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|This section helps you decide if you should ride a motorcycle or not.
Who should ride?Motorcycle riding is a personal choice, so no-one else can make it for you. If you ride when you shouldn't, you may get hurt. If you don't ride when you could, it is a life opportunity lost. Consider, are you:
Freedom to ride is not freedom from consequences, as on a motorcycle the consequences are greater. A crash that dings a car panel may dent your skin. In riding, if you ride and do 100 things right and one thing wrong, what counts? It seem unfair, but in riding the errors count. Riding safely for 99 days doesn’t offset one act of stupidity on day 100 that puts you in hospital for three months.
Do you have accidents when walking?
Are you an impulsive type, who does spur of the moment things? Are you an emotional reactor? Do you have regular “Uh-Oh!” accidents, and trip over, knock down or break things unexpectedly? Do you have accidents when walking? If so, you are still a good person, but perhaps you shouldn’t ride. An artist creative with paint on a canvas is a good thing, but a motorcycle rider creative with their body on pavement is not!
If Life is telling you something, better listen!
If you already ride, do you fall off every month? If so, perhaps Life is telling you something, better listen! Little accidents often precede big accidents! If you don’t change yourself to fit Life, it may change you - permanently. If your riding accidents don’t decrease after a year, think seriously about giving up the bike. This book won't work if you are genetically impulsive, as carelessness mixes poorly with riding freedom. To ride a bike safely needs ongoing control. Your experiences over time will tell you if you have, or can develop, such control. If unsure, ask your friends. They will know if you if you are accident prone and should not ride a motorcycle.
People today have many fears, even though our lives are actually safer than ever before. Fear is an emotion, not a logic, so it ignores facts.
Riding fearfully is a recipe for disaster
In the wild, fear is good. It makes animals “freeze”, so they are not seen by predators. When the hawk flies overhead, its shadow frightens the rabbit, which stops moving. Fear paralyzes natural reactions, so we are not seen by predators. However riding fearfully is a recipe for disaster, as when riding, it is your natural reactions that keep you alive, not paralytic panic.
Fear is like a prison that stops you doing things. A life of fear is hardly worth living for this reason. Riding with a head full of worry means you can't respond as situations arise. If fear disconnects you from the world, your focus is the danger, not the riding. Timid riders endanger themselves and others. If you creep down the highway slow lane at 40mph on a sunny Sunday, with traffic banked up behind you, maybe you are not cut out for motorcycle riding.
Fearful people usually won’t touch a motor-cycle with a ten-foot pole.
Fortunately, fearful people usually won’t touch a motorcycle with a ten-foot pole. They are naturally protected from harm. However typical new riders are young males with a hormonal fear deficiency. This lack of fear is not virtue but foolhardiness. It causes accidents, that force them to make one of two choices:
For many, after a few crashes, fear kicks in, and they stop riding entirely, perhaps with a little pressure from a mother, girlfriend or wife. For others, they decide to face the fear, and deal with it.
A good predictor of riding success is prior bicycle riding experience. If you rode a bicycle as a child, you probably fell off at times. Falling off when young hurts, but you recover quicker, and the memory of past bicycle pain helps you later on a motorcycle. A motorcycle differs from a bicycle in the hurt potential, but otherwise most principles are the same.
If you can ride a bicycle safely, you can ride a motor-cycle safely
Sometimes people in their 30’s, 40’s or 50’s see me riding and say, “I can do that.” Being older, they have enough money to buy a bike, whereas when young they couldn’t. I ask them: "Did you ride a bicycle when young?" If not, I suggest they ride a bicycle on the road for two weeks, to see how it feels. If they can’t handle that, a 1200cc roadster won’t be any easier (or safer). If you can’t ride a bicycle safely, you can’t ride a motorcycle safely either. If you think a big motor-bike will "protect" you more than a little bicycle, think again. In both cases, your protection is you, not the machine. If anything, motorcycles are faster, so the damage is greater. If you cant imagine yourself riding a bicycle on the road, don't imagine yourself riding a motorcycle, because so many things are the same. Here are some of the things riding a bicycle teaches you:
For example, to turn left on a two-lane road at traffic lights, you have to assertively signal and move our bicycle into the left lane traffic flow, while respecting existing traffic. Riding a bicycle is a cheap way to find out if a motorcycle is for you.
Should I ride?
