Motorcycle Death Wish?


Per the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, nearly 80% of reported motorcycle crashes result in injury or death, as compared to 20% for automobiles. In other words, you are 4x more likely to get hurt or killed if you crash on a motorcycle, as opposed to in a car.

Having been involved in two serious motorcycle wrecks in my life, I understand the risks. In both cases, the bikes were declared “totaled” by the insurance adjusters.

In the first one (back in the 70’s) an ambulance raced me to an emergency room to clean up a generous case of road rash and to put together what the paramedic said was a whole bunch of broken bones. However, the doctor said I only had a broken collarbone, and was surprised when the x-ray showed nothing was broken at all. Ultimately, my helmet scars demonstrated that things would have been much worse had I not been wearing it. In fact, had I not been wearing a full-face helmet, I would have left my countenance smeared along some Pennsylvania pavement.

In 2004, I wrecked again. (By the way, both of these incidents were my own fault). Although the motorcycle was crashed beyond repair, I walked away without a cut, scratch or bruise. (I skipped the ambulance and emergency room adventures). The main difference? Fully-armored riding apparel from head to toe. And in both cases I was also fortunate not to hit anything except the ground. Modern riding apparel continues to improve and offer greater safety advantages. Will that make riding as safe as flying in an airplane or driving a car? No way. If you want even better safety, you absolutely must traverse our world ensconced in a cage with at least 4 wheels – or don’t go anywhere.

Given that as the case, do motorcyclists have a death wish?

Who knows the answer for all, but for me, and for the many riders I’ve spoken with over the years, the answer is the opposite. The lack of a protective cage is what opens wide life and livingness instead of watching it go by like a video game. For a motorcyclist, riding epitomizes life.

I would rather ride every day with the risk variable at whatever rate it may be, than to live at all without riding any day.

For me, part of riding – and living at all – is knowing that any day may be my last. And the alternative to not riding is as certain a death sentence as losing all capacity to sing, dance, celebrate or even breathe.

Many motorcyclists would not expect a non-rider to relate to these words. The brotherhood that riders enjoy involves living a much richer life than could be enjoyed otherwise.

For me, and for the motorcyclists I have met – we love life. We love to ride. It’s pretty simple.

I invite you to add your thoughts below.

70 thoughts on “Motorcycle Death Wish?

  • Very inappropriate question for me. Are motorcycles more dangerous than cages? Of.
    Course. Does that mean we have a death wish? You guys obviously grew up watching charles Bronson films.

  • I didn’t have my first bike until I was old (36) enough to know better. I passed my 83rd birthday last May. I definitely do not have a ‘death wish’ but I must admit I don’t know why have this compulsion to keep riding. I love the freeways and the freedom to zip past cars and truckers with a twist of the wrist. I love those lonely stretches like from Casa Grande to Yuma where I can stash a 20 ounce frosty between the handlebar and windshield, prop my boots up on the highway bars and just lean back on a bed roll. That’s when I know I have a ‘life wish’. Besides, if it comes to it, Jehovah will see that I get what I deserve. (Oops!)

  • Death wish? Maybe some people, but not me. I just put a 139 db horn on my bike and ordered a kevlar jacket. Riding is affirming I’m alive and I’d like to keep it that way. . . .

  • ive had 3 nasty accidents 1st one was my fault,to fast into a corner gravel on exit ,into ditch hard 6weeks no riding bike 2 1 hit and run never found the womble that hit me the last on total faluire to give way $6500damage to bike nearly totalled ,but im still here riding long may it last.

  • No death wish , but I know life can end in one spilt second. I have been rding for over 30 years, and had my fair share of accidents and hospitals, being a Pastor in Bikers Ministry I buried 55 brothers last year. On average at least 5 bikers are killed a day on the Roads in South Africa. I have attended my share of accidents, helped at scenes, I launched ICE in 2010 (Bikers emergency services) We now now 3 biker Paramedics and a number of chapains all working with the EMS and Police to assist on accidents.

    Protective wear, Attitude, Love of Life, Defensive riding, advanced riding courses, listening to old timers, being responsible and removing your buddies keys when they are drunk, helping your fellow brother on the rd (even if he is a stranger) On our rallies we take a back up truck, so when a brother is had to much , we stop help him load up and give him a lift, even our cops now contact us if they have stopped someone who is way past the legal limit , if we are in the area , we help out if not call a friend who will do so.

    At night most of our call outs are at intersections , cages skipping traffic lights and stop signs , we encourage our riders to wear night gear , reflective vest and strips to be seen.

    We are hear to enjoy the ride, the freedom, the brotherhood, life is to short , be observent, be responsible and ride safe. (I would rather ride daily than not at all) Lord keep our rubber right side and our ass in the seat Amen

  • i have had 3 crashes on bikes sionce i started riding. any of the 3 could have and probably should havea killed me. the trick which there isnt any is to stay CALM< RELAXED all the riding gear all the time is something that i agree should be done although i dont. Helmets are one thing that i have heard people say are good for only one thing and that is to keep the head in one piece after the crash kills you. i agree the guy above with the ground rules. do all of them and you will most surely enjoy your time on the bike on 2 wheels. another thing: DONT RELY ON THE 4 WHEELERS TO WATCH OUT FOR YOU, YO MUST WATCH OUT FOR THEM!!!!!!!

