Don't let fear stop you from riding, but do let it tell you when to take extra caution in sticky situations.

Motorcycles can be scary. After all, you're climbing aboard a bomb with constant explosions between your legs that can go extremely fast, crash, and kill you, especially since with only two wheels, tipping over and crashing is its natural state. We don't let that stop us from riding, though. We accept those risks every time we get on a bike, then manage them to provide the best possible outcome, which is a fun ride and getting home in one piece.

Fear doesn't disappear, though, as Doodle on a Motorcycle explains. She's been riding for four years, and she still gets scared riding a motorcycle. That doesn't stop her, of course. She loves bombing around the mountain twisties. She recently started commuting to work on her bike. She even does track days, something I was scared to try for many years until I just did it.

Despite a lifelong love of motorcycles, I didn't actually start riding until my late 20s. Though I didn't plan it that way, I'm glad I waited. In my early 20s, I was cocky, dumb, and overconfident, which is normal for men at that age. I learned how much I didn't know through four wheels rather than two, and on an autocross course rather than the street. I went out sliding everywhere like the 1980s action TV shows I was raised on and wondered why grandpa, who looked like he was out for a Sunday drive in his E28 BMW, was seven seconds faster than me.

Only then did I realize how much I didn't know about driving. I buckled down to learn and became a better driver in the process. A few years later, when a friend gave me his 1982 Suzuki GS650L, I took a more careful approach to riding motorcycles. I knew how much I didn't know at first, based on how much I'd learned I didn't know with cars. I took the MSF course and was a slow, somewhat fearful rider at first. Today I've gained the experience to get past my fear—mostly. That which remains is a good thing.

Gate Across Trail

I'm not scared to ride, but there are certain situations where fear is my Spidey sense tingling that maybe I should think twice about doing something. Take a dirt ride I was on earlier this week. I was on an unmaintained "Class 6" dirt road which had been getting into worse condition the farther I rode. A deep washout crossed the "road," and I'd have to cross over some loose rocks to get to the other side to keep going. I stopped, shut off the bike, and pondered my predicament. This was the gnarliest riding I've done this year, and since breaking my foot. I haven't taken as many risks since the doctors rebuilt it like the Six Million Dollar Man. As much as I hate giving up and turning around, was continuing such a good idea?

I took stock of the situation. The "road" (I use that term loosely at this point) improved just after this washout. It was dry, which improved traction and made a crash less likely, particularly on my Shinko 705 tires which are designed more for the road than the trail. As long as I approached the washout at an angle to the road direction, and built enough momentum to get through without dabbing a foot I figured I should be fine. So I gathered up my courage and went for it. Everything worked out exactly according to plan, and eventually, I made it all the way through to the main road on the other side of this unmaintained road.

Fear didn't stop me, but fear did make me pause to assess the situation in more detail. I wouldn't have had time to assess the condition of the washout if I hadn't stopped. I couldn't have assessed the trail condition further ahead if my mind was focused on crossing the washout right in front of me. There were risks, but I decided they were acceptable (no way would I have tried this without full gear including motocross boots), and took them. It was an educated decision, not Larry Enticer just sending it.

 

Don't let fear control you. Learn to control your fear. That means still listening to it, though. Fear shouldn't stop you from riding, but it should stop you from getting yourself into a particularly dangerous situation that you could have avoided.