Impulsiveness in itself is not bad, as it is a form of creativity. Fear in itself is not bad, as it helps us not get killed. Everyone begins life with poor coordination. We fall and get up many times, but we learn. On a motorcycle, control not creativity keeps you alive. On a motorcycle, courage not fear keeps your attention clear. On a motorcycle, physical not intellectual skills keep you upright. So here is the point. Can you restrain your impulsive nature? Can you put fear in its place? Can you develop riding skills? If not, maybe you should not ride.
If you can't resist impulses, then perhaps you should not ride. Without control, there is no riding safely. If you cant put fear aside when on a motorcycle, perhaps you should not ride. Riding fearfully and riding safely are not compatible. When you get on a bike, fear has to go, as the rule of riding is “No Fear!” If you cant control the bike physically when you ride, then perhaps you should not ride at all. On a motorcycle, stability is all important.
As a young man, I was fearful, impulsive and unskilled
Despite all these warnings as a young man I was impulsive, fearful and unskilled, but I still rode. Of course I fell off, but helmet and jacket kept me in one piece. I had one rule - learn from your mistakes, so I rarely fell off twice for the same reason. Over time, I controlled my foolish impulses. Over time, I restrained my fears. Over time, I developed skills. So what counts is your attitude. I took as much care as my hormones allowed. Wherever possible, I listened to reason not fear. I tried to learn new skills in new situations.
The key is not where you are, but where you want to beNow when I ride, I don't over-react, as impulses are verified. There is literally no fear – just attention. My stability sits at a central point, and skills are automatic. Reactions just come, but, this is not where it began thirty years ago. So what counts is not where you are, but where you want to be.
Everyone has an MTBA
MTBA stands for Mean Time Between Accidents. The goal of riding safely is to reduce your MTBA. Everyone has an MTBA, even if they are not aware of it. If you drive any vehicle, it is the average time from one accident to the next. An accident is any human or vehicle damage (not a “near miss”). To find your MTBA, review your driving history and count your accidents, regardless of fault. The MTBA of young people learning to drive is usually under six months. That means they are lucky to go six months without an accident. With the experience (a few crashes), their MTBA soon rises to one or two years. Experienced or “good” car drivers have an MTBA of about five years, i.e. every five years they crash unexpectedly. This crash usually isn’t their fault, but MTBA has nothing to do with fault – it just measures what happens. Good car drivers have an MTBA of about 5-10 years.
To ride a motor-cycle, your goal is a car MTBA of 10-20 years
To ride a motor-cycle, your goal is a car MTBA of 10-20 years! This is above the average car driver, so I had better add that when I started riding, I fell off every few months for various "reasons". Deciding not to make the same mistake twice increased my MTBA, but even so, only better than average car drivers make good motorcycle riders.
The Ready Rider
If you want to ride, you can
What if I am fearful, careless and incompetent? Well there is hope, as I was like that, but clearly you have to change. Do you want to ride? If you can control carelessness once, you can keep it always in check. If you can do what you fear once, you can do it always . If you can If you can learn one skill, you can learn another. So, if you want to ride, you can.
Riding safely is balancing opposing needs, not climbing a ladder to “excellence”
Riding safely is balancing opposites, not climbing some ladder to “excellence”. Imagine a pendulum swinging between carefulness and carelessness. You choose carefulness right? But carefulness can create fear, giving worry and doubt, which sap the confidence you need to ride, so if you are too careful, you won’t ride at all!
Now imagine a pendulum swinging between doubt and confidence. You choose confidence, right? However bold action can breed pride, and pride comes before a fall. Confidence helps doctors, salesmen and politicians succeed by making others believe in them. However confidence doesn’t change road realities. Asphalt ignores your convictions. It does not hear your arguments and reasons. For riders, as for pilots, over-confidence is a liability. On a motorcycle, overconfidence is a recipe for disaster.
Only the brave get on a bike, but only the cautious stay there.
Balance stops these pendulums in the middle. Between carelessness and doubt, choose neither. The careless fail because they stupidly disrespect the world. The doubtful fail because they stupidly disrespect themselves. The careless don’t ride long, but the fearful dont even begin to ride. Be careful and courageous. Courage enables action, and carefulness avoids danger. Only the brave get on a bike, but only the cautious stay there. Be both!
Who do you want to be?
What sort of a motorcycle rider will you be?
1. The Fearless Fool. With t-shirt, bandana, sandals and sunglasses,
weaves through traffic at high speed. .
2. The Cautious Crawler. With fixed gaze and frightened demeanor, crawls highway slow lanes on Sunday afternoons,
3. The Ready Rider. Aware of the ever-present here and the eternal now, may sit back or pass you anytime, anywhere.
|© Brian Whitworth, 2004, 2005|