It’s not a matter of “if”…

It’s not a matter of “if”…

During my brother’s respectable forty one years as a Maine banker, he weighed the odds of making loans. He did his home work on the risks facing businesses of every kind, understood the data and researched not just the trends of the industry, he evaluated the financials and track record of prospective borrowers. He made educated decisions before committing the bank’s money. Somewhere along the way, however, this risk-wise sibling became enamored of motorcycles…

My brother is highly educated yet the wanderlust struck with a vengeance when he found a motorcycle on eBay that sounded more like a sickly eggbeater than a Harley. His rebuilt and finely tuned Mixmaster, however, soon was traded for a legitimate road machine. Visions of long trips across the country with his fellow “gang” member, a local accountant, soon morphed into reality.

During their travels in two week stretches to the South, Southwest and all the way to the Mecca of motorcycling, Sturgis, South Dakota, he heard tales or witnessed a truth of the road. While enjoying the thrill of becoming a road warrior, his left brain understood that riding a vehicle that lacked airbags, a floor, a roof and steel doors was a calculated risk. Accidents happen. As he termed it, “It’s not a matter of ‘if’ but a matter of ‘when’.”

When accidents happen they often are not the cyclist’s fault. Drivers all too frequently say they never saw the cyclist which means they weren’t watching, the cyclist was in a blind spot, the cyclist blended into the landscape or someone acted unpredictably. Most accidents take two or more to tango and when two wheels meet four wheels, the biker loses.

Motorcycles are fun and economical. They also foster adventures. If you or your children are contemplating purchasing a motorcycle, there are a myriad of safety measures to reduce the frequency and severity of accidents.

  • The uninitiated can start with an online course offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF Basic eCourse) that introduces potential bikers to the rules of the road, road conditions and whether or not a motorcycle is a good fit for your lifestyle. It is not a substitute, however, for hands-on training and practice.
  • The Foundation also certifies numerous training facilities in Maine and New Hampshire, a list of which can be found on the Foundation web site ( Their Basic Rider Course furnishes motorcycles and helmets as part of the 15 hour course (five hours of classroom and ten hours of riding instruction).
  • Though Maine law does not require the use of helmets for adults, the Foundation requires that all students wear safety gear during instruction.
  • Speed, distance and conditions also impact safety. Just as with autos, keeping a safe distance from surrounding vehicles allows more time to make decisions.
  • Being visible also aids other drivers in seeing a motorcyclist particularly at dawn and dusk, two periods that also coincide with hurried commuter traffic. Being cool in black leathers doesn’t match being visible in traffic yellow or day-glo green.
  • Speed often factors in accidents – even if it’s simply to goose the gas for the thrill of acceleration. Being predictable aids others in knowing where you’re going.
  • Clothing should be appropriate for the worst case scenarios. Eye protection, a DOT-certified motorcycle helmet, leather or protective gloves, over-the-ankle leather shoes or boots, long-sleeved shorts or jackets and long-legged safety or leather pants are worth the investment and are less expensive than medical bills.
  • The web site First Motorcycle notes the trauma involved in roadway crashes.
  • Impact
  • Abrasion
  • Crushing
  • Heat and flame
  • First Motorcycle also cites National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics that conclude, “Compared with a passenger care occupant, a motorcycle rider is 26 times more likely to die in a crash, based in vehicle miles traveled.” The site also covers choices in safety gear.

With all that caution clearly stated, there is something liberating about a motorcycle. May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month which means that not just the two-wheelers but all drivers need to take extra care in keeping the roads safe for everyone.

Keep your distance. Keep your eyes open. Remain visible. Be predictable. And oh, yes, and have fun.

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