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nocones HalfDork
8/12/11 2:43 p.m.

I'm at a Crossroads. I'm 28 years old and have been street riding bikes since I was 16. I have loged nearly 150k miles in those years and had a blast. I've also been pulled out in front of, turned left in front of, and had more close calls (disregarding ones I've caused for myself) than I can count. I also have a 1 year old Daughter.. I enjoy riding, always have (except for a year or so after my dad was killed in an automobile accident (non-motorcycle)). I own a "fast" bike because when I bought 5 years ago I enjoyed riding fast, but the last 1500 miles I've barely had it over 5K rpm. I minimize MY risk as much as possible, and feel that I am an above average rider when it comes to analyzing the environment and prediciting what's going to happen. That said I can't get over feeling that riding is an unacceptably selfish risk that I take. I can't imagine that the sum total of all enjoyment I will have on the motorcycle would be worth not being able to walk my daughter down the aisle or even be there. I'm 100% aware that cars aren't necessarily safer than bikes (see my dad's accident above) but I KNOW that a "fender bender" on a bike is much more likely to end in bad things. My last bike is for sale and I already sold one of them off and I'm trying to not ride, but I still get the itch.
I'm not sure what I'm looking for here, but I figure some of you guys have been through the same thing.. I just feel like hanging it up sometimes, but I worry that that would be turning my back on something that is/was a big part of me. I try to tell my self I could just sunday ride but that doesn't really remove the risk. Strangely the same feelings have me not riding my Road Bicycle at all as I know that's even less safe that a MC.
How do you balance personal risk compared to family obligations. I have insurance and such so I know if something happens my family would be taken care of financially better than I could provide, however again, I've been on the other end of that and I'd give any amount of financial gain my family got back to have more time with my dad. Just something I've been thinking about and I know we have a pretty good group here with lots of life experience.

nderwater Dork
8/12/11 3:03 p.m.

I love bikes and have always wanted one of my own, but got married young and the wife is very opposed to 'becoming a widowed single mother'. A few years ago I found a good deal on a bike and was really ready to press the issue when her sister had a bad bike accident (airlift, coma, etc.) and wiped any chance off the map. Since then I've seen some pretty nasty bike accidents at track events, so these days I'm content to amp my adrenaline from inside a metal cage.

ransom HalfDork
8/12/11 3:13 p.m.

Boy is that a toughie.

The topic is much more important than this, but just because it's an important one for me, do you have any sources for the bicycling-more-dangerous-than-motorcycling stat? Being a much more frequent cyclist than motorcyclist (and one who considers bicycling to be a non-negotiable part of my life), that's a spooky one. It's also always interesting when you find out you've been mis-assessing risks.

Another thought: Just do track days? You don't have to ride 10/10ths to ride on a track, and it removes the most dangerous parts of riding on the road. (Says the guy who's clocked the tiniest fragment of your mileage, done two races, and is hoping to do his first track day next week; I'm theorizing, not speaking from massive experience).

There's only so much you can do to protect yourself. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do what you can, but it's easy to arrive at the conclusion that you should give up things that are important to you because it's not a "sensible" risk. At this point I will further make my ramblings useless because I have no children and no intention to do so. That doesn't mean I don't have people worth sticking around for (or that I have any reason to be anything but careful), but I understand there's a whole new level there.

Motorcycles worry me a bit, but I find them so fascinating that I think it would eat at me if I didn't find out more for a while. I'm a bit scared of table saws, too, but I'm pretty sure that's also a reasonable risk at this point. When it comes down to it, I'm scared of a lot of stuff, but I try to let caution and not fear apply most in my calculations of risk and reward.

So, total lack of any sort of answers. I almost just deleted this as not applicable, and as sounding in places a little too pro-bike when I really don't have an opinion about whether you should ride. But I figured I'd post it as just another stream of thoughts.

petegossett SuperDork
8/12/11 3:34 p.m.

Dan, your worries are why I've never got my motorcycle license. Personally, I'm not willing to take those risks.

Have you considered trail-riding?

914Driver SuperDork
8/12/11 3:35 p.m.

