by Liz Jansen
It’s hard to picture anything more invigorating than a motorcycle ride through the countryside. You revel in the wind, the sun, and the freedom. You want it to last forever. In some cases, like riding across the plains, it feels like it does!
But as romantic as it sounds, it does come with a degree of risk. Thus, the romanticism needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of reality.
While your circle of control may be small, it’s powerful. Although no one can argue against the fact that riders are vulnerable to injury, there is much one can do to mitigate that risk—lessons that are just as applicable to your life’s Road.
- Riding. Whether you ride at all is your choice. Never ride because someone pressures you to do so. There’s too much at stake. It takes more strength to say no than to give in to peer pressure or the opinions of others.
- Skills. Riding proficiently takes a great deal of skill—motor, mental, and emotional. Take the time to develop and practice your skills rather than putting yourself in a situation you’re not ready for—no matter who is pressuring you to do so. It’s not worth it.
- Focus. Riding requires you to be 100 percent present in the moment. There’s no room for any intrusions. Fatigue, alcohol, drugs, and emotional and physical upset all impair your ability to respond appropriately. If any of them are present, hang your keys up and wait for another day. Intuition is your best guide—on or off the bike.
- Conspicuity. The more visible you are, the more likely it is that other traffic will notice you. Simple. In life, if you want your message to be heard, you’ve got to use your voice, in whatever form you choose.
- Maintenance. Two small contact patches of rubber tire are all that connect you to the road. You want your bike in top shape before it sets out with the most precious cargo there is—you! Regular maintenance and a pre-ride inspection go a long way in keeping it in safe operating condition. Being proactive with your own health keeps you in the best shape for enjoying that ride—and life.
- Response. You can’t control the weather, other traffic, or the driver that looks at you and then turns right in front of you. You can, however, control how you respond. Practice emergency responses often, in a safe place. That way, when your skills are called on in a real-life situation, your muscle memory will help you avoid an impulsive, panic reaction.
- Speed. The faster you go, the less time you have to react or correct errors and the quicker everything can unravel. Excessive speed requires you to concentrate only on the road, missing the beauty of your surroundings. Life passes by quickly enough. There’s no need to rush it or to race into situations you’re not ready for.
- Gear. Choose your riding gear wisely. No one plans to separate from their motorcycle, but it doesn’t take much to cause injury. Your skin is not designed for sliding along the pavement—especially your face. Wear a full-face helmet and take advantage of the added protection from body armor to protect the most likely points of contact.
- Awareness. Scan your environment continuously, especially at intersections and before taking off when the light turns green. Awareness includes using both your mirrors often. On motorcycles, as in life, the greater your awareness of your surroundings, the better your ability to respond to them.
- Riding partners. Many people enjoy group rides for the camaraderie it offers. Most of those riders will admit to having ridden in groups that are poorly managed or included riders who were known to be unsafe. This puts everyone in the group in jeopardy. It’s hard to tell your friends that you’ll meet up with them at your destination, but it’s better than the potential alternative. It’s your choice. If you’re not comfortable being part of a group in your life, it might be better to find a way to pursue that particular goal alone.
Ride confidently and defensively, with both eyes focused on the road and looking in the direction you want to go. No one else is at the controls. Your environment changes constantly, and it’s up to you to respond. How wisely you do that has implications for the rest of your life.
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