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The Motorcyclist's Wager

Discussion in 'General Motorcycling Discussion' at netrider.net.au started by HotelWhisky, Dec 18, 2015.

  1. Yes, always.

    17 vote(s)
  2. I try to, but sometimes I am a bit naughty.

    44 vote(s)
  3. I see that it would be safer but I enjoy the rush too much.

    11 vote(s)
  4. I take the Motorcyclist's Wager and rely on the road ahead being empty and ready to take me.

    18 vote(s)
  1. I was recently having a discussion with a returning rider about the risks one takes when riding. We were riding together and spent a lot of time discussing riding technique, roadcraft, legal requirements and risk factors. As I have been riding for only a year, but have done my best to depreciate my bike in that time, and he has barely ridden in the last 20 years (ah kids, what can you do?) we had some differing ideas on an appropriate risk level whilst riding.

    His stance was firmly that you should always be able to stop in the road you can see. I see the point to this, and it makes sense, but after riding together it became clear to me that there were many times where I couldn't have stopped in the road that was visible to me. Since doing that I have been hyper aware of this consideration when riding and have found that when I am 'riding hard' and pushing the boundaries a bit, I am regularly stepping out of his safety envelope.

    Thinking about it, when I am pushing the boundaries, I rely on something I call the Motorcyclist's Wager. I am betting, essentially with my life and wellbeing, that there won't be anything in my way. I am simply assuming that there won't be a patch of gravel, or oil, or a cage coming the other way in my lane. For that matter I am assuming there wont be a branch across the road, or a deer standing in my way, or some tourists who stopped their car in the road because they think there won't be anyone coming along this quiet country road whilst they take a selfie, or any other of the infinite parade of potential hazards to a motorcyclist out having the time of their life.

    All of that gives me pause to wonder. Intellectually I am not happy with that Wager, all for the momentary thrill I am risking everything I have in this extraordinarily lucky existence I lead. I know that it couldn't possibly be worth it should I end up permanently incapacitated or injured. And yet when I find myself out on my bike hauling it through a corner with the footpeg shrieking its protest, I can't help but look up and think 'I feel good about this corner, I can take it at this speed'.

    Now I want to know, what is your approach? We all know that this life choice we have made admits us to a special group, of like minded and (generally) approachable riders who are glad to be living life on two wheels. But we also accept that living life outside the cage has its risks. Do you always play it safe, are you always making sure you'll be there to ride another day? Or do you take the Motorcyclist's Wager, accepting that risk is the price we pay for knowing the joys of motorcycling?
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  2. Great post, food for though indeed.
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  3. There is an "honesty" to motorcycling that appeals to me. Every moment that confronts you whilst riding is countered by you and only you. That motorcyclist wager that you speak of is confronted head on every twist of the wrist by everything you've learned physically and mentally to deal with the tar/dirt coming at you and all the good and bad it brings.

    It seems to me that the more honest with yourself you are the better you'll handle the moment and reflect on it afterwards.
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  4. Good post, and I think you hit the nail on the head.

    For me, I'm becoming less keen on blind corners for this very reason. I'll 'wager' that I'm riding on a well ridden road usually with a bunch of other riders flying up and down before I had been there if I'm pushing it. Otherwise, I won't.

    The point you've made is a big reason why I know I'll one day end up a cruiser rider. Not that there still isn't danger, but at least when I've ridden a cruiser, I'm less inclined to push the limits and happier to just, you know......cruise.
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  5. I participate in many activities that risk assessments are essential to, to ensure an ongoing survival in this life. My view is that not taking these risk (in most circumstances) is not living, merely just existing. Since having kids, my views have moderated somewhat to risk, but it will never prevent me from taking some to feel alive and involved in life.

