Ride for Life

I hadn’t realized I’ve developed a spiel for talking with motorcycling newbies until just the other day. Like most of you I take pride in being something of a Do-It-Yourselfer, except when it comes to washing windows. Unless the Yourself happens to be you, that is, and then I’m fine with it. Seeing as how you weren’t around the other day though, I hired a seemingly bright 20-something kid to knock out the job.

Ride safely and ride for life like my friend Walter.

Spotting the large glossy photos and various other monuments to my motorcycling ego around the house, 20-something paused squeegeeing at one point to ask from down the hall (I was supervising from the recliner in the living room) if I did something related to motorcycling.

Upon hearing my reply, not noticing my frown of disapproval he set down his tools and rushed into the room, blathering at redline that his Dad has a SV650 just like the one in the photo down the hall and that he has a GSX-R600 and a matching Icon and it’s so cool and I love it and it’s so fast and pretty soon I’m going to get my motorcycle license so I can race it and the other day I came around a corner in the canyons and hit some gravel and crashed and some other guy I ride with was pulling a wheelie on the freeway and crashed and nearly died….

Sheesh. They may as well come with a pull string. When he paused to breathe I quickly set the hook.

“Wait a second. You love riding motorcycles, right?”

“You bet! Sure! And I….”

“Hold on. So, isn’t it something you would like to do your whole life long and not just for a few minutes?”

This is the kind of question for which video games simply don’t prepare our precious youth. “Er, um, well yeah, of course.”

“Yeah, me too. That’s why it doesn’t make any sense to me when guys like your buddy pull dangerous stunts on public roads, or seemingly smart young guys like you ride around without a motorcycle license or any training. Would you climb in a plane and try to fly it without learning how?”

“No way, I’d be too scared.”

“Well, a motorcycle is basically a plane that flies on the ground, right? (I had his full attention now, even though I wasn’t too sure about that plane bit.) The vast majority of motorcycle accidents involve riders who are unlicensed, untrained and not wearing the proper protective apparel. Sounds like you wear a good helmet, but I’ll bet you ride in jeans.”

“Well yeah, but I have a cool Alpinestars jacket.”

“That’s good if you wear it all the time, but jeans provide no protection at all in a crash, and usually just disappear. So even if you don’t get road rash on your lower body so severe it’s life-threatening, won’t you be embarrassed enough after a crash without having to stand there naked?”

He laughed. I could tell I was getting to him because then he asked a question. “So what do you wear?”

“Well, the last time I attended a track school I wore….”

And so it went from there, me spouting on about the virtues of a license, track schools, the MSF RiderCourses, body armor and so on. When his eyes began to glaze over I’d momentarily sidebar on a topic (I thought) more immediately relevant and cool to contemporary youth, like how motorcycles make you look like a vampire, and regained his attention. Just as he was finishing up the windows I went in for the closer.

“So, if the vast majority of motorcycle accidents involve riders who are unlicensed, untrained and not wearing the proper protective apparel, all you’ve got to do is get licensed, get trained and wear the right gear, and you’ll probably get to enjoy riding your whole life, right?”

It seemed to hit home. Then I loaded him up with magazines and every training course website I could recite from memory, we said good-bye at the front door and I walked down the hall.

Past the giant, glossy photo of some 30-something idiot in jeans on an SV650 doing a giant hero wheelie on Deer Creek Road. Oops.

Tuttle out.


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