Sunday, October 01, 2006


Risk acceptance is only half of the equation

We motorcycling lot have always been comprised of risk takers. It’s admittedly part of the territory to a degree. As a biker, one must accept that he/she will be inherently exposed to a higher level of risk while on the roads than, say, a car driver. That acceptance, however, should not be viewed as a license to amp up the danger under the false pretense that, “Anything goes because motorcycling is risky.” As the title of this article states, risk acceptance is only half of the equation. The other (and arguably more important) half of the equation is subsequent risk management.

Those riders who have made the wise decision to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCourse or attend a racing school have heard this concept before, because is it one of the major tenants we teach, and for good reason. After all, what real purpose does accepting those higher risks serve if you’re not going to do anything pro-active about them thereafter?

My motivation for writing on this subject comes from a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a cruiser rider I was talking to in the parking lot of a bike shop. His head protection consisted of a black bandana and pair of store-bought shades. His body armor was comprised of a sleeveless T-shirt. His footwear was a pair of slick-soled cowboy boots. You get the idea. But what really got me was the fact that he had the nerve to make comments about my gear.

“Sure is a hot day to be wearing all that racer stuff,” he said. “Aren’t you miserable?”

“Far from it,” I replied. “My riding jacket and gloves are perforated, and breath nicely when I’m in motion.”

“That’s a fancy lid you got there,” he remarked next, gazing with a smirk at the graphics on my full-face helmet. “You’re not gonna tell me that thing isn’t hot.”

That’s when it started to hit me. This guy thought I was wearing a riding jacket, pants, leather gloves, proper riding boots, and full-face helmet simply for the look.

“You’ll never catch me on the street without a full-face helmet on,” I said politely, my patience now becoming strained. “In fact, I think it’s pretty stupid to ride without one.”

That was pretty much the end of the conversation. He got the message that I didn’t appreciate being patronized, and I also think he got the message that I gear up for safety, not looks. If I had really wanted to be a dick, I suppose I could’ve flown of into a big tirade about how risk acceptance doesn’t equal risk management, and that he was an imbecile for dressing like something out of a Peter Fonda movie, but it would’ve been a wasted effort. The guy’s focus was on all the wrong things. He dressed to look 'cool', not for function, and probably had no idea there was any other way to approach it. Pretty sad.

If you choose to ride without proper training, riding gear, etc., that’s your right, but an unarguably irresponsible choice. Successful risk management includes a lot of factors: street strategy, bike maintenance, skill building, the ability to properly evaluate your riding environment, and yes, safety gear. The more things you choose to take active control over, the better your chances are, and I hate to see something so important being sacrificed for the sake of perpetuating lame, outdated biker mantras.

Manage the risks, people. You owe it to yourselves, to your loved ones, and to motorcycling.

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