Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Responsibility- giving and taking.

Taught a class this weekend. It was so darn wet I hardly dared pull a camera out. Took a couple of snapshots, but that's about it.

One of the things we talk with students about is the concept of Rider Responsibility. In other words, the idea that we are the ones responsible for ourselves out there. Sure, there's bogies everywhere we turn when we're riding. Nobody is going to cut us any slack. It's up to us to develop the physical skills and mental strategies we need to survive and prosper. Bottom line: We need to take responsibility for ourselves. Excuses don't cut it.

Each time I teach I'm presented with examples of both sides of the equation. Those who take responsibility and those who don't. The problem for me is that we have two clearly defined ways to evaluate the students in our basic classes. There's a written test and a riding test. We set out the parameters. The students meet them or not. Very little room for subjectivity. Sometimes people pass who really aren't ready for the streets, yet. Sometimes people pass who really shouldn't be on a bike at all. As a professional I have to live with that. Although I make sure they know the kind, but honest truth before they leave.

This weekend triggered some musings on my part about responsibility. A lot of things in the world of motorcycling cross over into the rest of life. Actually, is there a life outside of riding? Interesting concept.

***** Arriving unprepared *****

I proctored a written retest before my regular class on Saturday. If a student fails the written test or the riding test they are allowed to try again later. Within certain parameters, at least. So I had a group of five coming in to take the written test again.

Two of the group were young guys under 21. They arrived separately. Both of them said they needed a pen. Neither fumbled in pockets or did anything to make me think they might have had a pen but simply forgotten it. It was clear they expected me to provide one for them. Ok. Let's see here. You come here for the express purpose to take a written test. Yet you don't bring anything to write with. Interesting. I'm paid to be professional about it so I simply handed them a pen from a stash.

I know it's a little thing. What pains me is the idea that they expect somebody else to take responsibility for them. Doesn't our behaviour in life demonstrate what our attitude toward riding will be? Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky. Perhaps I'm just over-sensitive because I care a lot about motorcycle safety. Am I totally out in left field, here?

Here's a nice Italian scooter with a Washington State license plate. You can see Elvira in the background. I think she was a bit jealous of the attention I was giving the scooter.

****** It's never my fault! *****

One of the people who showed up was scheduled for both the written and skills test on Saturday. Which means he failed both the first time. A guy about my age. Old enough to have grown up. He started right out by telling me everything the other instructors did wrong. The bike he was assigned to was a piece of crap. The instructors didn't give him the attention he needed. They didn't do a very good job of coaching. On and on and on........

That's why he was here in Albany. He'd taken the class at another site but didn't want to go back there.

His claim was that he failed the skills test because he put his foot down. I challenged him because nobody fails for that one thing. Turns out that he also popped the clutch and launched out of the corner, completely missing the turn. Right away a comment that Dean W made in response to one of my recent posts came to mind.

I explained to the guy that launching out of the corner meant he would have crashed into oncoming traffic in the real world. Right away he made sure to remind me that it was only a parking lot, not real life. Brace for it. You can feel the punch line coming.

So, let me get this straight. You want me to believe that you would be just fine in the real world of traffic even though you couldn't control a small training bike in the parking lot?

Of course, it wasn't his fault. The bike he was riding was a piece of crap, remember? Right.

To cap this story off, the guy was happy with me because he passed the written test. He told me that he was going to call my boss and give me positive reviews. I found out this morning that he had already called in to complain about the other instructors. Between two calls he spent an hour and a half sounding off. But he liked me! I can't tell you how pleased I was to hear that. I felt so honored. I live for student praise and not the satisfaction of really teaching them something.

I happened to be out on the range when he was starting the skills test. Once again, he started on his long list of complaints and how it wasn't his fault. This time he had a fresh audience in the form of the other students there for the retest. I pulled him aside. It was time for some words of wisdom.

"I'm not conducting the skills retest. I wasn't one of your original instructors. However, I do want to leave you with some words of wisdom. Until you learn to take responsibility for yourself, you shouldn't ever touch a motorcycle."

As of this morning he hadn't called my boss with those words of praise for me. I still have high hopes, though!

