“Never fear a motorcycle, but always respect it,” said my mom to a juvenile me. With a firm tone and extended index finger, she educated me as I sat stiff-armed with my hands on the bars and unblinking wide eyes locked on her. From then on, I realized that fear should never be confused with respect.
She shouted a few more teachings and then shoved me as I released the clutch, sending me off with one big tap on the back. Fearing a motorcycle can cause injury, but respecting one can make you feel more alive than a car ever can.
Many four-wheel suburbanites perceive riding a motorcycle as a dangerous and careless action. But that’s an irrational fear. People are still scared of flying despite the fact that you have a better chance of dying in the car on the way to the airport than in a plane. Similar to how a fender-bender in a car would link to a life-threatening accident to me on a motorcycle.
The sad truth is, media portrays our group as evils living a dangerous lifestyle, satisfying those fear-mongers who attend a NASCAR race just to watch a collision. The general media muckrakes the scary side of motorcycles in an effort for ratings. Lopsided statistics and media paint a scary picture of motorcyclists and blur the actual risks involved.
Motorcycle death and accident statistics don’t show careless action or inexperience. According to a 2014 statistics from National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost a third of rider deaths involved drinking. Riding a motorcycle makes you alert and uses all of you. You feel all your body elements; your eyes scan the road ahead, your body shifts to steer, and all of your limbs are used for controls. You can’t put it on cruise and lean the seat back, riding takes all of your attention. So, even a couple drinks can really harm and impair your riding.
Another large portion of deaths came from riders without helmets, as not all states require them by law. For motorcycle enthusiasts like me, no gear means no respect.
Most of my friends ride, which means we always have something to talk about. Cliques and subsets of bikers seem overwhelming, but some of the nicest people in the world are bikers, because you can’t be all that mad if you are on a bike.
I wave and greet other bikers no matter what type of bike they ride. It’s pleasant to have a sense of identity even within a large group, but I ride the bikes I like to ride, because that’s what I do. Not because I wish to fit into a specific subset, but because that’s the bike I want. At the same time, it’s reassuring to know that you’re not alone in your deranged obsession with everything two wheeled.
A car is an extension of your house, your office, your life, but a motorcycle is an extension of you. In using a car, you risk getting lost, being late and spending too much on gas everyday. When I leave to ride, unless I’m commuting to work, I only have a vague idea of where I’m going. No GPS or smart-phone directions, because if I get lost, great. It’s a mental release that for many is fundamental to survival. I don’t stress about traffic or directions when I’m riding. It’s a personal experience that has sometimes become a divine experience. Even in a pack of other motorcycles or a crowded highway, I ride alone.
Getting in a car is like waiting, not living. Sit in traffic, go to point B with the windows up and A/C on listening to a monotonous talk-show host and stress about the day. Getting on a motorcycle tears away the modern world: no music, skip traffic, riding away from your thoughts and stresses with the twist of the throttle.
For a goal oriented person, riding is continuously a challenge. Every time I leave my house I learn something new and push myself harder. Not necessarily faster, but better. Every day it brings something out of me that nothing else can.
Fearing a motorcycle or not respecting one can get you hurt. No helmet, drinking and careless behavior loses your respect for a bike, but riding sensibly and smart can keep you alive, better than anything on four wheels.
Photo credits to: Beach Bandits