Everyone is scared of something. If you have no fear you are 1) enlightened, or 2) a liar. I would assume most people claiming to have no fear fall into the second category and even the Dalai Lama might be a bit apprehensive if he was standing on the ledge high atop a tall building surrounded by crack-high pit bulls with psoriasis (the dogs not His Holiness). I do feel most people will admit to having fears, even the guys with the No Fear decals on their clapped out gixxers and pick-ups. My man Lucky (again, whom I’ve never met) had a nice essay on fear induced motorcycle parking. That is to say, parking the bike permanently due to a scare. Today in my most recent Rivendell Reader I read a letter to the editor complaining about a photo in a catalog published by the same company (Rivendell). The photo showed a man riding a bicycle not wearing a helmet. I am going to go out on a limb here and say that the majority of motorcyclists I know reading that would find that complaint a bit frivolous. My point here is to expound on the topic of fear and not helmet issues so let’s move on.
Fear is a powerful thing. Having been raised by a chronic worrywart I’ve had to overcome some fear issues in my life and from time to time I just do my best to ignore the irrational ones and move on. This is easier said than done, but I can usually see the outcome and realize my fear may be unfounded. I’m a motorcyclist. I’ve had close calls on bikes, fallen off of bikes, run into others on bikes, and seen (on video, thankfully) bad, scary accidents. I could go on and on about how safe motorcycles are compared to say, air travel or drunken burro racing, or what have you. My point, and I believe The Lucky One’s point is how you want to live your life.
Risk management controls most of what we do. The letter I mentioned above had a complaint about a photograph. The writer of the letters’ point was the photo would influence people to ride helmet-less based on the inherent prestige of the bicycle manufacturer. “If these guys show a man riding a bike with no helmet [and they know bicycles] then I should do everything that’s shown in the picture to have a safe healthy bicycling experience.” Of course I’m putting words in this persons mouth, but this is clearly ignorance rearing its ugly head. Do we sometimes infer from photos in magazines or on TV that something is good or safe because we see it happening? Sure, we all do. What happens when that goes bad? You look back and see that there was nothing saying you should ride a bicycle without a helmet in the ad for bicycles or herpes medicine. (Hey, I saw the herpes ad and they were riding bikes with no helmets. It didn’t make me want to ride a bicycle while wearing a condom but I digress.) You, whoever you are, are where you are because of decisions you made. Decisions are made all the time about managing risks. Should I wear my seatbelt? Should I put my son in the carseat? Should I smoke this cigarette? Should I drink this Venti Hazelnut Latte? All those decisions have some risk built in to them. Clearly, some are more obvious than others but we should all be making decisions for the right reasons and not going blindly through our lives. Stop and think for yourself. The more you do that the more it will become second nature. I don’t mean it will get easier, but you will be more accustomed to making decisions for a specific reason and based on your knowledge of the facts. In the 40’s doctors in lab coats smoking Camels told you it was a good idea to smoke cigarettes. Healthy even. Build a fire, stand over it, inhale the smoke. What happens? You cough. Why? Because you are inhaling smoke, dumbass! Forget the marketing, sucking on a burning weed will make you cough. That’s common sense. You can probably do it several thousand times before you die from it and if you choose to do so it’s your choice. Just make the choice based on the fact that you like the nicotine buzz and not because Joe Camel’s giant genitalia face told you you’d be Alive With Pleasure.
Alright, so now we know to make wise decisions based on our own judgment. Are you going to ride a motorcycle? “Oh hell no” you say “Those things are dangerous”. Wrong, unless someone drops one on your head, they are pretty much a static instrument. The same goes for big-ass rocks. The problem lies in the person operating the bike. If you buy a bike based on the fact that in the brochure there is a photo of a man riding it and you are a man, you should just go back to bed. That’s your first step to risk management. You should know how to work the machine before using it. That’s not even the beginning. The first question that should be asked is: “Do I want to live my life as the kind of person who rides a bike?” What does that entail you ask? Not a thrill seeker, who lives on the edge. Someone who wants to be alert, and focused. Someone who wants to be in control of the machine they are using. Cars are easy to use and they get easier all the time. Way-too-damn-easy. If you have a vehicle that forces you to think, to make decisions about what is happening and what is going to happen, your life in general will be better for it. You can go through the motions and have your car or TV make all your decisions for you or you can make the decisions yourself based on how you want to live.
What the hell does all this have to do with being scared? People stop riding a bike due to having fallen off the bike, or nearly missing a car, etc… Sure, you could stop. You make a decision to stop riding based on the fact that you are not very good at piloting the bike, your defensive/offensive driving skills are lacking, and the training involved outweighs the fun you get from riding. Or you could just say ”That thing scares me, motorcycles are dangerous”. This is human nature but it’s also taking the lazy way out. It’s easier to sit in the car and watch the world go by while eating your donut and listening to the radio than to be out there in the world.I realize it took a while to make the point and I am clearly painting with broad strokes but by reading Lucky’s essay I was reminded of a point that I have wanted to make for a while. Make your own decisions; think about what you are doing and why you are doing it before you do it. It’s this kind of thinking that makes someone a motorcyclist.