Life, Death and Motorcycles

This post is basically written in a stream of consciousness. Each “paragraph” is different though related thought. The main theme of this post is fear and mortality. Sorry if it seems dark, but it’s something most if not every rider has thought about, and something I get asked about ALL THE TIME. Mom, Dad, dearest Aunts, this may not be the best post to read… just saying.

Motorcycling is one of those things that you get or you don’t. Many people have asked me if riding is scary in one way or another; and I never know how to answer. I love to ride, it’s not really riding that scares me. But that isn’t to say that riding isn’t frightening. Every rider is aware of the risks, but for most of us the “thrill” of riding outweighs it. “Thrill” doesn’t have to mean taking chances or avoiding death by the skin of our teeth. No, for me the “thrill” of riding is having my breath taken away by a new landscape, it’s feeling at one with the machine as I ride the curves of a canyon road, it’s being right there in the moment feeling a part of this landscape. It’s the adventure.

Someone once told me, “The day it stops scaring you is the day you should stop riding”. I wholeheartedly agree. As a rider you need to have a healthy respect for your machine, keep it maintained, and ride within your limits. It is the only thing between you and the pavement.

There are times when I’m riding along that I see my death. I see myself override the turn, hit a pothole/obstacle and go careening head over heals down the road, or often (for whatever reason) riding over the barrier on bridges. Not sure why. Definitely helps bring the mortality of it back to me. Recently, every time I get on my bike, I think about dying but on the bright side, the idea doesn’t scare me. I’m not saying I want to die, just that there is nothing outstanding that I need to do before I die. Whenever this idea crosses my mind however, I think of my family, and the only one I truly worry about is my mother. I just want some one to tell her/ her to know that I died doing something I love. Riding makes me happy, brings joy to my life. Sometimes it’s the only thing that can cheer me up (other than maybe spending time with my family, but they’re VERY far away). I only really worry about my mother because I know the rest of my family will know, they’ll still be sad, but I think they get it.

One of my friends always says to listen to your instincts. “If you don’t feel like you should ride, don’t” Not only is it always good to listen to your gut feelings, but this statement is especially true. If you are not feeling confident on the bike, for whatever reason, don’t, just don’t ride. There was one time I was riding downtown, a short 2-3 mile trip. About halfway to my destination, I felt scared, terrified. All of sudden I didn’t want to be riding, I had felt fine when I left my house. I felt like my bike was “loose”, the turning felt too fluid and I was sure I was going down. There wasn’t a lot I could do since I was currently riding so I just gritted through it. It was a tense ride, and as many riders know, if you are tense or nervous you are likely to make dumb mistakes, lock up and overcorrect. As I got closer I felt myself tensing up, psyching myself out, as I got closer I could feel myself getting wobbly. I tried taking deep breaths to calm down and was trying to talk my psyche off the ledge but to little or no avail. I ended up parking on the street instead of where I normally park because it was easier and required less turns. It really made me believe in this statement. Whether it’s because some great force is telling you not to ride to keep you safe or if just because a nervous rider is a dangerous rider, ALWAYS listen to those gut feelings.

This morning I was exceptionally aware of my vulnerability as I rode down the freeway to work. It was the first time I can remember being so vibrantly aware that I was “naked” I was out on the freeway with basically nothing between me and the cars, the pavement. It was kinda neat, I mean as I accelerated and merged into traffic, I put my hand on my tank and became abruptly aware that I was exposed. I was dressed head to toe, the only bare skin was the space between the collar of my jacket, and the bottom of my helmet but I felt so naked, exposed. Oddly I found the realization freeing, not terrified as most might think.

Every time I get on my bike, it’s like waging a war. It’s me against all the cages. I have to envision that every single car is out to kill me, run me down. Of course that’s not the case, but sometimes it sure as hell feels like it. Especially on the freeway, but really anywhere. I mean how many times have your heard of a motorcycle crash because a car turned in front of the bike? (Answer: too many times.)

Traffic Jams are sure-death traps. Think about how easy it is to get rear-ended in stop and go traffic. Now imagine that same thing but on a little motorcycle. How about how easy to get side-swiped? People don’t look for motorcycles and they are not easy to see, but especially when as as biker you are trying to focus your attention on cars all around you while trying your damnedest to get the hell out of the danger zone. It’s like riding in a mine field. People always want to call bikers dangerous when they see them weaving in and out of traffic, and yes, there are some idiots, mostly on sports bikes (not to pigeonhole, but they can go much faster), but a lot of times you see us bikers cutting in and out to save our own hides.

The other day I was on my bike and I thought to myself, “If I were to crash I would DEFINITELY die right now.” I was geared up, but there is only so much gear can do for you. When you’re going 80-90 miles an hour a crash=certain death.

All in all I’ll cap this post with this thought, I trust myself. I trust my abilities and my instincts. I have been in scary situations, I’ve had close calls, but I’ve made it through and learned from them. I’ve done dumb things and been lucky. The only thing that really scares me on my bike is other drivers. I’ll elaborate more on that topic in another post. Until then dear readers, take care, whether you ride or drive, remember we’re all responsible for our own and each others safety.

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2 thoughts on “Life, Death and Motorcycles

  1. Please remember that although motorcycling is risky that risk can be controlled by wearing gear, working on your skills, and having a strategy when you ride. Think about escape routes, keeping a cushion around you when possible, and maintaining your motorcycle. With experience comes confidence, it will get better as you ride longer. I heard a great saying that has stuck with me, “everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Safe travels.

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