Winter is coming…but first the Fall.

Went out for a ride today.  It was cold but not bitter.  Got rained on but not drenched.  Sun was behind the clouds but peeked out.  

It’s Fall!  When the leaves turn and brightly decorate the landscape–before falling and waiting for the rain to come turn them into a tractionless skin of slime…

It’s Fall!  When it’s warm enough to fool you into wearing almost enough layers…but you talk yourself out of it because–hey, it’s morning and bound to get warmer…but doesn’t.  

It’s Fall!  When the temperature can hit a pretty hard freeze but still reach 45-50 degrees…and you can still find ice in those shady corners in the morning!

It’s Fall!  Keep your head and eyes up and be ready for the worst of winter and the best of an orange spring!

Be Safe!

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Rational Behavior

I’m always struck by people that ask the question:  “Should I get a motorcycle?”

Probably because it’s a question that’s never been formed in my mind.  My question is always, “HOW do I get a motorcycle?”  What kind of mechanizations do I need to employ?  How do I get my grimy mitts on a throttle?  There’s no bargain, no trade off, no pro/con lists-just how do I make it happen?

Not a lot of rationale in my motorcycling decision.   Well make that motorcycling decisions.  I do some dumb stuff sometimes–but I have a good time doing it.  I’m not saying you can’t have fun being anal about your gas milage or GPS coordinates.  You can be obsessed with your G-loads under braking and hyper-mileing your Hayabusa–that’s OK with me.  Motorcycling should be about passion.  Not dirty sex passion, but that pure passionate love, the feeling that there’s nothing you’d rather be doing.  Can you be passionate about strange things?  Yup.  And my passion may not make sense to you and yours may just confuse me but that’s OK.  You can have your thing, I grew up in the San Francisco bay area–I know about letting folks do their own thing.

And I’m cool with it.

However, if you trying to rationalize your way onto a bike?  You’re confusing me.  Odds are you’re confused too–because you don’t need a reason…

You just need a bike.

Top Down

Recently the State of Idaho (well known for its independence and free will) decided that every single student in the state should be issued a laptop computer.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with that if you enjoy TOP DOWN leadership where someone in the capital tells every single school district and teacher “DO IT THIS WAY”.  I was a tad taken aback when it happened because here in Idaho we make a big deal about being independent free thinking types.  

I would have been much, much more impressed if the State had simply given the money to the Districts with a caveat it had to be used for technology.   ( And, yes I did say capital S State just like in those history books about certain unnamed less than democracies).  To me, by mandating that large suburban districts and small rural districts do everything exactly the same just doesn’t make that much sense to me.   Large “Technology Grants” could have served the same purpose and allowed each district to do what was best for it’s patrons. 

We hate it when the Washington tells us what to do…why is it any different when Boise sticks its nose into our classrooms?  

All or Nuthin’?

Been thinking a lot on the concept of “All or Nothing”.  It’s a bit of what’s been happening in America the last few years, that “My way or the highway” vibe.  My concern is that the concept, that offense that someone isn’t doing it “our way” has vividly taken root in the motorcycle culture.  This self inflicted facture is a bit more of a shatter than a divde.  

We self sort into many, many rarelly overlapping subgroups.  Look at the biggies–Cruisers…well American or Metric?  Sportbike–Japanese or European?  Not a metric or American Acruiser or Japanese or European sportbike?  Maybe you’re an adventure tourer–and if you are–do you “camp out” or are you a “motel” kinda rider?  Are you a squid, hooligan, racer wannabe?  Do you ride in “the pirate parede” or are you a “lone wolf”?  Newbie or Knucklehead…or Airhead?  Shaft or Chain?  Rat Bike?  Brit Bike?  Dirt Bike? Do real motorcycles run Bias or Radials?  Goldwinger?  GPS or ‘real’ maps?

This is how we section ourselves like some kind of crazy citrus that has wegde inside wedge inside wedge unitl there’s not fruit on tough skin.  Sliced so thin we end up being a pithy mess.  Given our dedication to division (I ride one of those but I’m not one of them) it’s not surprising that we look at others with a bit of disdain.  We’re even confused about who we are.  How many times have you talked bikes with someone and watched as they struggled to define themselves as something not “the other”.  

