Tuesday 26 August 2008

Boneheaded move of the day

On the way back from the dealer this morning, I was riding along a 2-lane, 80kph highway when I noticed another motorcycle come up behind me. He tucked himself in about 20 meters back in the right-most tire track (I was in the left, hugging the centre line).

We rode along like that for a couple of kilometres when all of a sudden this loaded Gold Wing is passing me on the right!

Totally unexpected, it gave me quite a start. Luckily I hadn’t picked that moment to move over, or make any sudden lane changes else we’d both be in a ditch somewhere on Highway 29.

I can’t imagine what he was thinking (probably not much) because he had no need to pass like that. We were in a passing zone and there was no oncoming traffic, but for some reason this dumb-ass decided he’d just blast up on my inside instead of pulling out to pass properly. I fleetingly considered chasing him down, but I was already doing 20-over and he was disappearing fast into the distance.

I don’t want to wish misfortune on any rider, but I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps just a little crash might knock some sense into this idiot, or better yet, convince him to hang up the chaps for good.

Monday 25 August 2008

Sometimes you just have to go for a ride

Was feeling kind of grumpy this morning. The weather had turned cold overnight and with grey skies and a brisk north wind blowing it wasn’t shaping up to be a very nice day at all.

Which was pretty depressing. Because of lousy weather and personal commitments, I hadn’t been on the bike since getting back from Sturgis almost two weeks ago. I was getting itchy. So when the weather guy called for today to be sunny and warm, and I had nothing else on the agenda, I was looking forward to a nice, long ride. Perhaps up the back roads to Pembroke. Or over to Westport for lunch.

Then I woke up to this!

So I moped around for a while and did a few odd-jobs around the house. It kept me busy and knocked a couple of items off the honey-do list but my disposition did not improve one iota.

Finally I decided I was going to go for a ride anyway – weather be damned. So I bundled up and headed out just as the clouds broke and the sun came out. Almost immediately the weight fell off and I felt better than I had in days. It was still cool, but traffic was light, roads were clear, and I was riding!

Didn’t go far – just 80 kilometers or so around the block (big blocks when you live in rural Ontario) – but it was just what the doctor ordered.

Wednesday 20 August 2008

I'd never ride a bike. It's too dangerous. My friend....

Why is it that as soon as a non-biking friend or acquaintance discovers that you ride a motorcycle, they feel compelled to tell you about their other friend/relative/mother-in-law who was recently killed/severely maimed in a motorcycle accident? And it’s not just a passing reference either. Oh no, it’s full-contact with all the gory details, the more gory the better, including the number of protruding bone fragments, cracked ribs, shattered vertebrae, months and days in the hospital. “And he was lucky!”

It is actually quite curious. When you are bragging about your new sports car you don’t get people quoting accident statistics for rag-tops over coupes. No, they talk about the sports car they will buy when they win the lottery, or the cross-country trip they took in ’69 in their friend’s Austin-Healy 3000. Bought a new fishing boat? People tell you about their own boat or the great fishing trips they’ve experienced, not the number of drownings in Ontario lakes this summer.

But motorcycles trigger a different response. I suspect it’s because the average person has little or no knowledge of the sport or the rider’s world, and so, in a misguided attempt to connect, they fall back on what they do know – Uncle Bert’s unfortunate introduction to the driver’s door of a Chevy ½-ton back home in Lower Armpit last August. That incident is probably the only reason they are aware that Uncle Bert even had a motorcycle, or in some cases, that Uncle Bert even existed, but it’s the only motorcycle story they know so you get the whole enchilada.

So if you are a non-rider who has happened to stumble into this blog and this post, do us all a favour. When someone “outs” themselves as a motorcyclist, the proper response is to express an interest in the bike, or motorcycling in general (fake it if necessary), not to remind the rider that we are all mortals and are but on this earth for a short and finite period of time. You’ll be surprised how much more relaxed the conversation will be.

Friday 15 August 2008

Impaired trumps quick AND smart!

While visiting the World War I battlefields in Europe last fall, we had occasion to enjoy a lovely dinner on an outdoor patio in the beautiful city of Ypres. Just as we arrived, a group of 4 bikers from England rode up on their various models of BMW and established themselves at the adjoining table. Of course I’m always interested in anything bike-related, and they were only 3 feet away, so eavesdropping was not a problem.

After all the usual stuff about where they’d ridden that day (all the way from London), the traffic (horrid), the weather (great), and what the best Belgian beer was (Chimay) two of the group got into a rather spirited discussion about which was safer – an old biker, or a young biker.

The younger of the two (mid-20’s I’d say) contended that the younger biker was safer due to his better reflexes and ability to identify, assess, and react to a hazardous situation more quickly. The older fellow (50’ish and a pilot) claimed bullshit; an older, more experienced biker would be more defensive and would get into fewer situations where quick reaction was required so he was a safer rider. (Being on the north side of 50 myself, I was nodding in agreement.)

This argument is as old as motorcycling itself (or flying, or skydiving, or scuba diving, or even driving) and so after more than an hour of debate there was no agreement. But what really made the whole thing noteworthy is that while they were having this discussion, they each consumed several pints of Chimay and then suited up, got on their motorcycles, and rode off – weaving ever so slightly down the road.

Moral: The safer biker is the one who, young or old, isn’t so stupid as to drink and ride.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

To the fantastic people of South Dakota:

Kudos to the people of Sturgis, Rapid City, and all the surrounding communities for their hospitality during rally week. It’s easy to say that the economic benefits of having a few hundred thousand visitors is a powerful motivator, but that usually isn’t enough to change underlying attitudes, especially if they are negative to begin with.

From servers in bars and restaurants to hotel staff to retail personnel, the people of South Dakota were genuinely welcoming, friendly, and enthusiastic. “Welcome Bikers” signs started sprouting along I-90 (along with the ubiquitous Wall Drug and Corn Palace billboards) as soon as we crossed into the state, and through their actions the people demonstrated that this was much more than simply a marketing pitch.

I suspect few other places in North America would not only accept but embrace the idea of having so many strangers and so many motorcycles disrupt their lives for what actually amounts to a couple of weeks every summer, so thank you all for making a great trip even better.