***** The Hand-off *****

For somebody to take something, somebody else has to hand it off. The same applies for responsibility. Both in motorcycling and life in general. Here's a story on the positive side.

I've had the honor of teaching some of the gals in the program's support unit. These girls do such an awesome job of making everything work. They handle student registrations, course files going out and coming back in, completion cards, supplies, student concerns, you name it. Their success ratio is somewhere around 98 or 99 percent. I have the utmost respect for what they do and thank them for it.

Two of the gals were scheduled to take the class this weekend. I was totally humbled by the fact that they signed up for this weekend specifically because I was teaching. Unfortunately, one of the girls came down sick and didn't attend.

Braving it by herself, the other one showed up. She's never ridden before. At the time, her plan wasn't to ride. She wanted to see what the class was like to better relate to the students. This gal also does the scheduling for instructor assignments. I was hoping that things went well. Never good to have somebody who somewhat controls your fate on your bad side, you know?

Having her in class was a lot like having a little sister in class. She's family, so to speak. You want her to succeed. You like her. The temptation was to give her a lot of extra attention. I resisted. It would have been wrong on a couple of levels.

All my students get a lot of attention. That's what I'm there for. I care about them as riders and as people. I like to think they all get what they need from me. Giving my "little sister" extra attention wouldn't have been fair to the other students. It would not have been fair to her, either.

I'm a professional evaluator. I could see that she was capable of things even if she didn't know it, yet. It's kind of like teaching a kid to ride a bicycle. I can remember running alongside my kids holding the bike up. After a while I let go but kept running beside them. Pretty soon they'd realize that they were actually riding by themselves. That newly found confidence was the platform they built upon.

The same thing happens with riding students. They need confidence. They will only get that by having personal success. I start them out. ( I'm speaking for all my fellow instructors, whether in Oregon or not ) Little by little I let go. The students realize that they're capable of doing this on their own. Now I simply guide them, rather than hold their hands, so to speak.

That's the handoff.

"Little sister" did just fine. Now I hear she might actually want to get a bike of her own. Cool.

Fascinating how much riding and and life otherwise are intertwined, isn't it?

Miles and smiles,


Friday, May 21, 2010

Four month check ride.

Ryan turned four months old this week. Time to check his potential motorcycle passenger status.

I guess it will be a while, yet! Although he's getting the cool factor down pretty well.

Four wheelers are within his grasp, now.

Gotta watch those road rage tendencies, though!

Hit a speed bump and watch how fast you can lose your "cool" factor when the shades slide down your nose.

I just got back from Seattle and am teaching a class this weekend. Next week the blog will get serious again. Thought you might enjoy this quick bit of humor in the meantime.

Miles and smiles,


Monday, May 17, 2010

Musings on rider training.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of teaching a Rider Skills Practice class here in Albany. This class is similar to the MSF Experienced Rider Course. We help riders tune up their cornering, braking, and other accident avoidance skills. The afternoon was graced with perfect sunny weather and an awesome group of 10 riders.

This is the first course I've taught this year that wasn't a Basic Class. Being able to work with these more advanced riders was a great boost to my enthusiasm. These folks came in already possessing good skills. It was obvious that they were hungry for information and skill sharpening. By the end of the afternoon is was clear that this group got plenty of both.

At the beginning of the class our students complete a circuit ride. It's a series of exercises designed to allow them to see where they are coming in. The circuit ride consists of a 90 degree sharp turn followed by a barrel ride. The barrel ride is similar to what you see at horse events. It requires tight turns around a series of three cones. After the barrel ride comes a faster corner followed by a swerve. The swerve cones are set at 13 feet so it's fairly tight. A maximum braking stop ends the ride. This is not a pass / fail course. However, we score the run so the riders have a baseline.

Instructors have been known to get down on the pavement and wrestle over who gets to do the demonstration runs!

During the class we work on the individual elements with some extra skill work thrown in. At the end of class we do the circuit ride again, scoring the second run. Our group was a bit rusty at the beginning. By the second ride, they were looking pretty darn sharp. Huge improvement!

The benefit to the riders from the class is immediately evident.

As you can imagine, my teaching partner Aria and I were pretty busy. I did manage to get a few quick photos during the afternoon.