  • I got my first motorcycle in 1974. Since then, I have not always had one, but I do have some years of riding experience. I had two accidents in ’74. One from excellerating on take off to fast in first gear.The second from hitting the hand brake to hard on a gravel road. I had my third one this past weekend. I had parked along a curb and locked the steering. When I got back on the bike, I forgot to unlock the steering. I had intended to go forward, the bike went left, I dropped it, got a food caught under it and twisted my ankle but was not seriously hurt. The pain was gone within a couple of hours. Over all, I think the number one cause of bike accidents is overconfidence. I do believe in being confident, but as Dirty Harry would say, “A man has to know his limitations”. The number two cause of accidents is inattention, the number three cause of accidents may be considered the other guys fault, but personally, I think it’s the bikers fault because if he gets killed, it won’t matter what the technicalities were. I think another cause of motorcycle accidents that fits in there somewhere among those other three is lousy maintenance on the bike. Maybe all three tie in there with the lousy maintenance thing. Overconfident (I’ll get that rear tire replaced next year or I’ll replace the chain in a couple of months. It’ll be ok, nothing’s going to happen) Inattention (I don’t think I need to check the tire pressure right now, it was ok last week) and the other guy (Yeah, we made eye contact and he pulled out in front of me any way, or I didn’t know he was coming from the other direction when I made that turn around that corner of the convenience store. This past weekend, I learned that there is another cause of motorcycle accidents: Forgetfulness. 🙂 But, no, no death wish here. 3 accidents in 38 years is not the record of someone with a death wish. It’s true there is always the unexpected that can happen. The best way to be prepared for the unexpected is to never allow yourself to become inattentive or over confident. … forgetfulness? I am 60 years old. I love to ride, but if that gets to be to big a problem, then maybe it’s time to do a self analysis to check the confidence level, just to be sure I am not over confident. Right now, not a problem, but it’s a good thing to be cognizant of.

  • Nope, no death wish – I’ve had a 40 year love affair with motorcycles but never was able to ride.

    When I 1st began learning to ride (which was only 3 years ago – I did take the riding course and I have since ridden my own 35,000 miles), I overheard a friend telling his son, “respect this bike just like a woman. If you don’t, it WILL bite you in the ass.” He was being flip, probably because I was standing there, but I have thought of that quote so many, many times heading out on my bike.

    My greatest compliments come from 35-year-riders who take the time to tell me that I am doing a great job, that I handle my bike well, even though its not a small bike. BUT as soon as I think I’m getting a big head, I think about that quote again.

    I do have respect for my bike because I KNOW how badly you can get hurt once you start thinking there is nothing new to learn. You get too confident. I learn something new every time I ride. Like the others have mentioned, I say a prayer everytime I leave. And I also believe you can’t live in fear – our days are numbered and if God ever does not want me riding, I know He’ll show me in no uncertain terms.

    You do have to ride as if the other guy wants to kill you and sometimes I feel like they really do want to kill me. Education is the key. I have noticed that there are cagers who seem to see us better and give us the space we need. Unfortunately, there are still those who cut you off, young drivers who don’t give a shit, distracted drivers, etc., etc. They will always be there. But credit is due to those who realize one little goof when you are too close to a bike can so quickly result in death, which ruins the lives of many people in the immediate and extended families. Share the Road.

    That applies to bikers too. I’ve seen bikers do really stupid stuff to prove their point. Please realize you have no upper hand when you are 600-700 pounds against 2500 plus pounds. That’s common sense. The big guy just about always wins. So give the cagers their space too !

    I mentioned education before – I try to read every article I can on how to better my riding skills. I have purchased dvds that explain certain problems, and they really do help. I talk to other riders and ask for pointers here and there. All of it combines to make me a little more competent. I don’t want the crash to be my fault – ever. If I am in a crash, alcohol/drugs will not be the reason. That’s my number 1 rule, no drinking on the bike.

    If you take the proper precautions, educate yourself, make sure your equipment is in good order, stay aware at all times trusting no one, and don’t drink, your chances of making it home alive greatly increase. I personally don’t drive at night because I live in an area where there are lots of deer. Many of my friends and acquaintances, including my own sister-in-law, were killed when a deer ran out in front of the bike at night.

    One of the proper precautions is dress. I see riders and passengers sometimes in bikinis and flipflops, or shorts, or no shirts. I absolutely cringe.

    Here’s to many many miles of great riding ! Someone asked me when I would give it up (I’m pushing 64 really close) I said probably dying would do it but not until then – now that I’m actually living my dream !