If you have second thoughts get out. If you're waiting for the other shoe to drop, get out.

I've been riding 35 years and the nearest miss I've had was a soccer mom in a minivan almost backing into me as I was putting gas in the bike. I'm sorry for your misgivings but it's probably best you took up bowling.

In hang gliding I learned a term called target fixation. There's a big tree in the middle of a huge landing area, you say to yourself "I'm not gonna hit the tree, I'm not gonna hit the tree, I'm not gonna hit the tree"; next thing you know you've got a mouth full of leaves and branch up your butt.

It's best you got out so you can walk your daughter down the aisel 25 years from now.

My apologies for being crass....


93EXCivic SuperDork
8/12/11 3:54 p.m.
petegossett wrote: Have you considered trail-riding?

That is what I was going to say.

BoxheadTim SuperDork
8/12/11 4:07 p.m.
914Driver wrote: If you have second thoughts get out. If you're waiting for the other shoe to drop, get out.


If you feel you can't mitigate the risk, then don't do it. I'd probably miss it too much if I were to stop (and I made clear to my wife how the "it's me or the bikes" argument would end) but given that I only started riding when I was in my 30s I already knew I wasn't immortal. That said, the Kawasaki I just bought was sold by someone who gave up street riding because of his first kid, too, and to me that's perfectly understandable.

Trail riding is probably your best bet.

If you decide to continue riding, one thing I would make sure is that I had enough life insurance cover to ensure that your wife and child don't suffer financially as well should something happen. Edit: sorry, overlooked that you already said you had this in place.

oldtin Dork
8/12/11 4:18 p.m.

I'm with Dan on this one - if you're riding scared, paranoid, over-cautious, it's not as bad as riding stupid, but it's not a good place to be. I can't really comment on whether it's selfish or not - my wife knew I had a pile of potentially lethal hobbies when we got married - they are part of the package (no kids, but pretty sure I'd be enabling them to do play with motorized stuff). Maybe it's time to move on - more time to finish the midget.

bastomatic Dork
8/12/11 4:28 p.m.

I'll be having this debate in about 8 months with myself, and can't really give you any advice about it. If I were to feel like I was always taking chances and in danger for my life, worried about leaving my daughter behind, then I'd sell my bike.

In response to ransom's question, no, riding bicycles is MUCH less dangerous than riding a motorcycle. It's not even close. Here are some stats from a 1993 study on fatalities per million hours of activity.

Skydiving: 128.7
Gen. Aviation: 15.58
On-road Motorcycling: 8.80
Scuba diving: 1.98
All causes of death: 1.53
Driving automobile: .47
Bicycling: .26

The study was done by Failure Analysis Associates, Inc. (Design News, 10-4-93)

You can bet if I sell off the motorcycle, I'll be replacing it with something non-powered with two wheels.

DILYSI Dave SuperDork
8/12/11 4:33 p.m.

+1 to trail riding.

Also - an open top, no door Jeep captures a lot of the "wind in my hair" freedom that a bike gives, with a lot more metal between you and the idiots.

Woody SuperDork
8/12/11 4:58 p.m.

I sold my street bike when my daughter was born. It might have been different if I had a son, but I'm not sure. Nobody pays attention when they're driving anymore.

I'm still thinking about a dual purpose bike, though.

Maroon92 SuperDork
8/12/11 5:04 p.m.

I will always have a motorcycle. Calculated risk...

alex SuperDork
8/12/11 5:32 p.m.

The most dangerous part of riding is the other guy. Maybe you should give thought to mitigating that risk (trail riding, track time, etc) and not giving up the game entirely.

Snowdoggie HalfDork
8/12/11 6:12 p.m.

I stopped riding in my 30s after a serious car accident. The accident was not my fault. I was rear ended by a car going 50 mph when I was stopped at an intersection. It killed my beautiful two year old CRX Si. The car spun around and was hit by two other cars. The car had a full cage and competition belt and sholder harness in it and that saved my life. I actually walked away without a scratch, to the amazement of two Colorado State Patrolmen and a Jefferson County Sheriff.

