Aug 3, 2009

Fat Bikers and the Law

While looking for a picture to link to in a different column, I stumbled upon this website, Biker Law Blog, and this topic: Does Being Overweight Affect Your Rights in a Motorcycle Accident Case? Check it out. The picture the lawyer chose to emphasis his point is amazing.

The important part of the biker lawyer's conclusion was, "I do not see why a person who is overweight cannot safely operate a motorcycle. As a matter of fact, I personally know people who I would consider to be obese, and yet are outstanding motorcycle riders."

Holy crap! I know that the law is supposed to be blind, but I'm a little discouraged with how stupid lawyers and judges can be. How can anyone call motorcycle a "sport" on one hand and, then, claim that having the maneuverability of an overweight walrus and the shape to match would have no affect on a rider's capability?

My reasoned, calm, dispassionate response on his blog was "Well, that would explain why there are so many successful fat professional racers."

At some point, outside of the irrational territory of a court of law, common sense ought to prevail. Yeah, I know, "motorcycling is different than racing." It is: it's way more dangerous and demanding. Those giant bellies you often see perched on top of a lounge chair cruiser wouldn't fit on the seat of a motorcycle that has 21st century brakes, suspension, or handling characteristics. I've often considered most of what Hardly sells to be "motorcycles for the physically challenged" or "'rolling wheelchairs." If you are limited to a particular style of motorcycle because of your physical condition, it's obvious that you are equally limited in your capabilities. You might be able to compensate for those limits with experience, judgment, and by limiting your exposure to complicated riding situations (such as only riding in your backyard), but you're still less capable than someone not so encumbered.

While it's obvious that your "rights" will not be reduced because of obesity, it is equally obvious that a jury's sympathy for a lard-ass on a Harley will be dramatically different than it would be for a healthy adult riding a less stereotyped motorcycle.

In Motorcycle Consumer News, a while back, a much more reasonable lawyer spent some time explaining how successful trial lawyers would be well advised to avoid jury trials at all costs when they are representing a motorcyclist. Our public image sucks. Most people don't like us and we appear to be doing our best to further that opinion.

Regardless, imagine you're a juror in a trial where someone turned in front of a motorcyclist and the biker was unable to stop his bike and smashed into the cage. The biker is claiming, "There was nothing I could do."

The cager's lawyer shows you a picture of the biker on his bike, pre-crash. He's 350 pounds of sedentary flab and he's helmetless, armed in a wife-beater and sunglasses, and riding the bike of choice for the over-aged, Angel-wannabe (sort of like the bike Mr. Lawyer is pictured beside in his blog photo at right). Imagine the biker's lawyer is the guy in that picture.

You're a reasonably intelligent person. You can do a quick p=mv calculation in your head and-- adding the 900 pounds of the biker's rolling wheelchair to his 350 pounds of inert flab--you decide that anything changing directions faster than a glacier would catch this dude unaware and unable to avoid a crash. The cager goes free and un-fined and bikers all over the country cry "foul!"

The unfairness of the jury's decision causes even more flab-layered bikers to buy worthless loud pipes, eat more barbecue, and get even wilder tattoos. That alienates even more cagers and the next biker in court finds himself part of a routine on Jon Stewart's program.

Unlike Mr. Lawyer, I don't know a single obese "outstanding motorcycle rider." Not one. I know some once-outstanding riders who are still pretty good in their lard suits. I know a lot of guys, like me, who were once pretty good and are now on the edge of cycle-disabled because of their lack of flexibility, poor motorcycle posture, disproportionate weight-to-strength ratio, and limited choices of vehicles. If that really is a picture of the Law Blog lawyer, I suspect his definition of "outstanding motorcycle rider" and mine are radically different. He should look up the word "outstanding." I don't think it means what he thinks it means.


Anonymous said...

Hello Tom, from so Cal. I hope all is well with you. We are back into life here just like we never left 15 years ago. It is great to be near family and old friends. This weekend I was watching the old trials DVD's you burned for me with some pals.

