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An Internet News Group subscriber, Jeff Rich, posted a message in alt.motorcycles in which he bemoaned that his wife would not allow him to get a motorcycle, and asked for advice. Steve Makohin responded with these "words of wisdom," most of which can be equally applied to motorcyclists in general, as well as those who fear bikes.
New to the group and hoping you can help me out with a sticky problem.
I've got the itch to get a motorcycle (have for several years), but my wife is vehemently against it. Seems the brother of her best friend was not wearing a helmet when he was struck by an automobile. He wasn't killed, but he did suffer some brain damage and hasn't been quite the same since. Of course, she had the hots for him at the time (it was before we met).
So, how do I convince her that I'm not going to end up a puddle of goo on the street if (when?) I start riding? I ride a self propelled 2-wheeled vehicle (bicycle) on a regular basis and this doesn't seem to bother her. I've pointed out this inconsistency to her, but it's like talking to a brick wall.
One idea I have is to enroll BOTH of us in an MSF course so perhaps she'd be a little more reassured. Good idea or bad? Any other ideas?
While I'm posting, let me really throw out a line. Looking for recommendations for a good first bike. I know this is dangerous because I also drive a Jeep, and when you start talking about CJs v. YJs v. TJs, all hell breaks loose. I'm just looking for something to ride around the hills of Southern Indiana and to make quick trips to Wal-Mart for light bulbs (let me guess. . .real motorcyclist aren't afraid of the dark <g>). Not really looking to do long touring.
- Jeff Rich
Here are words of wisdom that you can carve in stone regarding motorcycling. They are not targeted at you, specifically, or your wife. I wrote this several months ago in response to a "fear of speed" thread.
Take appropriate riding courses. Take MSF. Study. Learn. Practice! Get better. Way better! By becoming educated, you'll also learn about the real risks, and what can be done about them. A book titled Proficient Motorcycling is a great starting point. It will keep you busy for quite some time.
Assess and understand the risks:
Part of being educated, is learning how to identify the risks of motorcycling. Some of those risks are posed by the people that share the road with you. Other risks are posed by animals, pedestrians, road and weather conditions. Other risks are mechanical in nature. And yet more risks are a result of the rider's limitations, underdeveloped skills, poor planning, and suboptimal decisions.
Mitigate the risks:
The most important safety device on a motorcycle is between the rider's ears. Once you have become educated, and you've developed your skills, and you have assessed and understood the risks, take appropriate measures to mitigate those risks. By this time, you have already done a lot to reduce the odds of becoming a statistic.
Your odds of getting into an incident are WAY down because you've learned to anticipate risk (a child running from behind a parked car, or an oily patch just beyond the blind edge of that fast right sweeper), and you know what to do about it. You also know that in over two thirds of motorcycle incidents that involve another vehicle, the other guy is at fault, so you are smart, well trained, well practiced, and you always ride alert and defensively. You never ride with a brain that's dulled by alcohol or other drugs, so you have removed nearly a third of all types of incidents that affect motorcyclists.
Lastly, you are also smart in realizing that if you should be involved in an incident, you want to reduce or eliminate the injuries, or severity of injuries you may sustain. So you always wear a full-face helmet with appropriate eye protection, motorcycle grade leather or Kevlar (or other super-synthetic) jacket and pants, real motorcycle gloves (not the kid-leather fashion statement that feels oh-so-soft and comes off like paper when put to the test), and riding boots with ankle protection.
Don't worry. Be happy!
Now that you've got smart, got good, got safe, and got protection, you need to ask yourself if the degree of remaining risk is acceptable to you to experience the thrill of riding. If so, then there is no need to worry. Worry is non-productive. Thinking, planning, preparing, acting -- all those things deliver results. Worrying does not.
If you should conclude the risks are too high, then do yourself and everyone else a favor, and do one of two things. The first, is reread this article, and assess where you have fallen short. Lack of training? Lack of skill. Lack of confidence in your own ability? This boils down to training, skills, and experience. If you have done all that, and you are a proficient rider, and well trained and well practiced, and prudent, and you feel the risks are still too high, then consider the second alternative: get off the road, and get into dirt biking where you can at least eliminate all the risks that are related to riding on public roads.
Still too risky for you? Then perhaps motorcycling is not for you. Some people are afraid of flying. Some fear heights. Some are terrified by open spaces. These fears are not rational, but they are very real for those who are so stricken. Keep in mind that this is not an issue with motorcycling specifically, but rather, it's a personal issue that you need to come to terms with.
* * * * *
On a very personal note, man-to-man, I seriously question when someone starts off by saying "my wife won't let me." These power struggles are unhealthy in a marriage. In cases like this, I try to determine the real issues. For example:
Financial burden of preparing for, and acquiring a motorcycle and accessories, maintaining it, plus operating costs. Budget this out to make sure you can easily afford it. If it's tight, the risk may be too high.
Financial burden in the event of an incident. Make sure one has appropriate insurance coverage.
Risk of personal injury. Identify those risks, quantify them, and relate them to other real-life risks, like horseback riding, or bicycling, to put them into perspective. Mitigate those risks, as stated in the writings above.
Once the real issues are addressed, then the emotional issues need to be addressed, and these are not always easily managed because they are not always rational. For example, the most dangerous mode of commonly used transportation, as measured by incidents per 100,000 miles traveled, is... walking! Conversely, the safest mode, measured the same way, is flying on a commercial airline. Even though statistics clearly prove out these statements, many people have an irrational fear of flying, while not giving walking a second thought.
Even though you may address the emotional issues, you may not be able to resolve them. If I were in your scenario, I'd commit to either getting a bike or not. Make this decision using rational reasons. If the commitment is made in the positive, then I'd involve my partner in all the planning and preparation, just to ensure that there is no mystery to feed the fear. If something as simple as getting a motorcycle is enough to topple a union, then that relationship was already on seriously rocky ground long before the motorcycle arrived.
- Steve Makohin
Jeff received numerous other replies to his news group posting. After careful deliberation, he signed up for an MSF course, and started his journey towards motorcycling. Jeff and his wife are still happily together.
– Reprinted with permission from both Jeff Rich and Steve Makohin