Near the middle of the class we spend a few minutes talking about some skills and strategies. Here's Aria and the group taking advantage of a shady outdoor classroom.

This was a very personable and enthusiastic group. I can't tell you how much I appreciated seeing them show such a direct contrast in attitudes toward training compared to most riders I see.

At the end of the day I was chatting with the group about whether we had helped them to accomplish their objectives. I found myself making this statement to them.

"Training teaches us what we need to practice."

If I say so myself, I find that a bit profound. There's two ways to look at that statement as I reflect on it.

Firstly, coming to training helps us to identify where we are in our skills. We find that some skills are pretty solid. We also find out which ones need some extra work. Those are the ones we should give priority to when we practice on our own outside of a formal training environment.

Secondly, the training shows us the correct technique to practice later. Practicing the wrong technique just reinforces a bad habit. Training teaches us the proper way to execute a skill. It's not solely practice that makes perfect. It's perfect practice that makes perfect.

I actually had a day off yesterday. After church Katie and I went and wandered the mall. We saw The Director in a store. Saturday's class must have been great for me. I found myself enthusiastically running off at the mouth about what a wonderful experience it was when we chatted.

Here's a sincere expression of appreciation to our students. You all provided refreshment to my soul when I really needed it. Thank you so much for your wonderful attitudes toward riding and training!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

How to read a corner.

This should come as no surprise but blind corners hide both hazards and their characteristics. Since we don't have x-ray vision the hazards will remain hidden until we actually get there. By looking for clues, however, we can get some advance idea of the corner's direction and make-up.

Hopefully we're all on the same page. The page that says maintaining as large a visual lead as possible is critical. That's because we're scanning for critical information. Notice the tie-in provided by the word "critical". I've typed that word three times in three sentences. Must be important. The earlier we get information the better. During that scan we're looking for clues that will tell us something is upcoming long before our eyes can actually spot it. Watching the painted lines on the roadway can give us early clues about the corner. The lines will tell us about which direction the road turns, how tight the turn is, and a bit about the camber of the corner.

Scan the fog lines on either side of road and the yellow line in the middle. Look at the point where the lines converge and disappear from our view. The clue about the corner lies in that place. You're looking for the spacing between the lines. With a picture being worth a thousand words, take a look at these few thousand.

In the photo above the lines maintain a relatively constant relationship to each other. There's a fair amount of space between them. This corner will have a fairly constant radius. It's not what you would call a particularly tight turn or sharp corner.

In the corner above the lines converge more quickly but don't actually look to be touching. The curve is tighter than the first one.

In the photo above the lines seem to almost touch where they disappear between the tree on the left and the bushes on the right. That's a clue that this turn is going to pretty tight. By now the sun was shining brightly and washing out the lines. It's harder to see than I wanted it to be. Sorry, but you get the idea.

Some riders use telephone poles and the wires they carry as indicators of direction. Just be aware that sometimes they lie as you can see below. Depending upon your particular bike, you may not want to be riding out there!

Clues are just that. Indicators but not force fields. This is a good time for a couple of reminders. Anytime we can't see all the way through a corner we have to expect the worst. Our entry speeds should be set accordingly. Better to be pleasantly surprised than to meet nasty surprises like in the photo below.

Never commit to the apex until the exit of the corner is visible. Until that point we're making a critical decision without all the information. Not a good idea, at all!!!

Reading corners and reading the written word have something in common. The better our reading skills are the more information we will have available to us. Better information enables better decisions. Next time you're out riding corners ( and I hope it's real soon! ) practice reading the lines. By the way, if there are no lines on the roadway, use the edges of the road as clues.

Miles and smiles,


Monday, May 10, 2010

A Jury and a Jester.

Don't know if anyone saw this update from the Associated Press. It's about the woman who killed a motorcyclist by running into the back of her bike. The woman SUV driver was painting her nails at the time. Yes, while driving. Here's the latest story from Chicago.

"After hearing two days of testimony, a Lake County jury has convicted a woman who was painting her nails while driving when she struck and killed a motorcyclist at a red light.