  • I too have crashed several motorcycles. All except one were totals. Cause of all was my own stupidity and thinking I was a better ridder than I was in reality! Just purchased full body armor gear 4 wife & myslef but realize it is a bandaid in case of a major crash! Have also crashed multiple cars & airplane. No death wish just was an adrenalin junkie and love speed. I have fortunately through no talen on my part made it to 67 and still love speed & riding but keep a much better handle on it. I will ride until I feel no longer safe enough to put my wife on the back and will most likely go to a can-am or trike at that point! Y’all be careful out there & enjoy. Always assume that the other guy is trying to kill you cuz they can if you don’t do it to yourself!

  • No one has to tell me riding a motorcycle is risky. The last thing I want to do is die from a crash ( no pun intended!).
    I struggled a long time with the decision to start riding at my middle age. I’ve always wanted to do it, but with 2 young children, I thought it was being selfish to take the risk and possibly leave them motherless.
    I realize all the knowledge and safety measures in the world cannot protect me from a crash. I know Im being selfish but I took the plunge anyway. My kids love that their Mom is happy and doing what she loves to do.
    I’ve come to the conclusion that if the good Lord wants me to join him, I’ll be watching my little girls from heaven. But He is with me and I ask Him to protect me every day especially when I get on the bike.

  • If I had a death wish, I would sure as hell find a cheaper way to go out. I learned to ride at the advanced age of 44 after getting tired of looking at the back of my husbands helmet. With his encouragement I took a riders course and now have 26,000 miles on my ’05 750 Shadow Aero. I never feel more alive than when I’m on my bike. And yes, I’ve gone down. I’ve had a few horizontal parking awards given to me, with no injury to myself or my bike. But a blown tire in ’07 when a passenger on my husbands Gold Wing laid us both up for several months. Head injury and 10 broken bones for myself, A shattered tibia and broken rib and colar bone for him. Needless to say, Shit Happens! And both of us were on a 2000 mile ride exactly one year later on both bikes. Life is for living and we can’t live it in bubble wrap. The #1 cause of death is being born, so we have to enjoy what time we have. Ride on!

  • Riding a motorcycle is and always will be dangerous and risky even more so today because of traffic congestion and grid lock. When I was younger I loved the speed and freedom riding a motorcycle brought to my soul.
    Now that I am in my 60’s I still enjoy the speed and thrill of accelerating on country back roads. I do not enjoy riding the bike in the city or on crowded congested highways, the air stinks, burns the throat and eyes.
    Vehicles today are much quieter inside, the drivers of the vehicles are not always paying close attention to their driving,(talking on cell phones is a real hazard to bikers)
    You always have to drive defensively, be aware of everything going on, never ride when sleepy or intoxicated it may be your last ride.
    Other drivers of cars really make nervous especially when they tailgate you , or cut you off unexpectedly.
    Even with all the minuses against the joy of riding and knowing that what you are doing every second that passes you need to be doing right. This gives you a total challenge that brings the soul to life.
    43 years of owning and riding is something I will miss, and the arthritis will probably be responsible for bringing it to an end.

  • We all know we are more exposed when riding on two wheels. We accept it. Death is the only real guarantee we all have and how and when it comes are realities we will all face one day. Most of us would prefer to postpone the experience as long as possible. Complete gear, head to toe, each and every time you ride is a no-brainer. That short hop to the store to pick up a loaf of bread so why wear all my gear because it is too much trouble to put it on for only a couple blocks…is what gets you. We ride because we enjoy the experience. Of living as a rider. I want to keep living as a rider.

  • Riders, you must ALWAYS assume you are totally invisible to other traffic. In most motorcycle wrecks, it doesn’t matter who was right or who wrong–it’s almost certain the motorcyclist will be the one who pays the price. ASSUME NOBODY SEES YOU. Assume other drivers will do the opposite of what his intentions appear to be. Want to hear one of the STUPIDEST things I saw a motorcyclist doing recently? Using a cell WHILE RIDING HIS MOTORCYCLE, hold his cell phone with the left hand to his left ear (with no helmet) and going about 40 MPH. Did this guy have a death wish or what? Having ridden motorcycles for over 45 years now (and luckily, knock on wood, never having an accident or close call), it never ceases to amaze me how stupid some riders act.

  • I feel the opposite, while riding a bike in inherently more dangerous…not because of the bike…but because of the inattention of the cage drivers! Ever since I started riding…5 with my pop and at 7 by myself around the farm and then on my own as soon as I could get away with it…my pop always told me to drive 50 yards ahead of myself and drive like I was invisible…and most importantly…expect people to do something very stupid…because they usually will…and he’s been right. I have had a few accidents, and 2 of the 3 were my fault…I lost respect for the machine and I lost my attention to the task at hand. When I drive a cage, I feel insulated, sheltered and immune from outside influences and the elements…and the distractions are everywhere. When I’m on the bike…it seems that 100% of my time is spent calculating, taking in the scenery, considering the laternatives to any possible situation should it arise. I know thats what we’re SUPPOSED to be doing in a cage, but between the radio, the latte, the cell phone, the air controls, the cigarette, etc…the passengers…keep the mind from the task at hand.

  • I’ve gone down once (fairly hard) and got up without a scratch, thanks to being completely armored. Had a close call this week with a driver changing lanes, right into me, hitting the crash bar on the side of the bike. I was already moving away and managed to stay upright. Which brings me to my point: learn to read drivers. When I can see someone talking on a cellphone, putting on make-up, or just generally driving indecisively, I get the hell out of there.

