WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

How not to ride a motorcycle

By James - 12/31/2004

I am always looking for good video to put on the site and saw this video of people doing stoppies and wheelies and crashing. That part was not all that unusual, but what puzzled me was how upset the guy on the R1 was about flipping his bike about 5 times. It is the third segment, I think, and the guy appears to survived relatively unscathed but the bike is pretty close to totaled. He gets up and tosses his helmet and walks to a wall and pouts/starts to cry.

On one hand I understand. I get on my bike almost everyday not expecting to crash. Sometimes I wear clogs instead of proper boots and I once rode in just a t-shirt and jeans (a pebble hit me square in the nipple and I have never tried it again). But on the other hand if you are getting up on one wheel you have to know it is just a matter of time before you are going to crash. And it is a good chance it will cost you a couple grand minimum. You should be ready for it. I guess if everybody thought of the risks before they got up nobody would ever get out of bed.


Motorcycle Rationalizations

By James - 12/30/2004

Yesterday’s post got me thinking about rationalizations. It made me think of the scene from the Big Chill,

Michael: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.
Sam Weber: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.
Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?
From IMDb

I wonder how many people rationalized their way onto a motorcycle. Lets face it, it is a big step to drive down the road with other drivers for the first time. A motorcycle is more exposed to the elements, less metal to protect you from flying debris or even worse other drivers. You have to really try to get a car to tip over, scratching the paint and shattering the side mirrors, something that is a constant danger to a motorscooter. And just wait for the person in front of you to ash out their window while you are following on your bike. A real pleasure. An alien from a different planet, brand new on Earth, would surely conclude that motorcycles are an inferior mode of transportation.

For most of us that ride, we know this not to be the case. Whether it be the wind in your face, the sparkle of polished chrome, the pull when you throttle back or the many convienences that motorcycling affords we all get something profound, more or less, from riding. So how did we get there?

I stood in front of my mom in the living room as she expressed her disdain between tears and sobs of my recent decision to buy a motorcycle. She had gone through the same thing with my dad years earlier when he started to ride again and was going through it one more time with me. She had heard all of the rationalizations before and rides with my dad but still was not convinced I should be riding. I knew only time would assure her that I was a safe rider, but she played the trump card, “It is not you I am afraid of, it is all the other whackos out there". There really is no comeback to that question. So I filed it under “Good To Know” and went and got a 2 year old 1997 Kawasaki Vulcan 500LTD.

But how did I rationalize that a motorcycle would be better than my very versatile, extremely reliable 4x4 pick-up? This is where all bikers differ. We all have our own reasons. Some valid, others built on shaky falsehoods and lots in the middle. Mine is the ever-present desire to do things differently and reap the benefits. It is an exercise for my mind. During my commute I need to figure out what the drivers are thinking, by observing their behavior and predicting what they will do in the future. It is an exercise in coordination. Splitting lanes in the rain hones your clutch and throttle skills while you try to avoid hitting mirrors and stay off of the slippery cat’s eyes. It is an exercise in self control. Sure I could cruise around at 90 mph all the time, and I could flip off all the cars that cut me off but being an ambassador to the culture, which all of us who ride are, we need to show that we are above that. Motorcycles for me, I know this may sound corny, relax my soul. It satisfys the three aspects of my life, the spiritual, the mental, and the physical. That is why I bike.

So I will have to agree with the alien from another planet and say motorcycles are inferior modes of transportation, but the people who ride them should strive to be superior forms of human beings.


Riding in the rain and convienence

By James - 12/29/2004

It had started to drizzle as I walked from my cubicle to my bike through the parking lot. The planes seem to fly lower than usual in bad weather. Working so close to the airport you would think I would just tune them out. I had just left my cubicle and was donning my cold weather gear while my bike warmed up. I drove a couple blocks to the freeway on-ramp and let off the throttle as the car in front of me slowed to let a pedestrian cross the street. As I put my foot down to stop I hear the squeal of tires behind me. Usually in these moments time slows down and I run through my options and what I should to stay alive. I call it survival mode. But in this instance there was nowhere to go. I was too close to the car in front to get out of the way. Luckily the road veers right to get on the freeway and the Jeep Cherokee skidded to a stop next to me. Then he lays on the horn like it was not his fault. After all that the ped decides not to cross the street. I would jump back to the curb too.

The whole way home I was thinking about the reasons people give for splitting lanes. One being so they don’t get rear ended by the airhead behind them. That is probably the most common one. Not that splitting lanes would have helped me in this situation. I probably would have hit the pedestrian. (I have almost hit jaywalkers while splitting on surface streets, which is why I tend to believe the rumor that it is illegal to do around town.) As I read people’s rational for splitting lanes I wonder why people are afraid to give the #1 reason anybody splits lanes. It is convenience. Splitting lanes is not safer than sitting in traffic. Both rely on people paying attention and I contest that for every rider that gets rear-ended, there are ten that get cut off while splitting lanes. I ride every day, through some of the most congested roads in the country. It is a rare commute I don’t split lanes. It has saved me from over two months just sitting in my car in the last 5 years. I will submit that in my case, and many more, the convenience of splitting lanes outshines the danger. It is the same reason cars haven’t been outlawed, even though they are #8 on the top ten causes of death. Their convenience outweighs the 50,000 fatalities a year.

Motorcycling itself is not a dangerous activity, it is what happens if you crash that makes it dangerous. But for most the reward outweighs the risks but you must fully understand and be aware of them. Just don’t rationalize your way onto a motorcycle or you will find yourself belly down in the middle of the road after hitting a hard reality.


I drove my car yesterday

By James - 12/22/2004

For the first time in a long time I drove my car yesterday to work. It wasn’t because it is cold, nor because I am sick. I still ride in worse conditions, I just bundle up more. I drove because I figured the traffic would be light. And in the morning it was. But at night the traffic leading up to the Bay Bridge was as bad as ever and I couldn’t split lanes in the Civic. I figured that everybody would be on vacation. I just wanted to listen to the radio for once during my commute. Well, I got to listen to it a lot.


Why Do I Bike?

By James - 12/21/2004

Some people ask me why I ride a motorcycle and others are curious but too shy to ask. It is not something that can be conveyed through conversations at parties, nor to coworkers while waiting to send a fax. It is a lifestyle, a recreation and a religion. It inspires people to push themselves to the edge, while taking others far away. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you ask 10 riders why they bike you will get 10 different answers. You still won’t understand why they bike, until you do.

I created this site out of frustration with the motorcycle sites out there. The forums where SPAM posts more than the users. The rants of elitists that care more about what you ride than how you ride. Sites where you have to pay to read a halfway decent article or links that have been dead for years left me unsatisfied.

I don’t claim to be the best rider in the world or know all there is to know about motorcycles, but through your help posting in the forums, submitting articles, shooting videos and sending us your trip reports we can try to document why we bike, while helping out those just getting into motorcycling.


First Post

By James -

I want a blog. Not that I have much to say but I want a blog. At least that is what I have been telling myself. I have 20 articles I have to write, I have to put the finishing touches on the site and am halfway through an article on splitting lanes, but I decided to spend the night setting up this blog software. I am just procrastinating. I don’t even have space in the nav for a blog. Trips might have to move to advice. I was inspired by TwistingAsphalt.com.

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