Motorcycles are Dangerous?
If you ride a motorcycle, you’ve heard it all before: “How can you ride those things? They’re so dangerous!” ER employees call motorcycles donor-cycles, and common sense among the non-riders of the world is that motorcycles are extremely dangerous, blah blah blah. As riders, we get it all the time, and we mostly ignore it. In the back of the mind is the possibility that accidents can happen on motorcycles, which is why many of us are ATGATT, but those are things that happen to other people – not us.
I’m no different than any other motorcyclist in that regard. I hear it all the time from concerned friends and family members, and I pooh-pooh it. Walking down the street is dangerous. Driving a car is dangerous. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen regardless of whether you ride a bike. Like most motorcyclists, I have the Zen outlook of “If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go.” In the meantime, I’ll ride until I can’t ride anymore.
The thing is, the truth lies somewhere between these viewpoints. While we as motorcycle riders don’t want to think about it, motorcycles are dangerous. We can easily do stupid things when riding that can cause us to get hurt. Sometimes we get hurt even when we’re doing everything right.
My own brushes with motorcycle injuries have been relatively minor, but they add up. I’ve been riding for a little over 6 months now, and I’ve had three injuries on a bike (or more accurately, from coming off a bike).
The first was my first time out on my first bike – the Ninja 250. I went into a right-hand corner with too much speed, panicked because I hadn’t learned to trust my bike and lean, and tried to brake so I wouldn’t run straight into a utility box (target fixation, to top it all off). Needless to say, I low-sided. The bike went down on the right, and somehow I managed to flip over the bike and slide along on my left side. Luckily, I’d only been going ~25MPH; the sliding wore a hole through my pants and left a small patch of road rash on the outside of my knee where my knee armor had shifted. I was able to get up and ride the bike home, though – it could have been a lot worse.
It was just a little skin, and it didn’t keep me from repairing the bike and getting right back on it. (There was some damage to boots, gloves and jacket, too, though – if I hadn’t been ATGATT, there’s no doubt in my mind I would have been in the hospital.)
Since then, I’ve been good on pavement but I’m starting to collect injuries from offs on dirt.
When Kay and I did the PDR in Vermont, I had an off because my foot slipped in gravel when I was trying to park the bike – the bike went over at 0MPH and I sorta stumbled over it, catching myself with my hands and fracturing a bone in my right hand or at the end of my wrist. It immediately hurt and swelled a bit that night, but I continued to ride for the rest of the day, and did 200+ miles on slab home the next day, with a broken right hand/wrist. It didn’t occur to me at the time that I’d broken anything, but here I am well over a month later and still can’t put weight on the right hand. In retrospect, probably should have gone to the doctor, but it was such a minor thing (literally stumbling over the bike at 0MPH) that it never even occurred to me.
Then last Sunday, I had a series of offs in the mud and dirt in Arcadia/Pachaug. During the first off, when my rear end went a little squirrely going through a very minor mud puddle, me and the bike went down on the left. I knew I went down hard, but it didn’t occur to me how hard. (Again, I was hardly doing any speed at the time – maybe ~10-15MPH.)
When we stopped at a gas station about 20 minutes later, I was having minor chest pains, but it didn’t occur to me that there might be anything really wrong. I thought maybe it was because I was out of shape and had just wrestled with picking up the bike twice, or maybe some gas from the Dunkin’ Donuts breakfast sandwich I’d eaten that morning. The off was so minor that it never occurred to me that I might have gotten injured, even though I remembered going down hard that first time. Now here we are a few days later, and it looks like I’ve fractured a couple of ribs.
Even after all of these things – three fractures and a patch of road rash – I still don’t think of motorcycles as dangerous. I still pooh-pooh when people ask how I can ride something so dangerous, and tell myself that I’m ATGATT so at least I’m protected if something does happen. And no, I haven’t gone to a doctor for any of these injuries – and yes, I’m still planning to leave for Central and South America in a couple of weeks with some just-beginning-to-heal rib fractures and a break in my hand that doesn’t seem to be mending.
Denial? Sure. But I’m not alone in this. This is something that motorcyclists do every day that let us mount these amazing – and yes, dangerous – machines. Because what we get from riding outweighs any “theoretical” danger from injuries none of us really expect. And for many of us, when those injuries come along, we chalk it up as a learning experience and eagerly look forward to when we can get back on that bike.
Are we all crazy? Maybe. But if this is crazy, it’s a kind of insanity that I, for one, don’t mind.