    As for the main topic – there are many sports that are regarded as “death-defying” and reckless. Having participated in some of them, I know that these guys are super, super safety conscious. Some of us bikers can learn from these guys…With the right equipment, preparation and skills, you can do things that will make others think you have a death wish (fairly) safely.

  • I started riding again after 30 years of no riding. My first ride last year was interesting, “like an old guy out for a Sunday ride”. I snapped out of that and started to ride as much as I could to get comfortable with the road, the old Gold Wing I put on the road, and just generally built my experience back up. As a young guy I only kept the throttle in one position but now I find myself driving very defensively, watching the road up ahead, trying to read what the other drivers are doing or not doing. I enjoy some of the less traveled back roads but have found I also like traveling on roads I’m familiar with. Definitely don’t like stop and go, or city driving on a hot day, not fun. I also try to be extra vigilant in the evening if I’m out, watching for whatever critters that may come out.

  • While I love riding, I find the back roads safer than highways. On highways cars have a tendency to ignore your right to exist. No matter where you ride, you have to be constantly aware of your surroundings. I love riding and ride whenever the temp. is above 40 and no snow or ice on the ground.

  • A lot of good comments so far.

    Most of my life riding was spent on the dirt and occasional street with little more than a helmet (1970’s) but now that I’m on the street exclusively with a far heavier bike I can’t just throw it around and jump off if things go wrong then laugh at it as it tumbles back down the hill.

    So many advances have been made nothing is going to save you from the (no offense intended) soccer mom that’s driving an SUV with a cell phone stuck to her ear while she’s not only trying to drive on autopilot but also trying to keep the bunch of kids in the back quiet.

    Point is: You MUST keep totally aware of your surroundings and space yourself as best as you can. If the drivers get too fast get off and take a break, they’ll let up in time. Around here the major highways often run at 85 mph despite a 65 mph speed limit but the police run right along at the same speed. It may take me a bit more time but there’s nothing wrong with taking the side streets so long as you keep your eyes open.


    Oklahoma City. 1979 Honda CX500 Custom restored to almost original condition. Some may remember them as the SilverWing but it’s one of the most reliable bikes ever made and the easiest to work on. 300K miles isn’t unusual for one of these given proper care. You’ll find a few forums on them if you’re interested in the history as well as the best in support. No “pocket rocket” by any means but if you ever find one in a barn by all means seek our community out.

  • motorcyclists as a whole are a unique brotherhood, i have been riding for 43 years, nothing like it but i am cautious and respectfull of my machine. ride to live, liuve to ride, Dennis Kranes, ohio

  • Bikers are a unique bunch. There’s all kinds, but fundamentally, we want to enjoy ourselves in ways that non-riders will never understand.

  • ATGATT will not save you…being sure your mind is in gear before putting your body in motion AND following ATGATT common sense will at least reduce your risk of injury. But if you are doing a high-speed wheelie and get side-swiped by a transport truck you will get injured or killed no matter what you are wearing!

    Flying 3 feet off the ground is an exhilarating adventure at any time! I don’t like to lose my peripheral vision so prefer a 3/4 helmet over a full-face…which I may end up regretting someday. But for now, the love of riding and even the potential inherent danger to life and limb, makes me feel very much alive! But I do all I can to keep the odds in my favor of making it out to my next ride… bright lights; pulsating brakes; loud horn (yes, loud pipes on one of my bikes); pre-check before EVERY ride; constant practice away from traffic; keeping focused while riding; swallowing my pride and riding to my comfort level; maintenance maintained as recommended by the manufacturer and listening closely to the experiences of other riders…so I can hopefully avoid their mistakes.

    No death wish for me…but a wish to live my life to the fullest… and that living includes two wheels carving the back roads with the wind in face and the roar of power beneath my feet!

  • There are death wishes and there are death wishes. One is roughly Freudian and rather abstract. The other is more concrete and dead serious. Surely there are quite a few cyclists out there–and I’m not one of them, but I do appreciate imperfectly their mind–who have, for various reasons, given up on life. They may have lost a child, a wife, a job. And they care increasingly little about what happens to them. I shall leave this comment elliptical because, beyond this surmise, I don’t know what I’m talking about. But I bet a lot of people do know what I’m getting at.

  • ATGAT!
    I got back on a motorcycle after 20 years, but had to promise my family that I would wear All The Gear All TheTime

  • Oops, I forgot. To avoid “motion camouflage” add lateral motion to your riding when approaching a left turning cage or one getting ready to pull out from a side street or lot.

    Lateral motion will allow them to see you.

    If you ride straight down the road don’t come here crying that someone turned left in front of you… IT WAS YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT FOR RIDING LAME.

  • Wear your gear and pay attention. (ALL OF IT ALL THE TIME)

    Don’t be a wimp rider. (BE ASSERTIVE)

    Don’t be a lame rider. (PRACTICE YOUR BRAKING OFTEN)




    I hit ice and went down one time at 60 mph and was riding away laughing with a small bruise on my right arm only seconds after coming to a stop.