Lora Hunt, of Morris, Ill., was found guilty of reckless homicide in the death of Anita Zaffke in Lake Zurich, Ill., on May 2, 2009.

During his closing argument, Hunt's lawyer said Hunt has admitted that painting her nails was a 'stupid, stupid, thing.' But Jeff Tomczak argued that it was no different than eating a sandwich, talking on a cell phone or tending to a baby.

"She was negligent, not reckless," Tomczak said. "She can't be found guilty".

I'm pleased that the jury did the right thing. Notice they found the woman guilty of homicide, not manslaughter. Good for them. Not that it will replace the loss for Ms. Zaffke's family. It's still a travesty but there's some comfort when justice is done. We are still awaiting the sentence.

As to the defense lawyer, what can I say? I'm totally outraged. His client didn't just bump into something or have a fender bender. She freakin' killed somebody!! Let's cuff him to a bicycle with the wheels chained to the pavement in the middle of an intersection. Then we'll rope off several blocks which we will fill with rich bitches doing their nails while driving their big SUV's. Wonder if he will get a different definition of negligent and reckless?

I have to tell you a quick story about a defense lawyer who tried to take me on when I was testifying in court on a rape case.

This defense lawyer, Ralph Newsome, tried to make a case that a woman couldn't be raped because a guy couldn't ( I'm sorry, there's no other way to put this ) penetrate her without her consent. To "prove" his point he handed me a pencil and told me to come stand in front of the witness stand. Then Mr. Newsome picked up a coffee cup. I was then instructed to stick the pencil in the cup. Seriously. Mr. Newsome pranced around moving the cup every which way. After a few attempts and tired of being played for a fool, I made my move. Macho cop style.

I grabbed the asshole by the neck and squeezed hard.

"Hold that fucking cup still or I'll kill you!", I yelled at him.

Newsome froze. Plunk went the pencil into the cup.

"That, Mr. Newsome, is how rape works."

Fortunately the judge didn't care much for Mr. Newsome, either, so there were no retributions for me. The suspect was convicted just like Lora Hunt. Despite the defense lawyers.

I just wonder when the insanity will all end and people will start taking their driving more seriously. Unfortunately, that's probably a pipe dream. Depressing, isn't it? What's even more depressing is the existence of people like Jeff Tomczak.

Take care of yourselves out there. Please.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Curious George sets cones.

On my last post a reader submitted a question. It's the typical "I've got this friend" kind of thing I think. Here's the question.

"Someone I know asked me to relay this question:

Dear IronDad'

I carry cones, tape measure, and chalk on my ride. I can't ride thru a parking lot without wondering what the spaces measure out to. I search 'You tube' for new patterns to ride. I think I am becoming a hard core cone monkey. Is there any cure?"

I thought I might share a little story that may shed some light on this situation.

Curious George has acquired a new hobby. As is prone to happen with many hobbies, the little monkey crossed a line without actually being aware of it. What was once a pleasant diversion has now become an obsession. To be honest, it's really more of a sickness. To be really blunt, it's now a sick addiction. What's worse, Curious George is only half of the equation. There's a partner in the addiction. The two feed each other to the point where the sum is worse than the total of its parts. C.G. is getting nothing more out of it than a sick satisfaction like a fisherman seeing how many times he can lure the same prize trout onto his hook. Not that fishing in and of itself is sick. I'm talking about the obsessive pursuit of the same prize over and over. The fish, in this case, isn't the one the worse for wear, interestingly enough. Despite being lured on to the hook every night the fish is developing skills valuable in the open ocean. C.G. really isn't aware of this. Nor is the fish really aware of C.G. They each play their role night after night for whatever gratification they receive. Their rewards are different but they both participate in the same ritual. Catch and release.

Oh, it all started innocently enough. As do many things that later end up as big trouble.

Curious George is a fairly cool cat. He rides a motorcycle. A few of his friends wanted to learn to ride so Curious George offered to help them out. One friend bought a Duck, one bought a Goose, and the other a Hog. For those not conversant in this language, that's a Ducati, a Moto Guzzi, and a Harley.

