Is riding a motorbike dangerous?

June 6, 2019

Yep!! No other way to look at it.

The bottom line is that you are 180lbs (the rider) traveling at speed and if you hit anything it is going to hurt. Sure, the right riding gear will save you skin or even a broken bone in the event of a slide but at the end of the day, if you hit something, be it another vehicle, a lamp post, barriers, trees or anything else made of stronger stuff than you are made of, the chances are you will not be walking away whilst a car driver with per-tensioning seat belts, airbags and crumple zones may not even get a headache from the same accident.

 

I have spent a great deal of time recently looking at forums and videos where this topic is discussed and quite frankly many of the comments and posts I dont understand let alone agree with.

 

First some history, I have been riding bikes since the 70's and since 1977 riding 750 and above. Those were the day when engine power far outstripped frame performance and "thrashing' the bikes around corners meant a wild west ride more in line with rodeo riding. Flexing frames, crap tires, brakes that were ok in the dry but needed time to work in the wet (they even warned you in the handbooks). Perhaps it was just as well they did not work well in the wet because grip levels of the tires was so bad in the wet that the wheels would have locked immediately if they had been better.

That together with the fact that we were all young guys, riding Japans finest caused the accident count to be high high. Add in the fact that we all drank and rode and it was carnage. I once fell of 7 times in one night and one of those times was at a major intersection when I "forgot" to put my feet down when I stopped to turn. I could not find my bike after an accident in the countryside because it had come to rest in a field (twice). I wrote off several bikes and lost a a fair amount of skin.

It all culminated in a major accident in 1978 where I went over  a hump back bridge that had a maximum speed limit of 25mph at approx 80mph. The bike (Suzuki GT750) flew a long way, bounced and hit the side of a cottage. The impact was so hard that the bike split in 3 parts. I received a severe foot injury as well as major skin loss and my passenger was similarly injured. We were very very lucky. Others I knew were not so lucky and lost limbs and deaths were not uncommon. If you check the death rates for motorcyclists they were much higher during that period and on through the 80's than they are now.

 

 

That was the last time I ever consumed so much as a mouthful of alcohol before riding and driving. I do not even ride or drive the next morning if I have had some beers the night before. Drinking or other "stimulants" is inviting disaster.

 

Lesson learned.

 

I have never had an accident since that night in 1978 despite riding in multiple countries and having ridden in just about every road condition including snow (German Autobahn at 2 in the morning for 150km on a Honda CBX1000) and temperatures ranging from -15c to 40c. I particularly like riding in the rain as this requires an even greater level of concentration.

 

My father and siblings were all car/bike carazy. We all learnt to double clutch and toe and heel before we were 16 and most of us had race licenses. Our approach to speed was that speed limits were just a guide and the speed should be based on the road conditions, traffic levels, and the likelihood of causing danger to other road users. What was preached in my family was total concentration and understanding of the machines capabilities and a keen understanding of our own limitations.

 

Now, going back to what I have been reading about other peoples views on riding safely. I keep seeing things like "obey speed limits"! I am sorry, but that is ridiculous. Unless you are a Harley rider who get their joy of riding from pottering along and taking in the views(and that is great if that is what you enjoy) then the statement to "obey speed limits" is,quiet frankly stupefying. Speed limits are often blanket set. They often make no sense and are increasingly nothing more than a revenue generating scheme. Sometimes they state 100kph where in fact you could do twice that speed safely. On other occasions they say 60kph where in fact that is too fast for the road conditions or the amount of people or potential threats. In addition, if riders really agree with that statement obey speed limits, then why are they riding machines capable of exceeding the maximum speed in 1st gear. They often say, "I don't need to break the limits, just knowing I can is enough" That is like saying that if you marry the sexiest woman you know, you don't need to sleep with her, just knowing you can is enough. Rubbish!!

 

Another common quote is "Always wear full protective clothing with reflective elements" OK, look, If I am going out for a blast, that is, I know I am going to be pushing the limits around the bends, I wear a full leather suit boots, gloves etc. All of the highest quality. But! That is impracticable on a day to day basis particularly in temperatures of 30-40c.

I ride every day to work. For those journeys I wear business attire. I do not push it around the bends but I do go quickly when it is clear to do so. Is that unsafe, well to listen to some people it is akin to "asking for it".

Also, if I wanted to wear florescent clothing and look like a bloody escapee from the Cirque De Soleil I dam well would, but I do not.

 

I was at the sharp end in the Army for 18 years and every time I put on my helmet my whole mindset changed, it was business time. All other thoughts vanished from my mind. When putting on my helmet to ride it is exactly the same, total fixation on riding, nothing else enters my mind. It was the same when I raced. I dont think about my job, my family, bills, the new houses on the side of the road , the wonderful views or anything else that causes me to look away from what is happening. So much so that when traveling as a passenger in the car with my wife, I keep saying to her that" "that is new" and she tells me its been there for a year and I have never seen it even though I pass it at least twice a day.

 

That is why I have never listened to music, looked at a mobile phone, look at my digital displays or used an intercom on a bike (or car, much to the dismay of my passengers). For me it is not compatible with being 100% focused on riding and controlling the bike. Distraction is a killer and reading information in the form of a mobile device or a digital display is a distraction, as is having a conversation with a passenger or more recently with other riders (research show that having a conversation on a hands free device is as distracting as holding one in your hand) Any conversation that requires you to answer a question, pose a question or requires sentence construction takes away from concentrating on the road ahead.

 

 

 

There was an awful video of an accident involving a Yamaha 1300 rider a couple of years ago. He had his helmet cam on at the time. He has just left work and was traveling at 97mph. He approached a junction and a car pulled across the road which he hit and was killed. A terrible accident for him and his family. I have no problem with him traveling at 97mph (unlike many other people who commented) I believe that his mistake was, as can be clearly seen in the video, he did not slow down coming up to the junction and even worse, the car was visible, he should have anticipated that the car may have turned across the front of him. For, whatever the reason, he did not notice.

 

 

Once I put on the helmet, I am on a war footing. Every car is going to try and kill me, Every dog is going to run out in front of me, every pedestrian is going to walk out in the road, the road itself is going to try and ruin my day with diesel, pot holes, bad surfacing etc. That is a mindset that I have found has served me well so far in my riding career.

 

However, even with total concentration an accident could happen. Every rider knows that and the decision to ride or not is one every rider makes makes every time they get on a bike.

 

 

The element of danger is, for me, part of the thrill of riding.

 

Is motorcycling dangerous? Hell yes, but what a thrill, nothing like it in life!! 

The chances of meeting the grim reaper can be reduced but never eliminated.

 

 

 

 

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