View Full Version : Motorcycle Safety: Sitting Down Now

02 October 2013, 0416
OK, I'm done.

I have a teenager, I know all about leading horses to water and subsequent drinking or not.

We have several experienced riders I'd love to hear weigh in on this, but for my part I feel like I've heard it all. I've seen kids who are self taught, from really talented riders who are natural athletes, to guys who are never going to get past "squid" stage, no matter what they do. I've seen teens go out and buy bikes that are way too fast, way too big, and way too much under the influence of testosterone and other mind-altering chemistry to have even a swinging chance of not turning their brains and bodies to mush.

I've seen young adults decide that they can take their few thousand dollars and go buy this slick little toy and have some fun, only to end up in the emergency room. I've heard countless... COUNTLESS adults say things like, I've been riding for a few years, I know how to ride, I did everything right, it was a freak accident, stuff like that, as a rationalization for not getting training. If you did everything right, you wouldn't have had a problem. If you don't know what you did wrong, then you need help. The thing I hear most often that really sets me off is, "It's not a question of if you lay it down, it's when."

Think whatever you want. That's absolute bull****. However, if you don't learn how to ride well, then yeah, it's self-fulfilling.

I've seen a few guys here, on ElMoto, who's first motorcycle was the bike they built, and they've all laid the bikes down. One, in particular, a couple of times, and thankfully with no lasting injuries. We're some pretty bright guys here on this forum. I can't even think about how I'd feel if somebody's brain got turned to mush because they didn't think they needed a class. Oh wait. We had that too. If you were on ElMoto v1 you know all about it.

Some of these guys learned to ride well in spite of themselves. Some never learned. Some never made it. Every one of them would have benefitted from a class.

I'm not any amazing rider, and I've had my share of accidents. I've done really stupid stuff, and I've been lucky to get through it in one piece more or less. But I do follow my Dad's advice after one of my first crashes: "If that didn't teach you anything, there's nothing I can say that will."

Thanks, Dad.

I had a friend who got himself a good-sized boat and almost killed himself and his wife in a really stupid move on Buzzards Bay - a place where stupid moves are punished immediately and severely. A military-trained pilot flying for decades, I was shocked he didn't at least take the Power Squadron Certification classes. His response: I don't like feeling like a Cadet again. Great. From someone who well knows how badly things can go in the hands of someone without training. I know it's hard for a lot of grown-ups to suck it up, admit they may have something to learn, and sign up for some training. Especially smart grown-ups who have a whole lot of respect and experience in a certain area, and maybe also get bored easily. Some of it's ego, attention, time, money... but can I say this again? It's well worth it. And besides everything else... once you get over yourself...



So yeah. You're probably asking, am I going to take some of my own advice here, and sign up for a refresher? You bet your ass. After hearing some of my son's accounts of the classes he took, (and contradicting some of the teaching I'd given him) along with my friend Kurt being an instructor and my cafe bike all nice and tight... not to mention getting my SRX back from my kid, you bet your ass. As soon as they open in the Spring, I'm on it. See you on the track, bitches. ;)

(I consolidated the links posted in previous threads in one place on my site: http://evmc2.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/motorcycle-safety-and-skill-courses/)

02 October 2013, 0525
well said...ive made it 36 years on the road riding many types of bikes. ive seen many die right in front of me...you name it...I think ive seen it! I started in the dirt on a 1974 xr 75 Honda. built it out of boxes...learned how to ride very fast trying to keep up with the older guys on 250's...and I did! I did not crash bad once as a kid thank god to natural athletic ability and the sense to not ride over my head. I crashed more on my pedal bike jumping garbage cans long before the gas bikes...lol. I would ride on one wheel for miles all the way to school.i have raced professional motocross for three years till it beat me down. my point as ted is saying...just ride up to your ability...start off road in the dirt if possible. worked for me!

02 October 2013, 0825
I totally agree and I'm looking into taking a class, or two, at whatever level is right for me. Still figuring that out.

On the other points, the "not if but when" is something I've heard from countless experienced riders. It's not meant as a rationalization for not taking a class - if anything, it's saying motorcycles are dangerous and you should do everything you can to minimize the risk (short of just not riding, which a lot of people do, often after their first crash). Also, as much as I'm sure classes help, they won't prevent everything, so again saying it was a "freak thing" doesn't mean it was avoidable if you had just taken a class. Hell, Ted, how many times have you gone down? And how many years of experience and classes do you have?