Rider training often begins in a parking lot with cones. So George took some chalk, some string, a tape measure, and some small cones to an empty parking lot. It was at this point that Curious George became a Cone Monkey. A name by which we will refer to him from now on. Cone Monkey set out some patterns and coached his friends. They were all so enthused about their successes that they decided to go out to supper. Soft drinks only, as they were riding. Cone Monkey decided to leave the cones on the parking lot. He would come back later and pick them up.

Imagine Cone Monkey's surprise at seeing this mysterious figure with a deeply tinted visor riding a motorcycle through the cone patterns he had set for his friends. Quickly ducking behind a nearby truck, Cone Monkey watched as the solitary figure ran the patterns over and over. Cone Monkey was sure he heard sporadic and slightly muffled cackles of delight coming from under the dark visor. Eventually the rider left the parking lot. Cone Monkey thought the cackle sounded like an old witch with both pleasure and evil delight ringing out. Cone Monkey thought the rider must be an Old Fart. Thus this becomes the story of the Cone Monkey and the Old Fart.

Being a monkey full of mischief, Cone Monkey thought hard about the situation. He wondered if the Old Fart would come back. Just in case, he set out another, more complicated cone pattern the next aftenoon. Then Cone Monkey hid himself in the fading light and waited.

Sure enough, the Old Fart returned. As he rode the more complicated cone pattern, the Old Fart's cackles of glee became more frequent. There was also a hint of triumph as he completed the ride. Both players in the game entered an eternal loop. Though neither was aware of it, yet.

As is often the case with progressive illnesses, both the Cone Monkey and the Old Fart show ever more serious symptoms as time goes on. Cone Monkey takes a perverse delight in luring the Old Fart into ever more complicated webs of cones. His glee is somewhat tempered by the fact that the Old Fart somehow manages to succeed night after night. Thus Cone Monkey is driven to continue to set cones in the hope that someday he can finally set a pattern that defeats the Old Fart. For this sickness there is no cure. It's the same sickness a lot of car drivers seem to show if you think about it.

Old Fart, in turn, delights in the challenge. He is not aware of who is setting these cones but doesn't want to look a gift monkey in the mouth, so to speak. Old Fart knows that challenging himself with these cones is vastly improving his riding skills for the street. Yes, riding cones in a parking lot can contribute directly to street skills. Old Fart knows this. Several trainers have told him that they can tell how good a rider is on the street by watching their low speed control. The sickness is that he can't ever call it good. Good enough is never good enough. He can't resist coming back to see what the next challenge is. Can he go to the next level, then the next, and so on? There is no cure for this sickness, either. One wonders if there should be. Perhaps this kind of sickness should be left to run its course. It's ultimately beneficial for the Old Fart. Except for the obsession part, of course.

Stop by the parking lot some evening. As long as either has the strength to move, you'll find the Cone Monkey and Old Fart engaged in their never ending battle.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Off to a good start.

Part of our task as professional motorcycle trainers is to assess where our students are at any given time. We need to know where "here" is in order to get them "there". We need to get to know them enough to see what their individual learning styles are. We adjust our approach accordingly. A lot of times it boils down to watching our students for the subtle signs they give us. It can require a lot of diligence and concentration.

Sometimes, though, the signs are more obvious than others!

The one on the left is giving us a pretty clear signal, don't you think?

Actually, these are instructors. I worked with my training partner Mary Kaye this last weekend. We conducted two long days of training we call "Instructor Prep: Range".

These sessions are conducted two to four times a year depending on our instructor needs. This is the first exposure to actually teaching a motorcycle safety class for these folks. The weekend consists of learning to keep students safe as they ride as well as working on coaching skills. It's a peer teaching environment. The new instructors rotate in as riders and instructors. We require the new instructors to be working on perfect riding technique as they ride. Which means that there aren't really any errors for those in the instructor roles to coach.

Enter our "Error Riders"! Which is the role that Dean ( with the cone on his helmet ) and Mike were fulfilling, among others. These crafty guys had to overcome their innate great habits and try to make mistakes on purpose. I'm pleased to say that they got quite skilled and tricky in this endeavour. When I introduced Dean and Mike to the group on Saturday morning, I told the new instructors that they would either come to love or hate these guys. I'm still not sure which side they've landed on!

