November 2015 Safety Message



from Mike Wascak, Road Captain

From Motorcyclist Magazine

Riding a motorcycle is risky. No kidding. Since the day we first uttered the word "motorcycle", concerned friends and loved ones made every attempt to shoot down any hope of a future that included riding. They would eagerly share cautionary tales of ill-fated friends of friends who were foolish enough to straddle a "donor-cycle".

Public opinion is that riding a motorcycle is motorized Russian roulette. While it's surely not that risky, riding does stand out as an activity that goes against all manner of common sense. Which begs the question, "Why the heck do we do it?"

At least part of the answer lies in our perception that the risk is worth the reward. The reward can be the feeling of freedom and being fully alive or the satisfaction of mastering the unique challenges riding offers. Living life to the fullest and conquering challenges is great, but is it really worth the risk? Motorcyclists aren't the type to shy away from a reasonable amount of risk. And while some are willing to risk more than others, none has a death wish.

Risk is like gravity - it's ever-present and we always have to manage it. But unlike gravity, we can choose the amount of risk we are exposed to and act to minimize the risk that remains. Being a risk management expert is a worthy goal because, if you haven't figured it out by now, motorcycling is not forgiving of ignorance or even mediocrity. Which is why it behooves you to learn risk-reduction strategies and advanced control skills.

You might be like a lot of riders who think their skills are just fine, but a mere absence of crashes does not give you an accurate measure of your ability to handle truly life-threatening situations. For example, many people learn that their cornering or braking skills aren't up to snuff when they are faced with a particularly complex event that they either fail to manage or barely survive. Let's take a look at three general areas of improvement that can tip the risk/reward ratio in your favor.

Become a smarter rider. Plenty of people muddle through their first years on two wheels going from one near miss to another. It's tempting to write off these close calls as the cost of riding a motorcycle, but what these riders don't realize is that riding smarter nearly erases these unpleasant run-ins. Learning strategies for predicting and mitigating potential hazards will reduce the number of sphincter-puckering moments while improving your riding experience.

Be the master of your machine. Learn to corner, brake, shift, and accelerate until you can do so with the utmost control and precision. Advance rider training courses conducted in a parking lot are a great way to get the ball rolling, but your training is not yet complete until you put these lessons into practice at real-world speeds. You can go a long way on your own, but it's safer and faster to learn from a professional instructor, whether that's on the street or at a racetrack.

Evaluate your behavior and attitude. Even well-developed strategies and control skills are no match for poor judgment or carelessness. It's great to have cornering and braking prowess, but don't assume having killer chops suddenly exempts you from responsible riding. Poke the tiger too hard and not even MotoGP-level talent will be enough to keep you from careening into the side of a minivan. You can choose to ignore the hazards and limits of the places you ride, but you do so at you own peril.

You choose to ride even knowing you can get hurt or killed. But with a bit of effort to advance your skills you can reap all of the rewards while reducing the risk of becoming the subject of one of those cautionary tales.