Just saying, you need to separate the reality that sh!t does happen, and sometimes you can't predict or explain it, from using those as excuses not to take a class. Two different things. The first is a word of caution, the second, and here we agree, is bull****.

I know this is partly related to other threads, but also general because a lot of people say this stuff. I'm just getting a strong message that if you take these classes and do everything right, you won't have any problems. I DO NOT think that's what you mean, but that's what's coming across. You can get a sense of false self-confidence from ego, or from thinking all your training makes you invincible - both are dangerous.

See Myth 7 here (http://www.motorcyclecruiser.com/streetsurvival/dangerous_motorcycle_safety_myths/).

OK, sitting down myself now.

02 October 2013, 0853
Of course that's not what I mean. If you can take a good class and feel like you're invincible (or won't have any problems) then you're an idiot and the class was wasted on you. I can only think that's "coming across" because of some pre-(mis) conceptions about what classes are all about. Like a good gun safety class, you're going to learn a lot of fear, as well as respect. Half the reason teenagers are so dangerous is because they have no concept of what could happen to them if they do something stupid.

Tyler's instructor said something that I now think of every day. "Think of that SUV coming at you as a 9000lb fist." Now that was a good instructor, and a class that reached out to me as well as busted through to the imagination of my stubborn teenager.

I started this thread, and linked the resources I did earlier, to try to take this completely out of the context of any personal references or previous (apparently emotionally loaded) discussions. Yes. I've heard every asshole from the best riders on down to the worst say "it will happen", and it pisses me off every time I hear it. It does NOT have to happen, and I know lots of great riders who "it" hasn't happened to.

My accidents? Not that it has any bearing whatsoever, but three times on the street. The only one as an adult (over 18) was an accident 25 years ago where if I'd been driving a Mack truck the guy would have still hit me, and instead of ****ing up me and my bike, he'd be dead. And 45 years of riding, thanks very much.

Have I had an accident since my trail days I considered to be a "freak thing", something I didn't understand why it happened, or something that was just bound to happen? No. I know exactly what happened. (Mostly that I had been riding like the 18yr old squid I was.)

Well, no. I don't quite know what happened in that guy's mind who did a double-pump fake at that intersection and then pulled in front of me, after I'd stopped to let him go... then started back up again. No. Not really sure there, except that if I hadn't ridden a dirt bike for as long as I had I'd probably be dead. :rolleyes:

So yeah, let's both sit down so the entire point of this thread and the others don't get missed, mmmk? :rolleyes:

By the way, that's a great link, and some very good advice.

02 October 2013, 0941
Has nothing to do with pre/mis-conceptions. It's statements like "If you did everything right, you wouldn't have had a problem." Or calling bull****, or people assholes just because you disagree. It makes me wonder what the point of the thread is - to encourage safety, or for Ted to get some stuff off his chest?

No, crashes aren't inevitable - and all the skills in the world won't make you 100% safe. How about a middle ground?

I'm saying this because I DO want the message to get across - and all the bluster seems to cloud the issue.

OK, really seriously stepping out now.

02 October 2013, 0956
Seriously? If you object to my writing style, you're more than welcome to start your own threads on the subject. I already have an editor or two. Pardon me if I'm a little strident.

Yeah, I wanted to get the fact that people don't want to hear about safety off my chest. Tell me how you feel about that after watching dozens of your friends get hurt for several decades by being stupid and stubborn.

(edit. Oh I get it. In "getting something off my chest, you think I'm talking about you. No, Noah. Not everything I post is about you. :p)

I'm getting pretty tired of every thread becoming the "Ted and Noah" show, I don't know about you. Maybe someone else wants to weigh in about something other than my use of the language? Any other links to add?

02 October 2013, 1059
Nope - I don't think it's about me. I get it - people belittle safety out of pride or ego or whatever. That's a good point, and I see why it makes you upset. You often start out strident, and then we get around to a reasonable middle ground after a few posts (or pages) - just more of the same. But I'll just back off so there's less "Ted and Noah" show...I agree it's kind of tiring.

Back on topic...

I know books are no substitute for classes, but I looked on Amazon and the first thing that comes up is by the MSF. Seems like it couldn't hurt to read. Any thoughts, or other good books / resources?


02 October 2013, 1117
I think reading is a very important part of the equation. I used to read the old Cycle Magazine like the bible... now legendary writers, as it turned out, and especially about riding skills. That book looks great.

