by Jackie Vaughan
“You have to be completely crazy to ride a motorcycle. Those things are dangerous!”
How often have we heard that? Zealous four-wheelers are bent on saving us from our own stupidity. Of course our bulbs are dim. Anyone bright wouldn’t go near one of those two-wheeled death machines. “It’s too risky,” they intone piously.
In a small part, they are right. There is risk involved in operating a motorcycle. There’s also risk involved in driving on a freeway, even in a tank. And it’s purely insane to sleep on a waterbed if we have cats. The trick is to manage the risks and to not take dumb risks.
One of the main keys to managing risks is to take a motorcycle rider course, and to keep the mental and physical skills we learn sharp. Many skills are lost in six months if they aren’t practiced. Knowing good cornering and curve-riding techniques doesn’t do us any good if we don’t practice them.
Knowing our limits, the limits of our machines, and the limits of our environment and riding within those limits is also critical. We must remember that those limits change constantly and adapt our riding style to conform to them.
Superior riders never get themselves into situations requiring superior skills. Taking dumb risks is asking for trouble.
If we keep pushing our limits, we will eventually exceed them, and the consequences can be devastating or even fatal. Riding faster and faster though a familiar curve can spell disaster when we’ve pushed our traction to the limits and there’s something unexpected in the road halfway through the curve. Riding fast in the rain just because we’re in a hurry makes no sense when we know we can’t stop quickly. Slowing down and putting distance between us and a hazard is sensible risk management. Replacing worn tires helps keep us safely stuck to the road.
Part of the challenge of motorcycling is risk management, and the sport wouldn’t be very enjoyable if we wrapped ourselves in cotton and surrounded ourselves with a cocoon of safety devices. However, the sport is more fun if we don’t have to worry about dangers we create for ourselves.