Jun 15, 2014

Preparation Is Everything

Saturday, yesterday, I taught a BRCII (used to be the ERC, Experienced Rider Course). The weather report for Saturday, since last weekend, has been for rain and lower-than-normal temperatures. Friday, the national weather service, Weather.com, and even the local boneheads predicted a 70% chance of rain for Saturday morning. Due to geezer inability to sleep, regardless of exhaustion levels, I was up at 5AM and it was raining steadily, if only a moderate drizzle. By 7AM, when I left for the range, 5 miles away, it was raining slightly harder and the ground and roads were soaked. By 7:30AM, it was raining hard and clouds were rolling in fast. We had some lightening in the distance and the sky looked like the backdrop to “Twister.” I went to bed the night before, falling asleep to Tornado Rampage 2011, so I might have been slightly sensitized regarding crap coming from the sky. Regardless of my own sensitivity, there were no surprises Saturday morning for anyone in Minnesota with any sort of media connection. You had to know it would be wet.

About 1/2 of the class came in jeans, non-water resistant (even perforated) jackets, and fair weather foot and hand protection. (Two didn't show up at all.) At least three of them asked if we could reschedule their class. Of course, I said I didn't have that capacity and told them rescheduling would be up to the "office" and available classes. They all decided to stick it out. By the end, I think several of the group were suffering near-hypothermia. I banked on slightly warmer weather and, in retrospect, should have brought some insulation along with the GoreTex gear. I am not particularly sad that my afternoon class cancelled. When I got home, I spent about an hour in a hot shower trying to bring my core temperature up to normal.

I can not imagine what I’d have felt like if I’d have been dressed for a sunny afternoon. I’m old and all of the students in the course were nearly half my age or even younger. Maybe they rode home in the rain feeling like it had been a day in the park. I can’t help but hope a few of them reconsidered their toilet bowl helmets, their fishing rainsuits, jeans as riding gear, tennis shoes, and gardening gloves. None of that stuff is appropriate for 21st Century motorcycling. We’ve come a long, long ways in weather protection, armor, comfort, and flexibility. My favorite company, Aerostich, is responsible for a lot of that progress, but there are other contributors. 

Our riding season in Minnesota is short enough without allowing moderate weather to trim off even more non-perfect days. One of the things I’d like these MSF courses for more experienced riders to do would be to extend the conversation from the safe territory of the MIC’s industry promotion into a moment of two to consider the future of motorcycling on public roads when the vehicle’s safety record is beyond abysmal. All that macho posing in pirate outfits on offensively loud, 1955 machinery is well-padded by the industry and rider organizations’ shrill complaint anytime society proposes that motorcyclists who don’t care about their own safety should be removed from the public’s responsibility. In other words, “If you don’t care about yourself, why should the rest of us care about you? You crash it unprotected, you come up with the cash to pay for your hospitalization or we’ll have an animal control officer pick up your remains and deposit them someplace cheap. If you want insurance, you can have it if you take reasonable precautions. Otherwise, back to the animal control guys.”

My 10-year-old granddaughter is in a similar stage right now. She’s kind of a rampaging bull in a china closet, flying around the house carelessly knocking things over, throwing temper tantrums and intentionally breaking furniture, appliances, and family valuables, either claiming “I didn’t do it” or “it was an accident” when she’s called on the damage done. Her parents are more forgiving than me, in all respects. Personally, “it was an accident” does nothing for me. You broke it, you own it. I don’t care how you ended up standing over a pile of busted glass, it’s now your problem. Likewise, claiming that life isn’t fair and blaming someone else for the results of your temper tantrum doesn’t go far with me. Again, you broke it, you own it.

Likewise, if motorcycles continue to contribute 14-20% of the nation’s highway fatalities while making a nearly non-existent practical transportation contribution, we broke it ourselves and we’re going to find our favorite vehicle relegated to hobby status any day now. If we are not even willing to think ahead long enough to pick reasonable gear appropriate to the expected weather, what chance do we have of making good decisions about how to improve motorcycle safety enough to justify our existence? If we insist on being identified as hooligans and bandits and outlaws, why would we be surprised to discover society has had all it can stand of our bullshit? Marking people argue that “perception is everything.” Engineers know that “preparation is everything”: plan on the worst, hope for the best. Motorcyclists appear to be incapable of even planning for the expected.

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