I get a little "iffy" on the stuff Wes (now RideApart, used to be Hell for Leather) does on skills. It seems like he's a little more about being a boy-racer on the street than real riding skills and safety, which is why that last post was so awesome.

As far as being strident, do give me the fact I made 4 posts on the subject, first, OK? :cool: I very seldom do post the entire content from my blog here, as well, but in this case I feel it's important. That last bit, this thread, was all part of it.

(edit: I think looking at pictures is very important to, so, to complete the cross-post to my site, here's the shot I used to illustrate "squid". Cute squid, but squid nonetheless.



02 October 2013, 1143
A lot of wrecks in canyons here in AZ because people crash in decreasing radius turns because they don't know how to trail brake. Trail braking should be a standard part of training, it's a life saver. That said, some bikes like cruisers are defective by design as far as safety goes and don't support this function well.
People don't get taught lines through corners either so you see them crawling up the inside of a turn, with the minimum forward vision available instead of going wide to maximize forward vision. Again, taking correct lines on the road should be part of basic training.
No helmet law here either, but you're breaking the law if you don't have a pair of sunglasses on while riding which is a bit of a joke. At least the woman in the previous post has a helmet on so I'd rate her survival chances in a wreck higher than someone without one but a nice pair of leather chaps and a bandana instead. That said, she'll probably be controlling a wheelchair through a straw after she tumbles!

03 October 2013, 1008
I've been riding a long time as well and have seen enough carnage that I'm pretty careful, even though I live in the boonies of Maine. Actually that's almost a handicap because a lot of people around here do not have a defensive-driving-mentality. For example, there's so little traffic that some people I know assume no one is coming at an intersection unless their senses tell them someone is. They'll have a quick glance when approaching a stop sign and carry on through, confident that if someone were coming they would see/hear/intuit that there was another vehicle on the road. No, really. This drives me nuts. I made sure my kids understood the difference: assume someone IS coming unless your senses tell you they are not.

There's nothing like seeing a little road-rash to remind you ATGATT.

I suspect a lot of folks think riding/driving/flying/whatever is a physical task where in reality it is totally mental. Sure, you have to have some mechanical skills, but knowing *what* to do is more important than knowing *how* to do it.

Re riding, my standard advice is what others have already said: take a course and start in the dirt. A dual-purpose bike will let you get to the trails where you can slide around and fall down to your hearts content with smaller risk of getting hurt. Riding complements riding: playing around on my trials bike carries over to my 150HP Hayabusa. I've done enduros, ridden thousands of miles on trails and ice raced for about 10 years. It all relates.

Oh yeah: http://www.motorcyclistonline.com/flashback/122_0911_the_pace_nick_ienatsch/ This is one of the most influential articles I've ever read on the subject. There's a "Pace II" out somewhere too now.

03 October 2013, 1437
I just found a KTM commercial that gives you a good idea how they think you should ride on public streets:


03 October 2013, 1452
Yeah. And I'm getting **** for being strident. :D Don't even get me started on the manufacturers, as far back as the early 80s. Totally irresponsible.

I wonder what would happen if you could actually tie an ad like that to a few dead teenagers. Think it would change anything?

03 October 2013, 1758
You're not sitting down, Ted.

Mike Edwards
04 October 2013, 0158
I remember reading a piece in Fast Bikes magazine soon after I learnt to ride. It was talking about how all these random accidents always appeared to happen to the same people. They may not have ben at fault in these incidents but they were riding in a way that put them in a position that should something go wrong they would be in the firing line.

There's a simple answer; training, training & more training.

When I was just riding in the advanced group at track days I thought I was fast. I did a whole bunch of road training with the Police and the local 'Institute of Advanced Motorcyclists'. I learnt a massive amount and was faster and safer on the road and much faster on the track.

Then I did a whole bunch of California SuperBike School (CSS) days and learnt a load more. I even did some courses several times and just kept learning. Then I started racing and kept doing the CSS days and kept improving.

When I stopped racing and started a race team I was working with guys with loads more talent who were already faster than I would ever be. I still managed to teach them new stuff and they got even faster.

You can learn from the guy teaching body positioning, you can learn (a lot) from the guy teaching observation drill and you can learn from the old slow guy who has listened and analysed everything anyone with any skill has ever said.

I went from a medium paced road rider getting left behind by all all his friends to the guy that would be miles ahead waiting for them yet I was still much safer at that speed than when I was riding more slowly.

Never stop learning and never discount the value of training.

04 October 2013, 0222
You're not sitting down, Ted.