Scott Otte tries to find the line when it comes to how much we're willing to risk our lives as motorcyclists. How comfortable are you with risk?
The RideApart community contains a vast array of knowledge about bikes, riding and pretty much everything having to do with motorcycles. We want to share that experience in a bigger way, so we’ve enlisted our readers to share their thoughts as guest authors. Up first, blogger Scott Otte, who asks, "How Comfortable Are You With Risk?"...
I love riding a motorcycle; it would be hard for me to imagine ever giving it up. I want to be that 80-year-old guy who is still riding and talking about the good old days. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll make it; sometimes I think I'm a bit too comfortable with the risks involved in motorcycling. I don't mean the kind of danger a motorcyclist faces every day. I mean the kinds of things one can do on a motorcycle that might increase the chances of crashing and getting hurt.
Risk can be part of the appeal, but I think there is a line. I’m just not sure where it is. I would be lying if I said that the risk of riding a motorcycle isn’t part of the draw for me, but there is no denying it can be a dangerous way to travel. However, I also feel motorcycling is possibly the most fun way to get from point A to point B. For me, it’s worth it. So I have studied, practiced and always work to improve my riding skills and abilities to keep myself safe on the road.
Still, a few weeks ago when a friend and I had stopped to get gas on a ride, he commented that he thought some of the lane splitting I did on the freeway was a bit dangerous. “It's crazy to split lanes at 50+ miles per hour while traffic is moving fast.” I was defensive at first, but my friend persisted with his opinion, and the discussion made me think about what made him feel this way. I am still not sure that I agree with him, but that is beside the point. It really made me scratch my head. How crazy is it that my friend, the person who got me into motorcycles, thought that I was being reckless. I ride everyday, but he has since moved to NYC and doesn't ride nearly as much. Has something has changed?
Maybe I'm just more comfortable with lane splitting, and it’s no big deal? Or maybe I've just gotten used to something that really is dangerous just because I do it every day? Or maybe it falls somewhere in the middle.
Since that conversation with my friend, I have taken note of myself taking other small risks on my motorcycle and questioning my own behavior. These were things like maneuvers that weren’t really necessary or needed but employed just to make my ride more fun.
Being too comfortable riding inches away from cars can be a bad thing, especially since over 50% of fatal motorcycle accidents involve cars. Most of those come in situations having to do with making left hand turns and passing. Cars are massive moving objects whose drivers can easily harm or even kill us. They simply do not see motorcycles. That’s why I always give them plenty of space.
Still, the more you do something, the easier it gets and more relaxed you are. Think back on how crazy it felt when you first started riding. How fast 30 mph felt, or how insane it was the first time you got on the freeway. Remember that feeling of how dangerous it was to be anywhere close to a car?
I don’t want to sound like I think being comfortable on a motorcycle is bad; riding with confidence is very important. It is not enough to know how to ride a motorcycle you also have to be sure enough in your abilities to execute them when necessary. Knowing that you can lean more and turn harder when something unexpected happens is vital. Being confident with your abilities and comfortable with hard braking can save your life.
Regardless, I think it’s very important to occasionally take the time and look at your riding habits. Maybe slow down just a bit and think about something you may be doing that might not end well. Try and remember anything can happen out there and that continuing to develop you riding skills and always riding safe are key to more years on two wheels.
Do you ever take a step back and look at some of the things you do on a bike? Do you ever question your own riding habits?
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