The learning curve – with a twist

Reader Contribution by Alison Green
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I have owned and ridden some sort of motorcycle for an astonishing number of years. (at least it is astonishing to me!) During this time and with considerable good luck, I have managed to continue without any broken bones or nasty scrapes. My pride has taken a beating on occasion, but not my hide.

However, after all of these years I am still puzzled by the reactions of casual, and not so casual, acquaintances when they discern that I choose ride a motorcycle.  These are not close friends or family concerned about my welfare; just the everyday, “Hi, how are you” sort of acquaintances who react to my riding gear and helmet as if I were contagious.

Immediately after the initial formalities, they will launch into some mis-heard and poorly repeated story about some friend of a distant cousin who came to grief on a motorcycle.  

Is this a misguided concern for my safety? Are they trying to make me reconsider my evil ways? Do they simply enjoy seeing other people squirm at the recounting of the gory details? I simply don’t know.

What I do know is that this scenario is guaranteed to play itself out many times over with anyone who rides a motorcycle. And unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any polite way to avoid these stories. But believe it or not, you have the choice of turning these unfortunate tales into lessons. Ask questions!

Consider the following fictitious but very real account …

“Did you hear what happened to Sam? you know, Fred and Em’s nephew. Anyway Sam was coming back from cottage country late last Sunday night on his new sportbike. – I hear that there was quite a party – you must have heard that Mike and Rhena just announced that they are getting married in November. Remember Sunday night that terrific thunderstorm that blew through just about midnight… anyway, just about 6 miles from the cottage turnoff, there is this really tight corner on Hwy 985, pretty spot with a rock-cut on one side and open to the lake on the other… anyway, they figure he might have been going too fast for the bike to make the corner – or he swerved to miss a deer, lots of deer in cottage country you know…  Oh, he’ll be OK, but his brand new bike is toast, and he had only had it for a week or so. – Looks like he will be in hospital for a while – broken shoulder, pelvis and a bunch of other injuries. Good thing he was wearing a heavy jacket. Fred just shakes his head and says ‘I kept telling him that motorcycles simply aren’t safe’ — but he wouldn’t listen!”

Sound familiar? OK, lets take a look at this picture. You don’t even have to ask the questions out loud – just go through the list in your head.

TIME:  Late on a Sunday night after a weekend of partying at a friend’s cottage.

CONDITIONS: Not good! After dark, during or just after a thunderstorm. Roads wet, visibility poor, traction compromised, deer country. country secondary roads –             sometimes narrow and poorly marked, pavement edges rough

RIDER: Alcohol involved – probably, Tired, almost certainly;  Focused, not likely. Was he familiar with the road?

MACHINE: New. Did the rider really know this bike’s capabilities and handling characteristics?  Had he ridden it in the rain before?  

Now, ask yourself, and be honest –   Was this really an accident?

The only possible conclusion is that it was an unfortunate and utterly preventable crash.

This will be recorded as a single-vehicle motorcycle accident, speed likely a factor, with serious injuries incurred.  No one did a breathalyzer test and no-one checked in the hospital — They were too busy saving his life.

This crash was preventable, not random.  Poor driving conditions, night-time, rain, unfamiliar roads, an unfamiliar bike, and a rider who had seriously compromised his own abilities with fatigue, and most likely alcohol…

Get the picture. “Accidents” are sometimes anything but… We can’t avoid hearing these tales of woe and pain and ill fated motorcycle pilots, but we can learn from them.

Ask Questions  –  Consider the answers  –  Ride Safely

— Alison Green

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