I almost took the bike instead of the car that day. If I had been on the bike instead of the car I probably would not have survived. For months afterward I was afraid every time I got into the car. It stopped riding the bikes completely It took me a while to get over it.

I started riding again just last year, early 50s. Slower reflexes but better judgment. I decided that with a few less years ahead of me than behind me, I wanted to spend more time on two wheels before I go. There may be some point in the future where I decide to hang up the helmet again. When you get that gut feeling, it's time to quit. Only you can know if the risk is worth the reward.

Grtechguy SuperDork
8/12/11 6:24 p.m.

I have three kids and I ride....It's my solitude. no phones.. no kids.. no wife.. I love them all, but I like the escape for 20 minutes at time back and forth to work

Granted, my wife has allowed father/child bonding with bike rides now. I have a 5-point harness that attaches them to myself. no chance of a fall off (unless I do)

ddavidv SuperDork
8/13/11 7:12 a.m.

Everone's risk comfort level is different. If you're not feeling it, then don't do it. My best defense is a good offense: I don't ride bikes beyond my capabilities, I take the training that is available to me and try to ride in places and at times where other traffic is minimal. No riding at night, no riding with ANY alcohol consumption. It's minimizing the risk, which is still higher than in a car, but managed as best as I can I find it acceptable.

At 46 I've had one friend die while riding and another friend with a terminal disease to put life into a bit more perspective. The summation is you really can't pick when your ticket gets punched or how, you can only do what you can to encourage your longevity in the hope you make it to old age. You can do it while enjoying life, or you can do it cowering in a corner with the shades drawn. I prefer the former, but others may not. Go with your gut.

Karl La Follette
Karl La Follette Dork
8/13/11 11:09 a.m.

I gave up the big bike , I still have scooters and 4 wheelers . Get a four wheeler utility and start trail riding just as fun . We go for hours on the trail and pack a lunch and colds . We do tow vehicles and see alot of wrecked bikes so sorta gun shy of street bikes .

BoxheadTim SuperDork
8/13/11 11:20 a.m.
ddavidv wrote: At 46 I've had one friend die while riding and another friend with a terminal disease to put life into a bit more perspective. The summation is you really can't pick when your ticket gets punched or how, you can only do what you can to encourage your longevity in the hope you make it to old age. You can do it while enjoying life, or you can do it cowering in a corner with the shades drawn. I prefer the former, but others may not. Go with your gut.

Wise words indeed. I agree with the not cowering in the corner - a point just driven home by the fact that a 'biking friend' of mine in the UK just keeled over at home and it doesn't look likely that he'll make it out of the ICU resembling anything like his former self, even though we're all hoping that the doctors got the prognosis wrong. He's a year older than me...

I'm all for balancing risks, but becoming a couch potato and wondering what life might have been isn't for me. I'd rather grow old disgracefully. But then again, we have no kids.

flountown Reader
8/13/11 11:34 a.m.

I agree with the trackday/trailriding suggestions. All the fun with out the witless other drivers out to get you. One thing I would not want to do is ride around without all of your wits, or riding scared, either is a recipe for disaster...

CarKid1989 Dork
8/13/11 1:01 p.m.

I dunno how much my two cents will mean here seeing as im a baby compared to many here, BUT:

I ride. I feel like i ride a lot and i love it. I minimize risk when i can. No alcohol and bikes, i wear a good amount of gear (just need some pants of sorts) i am much more tame then others i have ridden with too. I ride whenever i feel though so its at busy times or late at night. I feel comfortable riding and enjoy it a ton.

However, there is a tiny voice in the back of my head that time to time kicks in and questions my having a bike at all. Cause i hear all the time about accidents and freak stuff happening and it bothers me. However, i know i am as safe as i can be and i go out there and enjoy it.

I have told everyone around me that should anything happen to my bike and i get a insurance payout check i am out of bikes. Ill switch to a quad or a jetski.

To the original poster, stay safe no matter what your choice, and even though i a have no child/wife/family i think its great that you weigh all that into you decision. Good luck.

