed, but still annoying.)

Lance said...

Hello Dan - great blog you got here. Nice post - I hope the young man gets the message before it's too late for him or someone else.

irondad said...

What gets me is that these people aggressively working traffic don't really get very far ahead. They put everyone in danger, create greater wear on their vehicle, and fray nerves. For what?

"Follow like a sheep"? How about a Ram who chooses to go with the herd for a while?

As long as he only takes himself out.

I like your kind of help!

Dave T,
I wish all drivers, big rigs or not, had your serious attitude about doing it right. It's the same way with renting moving trucks. All you need is a regular license. Don't even get me started about motor home drivers!

Firstly, I value you whether you compliment me or not! Secondly, I agree that there's a lot of riders who want to get fast without getting good. I can sort of overlook some things if there's skill to go with it.

I shudder to think that having a bald tire and scratched body work could become a badge of honor in a group of riders. Yikes!

As to hard riding, I couldn't agree more. There's a proper time and place for some kinds of riding.

Biker Betty,
Thanks. I share your hope towards the young man.
And the snow!

Lady R,
Thank you for yor support. I share your indignation at those who will put others at risk for their own selfish purposes.

Attitudes express themselves in many ways, don't they? I applaud Karl for speaking up and defending himself. It's too bad that the jerks always seem to come out on to of these "legal" encounters, isn't it?

Thank you for the compliment on the blog. I share your hope for the young man, too.

Take care,