Friday, February 19, 2016

Risk versus Reward and "Pucker" Moments

Customers will sometimes ask me how long I've been riding and my reply is always the same: It depends on when you start counting. Technically I started riding at age five - riding horses. It wasn't long after that I graduated to bicycles and dirt bikes (did I mention my dad wanted a boy?). In my teens I started riding street bikes but I didn't have the "M" endorsement on my license till 2009.... (oops!)

F.X. Caprara Harley-Davidson also sells other brands in our dealership - Arctic Cat, BRP - Can Am, Ski-Doo, Sea-Doo, and Honda motorcycles, ATVs and power equipement. So sometimes I'll hear about a customer's near accident, going into the reason they gave up riding a motorcycle. I won't forget the last customer I talked with (but he won't be the last) who told me that he gave up riding because of his job:
  • Him: "I just couldn't ride anymore after seeing what I see doing my job."
  • Me: "What do you do? EMS??"
  • Him: "I'm a State Trooper." (who was looking to buy a new jacket to wear while riding his snowmobile)
  • Me: "Wow - really??" 
  • Him: "Yeah, the risk of what could go wrong on a motorcycle is just too much."
  • Me: "But you ride a snowmobile now, and I know I just heard of a snowmobile accident over the weekend where the rider had to be airlifted out!!"
The risk of something bad happening to us just going about our normal day-to-day are probably more than I want to know. Slip and fall, kitchen accidents, something falls on you, poisoning (not by your spouse's cooking!), and choking - and that's all before getting out of the house. Then calculate in your commute to work, your work environment, and going out after work to dinner and a movie - we're just piling the risk on!!

I'll be honest, I've had a few of what I like to call "pucker" moments (because you usually get that "oh sh*t" moment where everything in your body tenses up - or is that just me?) while riding my motorcycle. And Bikers are quick to tell you: It's not a matter of if you'll go down, but a matter of when you'll go down. But there's one instance in particular that I really didn't see myself coming out on the other side. 

On a Sunday morning I was riding on the interstate, in the slow lane, on my way to work, and had just checked my speed - 72mph. Then, about 50 yards in front of me, my greatest fear jumps out from the grassy median in the middle of the highway: an adult doe.... PUCKER!!! I do a quick assessment: she's going uphill and not full speed yet and I'm in 5th gear about half throttle. I decide not to hit my brakes because I don't think I can stop in time - I twist the throttle of my bike instead and try to cross in front of her.

Now obviously I'm here talking about it, so it wasn't all that bad. But at the time, one of my thoughts running through my head was, "I don't think I'm going to make this...." And then my next thought literally was, "Well, at least I'm going out doing something I love!" This contest between myself and the deer came out a draw - I did get my front wheel ahead of her but she rammed her head into my left knee, spraining it. By the grace of the Gods, I did not go down on my bike. By the following Tuesday, ignoring doctor's orders, I was back riding my motorcycle, leg brace and all.

So yeah, there are undeniable risks that come with riding a motorcycle. But for me and most Bikers I know, the rewards are so much more. When we're riding our motorcycles, we see, smell and experience things in a completely different way. When you're in your car, looking through the windshield, it's like you're watching TV. On a bike the 'window' is gone - you're using your body to move the motorcycle, both hands and feet to control it. Riding a motorcycle you're completely in contact with it all. You're in the scene.

Add in all the friends you'll meet, some of which will become like family, and it's really easy to start to understand why I ride. Then I'll invite you to try it out for yourself - living life that is. Because doing what is fun will always come with risks, but the rewards are better than sitting at home on the couch. 
L to R: Queen Mother, Nance, Me, Black Widow, Halo and LoLo 
And, in case you think I'm the only crazy one, check out The Risks of NOT Riding a Motorcycle