By George Tranos
Motorcycling is not for the risk averse. Most of us enjoy the excitement, challenge and adrenaline generated from riding. Risk taking is inherent in the sport and some are drawn to it just for that reason. The extreme of that attitude is that mountains are there to be climbed, airplanes exist to parachute out of and motorcycles are built to be ridden hard and fast. Some people just can’t do things at anything less than full tilt.
Sportbikes are tailor made for these folks. In the hands of a skilled rider, they are fast, handle well and create the grin-inducing response desired. Give this same motorcycle to a new or inexperienced rider and it can become an uncompromising, hard-to-ride and overwhelming machine.
It is said that desire comes from the heart. Many motorcycling desires are created from images projected onto a page in the form of an advertisement or on a television (or computer) screen in the form of a commercial. The producer wants you, the viewer, to form a mental image of how you would fit into their ad. Picture yourself the owner of this motorcycle and all of a sudden you will be… fill in the blanks here. You’re now cool, or fast, or highly skilled or attractive! Fantasy is created and you’re hooked – you will be all those things if only you purchase that motorcycle. Time seems to add to this fantasy as you form the image over and over. Your desire gets that much stronger.
With dollars in hand, Sam heads to the nearest motorcycle shop to buy his first bike. Maybe the motorcycle ad wasn’t the only factor in Sam’s decision but he already has his mind made up when he walks into the dealership. He definitely wants this bike! Never mind that Sam has little experience with motorcycles let alone a high-powered sportbike. Sam desires that motorcycle and he’s going to have it!
If any of this rings true, then you may also know what may come next. The salesman at that dealership may try to steer Sam to a different model once they find out his level of experience. However, they know he’ll just go down the road to another dealer to buy if his heart is set on that one model. In their mind, Sam might not be ready for that bike but if he’s insistent enough, they’ll let him buy it.
Sam settles on a price, maybe it’s a bit more than he wanted to spend, but he thinks it’s worth it because he’s getting the exact model that he was pining for. After he plunks down his deposit, Sam makes arrangements to pick the bike up after it’s prepped. He needs to register the bike so Sam goes home and make some calls about insurance coverage. Boy this model is expensive to insure! He calls around and realizes collision and comprehensive coverage eats up the biggest chunk so he opts for liability only so he can get the lowest price possible.
The big day comes to pick up Sam’s new motorcycle. To make this day perfect, he wants everything to match the image he has in his mind. Sam wants to fit in as a new sportbike rider. As a result he went out and bought a new full-face helmet, leather jacket and leather full-fingered gloves. He sees himself riding away from the dealership and maybe finding the nearest curvy road.
Sam finalizes the transaction and the salesman goes over the controls and features of his new motorcycle with him. He pulls on his gear, presses the start button and off he goes. Sam’s dreams are finally coming true!
Then reality hits. Starting out, Sam stalls the bike almost immediately. Maybe just a little more throttle to get it rolling, he thinks, as he lets out the clutch. All of a sudden he’s moving – the bike shoots forward quickly and now he can’t see. The burst of throttle has lofted the front wheel so high that his frontal vision is blocked. Panic sets in and Sam chops the throttle – the front wheel comes crashing down but he doesn’t realize that it’s turned slightly when he lands. The bike veers to the right and Sam hits the curb, throwing him onto the ground.
Cars stop and people get out to help. Sam is dazed but thinks he’s okay. Then Sam looks down and sees that his knee is bleeding. His jeans got ripped when he hit the pavement and he can’t seem to stand up. Meanwhile, his bike lies on its side, the engine still running and the smell of gasoline in the air. Someone calls for assistance. Someone else shuts off the bike’s ignition. The police and ambulance arrive, the paramedic assesses Sam’s condition and he’s carted off to the hospital. Sam’s bike is flat bedded back to the dealer.
Sam lies in his hospital bed thinking what went wrong? This shouldn’t have happened to me! Nowhere in his wildest dreams did he ever imagine that it would be difficult to ride. Sam knew he was a good car driver – how different could it be to ride a motorcycle?
Luckily for Sam, he breaks no bones but his knee will require rest and rehabilitation. He’s sore from the road rash on his leg but that will fade in time. His bike is less fortunate. The crash has smashed the left side of the fairing, the headlight, turn signals, foot pegs and exhaust. It will be thousands of dollars to fix and he’ll have to pay for it, as he didn’t think he could afford the collision insurance. It’ll be expensive but he’ll fix it and then maybe sell it. Someone may get a good deal on a low mileage machine.
While Sam was going through with his purchase, his friend Joe also got interested in motorcycling. Joe always had a secret desire to ride. Joe was nice enough to visit Sam in the hospital, listen to him while he recuperated and even take care of his cat while Sam was away. When Joe saw what happened to Sam, Joe thought twice, but eventually decided to accept the risk himself.
Joe visited the same dealer that Sam did but decided not to buy just yet. He knew that he was unprepared to ride the powerful sportbikes. Joe bought some motorcycle magazines and did some research on the Internet. He found an online forum for motorcyclists in his area and subscribed. Joe asked questions and got a bunch of well meaning responses. Most told him to take lessons before buying his first bike.
Joe got his motorcycle learner’s permit, found a local motorcycle school and took his first lesson. The school provided a small training motorcycle and the instructor started Joe off slowly. After learning about the friction zone and proper brake usage, Joe was riding cautiously the first day. Joe took some more lessons and then took a Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic RiderCourse. Because Joe was already comfortable on a motorcycle, he had no trouble with the skills evaluation and learned about street survival and the importance of good gear. He got his motorcycle endorsement and then went back to the dealership to buy his first bike.
Joe decided on a midsize two-cylinder model that fit him well. The controls all fell readily at hand and he could plant both his feet firmly on the floor. Joe knew this bike was big enough for some short trips he planned but small enough to learn and build confidence on. Because Joe bought a smaller motorcycle, he had money left over for a quality motorcycle jacket and riding pants. He didn’t skimp and bought real motorcycle boots and gloves as well. Since he had taken a riding course, he saved money on his motorcycle insurance and was able to afford full coverage in case anything went wrong.
Joe rode his new bike everywhere. After two years and many thousands of miles, he moved up to a 600cc sportbike. Joe decided he still had more to learn and took additional training given by a local track day organization at a racetrack near him. Joe was amazed at the performance of his sportbike and even more thrilled that he was learning how to use it properly with smoothness and precision.
Meanwhile, Sam never went back to riding. He blamed motorcycles for being unsafe. Sam sued the dealer that sold him his motorcycle but lost in court. Sam eventually sold his crashed motorcycle at a big loss. A local track day rider bought it and converted it into his track bike.
Joe knew he still had a lot to learn but has the rest of his life to do it. The original motorcycle of his dreams was now no longer the bike he wanted. Joe balanced his heart’s desire with his mind’s restraint. Joe learned to love motorcycling and rode everywhere. He loves being outside, part of the environment and at one with the road. Joe’s desire now has changed from wanting a motorcycle for the image it portrays to just riding for the fun of it.
Here’s to Joe and his smart decision. Hopefully, there’s a little Joe in all of us.