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There are two kinds of motorcyclists: those who think there are two kinds of motorcyclists, and those who do not.
So are you still reading? Your poor bastard … Proverbs really seems more like:
There are two kinds of motorcyclists: those who have gone down and those who want to.
Seems like a fatalistic perspective – especially when provided by a rider. So what makes some people able to ride for years, even decades, while others get off the horse after an interesting experience? Even then, what allows the veteran rider to survive?
I was inspired to write this article after reading friend, father-in-law, partner and co-rider Henrek Lalaian's article Motorcycle Safety and Survival Guide.
The first question, whether we are running for a clear understanding of the risks, is grim and probably very personal. For me, riding is a few things:
- a source of privilege
- life affirms
Fun should be obvious. This is probably why we do most activities. I mean, Grandma with the crochet needles is having fun. (If I ever crochet, kill me right away, unless of course I crochet a motorcycle jacket while sharing lanes on my bike.) But motorcycling is undeniably fun and exciting. You not only move as in more ho-hum forms of transport, but become an active participant in your movement. The power / weight ratio of even the most humble motorcycle sold in the US is still enough to give a lot of peppy cars a serious run and is possibly the fastest thing most of us ever command. Fun for sure.
But if you bought a luxury car because of advertisements that show how well the car insulates you from your surroundings and the whole driving experience, I doubt that motorcycling is for you.
Excuse all of you riders, but I'm not sorry you're riding a fake motorcycle. That, ladies and gentlemen, is my team for the Challenge part of this write-up. You see, managing a single (two-wheeled) vehicle is a major challenge. If all you want is to be in the air when commuting, drive a freakin & # 39; Miata or a used LeBaron convertible. Trike poses zero challenge and should be disqualified as a motorcycle. All risk (exposure), no benefits (quick, efficient, narrow).
Learning how to make the most of a two-wheeled motorized gizmo is an incredibly rewarding experience. You must be prepared to fail. You also need to be prepared not to be able to wipe the gut chewing your face off when it starts working for you.
So what kind of privilege is it to ride a motorcycle? It's really about what kind of privilege it brings. In the US, we see bikes as toys and riders as idiots who are not even conscientious enough to remember to fill out their organ donor cards. But in most other parts of the world, motorcycles are legitimate transportation and receive certain types of preferential treatment. They are going to "filter" in front of an intersection. They get to share lanes (a privilege we actually have here in California). Plus they are able to park in places where your single person driving a full size SUV cannot.
In return for taking this risk (which reduces congestion, reduces energy consumption, reduces the use of real estate in parking lots, etc.) we should have privilege. We had to get a 10-15 mph higher speed limit on the highway (and many of us just take it). We should be allowed (safely – and yes, there are safe ways) to swim through traffic. Society can ultimately benefit – and so should we as riders. In exchange for taking the ultimate risk (life and limb), we must be rewarded for our willingness to do so and the resulting benefits for the collective.
The ultimate risk brings me to the life affirming part of the agenda. How would you like it after a fight? How would you like it after six strokes? How would you feel after six hundred blows? At some point, the ability to negotiate this crazy set of circumstances must remind you that you negotiated them successfully. This is something that has always given me energy. People used to ask if I was scared. My reaction was that I felt victorious after every turn. And while I respect the activity, fear has no place in it. Fear is a counterproductive obsession best reserved for bungee jumpers looking for a legal form of crack.
None of this answers why some people manage to drive for decades and hundreds of thousands of miles, while others, yes, do not. This is where George Lucas had the only philosophical nugget in Star Wars Episode I. As Qui-Gon chats with Anakin's mother Shmi (seriously, Shmi?) About young Anakin's amazing abilities, we are treated to this little gem from Quigon:
He can see things before they happen. That's why he seems to have such quick reflexes. It's a Jedi trait.
Anakin is not a fantastic Pod Racer because he is good. He may simply look a little into the future. Instead of having to respond to events, he is able to act. The need for quick reflexes has been driven down because the changing environmental conditions are expected.
So, young Skywalker, you must become a motorcycle Jedi if you want to participate in this activity for any length of time. Feel (mostly yourself). Observe (everything!). Profile (driver's position, car's condition, etc.). Predict (what are the most likely actions anyone can take under the immediate conditions?). Look into the future and ACT. If you're in a reaction, you're behind the game. Go back to the front of the game.
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