    Is riding dangerous? NO!!!

    Can riding be dangerous? HELL YES!!! (See above)


  • Can anyone elaborate on this 100mph helmet useless quote above? Me, if I’m sliding along the ground at any speed would prefer to have a helmet on than off.

  • I think Colonel B sums it up pretty well.

    I had a very bad accident back in 77 – the usual – the drive ‘did not see me’ and crossed through an intersection. No matter it was her fault – I ended up breaking too many bones to recount on my right side of my body along with a fractured jaw and cheek bone and bad 3rd degree friction burns on my left side – resulting in a 2 month vacation in the hospital. (No protective gear , jeans a t-shirt no gloves but thankfully smart enough to be wearing my full face helmet)

    My wife begged me to give up motorcycles — and I did for over 20 years. But I could never get bikes out of my blood. After some deft negotiations I got back to motorcycling – but the main difference is that I do tours and leave city riding to an absolute minimum. My main lesson ?
    I wear the best protective equipment money can buy – the best body armour, full face helmet, gloves, boots — you name it I own it. And to be seen I wear the hi viz yellow/lime green RoadCrafter suit. Ok so I look like a popscicle – better that than being invisible 🙂 . And I stick reflective reflective tape where apprortate on my fairing and saddlebags.
    Best after market part for my bike ? — a 127 decible horn! Hit that horn button beside a joker in a car that is weaving from lane to lane, while he/she is drinking coffee, on a cell phone while he/she is also texting onBlackberry and watch the reaction — they think a semi is coming up their tailpipe !!

    Each year it is a new tour — but the best by far has been New Zealand. And it is best on a motorcycle!

  • While there are some idiots, you only havre to party with a group of motorcyclists to see that they love life perhaps more than most.

  • There are those amongst us that ride as if they do indeed have a death wish.
    I occasionally (by chance) will meet up with a group of them while summer riding. I can usually find them hanging out doing tricks on their Liter bikes in a big parking lot, behind a large warehouse, or simply on a long rural street.

    Youngsters on hi-power sport bikes wearing jeans, sneakers, and a tee shirt. The skill, control, and daring those kids demonstrate with their flaming burn-outs, wheel stands, and stoppies is amazing. Pulling these stunts on public streets in mixed traffic in itself is truly amazing, if not frightening to witness.

    Personally, I’m old, I break easy and I have a family to feed. For me it’s ATGATT and a reasonable pace. But those Death Wish people; they are a ton of fun to watch. Risking it all in front of their buddies for all the world to see.
    What’s not to like?

  • I re-caught the riding virus a few years ago and have been making a 75 mile r/t commute on a daily basis. I’m older, but I still push the limits as I don’t see the point in riding if it’s not at least a little exciting. I’m sure most folks on this blog well understand the points is make below, but I would suggest that your risk of serious injury or accident is substantially reduced if you include:

    1 – Riding on roads that you know well and frequent; this allows for better knowledge of pavement damage and other hazards (blind entrances, wet/icy spots, radar traps)

    2 – Assumiing you are invisible most of the time to cagers.

    3 – Checking for cross traffic at every traffic light, even at speed.

    4 – Maintaining full situational awareness of all other travelers, pedestrians, and large animals. Have a brake lever under hand any time a quick stop or a thumb over the horn button based on what’s happening.

    5 – Shifting your riding time, if possible, to avoid the rush hours. Saves your clutching hand and helps your mental state.

    6 – Being seen – Good headlight and extra lights, reflective gear, and especially for my Harley brother and sisters, a reflective color other than black on your chest and head!

    7 – Doing a mental quality assurance review after each ride for every instance you were overly enthusiastic, risky, or just plain did something stupid; then tell yourself not to repeat that performance again. For me, this eventually inhibits me from taking some chances before I commit.

  • When I attended a ‘safety school’ from the police, I realised how fast I was going when they said they were hunting for a mystery rider, all in black, who regularly went at insane speeds weaving in and out of traffic at a certain time of the morning on a specific set of roads. I realised that mystery rider was me and there was a police operation out to catch me.

    It was the rush of the sportsbike, of going to the edge and I stopped riding altogether otherwise I’d have been ketchup. The rush was like heroin and sportsbikes are incredible and it is all about the rush, of going as close as possible without dying.

    I’m a little older and less dumb and am now capable of riding in a way that brings me a lot of pleasure, rather than balls out all the time. But I know what it means to constantly ride close to the edge and it’s not a death wish but it’s as good as.

  • Hey there, Big SCK. You said, “The grass statistics you published are very misleading.”
    Using statistics the way you use them, “don’t wear a helmet (yeah, helmets increase the number of accidents by 12-12.5% on a per miles ridden basis)” statistics are absolute nonsense. Helmets do not increase the number of accidents the wearers are involved in. That is misuse of an already dubious statistic. And if you really believe that helmets being of use over 100 mph, I guess that would explain why roadracers, I mean REAL roadracers don’t bother wearing helmets. Especially on courses where they might go over 100 mph. And why so many of them have walked away from crashes at over 100, with the remnants of a helmet in their hands. You did make some good points in your post, but for the most part, you make no sense at all. Next time I go over 100 mph on a motorcycle, the helmet will be there for crash protection as well as eye protection.