We went for a ride up to the Sequoia National park last month. Lotsa cool back roads. It was a mix of BMW GS and KTM 950 Adventure riders. Went to visit and old British friend that lives in Badger Ca and has a shed with 50 old bikes in it.Saw some big trees and beautiful rivers. California is a natural wonder. Good times.

The LA freeway is crazier than I remember. Some of the guys that ride it are giving us a bad name. Sportbike punks with Mowhaks glued to the helmet (have you seen these?) that use massive revs as a horn to scare the shit out of drivers as they split lanes at stupid speeds. Squids.

It made me realize that "Loud pipes save lives" is BS. You being a sound man must already know this. The sound from a bike is about .5 seconds BEHIND the rider. He is already past, therefore the warning is useless. It only serves to scare the dukie out of an otherwise non-motorcycle hating motorist.

Now if you get the hankering to come rider with use, just lemme know. We ride any time except when it gets too hot. I may be able to round up an old GS for you to ride. Think about it.

Regards, Martin

Anonymous said...

I work with a guy who says Harley Riders are ruining it for everyone.
Then he tells me about riding his Hayabusa at 130 mph on the street with open exhaust with his girl on the back.
Now that is good pr! Pullese.

T.W. Day said...

There is something about motorcycling that causes a lot of us to act irresponsibly and antisocially. Both actions, I think, will result in the death of motorcycling on public roads.

Anonymous said...

actually sound travels faster than your bike can go. doesn't matter that the exhaust points out the back.

That said I ride stock pipes on my bike. I think sound travels around 750 mph and since some of the Frequencies are omni directional quite a bit of the sound does travel out in front of a fairly loud bike.. Test this out yourself. Stand 1/2 mile away in front of a loud bike coming in your direction .. see if you can't hear it quite aways before it reaches you.

I know this to be true. My neighbor has a Harley with no baffles or mufflers, just pipes. This bike is loud. I can hear him a mile off even when I am located in front of him.

I would rather deal with a loud pipe motorcycle that is not speeding than wheelie popping , 130 mph crazies tearing up the freeways inside the city limits.

Anonymous said...

True, sound travels about 770mph, but it's a hell of a lot slower than light. The point is, since the majority of the noise coming from the bike is omnidirectional, it doesn't provide a directional cue to anyone. It's just a random noise pissing off everyone, as you mentioned, withing 1/2 mile of the noise maker. It's not useful to cagers, since they won't hear it at all. It just irritates everyone else. Motorcycles are, consistently, the loudest vehicles on the highway.

T.W. Day said...

Imagine you're sitting your backyard, minding your own business, listening to your kids play and the birds sing, and you hear a plodding hippobike from a mile away. You hear that idiot untuned-tractor noise blubbering for 2-5 minutes before it finally fades into the background. As Joe Public, would you really "rather deal with a loud pipe motorcycle that is not speeding than wheelie popping , 130 mph crazies tearing up the freeways inside the city limit?"

You're not even on the road and the noise maker is screwing up your afternoon. Both types of motorcycle hoodlum are irritating, but one is just a random polluter and the other is only hosing up traffic. Either way, the rest of us should treat that kind of motorcyclist with distain, disgust, and do our best to get them off of the road before they cost all of us our privledge to use the public roads.

Anonymous said...

Heres a good one for you! This gals ass is so fat that she cant ride a 2 wheel bike. So Hubby goes and buys her a 3 wheeler (she still has fat hanging over). I was told that these bikes cost up to 30 grand. So the first thing they do is have the pipes changed to make it louder, same with his bike. Keep in mind that these are wantabes, hat on backwards, pant legs rolled up, and of course the HD shirt. Talk about someone crying out to be noticed.
I guess the thing I dont get is why wouldnt you take $15,000 and take the old lady to the fat farm, get her in shape and then buy her a $15,000 2 wheeler. This gal gives a new meaning to a Harley PORKSTER!