Safe Riding

No Lies

Written by  March 31, 2009

There are no lies on a motorcycle. It’s one of the most honest places in the world. It’s totally vulnerable—visually and physically—and a place where people act on a sort of referendum about humanity.
Riding is the unspoken assertion that life and its elements should be embraced and not shielded by the container of a four-wheeled vehicle.
What maintains us when we ride is balance. Physically, of course, but the greatest balance we exercise comes when our emotions are invoked. For example, when someone wants to race, a tailgater appears, a car darts into our lane or even when we see another motorcyclist suddenly behind us.
Emotional riding is dangerous riding. And the way to avoid it is to begin each ride with “remember why?”
What’s important to you and means getting home safely is valuable? Whatever it is, it’s the reason to act on your common sense and goodwill instead of emotion.
Last month a very famous businessman in California died as a result of racing his automobile illegally. He was going so fast that his car was split in two when it hit a utility pole and he died immediately.
Although this was not a motorcycle incident, I cite it because this was a guy who lived the “rags to riches” storyline of life, the type most of us would envy. He rose from selling T-shirts out of his trunk to being a millionaire businessman in only a few years. But he only enjoyed those millions for a few years, too. Why? Because he didn’t remember why it was worth getting home safely when he turned the key of his ignition.
Whether he initiated the race or responded to a challenge doesn’t matter. At some point, his emotions took over his sound judgment and he forfeited decades of life and millions of dollars that were still his to enjoy—by not remembering why.
Balancing our emotions means that we begin our ride with the conscious intention to return home, or arrive at our destination, safe and sound. While that sounds obvious, what do you do when someone wants to race, a tailgater frustrates you, someone cuts into your lane or a bigger and louder motorcycle suddenly appears behind you?
When we first mount our motorcycles and the engine is warming up, it’s worth a few seconds to picture whatever is important to us. A spouse, significant other, children, pets… perhaps our own fortune that we’ve created through business or work. Picturing what we value and “remembering why” we want to get back safe and sound can be the very guiding thought that helps us avoid responding to emotions that might endanger our lives.
My bet is that the celebrity death I’m referring to didn’t begin with this guy saying, “This will be my last drive. I’m heading out to hit a light pole, die, and leave my millions behind for attorneys and estate planning.” No, he headed out for an evening of fun, and there’s nothing wrong with that intention.
But when emotions come up, from racing to traffic hazards, we need an intentional response. A response that says getting home safe is more important than indulging a dangerous moment. Even the most physically skilled motorcyclist in the world is vulnerable if emotions are allowed to rule.
There are no lies on a motorcycle because everything about us, physically, is visible to others. We’re not obscure like a four-wheel operator. We are also stating a referendum about humanity; that travelling through space and time is best enjoyed when exposed to the elements and not shielded from them.
We maintain our physical and emotional balance on the ride and don’t fall prey to the laws of gravity when we decide, before we ever leave, why it’s important to return home.
By Christopher Hess
MSF Certified Rider Coach and owner of NEET Motorcycle Institute in Lawrence, Kansas