CHESTER, VT – Might as well come out and say it: It was a lousy riding season for me.
Either my criteria for a good riding day has changed or it was truly a crappy riding season because of the weather.
I am ashamed of how little I rode my motorcycle this season. My best estimate is somewhere less than 150 miles. There are a lot of reasons for this pitiful showing; the biggest reason was probably the hot weather.
Lots of non-motorcyclists seem to think that a ride on a two-wheeled conveyance exposed to the elements is virtually cool. When the humidity level is through the roof and the sun is beating down on you mercilessly, riding a motorcycle is very hot, not cool at all.
If you want to wear enough protective gear to save your hide should you come off the bike, you will be hot. I don’t tolerate hot like I once did. I love my air conditioning.
The other reason for not riding enough this season has been the fact that I just haven’t felt like it. I’ve gone through these periods in the past. Something will happen that bothers me deeply and I’ll stay off the bike more than I’m on it for an entire season.
This happened back in the 90’s when a friend was killed on his motorcycle. It happened this year after the death of well-known and greatly-loved motorcyclist Stanley Lynde, who owned Lynde Motorsports in Brattleboro, VT. Both of these folks were killed by people operating motor vehicles badly. Here’s the thing. More people are operating motor vehicles badly that I have ever witnessed in the past.
Is it the millennials? No, it’s the distractions.
Cars have gotten a great deal safer in the past few decades and highway deaths have dropped significantly. Automobiles have become easier to drive with power-assisted everything. The design of cars has changed to the point where a driver is more and more isolated from reality. When you are comfortably ensconced in a heated or cooled seat in a climate controlled environment designed to offer up every possible comfort such as unprecedented quiet, you’ve lost touch with the very essence of motoring.
If you’ve never had the experience of riding in a 100-year-old open touring car then you don’t know what you are missing. The wind, the noise, the smells, the sense of vulnerability. Strapped securely into your leather-appointed modern cocoon you will never experience any of that. The closest you might come to it is in a topless jeep or a convertible, but even then the smoothness and competency of the vehicle still isolate you from the true harshness of the environment that we all travel through every day.
Therein lies the foundation for the problem. Built upon that base of comfort and isolation is the distraction of a really good sound system, a touch screen information center, and the ease of communication via the cell phone. The ultimate convenience is the ability to communicate with someone without anyone else overhearing what is being said. The discreet text.
Although fully illegal, no one is taking the distraction of texting and driving as seriously as they should be. You think you can handle driving and texting? You can’t, and you are a total idiot if you think you can. In fact, you’re downright stupid, arrogant, and clueless if you think you can handle driving and texting.
These are the people who have the potential to suck the life out of the sport of motorcycling. They are succeeding in some instances, too. I’ve known a number of folks who have just decided that the roads have become too dangerous to ride. They’ve hung up their leathers, sold the bike, and confined their travels to the same vehicles that were attempting to kill them when they rode.
It’s a shame, and I fear that I’ve come too close to giving up one of the great joys of my life, the freedom of motorcycling.
Earlier I said that the hot, humid, and often wet weather in the summer of 2018 kept me off my motorcycle. True. On other occasions when the weather was cooperating, I just didn’t feel up to riding. Also true.
With the coming winter, I will have plenty of time to think about these factors that limit my riding. While I can’t do much about the weather, I can at least make a plea for tougher distracted driving laws and increased enforcement, along with better education for new drivers.
Beyond that, riding ultra-defensively, thinking ahead, practicing braking and evasive maneuvers, and staying sharp out there are my best protection. I’m getting up there in years, but I still want to ride. For now, I’m just too young to stop.
Top photo by Bob Furman