  • 10 months ago left both front & rear tire skid marks on asphalt, laid down my non-ABS Yamaha Royal Star Venture and avoided hitting th e cager who violated my right-of-way. I had slowed down to about 80mph when it was too late to decide to avoid hitting it, wrap myself around a tree or try to stop dead-on. I am still healing in many places. Had a 1/2 helmet on which has rash 360 degrees around it along with my trashed leather jacket. With the auto insurance $$ I bought a used BMW x-police bike with the non-linked ABS brakes which is my commuter with full SNELL/DOT helmet & full mesh armor top to bottom & proper boots.

    You make your choices about riding gear, bikes & habits & I will danged sure make mine from my experiences & not from statistical suggestions from this rag or any other.

    BTW – when a cop crossed in front of me at my green light and stopped instead of continuing – because he was in a blind spot and then saw me at the last moment – I hit BOTH ABS brakes & was very surprised when the BMW stopped immediately as did the cop. We both thought that we were going to exchange car/bike paint. From the startled look on his face it appeared that he thought that I was going to smack right into him – & so did I. I know for sure that if I was riding the RSV, I would have skidded right into that cop car. I am sold on my BMW, its ABS brakes, my full riding gear & my very, very defensive riding.

    I do not trust the way that ANY cager drives and especially those potentially cutting into my right-of-way from the right or the left. Another biker always is telling me how p-o’ed he gets from cagers. I made up my mind that if I was going to have that attitude I would not ride. I do not (generally) get upset by cagers bad driving skills. Most of themseem to respect my space. I just drive around most of themwhen I am able to do so. We are not equal in mind-set at all. So I never drive with them (except when I am in my cage.) And I do not expect them to have a clue as to who I am, unless they ride a bike also. So I have to understand that they are inferior, as so far as awareness goes, & I am much superior in awareness because I cannot afford not to be!

  • The “Death wish” idea is just silly. If that were true we’d all ride just far enough to reach the first tree/wall/oncoming vehicle. Some of us simply need an element of excitement. Granted, some more than others. It doesn’t mean we don’t recognise the risk ffs. Would you ask the same of any other practitioner of a dangerous sport? Would you accuse a climber of failure to acknowledge gravity as a potential problem as the only reason he climbs? Maybe we should tell big game hunters that tigers have teeth and claws which may cause harm or distress?

  • I’ve read some of these replys sent in by other riders. Back on Nov 16th of 2002 was my last day on 2 wheels. While riding my Harley Road King home from work I had an incounter with a Ford Expedition hanging an illegal u turn. It had been a long day @ work, I had a hot date planned with my wife for some dinner & dancing. Guess I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should/could have been, thinking of fun with the wife instead. Lucky for me 2 weeks before my accident I had taken an advanced riders safety course. It was also 17 degrees that morning so I was wearing my fullface helmet & full leathers.

    Here it is Sept 2009, I’ve picked up a used 07 cop Road King. It’s been sitting in my garage for a year & a 1/2 while I’ve been retraining my right arm to move again. Last week my right hand has relearned how to hold on to & twist the throttle again. The local bike shop in my area of central Florida gave me an old set of bars with grips & throttle on them. They are getting attached to my lawnmower, keeping my acre of lawn mowed is a 2hr a day 7 day a week job for me. Getting lots of practice twisting the wick now, by the end of this month I am going to be back in the saddle again , God willing. Now to reteach my fingers how to work the front brakes. Looking for somebody to hook my front & rear brakes together for me.

    Once I’m back up on 2 wheels againI am wearing a fullface helmet & riding gear. I came too close to being a statistic, only the safety class & my riding gear gave me the edge to even think of riding again. I’ve been riding since junior highschool, been down a few times, nothing ever serious. Not till this time, it’s been 7 years since I’ve been riding, God has given me another chance to get back on 2 wheels again. Looking forward to being on the road again
    Steve K.

  • Powerful posts above guys…thanks for sharing!! Personally…I have a life wish. I wish to ride my bike. I gear up all the time. I ride like I am invisible and that everyone is out to kill me. My head is on a swivel and I assume nothing. I plan that drivers will do something foolish and ….rest assured…they will not let you down.

  • In general, I agree with many issues that you post. This one however is not representative of the actual statistics as they needed to actually have been presented.

    You have to compare a bushel of apples to another bushel of apples (with out the oranges).

    OK, what do you mean???

    Quite simply, you have to actually compare the number of collisions (M/C vs vehicle, tree, ground, deer, ect…) that resulted in death with the same number of collisions with a cage (car, light truck ect..) that resulted in death. And that is only per incident and not even considering the miles driven ratio.

    Per hours, per mode of transportation, (horse, M/C, automobile, train, aircraft), you would be surprised to find that riding a horse is the most dangerous mode of transportation by an extreme amount. On the other hand, (if memory serves correctly) a train is the absolute safest. Per miles, the aircraft is the safest.

