We all ride motorcycles for different reasons. For some of us, it's inexpensive daily transportation. For some, it's a chance to get away and feel at one with the outdoors. And for others, it's an opportunity to push ourselves, to sharpen our skills and see just what we are capable of, while controlling this heavy, powerful machine.
I gave this some thought while riding home from work the other day. There's no doubt that riding a motorcycle can be exciting - either the good kind of exciting, i.e. the thrill of carving through a sweeper, and the bad kind of exciting - i.e. the kind that costs money...or worse.
I figured that there are several levels to this, and these levels change as our experience and skills change over time.
Learning:"hmm, that's interesting" - When the bike does something unusual, but not scary. For instance, the first time you ride over a metal grate, and find the bike wandering to follow the grate, without your input. You decide to mention it to your friends on goldwingdocs.com the next time you're online.
Heightened Awareness:"whoa, what was that?" - When the bike does something unexpected, and you might get a brief shot of adrenaline. For instance, when braking, and your tire briefly loses traction when running over a hot "tar snake." You file that experience away in your memory, noting to avoid braking or turning hard when tar snakes are around.
Excitement:"Holy ****!!" - When you get yourself into an unexpected, potentially dangerous situation, but you manage to properly handle it. For instance, when partway through a sweeping curve, you see gravel on the inner part of the curve - but because of your judicious entry speed, you are able to go wide and miss it, without jeapordizing the safe navigation of the curve. This usually also results in a shot of adrenaline. You tell yourself to pay more attention next time.
Near Disaster:"aughhhh" - When you are in a situation that is out of control, that has a potentially disasterous outcome, yet you somehow make it through unscathed - entirely due to dumb luck! For instance, approaching an intersection too quickly on cold tires on a cold day, braking hard...and sliding right into (or through!) the intersection. This leaves your veins coursing with adrenaline, and your body shaking. You usually swear afterwards to NEVER do that again.
Disaster: BANG - When the "near disaster" situation doesn't end quite so well. You might not even have time for the adrenalin. For instance, when a pick-up truck turns left in front of you, you swerve to miss it, but there is no time, and you hit the truck, destroying your motorcycle, breaking some bones, and sending yourself flying down the road. You might swear afterwards that you will never ride motorcycles again.
And yes, if you have guessed that each of these examples are taken from my own personal experiences, then you are correct. Fortunately for me, as I gained experience (and distance from my teenage years), the Near Disaster and Disaster scenarios have disappeared, leaving me with the occasional Excitement scenario. I'm fine with this.
Without a doubt, experience helps swing the experience spectrum more towards the Learning end and away from the Disaster end, but there are other things that help as well: training, protective gear, a properly maintained bike, and maturity. Maturity? Sure - it's been a long time since I felt the need to ride at 150 mph on public roads, as I did when I was 17. Not to mention having a bike that I've put a lot of time and effort into, and really don't want to wreck!
Think about your own experiences. How many Near Disaster scenarios have you had in the past year? How about Excitement? What could you do differently to become a safer rider….