Here's the victims. I mean, new instructors. There's one more just out of the picture. This was the only photo that showed nearly the whole group. Sorry, Laura!

The new folks were starting to get wise to our two "students". By the end, these two weren't getting away with much. In the photo below, you can see Dean riding the cornering proficiency drill during the evaluation. He's doing so under five pairs of increasingly observant and knowing eyes. How will he do?

Apparently, not too bad. The group is celebrating that, at long last, they finally got to see the "student" do something correctly! What they were really celebrating is the fact that they all got the same time on their stopwatches. I think my story is more fun, though, don't you? By the way, that's Laura on the right. I wanted to make sure she didn't get left out.

Here the group watches Mike as he comes into the quick stop evaluation. You can just hear them asking themselves, "What in the world is he going to do this time?"

These new instructors will go out into the field as apprentice instructors. Which means an experienced instructor will be at their side to cover their backs and help with on-the-job training. This group shows the fire and passion for rider safety you would expect from riding instructors. I've had the privilege of seeing a lot of new instructors off on their respective adventures. The prep weekends are a lot of hard work for everybody. The rewards will more than make up for it.

Speaking of hard work, I want to acknowledge my co-workers. Mary Kaye for her enthusiasm and skill that made everything work so much better and contributed to making the hard work fun for all, including me. Dean and Mike did so much more than ride this weekend. They worked extremely hard in getting bikes in and out of the trailer for the two days. When we were all done they gassed up all the bikes, loaded them into the trailer ( which is a lot of work as they all go in sideways ), and strapped the bikes down in preparation for the trailer being moved back to headquarters.

During the weekend Dean and Mike set all the cones for the upcoming exercises. On top of it all, they are both working into the training area themselves so they wore both hats during the weekend. Thanks so much, guys, you totally rock!

Miles and smiles,


P.S. Photo credit for this post goes to Leanne, our Office Manager. She came out Sunday and hung around with us. She used my camera but took some great photos in her own right!

Monday, May 03, 2010

"But I haven't studied for that one!"

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.

In the picture below you can see Justin riding his big Honda cruiser through the offset cone weave. It's much different than riding a training bike through it. Big bikes can be successfully riden through the weave. People say you can't do the cone weave at DMV on a big bike. Yes, you can. We do it all the time. I've done it over and over on many kinds of bikes as we volunteer to help train DMV examiners. If the bike won't go through, it's not the bike's fault. It's the rider.

We often get students who have failed the DMV test several times. They finally swallow their pride and admit they could use the training. Seems real men do need training, after all.

This is not Elvira, by the way. It's a different FJR that belongs to a fellow instructor.

Then there are those who complain that they need an endorsement for a scooter. Sorry, folks. These are not bicycles. These are real motorcycles being ridden in real traffic in a real world. Batteries are included but some training is required.

I keep looking for ways to encourage riders to come back for more training. I've written here about keeping motor skills sharp. I've tried a lot of pathways towards the goal of getting riders to keep coming back for training sessions every other year or so. I recently came across another way to express the idea.

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.

Taking it a bit further myself, there will be tests. Failing them results in more than just a low score. The consequences of failure are steep. At times lethal. Do riders really want to "just wing it" when the time comes?

If winging it is such a great strategy, who do so many professions where performance matters require continuing education?

Why do we see motor cops come back year after year for our training? Motor cops have been listed among the top two percent of riders as to skill level. I see a lot of our state's motor cops every year. Male or female, these are brave and skilled riders. They also have a career where being adaptable to conditions on a second's notice is critical. If anyone could just learn by experience, it would be these folks. Yet, why do they come back every year?

It's not just a fun day for them. Although they do have fun, let me tell you. Departments spend good money out of tight budgets to send these officers to training. There's a reason for that.

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.

Motorcycles and handguns have the potential for danger in common. You twist the throttle on a bike and it goes "zoom!" You pull the trigger on a handgun and it goes "bang!"

Owning either does not automatically make the owner a skilled user.
I regularly carry a handgun. The world is getting crazier all the time. Grandpa taught me to shoot as a kid. Uncle Sam provided some more training. I spent time on police ranges. I still do. I still participate in tactical shooting exercises with instructors.

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,