    Hmmmmm, where does that lead in this response???

    As a former MSF instructor (1980’s), that information is basically generalized for teaching purposes. The perception of 4 times more likely to be injured is not the best painted picture to present. I have personally read 2 studies where the possibility of death on a M/C is 22 times more likely than if in an automobile and the other was 28 times (if memory serves) once a collision (accident) occurs.
    [note; this info (22x & 28x) was lost in a PC virus/crash several years ago]

    The injury part must to be a separate issue on its own to accurately represent the danger associated with motorcycling.

    Here is another thing to consider. The MSF teaches applying both the front and rear brake at the same time.

    Hmmmmm, OK, now what are we getting into???

    Actually, if a person will make an absolute change in their braking actions, applying the front first and then the rear (after weight transfer), it will reprogram your muscle memory.

    Why do that???

    Approx 70% or more (depending on your bike) is from the front brake, where the braking action is affected from.

    O-Yea, it will actually reduce the chances of a rear skid by a considerable percentage because the weight transfer has taken place (remember muscle memory). I have taught it this way in an M/C Survival and Skills program and they actually prefer it after practicing emergency braking this way.

    Don’t just take my word for it —- start surveying some police motorcycle officers in different departments. Better yet, go and start practicing for your self.

    I had done this for a while and then later come to find out that St Johns County motor officers (where I work) are taught this way as well as other departments.
    Yes folks , this is the norm for police motor officers!!!

    Now, one more thing.
    [There is too much information to go any deeper on this response.]

    If you actually do some deep reading and research, you will never again buy another snell approved helmet. Remember, the snell rating is only for the integrity of the helmet with 2 hits at the same place with forces that scientist say are more than you would be possibly able to survive anyway. The DOT (only) helmet actually transfers less energy to your noggin in a impact to the tune of a minimum of 20 plus G forces less than that of snell rated helmets.

    Take care and ride smart,
    Charles Smith

  • From the “full helmet” and “armored riding apparel”, it sounds like the article writer was rising a sports bike both times. I a new rider in the Army and they are serious about training and safety classes for motorcylists. One of the statistics the always bring up is that out of 100 accidents, 98 of them will involve sports bikes. Many of those will be due to excessive speed. At least those are the stats for military riders.

  • The grass statistics you published are very misleading…for instance, Jeep drivers are more likely to have an accident and be injured/killed than full size BMW riders. There are so many missing variables in the statistics they are virtually useless. Number of miles ridden/driven, age and experience of rider/driver, type of car/motorcycle, who’s at fault in the accident, etc.
    Statistics can be used to prove anything you want…Mark Twain called them “lies. damn lies and statistics.”
    Now, if you want to be safe on a motorcycle, drive a BMW (safest brand), have more than 5 years experience (more than 10,000 miles), be older than 33 years of age, have driver ed specifically for bikes (MSF at least) and don’t wear a helmet (yeah, helmets increase the number of accidents by 12-12.5% on a per miles ridden basis)
    Does this mean you won’t have an accident? Of course not, but statistically you should have fewer than a novice teen aged rider on a squid machine wearing a misfitting half hat helmet, shorts and flip-flops.
    Me? I’ll ride my antique British bikes with boots and gloves, a full face helmet to protect my vision (I am under no illusion that a helmet will do anything for me a 100 mph), and enjoy myself for what ever is left of my life after 66 years. And I have been riding for over 51 years and more than 500,000 miles.

  • The love for riding is a fever some get and never shake, the only feeling similar would be in a brand new convertible Corvette. I don’t have one so I’ll stick to riding.

    If there is any way Sven Cederquist, the Gentleman that wrote the previous comment could contact me I would be very grateful. It appears we may have a mutual interest in the Malaysia HOG Chapter. My friend there has been promoting my Invention called the TCB Brake System and his name is C.F. Fong. It appears Malaysia Harley Davidson will become the first H-D Dealership in the world to finally carry and properly promote the safety feature of the TCB System.

    After reading the comments above it’s clear that even seasoned riders have had mishaps on their bikes and we all have had the close call once or twice. A helmet vs a car is not a fair match up but prevention of having to use the helmet in the first place can only be done with being alert and keeping your machine maintained.

    The TCB Brake System can only help in prevention by gaining additional control and shorter stopping distances (in most cases) to help avoid accidents and injuries.

    Ride safe & Ride safer with TCB,

    Mark Lipski; Inventor
    TCB Brake Systems
    903 569 2998

  • for some,after we finish with re affirming our love for riding and for others, accepting the grace of God or ladyluck whosoever you may owe your destiny to…doesnt learning new safety driving skills, emergency driving skils even come up ? It is a needed suppliment to saving butts in those bad times that do arise no matter how good we think our driving skills are..

  • I’ve been riding on the street since 1975, and have put well over 200,000 miles on motorcycles. For several years I did not own a car. I’ve been down a few times, but fortunately my worst injury was a dislocated collar bone. That one occurred when a dog ran out in front of me on a city street, and I hit some wet leaves as I grabbed my front brake.