    I agree with plaidlerplaidler , in that you need to be very honest with yourself in regards to ability, conditions etc. Otherwise you are only taking unnecessary risk though.
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  6. One of my recent discussions along this line with a mate produced further food for thought along this same line. We ended up pondering the following scenario:

    Rider shapes up to a blind corner, only to see some idiot well across the centreline, giving them nowhere to go. Most people faced with a split second decision like this will run off the road rather than hit something coming the other way, better odds of survival.

    Rider runs off the road and dies

    Other road user either doesn't realize what they've done, realizes and doesn't care or decides not to face the music and keeps going

    Police turn up and assess another motorcycle fatality involving only a single motorcycle rider who lost control and ran of the road and put it down to rider error.

    So in fact where riders have supposedly "lost control" on a bend in a country road I wonder how many in fact involved another vehicle?
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  7. I have what has been described as a pessimistic approach to things that pose risk. I like to think of it as being realistic but it's very subjective from one person to the next. The pessimist in me asks:

    What's the absolute worst that could happen?

    I could kill or incapacitate myself and or someone else.

    If that thing happens, will it affect anyone else but me?

    Regardless, it's going to affect other people; physical and or emotional pain, financial loss, psychological trauma.

    Considering the likelihood of that thing happening, can I accept that risk and that outcome?

    This is where it becomes less clear-cut and harder to answer for me, even thought the end result could be the same.

    If that thing happens because of something I've done or failed to anticipate, then I can't accept the risk.

    If it happens anyway because of some other reason external to me and my actions then I have to accept it if I'm going to continue to ride motorcycles.

    As others have said, excellent and thought-provoking post HotelWhiskyHotelWhisky.
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  8. Hmm, it is a little like gambling isn't it? I like fast. A lot. Bikes and cars. However, I've found that at my current age and stage in life (mid 40's, married, 2 small kids) there is far less urgency to act like the total idiot I could be when I was riding in my late teens and twenties - when essentially I was bulletproof and, to use your terminology HotelWhiskyHotelWhisky , I would take that Motorcyclists Wager every time and then some!
    Nowadays it's a more measured approach, and a fully blind corner can still be attacked, but not at stupid speeds.
    I also think building roadcraft and observational skills can assist with this though - for e.g in some twisties you may get a brief glance at the road a few bends in front of you and catch a glimpse of something coming the other way. So approaching one of the next few corners flat out may not be the best bet because you know that there is something somewhere there coming at you.
    Keep it shiny side up!
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  9. I take that risk quite often.
    Usually reserved for roads I ride regularly, but even they can be unpredictable.
    When I finally bit the dust, I wasn't taking the risk, I just had a lapse in concentration.

    Life's too short to worry about what could happen, the important thing is to enjoy the time you have.
    If that means taking a risk, so be it.
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  10. I just can't see how you can ride the twist roads and stop in the distance that you can see. The idea is a good one, just not practical.
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  11. Or you could take up knitting......
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  12. A really interesting post, and as a new rider its one that gives me a moment of pause to consider.

    Im a new rider now at 46 years of age. I had always wanted a bike, after having had a little trail bike in my teens, but it was a desire that I suppressed for years, knowing that as a younger bloke I had my own issues, as many do, of being bulletproof. I did some stupid things on the road in a car and I paid the price, not so much injury wise but there are other costs.

    If I am being honest I also held off at the time out of respect for my mother who HATED bikes.

    Earlier this year I saw my brothers new bike and decided it was time. I had mellowed in my approach on the road, I understood roadcraft from a cars perspective and it became the time.

    Now I have a lot of respect for the guys who can really push the boundaries. The ones who can srape foot pegs and run their rubber right to the edge, watching someone on a bike who really knows what they are doing is an awesome learning experience. But would I do it?

    Right now I say no. Partly because I am still building confidence, partly because I feel obligated to family and friends to stay safe as much as possible, partly because I couldnt afford to fix my bike if I dropped it now. Part of it is also if I am being totally honest, that I am not sure what my bike is actually capable of.

    So I ride. I ride inside a comfort zone for myself, generally on a commute each day and also to run a few errands around town. Sometimes I decide its time for a longer run, so will take a ride, but generally on roads I have previously travelled by car.

