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?