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A Motorcycle Rider’s Ten Commandments

1. No one brags about brain damage.

Does your riding gear consist of little more than a stylish black leather vest with a company logo on the back as you demonstrate your freedom and individuality just like everyone else? Is that outfit accompanied by a clam-shell helmet shallower than a grade schooler’s cereal bowl?

Or perhaps you wear a garishly painted full-face helmet with a plastic mohawk adorning its crest, while covering your torso with nothing more than an Iron Maiden t-shirt as you ride a liter sport bike with enough acceleration and top speed to make The Stig want to go work for NPR?

Looking good is great when you’re standing on your own two feet. But there’s nothing sexy about road rash on 50% of your body and no one brags about having brain damage after smacking their skull on the pavement with no protection.

Be a rider. Be proud of your bike and the crowd you hang with. But do it in a way that lets you live to ride another day if you find yourself with the shiny side down and the rubber side up. Safety trumps everything else.

2. Ride as if you are invisible.

Assume cagers don’t see you, because they probably don’t. There are a lot of well-meaning drivers out there, not all of them are distracted soccer moms texting their girlfriend while putting on their mascara behind the wheel. Motorcycles are rather small compared to SUVs and mini-vans, so people in cars just don’t see us as well.

Even if a cager locks eye contact with you, they still may not see you in terms of recognizing that you exist and have a right to remain upright. Be prepared for them to pull out in front of you, or turn left into your lane or any number of other disruptive possibilities. Have an escape path. Weave from side to side as you approach intersections. Wear a bright colored jacket or helmet. Do whatever you must to be seen, but never assume that you have been.

3. What you wear is based on crash protection, comfort, and fashion — in that order.

See #1 above. Safety trumps everything. But safety isn’t the only concern when choosing riding gear. Most riding jackets and pants will provide a moderate amount of impact and/or abrasion protection in the event of a slow-speed get-off. It’s also important to pick gear that is comfortable to wear and gives you adequate protection from the elements.

Even if you’ve got the highest level of crash protection surrounding your body, if you’re distracted by cold or rain running down your back, you won’t be focused on the road. Pick gear that is durable and flexible enough to handle changing riding conditions.

Once you’ve got safety and comfort squared away, find something that looks good and makes you want to ride because of how bad-ass you look.

4. There is plenty of time to drink after your bike is parked for the day.

Say what you will about multi-tasking, but it’s difficult to argue for the benefits of drinking and riding. There is plenty of time in the day to ride first, then drink afterward. Those that say they can ride unimpaired after having a beer or two only have their own subjective (and flawed) opinion to rely upon. Medical science and insurance statistics emphatically and unequivocally say otherwise — you can’t drink and ride without substantially increasing your risk of crashing.

Enjoy your cold beer or cocktail, just do it after your bike is parked.

5. You always have room to expand your skills.

Have you heard of an Italian chap named Valentino Rossi? He’s won a few races and a few championships. It’s easy to say he’s at the top of the motorcycle racing game, a guy that has nothing more to learn. But guess what? There’s a 21 year old kid from Spain named Marc Marquez that is teaching Rossi he still has a few things to learn.

Every rider, regardless of their experience or training, still has something more to learn. Be a student of the art and science of riding a motorcycle. Be aware of how you ride and practice your skills. Simply racking up the miles isn’t practice, either. It takes conscious, active effort to improve your ability. The more skill you have, the less likely you are to crash. And as we’ve already established, no one brags about brain damage or road rash.

6. Everyone on two wheels is your family.

Arguing over brand or bike type is splitting hairs. We are all riders, and traveling on two wheels (or three) is what bonds us together. We aren’t surrounded by a protective cage riddled with air bags and two tons of steel. We feel the motion of the bike and smell the air and sense the temperature changes as we motor forward. Regardless of brand, we all experience that and what motivates us. It is what we share. We are a family whether we ride a dual-sport encrusted with mud or a 100 cubic inch cruiser covered in chrome.

7. Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.

Be respectful of the communities you ride through and the terrain you ride across. Whether we ride souped-up metric sport bikes or loud-pipes-save-lives low-slung cruisers, we make an impression upon the communities we ride through, for good or for bad, that reflects upon our entire riding family. When we tear up the trails and fire roads with our knobby-equipped dual-sports, we make an impact on the environment and we make an impact on the perception of motorcyclists on the general public. When we wake up the neighbors with the brap-brap-brap of our after-market exhaust pipes, we give people an impression of our character.

Let’s strive to always leave a good impression wherever we ride.

8. Take care of your body and your bike.

Personal health and mechanical maintenance are equally important, both in terms of safety and comfort. Who wants to have a mechanical break-down in the middle of nowhere? Who wants to be physically wiped out after only riding for two hours or even two days? Take care of your bike and take care of your body and you will have a much more enjoyable ride — and a longer one, too.

9. Take it seriously.

Riding a motorcycle is fun, but it is also dangerous and demands respect. Never lose your appreciation for the risks involved. Flippant consumption of alcohol before riding with an off-handed dismissal of the danger is exactly how disaster takes shape. Many people ride as a form of rather effective mental or emotional therapy, but if you are distracted with thoughts of work or relationship strife you are not going to be focused on the ride itself. Take the ride and be 100% engaged in what that entails, and when you safely return home you will find your other woes are somehow diminished or at the very least put into better perspective.

10. Ride.

Ultimately, it’s all moot if you aren’t out there traveling on two wheels. The rest is just talk and posing. Be a rider, not merely someone that possesses a motorcycle.

2 Comments

  1. gek

    How about for passengers on bikes?

  2. I think any topic about motorcycles, such as whether to carry a passenger, etc. boils down to safety once again. Even though sport bikes often have passenger seats and foot pegs, I don't think they're safe — but that's just my personal view on the matter. Passengers should be fully geared for safety just like the pilot, etc. Again, it all comes down to safety.

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