    One day I will do the ride to Melbourne as an example, and i will do it at a time that I dont have time pressures, or when I am unfamiliar where I am going. And I know that once I do it, I will do it again in heavier traffic, or to unfamiliar places.

    I aspire to learn to read a road the way many of you guys seem to br able to, but until then, I wont take that gamble, or at least not to the odds that others do
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  13. If I didnt take a "Motorcyclists Wager' every time I ride, I would never be able to ride, and enjoy, the fantastic roads near me.

    There is one particularly long blind left hand corner going up Macquarie Pass that springs to mind where there would be no chance of stopping even if doing the sign posted 35km/h. Its the perfect scrape a peg corner. Once setup and leaning all bets are off, as you strain your neck trying to peak around the corner with your eyes wide open staring at the vanishing point. At this point if you encounter a wandering cage, fallen branch or oil slick, your done for. But when you come out accelerating out the other end you cant help but let out a little 'Yewww' with the adrenaline pumping through your body and a massive grim on your face.

    Risk = reward, and that's what its all about for me, those little moments of epicness.
    I think if I ever stopped taking that wager, it might be time to hang up the helmet.
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  14. Hmm, Interesting subject....

    I've always considered myself a fairly "conservative" rider, both on the road and the track..

    A couple of years ago, a good mate died....failed to take a bend on the Old Road.

    He was doing three or four times the speed limit, and would have died instantly.

    I then sat down and thought about my own riding and realised that, from a logical point of view, I really should ride much faster, because my worst case would be to get broken up, end up in hospital for ages, and be too stuffed to ever ride again.

    The momentary "Oh Shit!" moment and then you are dead seems more appealing.

    Trouble is, after 50 years of practice at being conservative, I just can't get into throwing the bike at corners at totally silly speeds. :-(
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  15. An understandable stance, but slightly misguided. As icemakericemaker said, this isn't always going to be possible even at the posted or suggested limits, and there are times when going slow enough to satisfy the rule would actually put you in real danger of being rear-ended by someone who isn't following the same rule.

    Fact is, coming to a complete halt is only one of a number of solutions that you could deploy when something appears in your path. A lot of the time you could just dodge it, with or without slowing down. Other times you can just run over the thing while keeping control of your bike. Depending on your bike and the environment, you may actually have more 'road' to work with beyond the paved bit.

    So being prepared for what's ahead is a bit more nuanced than just matching your speed to the visible road. There's the skillset of being able to steer, brake and accelerate while cranked over, and understanding what you, your bike, your tyres and the road will let you get away with.

    But even after all that, you have to accept that fast is fun, so you gotta trade-off somewhere.
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  16. It's a bit like banging your girlfriend without using contraception, the dangers are there, but if you can pull it off (or pull it out) the reward is most enjoyable :)
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  17. I'm also a newbie rider like Russell above and have to say I'm well conservative.

    I do agree there are risks you can't counter no matter how slow or careful you might ride and that's part of the risk every rider takes. You can't counter the drunk driver running a stop sign with his lights off at night and taking you out while you're stationary either.

    But I could also have a random stroke for no good reason and die tomorrow without warning as well.

    As riders we take the risks. But I don't increase the risk but riding dangerously (yet - who knows how I will feel when I've got proper experience under my belt?).

    In all honesty dying doesn't scare me. Coming off and landing an injury that might mean never ever riding again really, really does though and THAT risk makes me more careful because I really do want to ride forever ;)
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  18. Um. Well no. Not many people die from miscalculation in this respect, in fact quite the inverse, a new person could even be formed.... ;)
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  19. Although I agree with the sentiment. Being inherently risk adverse will not see you well as a motorcyclist.

    This does not mean ride in a risky manner.
    It means - hesitation and indecision will be your undoing.

    Sure - ride in a calculated manner.
    Don't ride in a hesitant one.

    My 2c
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