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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Angered when non-riders tell you to play it safe?

Sooner or later every motorcycle blogger goes into an angry rant about how much he hates it when non-riders urge him to "be careful" on his motorcycle. Carter Edman wrote the definitive example on the Ride Apart blog last year.

Recently I found myself on the opposite end of this human interaction, and it left me with a fresh viewpoint.

My wife and I went on vacation to the high cliffs of Nova Scotia's Cape Breton. At each "look-off" (Canadian for "overlook") she edged as close as possible to the long drop to get a dramatic photograph. At first, I simply caught my heart in my throat, looked away and hummed the national anthem.

After her fourth or fifth excursion to the edge of a 200-foot fall I finally blurted out a suggestion that she step back. It made her angry.

Why? I was only thinking of her — and, selfishly, how much I would miss her.

Here's what I think was going on. Cautioned to "be safe" she instinctively reacted with "I know what I'm doing. I understand the risk and am behaving accordingly. Don't question my judgement because my mind is made up. We aren't coming back to Nova Scotia anytime soon and I want this picture."

My cliff walking wife turns to have her photo taken, on the edge of a waterfall.
Same thing with motorcyclists. We understand that riding on two wheels is inherently risky. We have the little argument about giving it up forever with ourselves every time we throw a leg over a motorcycle. Once we decide to proceed, we don't want to replay this anxiety causing exercise.

We know the risks. We think we have them under control. Second thoughts now will only rob us of the determination and concentration it will take to overcome our natural fears and actually keep us safe.

Does that sound right?

I hope so. But here's a twist: my own reaction when someone urges me to ride safely is to appreciate the comment. After all, they're only thinking of me. When I promise to ride as safely as possible I am sincere — after all, it's in my self interest to do so.

Does this make me somehow better than those other motorcycle bloggers? Does this make me gentler, more patient and less quick to anger than my darling wife?

Well... yeah.

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