Firearms Friday: Resurrecting a $79 Rifle, Part II -- Range Report
August 21, 2014
"Learner" Licenses Coming to Your State? They Should.
July 29, 2014
Rules for Buying a Motorcycle on Craigslist, Part 1: The Hunt
September 1, 2014
Motorcycles, Risk, and the War on Happiness
August 5, 2014
On discovering I ride a motorcycle, people often inform me that motorcycle riding is a dangerous activity, and may result in bodily injury. This is often followed by a gory account of their best friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s cousin’s crash. Why? Because they have your best interests in mind and are concerned about your safety, right?
This is a classic crabs-in-a-barrel situation. As a motorcyclist, you’re obviously happy. In America, we don’t usually ride motorcycles because it’s all we can afford. We ride them for the sheer joy they impart. Motorcyclists have taken what for many people is a dreary chore, and turned it into a cross between a video game and a carnival ride. It’s not fair! Their faces cloud over, a small crease appears in their foreheads, their lips tighten a little. Some of them are jealous because you’re doing something they want to do, but never will. And some of them are upset just because you’re happy.
I have one like this in my own family. When I informed my sister of my decision to ride my Triumph Bonneville from the Jersey Shore to Tucson to see my parents, she immediately became upset. “That’s stupid. You don’t need to do that,” she said. As if we should only undertake necessary tasks. “You’ll get out there and you won’t be able to help. You can’t carry anything on it.” What? Not only do my parents have a car, but I can carry a fair amount of stuff on the bike. She continued in this vein. I felt sorry for her.
Do I even need to tell you that she’s an 80-hours-a-week real estate lawyer who never takes vacations? Does that sound like a happy person to you? Me neither. The prospect of me enjoying life was more than she could stand. Wouldn’t a more normal reaction be “Oh, that’s nice. Be careful.”? The best way to deal with people like this is to do what I did: Tune out, and move on.
The other type of fun-sucker hopes to darken your day with tales of amputations, fractures and general bodily mayhem. These people can be defeated quite easily with a few questions that make you appear interested while you’re just popping their balloon.
“Oh, that’s sad,” I say. “Were they wearing any protective gear?” Of course, they don’t know. Or they might know the rider wore a helmet. “What about a jacket? Pants? Boots? Gloves?” They don’t know. “Were they drinking?” They don’t know. “Had they taken a safety class?” They don’t know. All they know is that at some point in time, someone fell off a motorcycle. I bring up the most common factors in motorcycle accident/injuries: Alcohol, no safety class, no/little gear, no license. Then I mention that I don’t drink, I took the MSF class, I ride ATGATT, I have a license, and I practice swerves, panic stops and slow-speed maneuvers. I swear, sometimes they're disappointed.
And for those who truly are concerned, guess what? We all know the risk. What people don’t realize (and probably some riders don’t realize) is that risk is part of why we ride. Everything in modern life is padded, railed, skid-proofed and safety-capped to make sure nothing happens to anyone. This isn’t healthy. This is disgusting and stupid and creates thoughtless dependence. People should get into semi-controlled dangerous situations every now and then. If you spend your life in the Great American Safety Bubble, how will you know what to do in a bad situation? You won’t, that’s how. You’ll freeze up. You’ll fail because you’ve never made a snap decision where being wrong has serious physical consequences. You’ll fail because there won’t be a sign, a railing, a floodlight or a safety cap to protect you from your own indolence. But there is a cure. Even if you don’t ride, get out there and do something dangerous. Or semi-dangerous -- work your way up. Just don’t blame me if you lose a leg. That’s the risk.