So it begins for another riding season. The yearly dose of insanity. The riders who go out and do stupid things. The ones who think they know how to ride but they're lying to themselves. It's bad enough that they're hurting and killing themselves. Those of us who ride responsibly get sucked into the whirling vortex of these other riders' folly. Call it selfish, but it pisses me off. So much of the problem could be avoided if these riders would lower their egos enough to participate in ongoing training.
"I'll deal with it when I get there." "Things will work out." "I'll play it by ear." Learn by burn. School of hard knocks. Learning the hard way. "I'll just use my intelligence guided by experience." "Gut instinct will guide me." "I'm a man. These things are inborn in us. " And the list goes on...........................
During a recent phone conversation with my birth mother she mentioned seeing an obituary for a man from Redmond ( the BMW rally site ) who had died as a result of injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident.
"Motorcycles are dangerous, you know. You're out in the open with no protection around you" she tells me.
You know, I've managed to figure that out already. I'm very proactive in compensating for that fact. Yet I hear this kind of crap over and over. No matter how skilled I am, no matter how many miles I ride accident free, I'm forever being lumped in with people like the following examples.
Here's an excerpt from an Oregon State Police informational release:
A north Portland man was seriously injured Sunday afternoon along Highway
211 in the Eagle Creek area when he was ejected from his motorcycle while trying to pass a vehicle preparing to turn. This crash is a reminder during "Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month" for all travelers and motorcycle operators to drive safely and remember the rules of the road.
According to Oregon State Police (OSP) Trooper Scott McLeod, on May 2, 2010 at approximately 4:00 p.m. a 1975 Harley Davidson operated by RUSSELL DEAN MATHEWS, age 62, from north Portland, was following a vehicle preparing to stop and turn left onto Judd Road. MATHEWS attempted to pass the turning vehicle using the right side of the highway when the motorcycle's front tire went off the abrupt pavement edge. The motorcycle continued down the steep embankment, flipping and ejecting MATHEWS.
MATHEWS was wearing a protective helmet and received serious injuries. He was transported by LifeFlight to Legacy Emanuel Hospital.
Look at the photos provided by OSP.
The rider tried to pass a left turning car on the right. I look at the shoulder and the sharp drop of the embankment and wonder "What the hell was he thinking?"
Then there's the part about the protective helmet. The rider was wearing a protective helmet and received serious injuries. That's a protective helmet? I can just see the medics.
"Yes, Sir. Your face is crushed but your helmet kept your do-rag clean when you tumbled through the dirt."
If you think I'm being cruel here, I really don't give a crap right now. A few blocks away from me there lives a man who is desperate to prove that wearing a helmet doesn't do anything to prevent injuries. In fact, he wants to try to prove that wearing a helmet actually causes additional injuries. The man comes across as an idiot with his public and faulty reasoning. Look, if you're against helmet laws just say so. Don't use stupid reasoning on top of it all. This accident is just one more he'll use in his arguments and ignore the actual facts of the situation.
I can see the newspaper letter to the editor now.
"I know this guy who crashed while wearing a helmet. He still had injuries serious enough to be life flighted to the hospital."
The "motorcycles are dangerous" argument has no footing in the accident. This wasn't a fault with the motorcycle. This was a rider doing something stupid. And I'm getting sick of getting drug in with these kind of riders. Yeah, I'm edgy right now. It's all so darn senseless. Especially since a lot of it could be fixed if riders had different attitudes.
Here's another one. No photos, just a description.
A man was riding along recently and came up behind a car turning left. Same as the situation above. This rider didn't realize that the driver of the car was actually turning. According to the cop on the scene, the driver was signalling the turn as he slowed. The rider tried to pass on the left and then finally saw the signal and the car start to turn.
The cop said there are skid marks for 146 feet. After the skid mark ended, there are scrape marks on the pavement from the bike sliding on its side. That's another 22 feet. The bike and rider slid into the side of the car still moving fairly quickly.
This is another case of "motorcycles are dangerous?" How about stupid and oblivious riders being dangerous?
Here's a case of the rider not paying attention. When startled, he reacted by slamming down on the rear brake pedal. I would bet there was very little front brake applied. That would account for the long skid mark. A locked up front wheel wouldn't slide that far, believe me.
A well trained rider probably could have stopped the motorcycle in that distance. At 60 mph it would have been possible, even without ABS. At the very least, the hard braking rider would have scrubbed off a lot more speed than the rider who slid so far did. After all, what has more traction for braking? A properly braked tire or a sliding tire? How much stopping friction does a rider's body and the bike's paint job offer? In actual fact, a really well trained rider would have seen the turn signal and slowed appropriately without it being a crisis in the first place.
Wait! We don't need no stinkin' training! We are men. Pardon us while we thump our chests and ponder how our genetic makeup makes us natural riders that don't need training. As for dressing up like all our buddies and riding from tavern to tavern? That's what us guys do. Real men, that is!
I find it telling that our Basic Rider classes are usually booked so full that students complain about how long it takes to get in. Seems everybody wants to get in to these classes as a way to get their endorsements. As well they should. This is the perfect way for a new rider or a rider wanting to get legally endorsed to go about things.
On the other hand, our offerings for more advanced training often go unfilled. It's easy to get into them. A lot get cancelled due to a lack of students. There is something totally wrong with that picture. If only a third, even, of the beginner riders we trained came back for more advanced training, we'd have three thousand of these students a year. Sadly, the advanced classes go empty, instead.
The skills and strategies learned in the beginner classes relate directly to street riding. We give new riders the best foundation we can but they still need to construct their buildings, as it were. The bikes they ride will be larger and capable of getting them into trouble frighteningly quickly. We train for real world traffic conditions but the training is done in a parking lot.
This is not Elvira, by the way. It's a different FJR that belongs to a fellow instructor.
Ken Condon has a column in one of the motorcycle magazines. He made a statement that hit home with me.
Ken stated that riding a motorcycle and thinking one will just deal with things as they go is like taking a test without studying for it ahead of time.
If winging it is such a great strategy, who do so many professions where performance matters require continuing education?
This photo is from a couple of years ago at Portland International Raceway. I wanted a picture of Sophie. I still miss her.
There is truth to the fact that riding a motorcycle is dangerous. It's a truth we need to be well aware of. As in so many other things, it's the training level and actions of the operator that make the difference. The bike offers the potential for trouble but it's the rider who, to a great degree, controls that potential.
As an advance warning, those who do not like firearms and the concept of using them for self defense should quit reading now.
Owning either does not automatically make the owner a skilled user.
I always tend to pull slightly left at distances over thirty feet, for some reason. The grouping above comes from double or triple taps from holster. I'm not training for expert marksmanship. I'm training for real world conditions. The grouping is combat accurate enough for me at 50 feet.
One hopes with all their heart to never use this training in real life. If all goes well it will never happen. I will use all the preventative measures I can to avoid that eventuality. If the system does break down and the test is administered, doing homework now will help me pass it.
Is it really different when it comes to riding a motorcycle when a wrong outcome can be fatal?
Hope for success. Train for failure.
It's about control. Control of your weapon. Control of your motorcycle. Control your surroundings as much as possible. Have a strategy in place. Or several. When plan A fails, have a plan B. Know what to do.
I'm not going to do it as a series, but I am going to come back to the value of training off and on for the next while. There's always that one question to be answered.
Why should I care?
I hope you will find those answers and refer people you know here.
Miles and smiles,