When you read about a motorcycle crash and the associated injuries or death, do you automatically analyze the news report looking for evidence that there was something different about the rider--or riders--involved and yourself? This is a question I've been asked by several experienced riders and friends lately. With the growing evidence that motorcycling is insanely dangerous and grossly overrepresented in traffic injuries and fatalities, even people who have been on two wheels for fifty years are rethinking their commitment to riding on public roads.
I wrote a column for MMM a while back titled "Ride Like the Killer Robots are After You." In that essay, I suggested that if you aren't committed to being the safest, best equipped, most talented rider you can be, you should reconsider your motorcycling habits. A friend, who is an excellent rider and who automatically gears up for even the shortest or most benign rides, read that column and wrote to ask me if I thought he was fooling himself and should quit riding while he was still mobile and on the good side of his lucky streak. He’s 71, so the fact is that any sort of road-speed crash could screw up what’s left of his life seriously. Howeve3r, answering that question for him is not something for which I feel equipped or competent. It's a good question for all of us to ask ourselves, though.
The things that put your risk of injury and death on an elevated status are combining riding with drugs or alcohol, group riding, riding helmetless and/or without reasonable protective gear, riding without a license, riding a motorcycle that requires more skill than you possess (most riders on most cruisers, for example), and riding when you don’t possess any skills.
I suspect most of the folks who follow this blog are pretty self-critical and don’t need my advice or opinion on any aspect of their motorcycling career. I think doing the self-reflection bit when you read about someone’s fatal crash is a pretty good habit. When you find yourself hitting on too many negative cylinders, it’s probably time to hang it up.