    I’ve since taken riding courses from professionals, unlearned a lot of bad habits, and have more confidence than ever in my riding, but I am still constantly aware of the risks. We need to face reality. Riding motorcycles is dangerous, but we can minimize the danger. As noted above, always wear protective gear. Know what is going on around you at all times. And know how to ride. If you haven’t been to a riding school I recommend you sign up ASAP. Besides becoming a better rider you’ll have a ton of fun.

  • Spot on article as usual.
    I don’t think anybody really likes or seeks out pain.
    And not too many want to die either. But in a way our lives are defined by feeling (including excitement fear and pain) and eventually by death. Contemplation of the nearness of these does bring heightened awareness and excitement.

    Everytime I get on a bike, i consider that things might end badly and I focus to avoid that but like you, I wouldn’t want to have a week or even a day go by without the riding feeling. Two days ago I broke a finger. But I am riding with the finger because not to ride would be like giving up a cherished part of my life.

    The feeling of riding uncaged is also a big draw, my Buell lightning has a riding position where when I sit upright and focus ahead the bike seems to disappear and I can’t see it. The sensation is like being a god, it is as if I were flying along the road by myself (perhaps with a cape). Now that is a feeling that definitely cannot be had in a car.

  • When I was a teenager, a long time ago I was racing a friend up a hill and I hit the curb and my friend said the bike and I went through a tree, the bike was going end over end. I landed about 100 feet away. I was knocked unconscious for a few seconds. I was not hurt at all, It was a miracle.

  • I ride like a little old man….I’d say ‘little old lady’ but it’s not too politically correct……That’s how I PREFER to ride…….

    I do CHOOSE to ride carefully so that I don’t become a statistic…..I don’t commute on my (’05) Road King because I find that commuters are generally distracted and the risk is heightened at commute times…..They are in too much of a hurry……I’d rather ride for fun….I’m reminded of a pilot’s saying…’There are OLD pilots and there are BOLD pilots…..but THERE ARE NO OLD, BOLD pilots……I’m also reminded by what peace officers tell each other when they begin a patrol shift: ‘BE SAFE’ ……..!

  • I’m a retired Swede at the age of 70 in Nov. In 1994 i moved to Singapore and took up riding again in 1999. I’m on my 4th Harley now, 105 Anniversary Ultra Classic ’08, used for Touring in Malaysia and Thailand. I’m on my 3rd Ducati, 848 Super Bike, used for sports riding in Malaysia, where I live since 2002, and for track riding. I’ve been riding 30 35,000 km per year.
    There are two categories of riders. Those who has gone down and those who have not, YET! I’m in the first category. Have been on the floor three times, luckely in low speed. First time on my Road King in “Harley gear” and half helmet, t-shirt and leather pants. Bike was repairable at a price of SGD11,000.
    Second time on my Ducati Monster. Full riding gear and full face helmet. Minor things to the bike and myself. Latest, April this year on my Ultra Classic in Patthalung, Thailand, on the way to Phuket Bike Week. Agan minor things to the bike and me, but it was a truck involved and due to a very alert passenger in the truck and the driver, I was saved from what could have been serious or even fatal.

    Riding motorcycles is something you do with passion, enjoyment and respect. We now the risk that is involved but i doesn’t stop us from enjoying the freedom and the open roads we travel.
    To a non biker the following is my favourite Harley slogan; “If you want me to expalin why, you would never understand”.

    I enjoy every day of my life together with my wife and our three legged dog, Tripod, who s my pillion from time to time and on occations the whole “family”ride together. My wift is encourageing me and is happy for every hour I’m NOT infront of the TV. I’m the founder and the President of Ducati Owners Club (Singapore) and an active member of HOG Singapore and Malaysia Chapters. If this were to be my last day, at least I have spent it on things I love most, wife, dog, food, exercise, riding and motorcycle club administration. I don’t have hours enough in a day.

    I don’t know how long I can keep on riding, but i hope I have some more year in the sadle. If I can’t keep the bike upright, there is always a side car that can be fitted.

    Ride on. Stay upright and keep the rubber down.


  • I too have had several accidents. The last one happened in 1972 and I suffered ten fractures. My speed was about 27 MPH. A guy coming towards me made a sudden left turn right in front of me and I could not avoid him.

    Since then I have found that the longivity of a motorcyclist depends on several things. Armor is a good point, and I wear it most of the time. For me, the biggest point of extend a riders longivity is attitude coupled with pure defensive riding.

    As an example I’ll show a senario. I was in my pickup in a residential neighborhood. Becasue of the many cars parked at the curb I had to stick my nose out a little bit to see and here comes a Harley rider near the parked cars so that he was hard to see, and he was about 15 MPH over the 25 MPH speed limit. The guy gives me the finger and now I’m thinking “He’s the asshole.” This guy will not live long with that kind of riding. Make sure you are seen, don’t bob and weave through traffic with erratic moves, float with the traffic. Those are rules that will keep you alive longer than if you regularly break those rules. By the way, I ride a Harley too so don’t feel like I’m picking on Harley riders.

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