Two Wheel Perspective
By Pat Conrad, BT Kansas Rider
Motorcycles and safety, now there are two words that some people just can not associate together. The problem is that motorcycle safety has little to do with the motorcycle. It has little to do with apparel and equipment. The most important issue with motorcycle safety is the rider's attitude.
Everyone has his or her own idea of what is needed to ride safely. Helmet or no helmet. Leather coat and chaps or cutoffs and tee shirt. Cheap sunglasses or safety eye protection. Gloves or bare hands. Boots or sandals. These items have been debated for years. Laws have been written and repealed concerning safety items for motorcyclists. These debates will continue, more laws will be written to "protect us from ourselves", and more laws will be repealed.
Personally I wear helmet, gloves, boots and depending on the temperature, leather. Why? I have crashed enough in my life to know that what ever the surface you are riding on will hurt you when you fall on it at any speed other than a slow walk. These surfaces have an appetite for human flesh and peel it off you body. The faster you ride, the more it devours.
Back to the safety issue. The best safety feature that a rider can acquire is an attitude of "I will ride today with the intention to return home safely." Easy to say, hard to do. In my youth the attitude was "I will do anything anyone else will do." The attitude quickly includes the "Hey watch this" which most generally ended with two wheels pointing a direction other than down. Experience is a great teacher. Remembering large patches of skin missing, hematomas, sprained and twisted joints, cuts and scrapes, broken bone or two and maybe a hang nail makes a rider think of ways to avoid reliving these valuable lessons.
Attitude is a factor that can change for moment to moment. It is also a factor that one can control. The term "put on your game face" is used to get players in the mind set, or attitude, to play the game at the highest level possible. The same process is available for any task that one is required to accomplish in a set time. Working at ones job requires a certain amount of concentration or attitude to get the job done. Without this attitude one can expect to change jobs quite often. Does this mean that one has to be straight faced, nose to the grind stone with no pleasure to be gained while the task is being done? No. It does mean that while one interacts with others the task is being accomplished effectively, safely and in a way that is acceptable. Attitude also is required to ride safely.
A racer that goes to the starting line with the attitude that he/she will win at any price will usually pay the price and quite often without the satisfaction of the win. Racers begin preparing for the race a week in advance. Preparing the machine, scouting and studying the track, preparing equipment and the physical body must be done prior to race day. The racer then goes to the starting line with the attitude that I will do everything possible to reach the end of this race and in the process try and be in front of the pack at the end.
Motorcycle riders who are riding on the street, backroads or mountain trails put on their game face when preparing for the next ride. One just does not get up in the morning and say I am going to ride to Dallas today, without the proper preparation. Much like the racer the equipment must be prepared, the physical body and machine must be ready to operate for several hours at a stretch. The rider's attitude must also be prepared.
The attitude for pleasure riding needs to include; enjoy the ride and ride to arrive at your destination with your extremities in tact. Does this mean eyes straight ahead and concentrating so hard on the road that you miss the ride? Does this mean no smiling or acknowledging others while riding? No. It does mean be aware of your surrounding. Is there another vehicle in close proximity to you? Is there a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you? The speed you are traveling is safe for the surface conditions. The shadows on the road ahead can hide a dark colored vehicle, is there one there? Is the road passing through an area with suitable habitat for wild animals?
Motorcycle riders do not have the luxury of having the right of way. The signs have little meaning when another vehicle fails to yield and the motorcycle crashes into a car. Who was right or wrong becomes suddenly unimportant while a crash victim is lying on the ground waiting for an ambulance. Motorcycle riders must watch out for vehicles that fail to yield in addition to road surface conditions, wild animals and things that are just dangerous to motorcycles and motorcycle riders.
Multi-tasking is a buzz phrase that is popular today. Motorcycle riders have been multi-tasking for years. Control the cycle speed, keep the cycle on the roadway in the proper lane, be aware of surface conditions, other vehicles in the close proximity and the list gets longer.
Two wheel riders enjoy your ride and put on your game face when you begin your journey. Four or more wheel drivers please be aware that two wheelers are out there.
Printed in the Smith County Pioneer 24 Dec 03
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