Two Minor Motorcycle Safety Concepts

Two Minor Motorcycle Safety Concepts

Anyone interested in operating a motorcycle safely is certainly spoiled for choice. In most areas across the world there are now a plethora of available courses to take, in the classroom, on a controlled course, a race track, and even on the public roads in some areas. In addition, there’s now an Alexandrian library sized number of books and videos offered. I recommend all of them. What follows is merely a couple of footnotes you might want to add to your personal stash of safety information.

  1. No hits, runs, or errors. When I worked in the motorcycle industry a part of my job (the best part) was leading customers on rides that lasted for most of a day to three to four days to over a week.  In addition, there were the rides I took on my own free time.  I rode – a lot.  When I got home my wife would always ask how it went, and I got in the habit of saying “No hits, runs, or errors.”  Borrowed from baseball, of course, in my usage it referred to no speeding tickets, no accidents, and no situations where I scared myself.  I now use this as a daily goal for ride. 

Speeding tickets may happen, but they often do not need to. The areas where officialdom tends to seek speeders are determined by two factors, I believe. One is, obviously, areas of dense traffic where speeding can raise the danger for everyone and a modicum of reason is required.  The other, (again, in my opinion), are areas that are easy for officers to access and offer the greatest monetary reward for the officer’s time.  Speeding is often used as a revenue generator, whether or not it has much to do with safety.

The solution – Duh! Don’t speed in those areas!  In my area there is the I-5 freeway corridor, which almost always has state patrol cars scattered at regular intervals.   You probably have something like that near you. 

With a little patience you can get to back roads which have little traffic and little reason for officialdom to spend a valuable (in two senses) officer’s time sitting idle with a radar gun. On those roads you can usually ride to the road as opposed to the posted limit.  Always keeping fresh in your mind, the weather, the condition of the road, your mental state, and other factors. There is still some risk of a ticket, and your bear the cost of that

If you manage to scare yourself on a ride this is not a sign that you are really into it. It is a sign that you are riding too fast for the conditions, or that your skills are not sufficient for the task at hand. As the old adage goes, never write a check that your talent can’t cash.  Perhaps a cornering clinic or other course would help.  If you are riding a motorcycle specifically for the thrill of scaring yourself, you should stop.  Now.  Perhaps sky diving would be better.

As for no accidents, that seems obvious.

  1. When the helmet drops, the bullshit stops. I came up with this 20 years ago, or at least Wikipedia says I did. I THINK I invented it, but I will cede credit if I can determine if someone else said it first.  At any rate, it is a useful rubric.

We all have a lot of “stuff” going on in our head these days. Issues at work, the latest political horror show, what your husband said last night, your Facebook feed, the funny noise coming from the washing machine, and on and on.  When the helmet drops over my head, all of that is eliminated.  My helmet creates my happy place. It is just me and the motorcycle and the road, and all of that other stuff can wait. It will still be there later.

One ironic benefit of this is that on many occasions, if you manage to shut off your brain’s focus on a problem for a while, when you remove the helmet later and return full access to your life to your brain, the solution to the problem may pop up as if by magic.

Nobody is perfect, and occasionally outside thoughts will creep in.  At times I get a little angry at my lack of rigor and say “Ride the damn motorcycle” out loud in my helmet. That seems to help.

I strongly disagree with almost all of my friends who seem eager to adopt new technologies.  You can now access music, the internet, phone calls, GPS routing and a lot of other noise, piped to you, automatically, inside your helmet.  What a bad idea!

I compare riding a motorcycle to being a professional athlete.  In both cases you must perform at a high level, and a lapse in concentration or a physical error can have dire consequences resulting in a minor or major loss.

Imagine a pro athlete in your favorite sport listening to an ear bud or taking calls while participating. Ain’t gonna happen. For a professional athlete, every game is a chance to excel, but also a chance for a career to be put on hold or… ended.  Pro athletes tend to not drink alcohol before or during the game – also a sound regimen to emulate.

You are (probably) not a pro athlete, but riding a motorcycle puts you in a comparable situation. If a pro athlete with the benefits of a perfectly honed body and extreme physical abilities is not willing to risk diminishing focus or capability while playing, why would you do so on a motorcycle

When the helmet drops, the bullshit stops.

No hits, no runs, no errors.

Two ideas for today.


Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often.

Copyright 2018                 David Preston


About david

I am a 73 year old motorsports nut who lives in Snohomish, Washington. After a 31 year career as an English teacher, I segued into a self-created job in the motorsports business. Now retired, I was involved in customer relations for Ride West BMW in Seattle, after almost 10 years of similar work for the Cycle Barn MotorSports Group. I own, at the current time, a Triumph Rocket 3 (2020) and a 2016 Ford Focus ST. What else would you like to know?
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2 Responses to Two Minor Motorcycle Safety Concepts

  1. Gary Horn says:

    In response to some of the fear I feel when cornering at higher speeds, I often say, aloud, “turn the bike”. It does help me press harder on the counter-steer and trust the physics.

  2. Gary Horn says:

    Also, like you, I do not listen to anything while riding (or running). I try and give my full attention to what I’m doing and what’s going on around me.

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