In motorcycling, you get all kinds of people across the entire spectrum of humanity. You have 20-year-old riders on rice rockets, Baby Boomers on old-school baggers, Yuppies on zero-emission bikes, and adrenaline junkies on sport-bikes. We see them out there every day. And, we see some of the riders in full (or near-full) gear and some of them in decidedly less-safe apparel. Recently, I saw a young dude on the I-15 freeway with no helmet, no gloves, shorts, a T-shirt, and Keens with no socks. He was passing me, fast, and I was going 75-miles-per-hour.
I don’t know about you, but my blood runs cold whenever I see a biker who is not fully geared up, no matter what they are riding. In Utah, there is no helmet law. So, I see the young and old riding around without head protection. This is crazy, irresponsible, and just plain wrong. I am not being judgmental for the sake of pointing out others’ flaws. I actually have a point.
Yes, motorcycling is about freedom. It’s all about feeling the wind, the road, the ride, and joy. It is quintessentially an American pursuit. It defines us; it is representative of the American drive, our restlessness, our relative youth as a country, and our general refusal to conform or obey. Motorcycling is all about personal freedoms and expression. And, let’s face it, that is much of what our country is founded on. But, beyond the rebelliousness, motorcycling is also a practice in responsibility. It’s a way for riders to send a positive message to their own bodies and the culture at large.
—Now stepping onto my soap box—
People often argue that it is their God-given choice to protect themselves or not. I agree. You can choose to gear up or not. You can choose to risk a perilous brain injury or not. You can choose to remove your tattoos the hard way (on pavement) or the easy way (by a dermatologist). It is your choice UNTIL you, in your choosing, cost other people their hard-earned money.
How? By becoming a burden to the state when you can no longer pay your medical bills for your fractured skull, broken ribs, and torn ligaments acquired in the course of riding without gear. If you can pay all of your bills without help, wonderful. Go ahead and risk your body all you want. But, then, you might want to consider the people who have to come along and hose your various parts off of the asphalt. How must they feel when they have to clean you out of the cracks? Yes, those folks choose the profession of firefighter or EMT, but they take a hit in doing so. Their work takes an emotional toll on them. They do a huge service to society by braving that emotionally damaging, dangerous work. We can give them less of it by gearing up properly.
Plain and simple. You want choice? Then, choose to protect yourself. Not because there is a law dictating it, but because it’s the right thing to do, both for your body and the community. Choose to gear up because it is the responsible thing to do; it sends a positive message into the world about our past time, maturity, and passion as riders. Gear up for your kids so that they see their parents doing the right thing. Teach your family members and friends to think about these things by being the example. In short, live the example. Be as safe as possible and a rider who actually considers your actions and their impact on other people.
The take-away is that by living the example, you get to do more living and lots more riding. No, there are no guarantees even if you do gear up, but one thing is certain, with gear, you have dramatically improved the odds that you will get out there for the next ride. People need heads and healthy parts to have fun. So, wrap up, be safe, have fun, and ride the example.
—Now stepping off of my soap box.—