Trust me–this isn’t just a motorcycle issue.  Politics and religion, views on education…we all try to get on one side and then once we’re there we struggle to create a new identity for ourselves while denying that same gift to others.  In that situation we suddenly realize that we’re being painted as “one of those….” and when that gets done to us we strive to say, “Wait–I’m on this side of the fence but I’m not that stereotype you’re using.” 

I struggle with being a “Safety Professional” and not being a “fun killing, oppresive, do it my way or it’s wrong, safety facist”.  (Yeah, I get it both ways sometimes.  Folks get ansty I’m too safety oriented and then safety folks get all freaked out that I enjoy a good wheelie–really you should see my comments and emails…)

This all comes to a very interesting Motorcycle Safety Question:  “Helmets?  All or nothing?…OR maybe 1/2 way?”   Due to concerns of othrodoxy a lot of folks are on the “all or nothing” helmet train.  Me? I’m a “Full is best, 3/4 is Ok,  and 1/2 is better than nothing” kind of guy.  Maybe it’s because I’m a middle child but if I can get you into any kind of helmet I’m a happy guy!  I’m not gonna drag you around for helmet fittings and get angry you won’t throw on the helmet I want you to wear–I want you to find a helmet you’re willing to wear.  

All or nothing?  Not for me–I’ll take as much pie as I can get and if that’s only 1/2?  I’m good.  Half a pie is better than no pie.  

Be Safe

Inclusion or Exclusion?

I have been in a private message conversation with a gentleman about how to handle motorcycle riders who want to take an alternate path to learning to ride.  To his mind there really is only one path:  professional instruction, followed by buying a 250cc motorcycle, followed a  long and tedious regime of secondary streets and parking lot practice.

OK.  I’m probably over stating his position but it’s a pretty typical answer that’s given when someone ups and says, “I want to learn to ride.”

The discussion we’ve had is how to handle someone who, in the face of what is clearly a reasonable course of action, says, “Cool.  But I’m going to get a XYZ1000 and my buddies will show me how to do it.”

To many safety advocates that kinda ruffles the feathers.  How do you answer that question?  On line we often find well intended folks who grab hold of that safety mind set that says train, go small, build into it and then amp it up into a benevolent lie–something like:  “If you start on a literbike?  Figure on being a statistic–don’t blame me when you’re a quadriplegic!”   There’s this attempt to sound like a safety pro that quickly turns acrimonious and, frankly just kills the conversation.

Think about it a moment.  A new or aspiring rider comes up and asks your opinion.  That says “I value your opinion” don’t it?  And sometimes it means “I have this bad idea–back me up will you?”  Once in a while it may be someone looking to pick a fight but that’s truly rare.  So whaddaya do?  If it’s a truly bad idea do you encourage?  Evade?  Engage and destroy?  Run away maybe?

Often on the web I see well intended experienced riders go directly to a strafe and kill, scorched and salted earth thing where ridicule and (bad) black humor shows up and you get the “Hey, buy life insurance and name me the beneficiary” kind of thing going.  It discounts the questioner and clearly devalues them.  I believe it’s a bit of a defense mechanism internally designed to push away so no emotional investment can be made–if you quickly and decisively end the conversation with denigration then you don’t have to risk forming bonds.   It’s akin to that self sabotage teenagers have when the insult someone they’re infatuated with so they don’t risk later rejection and pain.  No risk?  No reward.

And that may be the problem.  Motorcycling is a risk management business and not everybody can stand the same risk.  Personally I’m never going to tell you that you’re a future statistic and that if you really loved your family you’d sell that crotchrocket and get something more muted.  Why?  Because if you’re sharing a life long dream with me I’m not going to piss on your campfire.  I’m a good guest.  I want to get to the place where I can get a couple of ideas into your head like keeping the engine map set on “RAIN” for the first couple months or seriously looking at what the insurance will cost if you have to have comprehensive because you’ve got a bank loan.   When someone tells you a bad idea you don’t have to open with, “Boy.  Are you stupid!”  How about a “Are you sure you wanna do that?”  And if they are?  Rather than unzipping and unleashing on the fire in cloud of steam and indignation why not see if you can help alter the course to the most reasonable path?

Unfortunately the fellow I was discussing this with essentially said, “I can’t fix stupid.  Why bother?”  Which is fine.  Ride your own ride.  However, don’t we owe it to the new an aspiring to help them not make the mistakes we made?  And if they’re fixed on it don’t we have responsibility to at least help mitigate the risk with sound advice instead of condemnation?