BTW: trailriding is a blast. ATVs are so much fun. Recently drove a Polaris RZR side by side and holy crap that is where its at...stupid fun toy

motomoron HalfDork
8/13/11 4:46 p.m.

If you're concerned about it when you're riding - don't ride.

If you're doing everything possible to mitigate risk when you ride, it's not a carefree process anymore. You have to think for every brain-dead driver and pedestrian, calculate an infinite number of trajectories, weigh variables, and control the bike. You have to always have an escape route or 3.

I've ridden for about 30 years. I've crashed 3 times on the street, and 3 times on the track during my 5 or so seasons of road racing but I've never been hurt beyond sore the next day, more sore the day after that. I've slacked off and will ride in jeans around town, but with armored Held race gloves, a Vanson or Aerostich jacket, Shoei or Arai full face, and sturdy boots.

Track time really helps with the acquisition of information, situational awareness and ability to intuitively make the bike/car do what you want right now.

For example, I've spent a lot of time on the track in cars the past 4 years or so. First at HPDEs, then instructing and driving in faster groups, then time trialing, and finally doing wheel to wheel. I realized I haven't had an event where "someone did something stupid and almost..." while driving in recent memory. My awareness is heightened to the degree that the brain-deads telegraph their impending homicidal moves so far in advance that I just drive around 'em. Once you're used to someone spinning on oil - right in front of you - in traffic - in a fast corner - and you use it as an opportunity to pick up a position rather than to be scared, the stuff on the street isn't so bad anymore.

A couple street survival rules that have served me well since when I was a bike messenger:

  • You are invisible to nearly everyone.

  • Those that can see you are actively trying to kill you. Seriously.

  • As you approach any intersection, any oncoming vehicle is going to take a left directly into you. It doesn't matter if they're signalling or what lane they're in. Until you've assessed the situation and cleared the threat they are going to kill you.

  • If you ride adjacent a car rather than continually passing, the will abruptly lane change into you. They'll have no awareness of your presence. A hi-viz yellow Aerostich jacket and ear-shattering exhaust at their ear level will do nothing. Boom, you're dead.

  • Any pedestrian will, without warning, turn heel and step directly into your path. Deer are as predictable as the calendar relative to a 20-something summer intern walking in downtown DC at lunchtime.

So, wear all the gear, all the time. Ride a light, agile bike with plenty of power, handling and brakes. It's easier to avoid everything and the sweet spot for fun is below 100mph unlike sport bikes. Become a very good rider. Do trackdays, go racing, read "A Twist of the Wrist" by Keith Code, over and over. Stack the odds in your favor.

But if it's not worth doing that for the joy you get from riding, get out.

Woody SuperDork
8/13/11 5:11 p.m.

It was an acceptable risk when I was alone. I'm not cowering in a corner, but I don't want my daughter growing up without me.

Maybe it comes from the fact that I'm a professional firefighter. Riding a motorcycle to work is probably safer than getting to work, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

motomoron HalfDork
8/13/11 5:45 p.m.
Woody wrote: It was an acceptable risk when I was alone. I'm not cowering in a corner, but I don't want my daughter growing up without me. Maybe it comes from the fact that I'm a professional firefighter. Riding a motorcycle to work is probably safer than getting to work, but I have to draw the line somewhere.

Well said.

MitchellC Dork
8/13/11 7:14 p.m.

This does not have to be a permanent decision; you can always reevaluate the decision later on in life. I love riding my motorcycle, but there are many other activities that entertain, develop, and provide me with joy. Cooking, dancing, reading books, exercising, spending time with friends and family... the list is practically endless.

foxtrapper SuperDork
8/13/11 7:17 p.m.

It doesn't have to be an on/off switch, and you don't have to commit to not riding for the rest of your life.

You can hang it up for a while, and start riding again later. You can always buy another bike, or keep the one you've got and ride it may 10 miles a year. That is ok.

You can find other forms of riding. I only recently discovered dirt biking. And an ATV is likely in my future.

Our tastes change. What was a wonderful bike for you may not be now. That's ok too.

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