hinking about the possibility of crashing is not a current phenomenon likely to catch on. Dissecting the tiny little interactions between the rider and the environment leading up to a crash can be an extremely emotional experience for the rider and his companions. At the time of the crash there is going to be some obvious complication or agency responsible, but to understand what I mean think of a particular example. When Wing rider A steps on his bike he should be doing a detailed analysis of his bike and self. Has he just had a vociferous discussion with his co-rider, or could he still be wiping the sleep from his eyes? Many accidents are destined to occur from the point the rider decides to ride, and the actual accident is only a result of previous decisions made. Riders that are sick, tired, incapacitated (ie. alcohol), or emotional are going to dramatically increase their risk factors. These symptoms don’t have to occur before the rider gets on the bike they can easily manifest themselves while riding.
Emotional detachment while riding is a very important part of exhibiting a smooth professional riding style. Motorcyclists by the nature of being motorcyclists are a very independently minded group. Removing the portion of our nature that is competitive while driving is important to our risk management skills. If a rider becomes competitive to the point of contesting with the other users on the road the ideal of the friendly motorcyclist dies an eery dreadful death. If a rider chooses to compete for a particular lane slot, or “beat the yellow” at the intersection sooner or later only carnage can result. It is easy to observe the driver or rider who allows someone else to control their emotions as they signal discontent or ire with shaking fists, and shouted words.
Now I am not a perfect person myself, and I have saluted fellow drivers when carried away by the moment, however, I do endeavor to keep this behavior to a minimum and control my emotions. Why would this emotional control be so important? When we shift our attention to being angry we remove a significant part or our attention from managing risk. So, a large metallic box driver cuts of hapless Wing rider, and Wing rider is so angry he pulls out in front of luckless and late truck driver. This of course ruins everyone’s day, but the person who started the chain reaction event, who never checks their mirrors anyway, misses the spectacular Hollywood crash scene ,and gets to work on time.
Emotional outbursts are inherently dangerous to give in to because they divide our attention. The best technique for dealing with overly aggressive road users that you come in contact with is courtesy. As a Wing Rider you will be operating a significant value on wheels carrying a precious irreplaceable cargo consisting of you and your co-rider. There is no way in a battle of wills that you can win a direct confrontation on the road. Steel beats plastic and flesh every time. Putting courtesy at the top of our tool box of risk management tools insures it is the first thing we think of while riding. When drivers try and enter the highway in front of you wave them in. If you use courtesy, wave, smile, and remove the idea of “getting through that intersection first” from your mind-set you have then allowed your mind to relax and implement the other tools of risk management. At its most basic; riding a motorcycle from point to point is just transportation. The goal is to arrive at the destination with the least amount of damage resulting. Competition is not part of the equation, and the aggressive use of the throttle and lane position to inconvenience other road users is disadvantageous. Riding with courtesy decreases the stress level, and increases the enjoyment of the motorcycling activity. A peripheral and just as important result will be an increased positive awareness by other road-users of you as a motorcyclist.
A rider should not just role over and give up his self-respect to the great and large egotists driving misshapen steel boxes. There may be times where protecting your space-cushion from other drivers may take an aggressive turn. Aggressive maneuvering does have its place in the motorcyclists lexicon and bag of tricks. The use of the throttle, or violating lane rules to avoid injury are the exceptions rather than the rule. Any time you reach into the pit of horsepower to solve a traffic situation your grabbing one of the nastiest snakes there is. Throttle control, brakes, clutch, and direction all take on new meaning and require refined skills. Better choices for avoiding accidents are controlled stops, and swerves as taught in the ERC by MSF.
Sometimes the best way to prevent an accident is to get off the bike, and seek out a hot coffee or cold soda. Along with all the other problems of emotional exhaustion the regular old fatigue of operating a motorcycle can effect your ability to operate it safely. A rider will already be handicapped by mental fatigue long before feeling any physical fatigue. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation says “Operating a motorcycle is 90 percent mental and 10 percent physical.” Obviously a rider is going to have to keep the energy levels up to keep the necessary levels of concentration available. The only real options available to the long distance touring rider are frequent rest breaks and riding more conservatively.
What to do if you become sick while riding or on a trip? Riders who self medicate will sometimes run into problems while using even non-prescription substance to fight off allergies, flu’s, headaches, or other types of illness. When you are at home resting, and watching television your reserve of mental energy and physical ability won’t be upset in the least. With the additional stresses of mental fatigue and physical exertion required to operate a motorcycle the physical break-down can be rapid and irreversible in the short-term. A doctor friend once told me the best remedy for illness is not to get sick by taking care of yourself, staying hydrated, and watching the types of food your eating. If you are on the road and fall ill the safest thing you can do is take a break. Take a day off and stay in a single place, rest, relax, and get well. It is easier to recover from a flu virus or cold than broken bones. Like always, you want to manage your risks, make an assessment of value versus risk and choose the healthiest option available to you. If you are incapacitated in some way you should not ride. The skills necessary to riding are much more demanding then driving a car. An example of the special skills required for riding a motorcycle? When was the last time you had to keep your car from tipping over?
As to the subject of alcohol use prior to the riding activity there is only one piece of advice that makes much sense in these litigious times. Do not drink and ride. Not only is it illegal if done in excess, but we need more motorcyclists and you are to good a friend to loose. Another item of advice is don’t let your co-rider consume copious amounts of alcohol either. The co-rider has a dramatic effect on how a motorcycle operates or doesn’t. Co-riders can adversely affect the handling of a motorcycle and intoxication only increases the chances of misadventure.
Riding a Gold Wing is one of the most enjoyable activities that we can participate in. The comradeship of friends coming together to enjoy the same activity and sport is one of the most enjoyable benefits of GWRRA. The knowledge of each other and the safe operation of our Wing’s is of primary importance to us. We all enjoy riding our motorcycles and can do this for a long time as long as we take care of ourselves and each other.