22 May 2008

"I once knew a guy"

Well it happened again, first time this year though I’m certain it won’t be the last, the same one sided discussion that we Motorcyclists have been listening to ever since we took to two wheels. I’m talking about the conversation of the inevitable perils of motorcycling. Ever since I was a discomfited young boy visiting one of my “anti-motorcycling” neighbors on the block, to total strangers at a gas station while filling up, the conversation begins with the individual knowing of someone who was either killed, paralyzed or horribly injured on a motorcycle. I call this a conversation although it is actually more of a single sided opinion or monologue on the part of the individual telling the story. I was taught by my Father a long time ago that it is usually pointless to take part in fruitless debates where neither side can claim any victory, therefore, I remain silent during the lecture and listen to the person respectfully, and then I go on my way.

I can say this honestly, and I do believe that I have been extremely fortunate in this respect, that I have never suffered the loss of a friend while motorcycling. I read about it constantly, and I do know individuals who at the very least had somebody close to them injured in some form of incident. At the very least, I feel lucky if not down right blessed in the matter, and I hope that I never have that experience. Okay sure, I’ve seen the breaks, sprains, bruises and road rash, but as far as dealing with the trauma of a death or paralysis, I have not.

Truth is, I know that Motorcycling is an inherently dangerous lifestyle; I am aware that we are difficult to see in traffic, especially when others aren’t looking out for us, and that we are for the most part, soft targets in a world of very “hard” automobiles, and let’s not forget the natural hazards and large animals (along with the small ones) that can spell our doom as well. I believe that it is because of this awareness, and not despite it, that I have had a relatively successful and trauma free motorcycling experience.

It happened today at work. First thing this morning, one of my fellow employees walked up to me and told me of his friend who, while on vacation, was riding down the Pacific Coast Highway and somehow ended up riding his bike off of a cliff. They seemed a little disturbed when I responded with a relieved sigh that he only ended up with a compound fracture somewhere on his leg. Noticing the look of disdain on my fellow employee’s face at my relief, I stated very sincerely that he very easily could’ve been killed. As he turned and walked away, my fellow worker just shook his head in disgust. I, On the other hand, was dead serious.

Maybe it’s the former Pilot in me, but I was much more interested in knowing how it happened and more importantly, how it could have been prevented. As a Pilot, one of the things that interested me the most was delving through the hundreds if not thousands of pages of NTSB reports regarding countless aviation accidents and mishaps. There was a wealth of information in those reports that I found very educational, learning from others mistakes and how to make proper judgment calls as a result. What it often boils down to in Aviation as well as motorcycling or anything else for that matter is usually poor judgment on the part of the individual who was a major part of the accident. “Pilot error” is a term that I read all too often in the conclusion of a vast majority of those reports.

I’m not going to stop riding because of somebody else’s misfortune, I am far too smitten with motorcycles to walk away, and I want to learn from their mistakes. Instead I try to remain humble about my skills, respectful of the bikes and others for that matter, and above all else practice safe riding that to me means not only vigilance while riding but also wearing the proper gear for the ride. I have found it a little hypocritical that the same people who have chided me over the years for riding have also at times been the first to make jokes about the specific gear that I insist on wearing all of the time........Interesting.

There is so much to talk about here; any one of these paragraphs, I could go on a rant of a few thousand words about, and perhaps in future posts, I will. I just felt the need to get the frustrating topic of this everlasting conversation off of my chest and I felt that my blog was the perfect place for that.

Ride Well,

1 comment:

irondad said...

This is one area where I have a slight advantage. Sometimes in a class I ask for a show of hands from those who've heard the stories. These stories come at a time when these folks are talking about their new sport, riding a motorcycle.

Later on in the class, we talk about things like SIPDE, cornering skills, target fixation, accident avoidance skills, etc. Then I ask them to think about the stories they heard. Comparing it to what we've talked about, can they see what went wrong?

The point they see is that, while we can't make ourselves bulletproof, rider error figures into the majority of accidents. The students get a whole different perspective.

I do this to other people who tell me their stories. You can often win these contests when you're a long time trainer!

Nice post.