View Full Version : RIDER MAG: "Stupid stuff" (GOOD INFO)

01-09-2005, 03:56 PM

February 1, 2005

HEADLINE: Stupid stuff: so much of the misery in our lives is avoidable, if we can just figure out a way to prevent those occasional bouts of stupidus humanus--that is genuine Latin, by the way; Road tales

BYLINE: Salvadori, Clement

The other weekend a Ducati-riding friend of mine, an extremely competent rider, was showing a new guy around some local roads. Really tight, twisty, narrow roads where a deer can jump out, a pickup truck takes up most of the space, and sand may lie in the shaded corners. "New Guy" decided that "Friend" was going too slow, whipped by, and headed off into the unknown. "This guy was going stupid fast," said the friend.

No hits, no crashes, everybody got home safe, but "stupid fast" is a very real problem. Somewhere I remember a statistic saying that 60 percent of motorcycle fatalities are single-vehicle accidents. Probably the rider was going too fast, failed to make a corner, and crash! Nothing to do with anybody else, just a grievous miscalculation on the part of the brain behind the handlebar.

Stupidity is responsible for most of the grief in the world. Whether it involves stupid decisions about war, or stupid notions about riding and driving, if those in charge of the ship or state, or the vehicle, thought a little more, perhaps we could diminish the misery factor by two-thirds.

Last spring I was in Pennsylvania, riding on the hoary old Turnpike, and got into a long construction zone. The Penn Pike is always, always under construction, and how the state has the nerve to charge people for driving on it beats the heck out of me. Anyway, westbound traffic had slowed down to about 50 mph, but was bumper to bumper, and no place to pull off. I'm in the so-called fast lane, behind an SUV, trying to keep a safe distance while not having frustrated slow-laners, though moving at the same speed, trying to cut in. Then I notice in my rearview mirror that I have a Kenworth grill about 12 feet behind my head. That's a big truck! If something happens, I'm going to be sandwich meat.

Ordinarily I might get away by splitting lanes for a couple of cars, but everything was much too jammed together. So I pull over into the slow lane, and the Kenworth thunders by to tailgate the SUV; I did not understand his acts, because there were a hundred cars in front of us, and no way was he going to get to the head of the herd. On his big back doors was written: ALLIED VAN LINES The Safe Movers. Safe, my butt; this guy must have been way behind schedule, because he was driving stupid.

Perhaps the key to my motorcycling longevity is to reduce my stupid moments to a bare minimum. Concentrate on the road. Don't get distracted. If I want to admire the view I stop, or at least slow way down. When I have traffic all around I may not even glance sideways to see a sunset.

One distracting moment I remember happened some 20 years ago, going down Interstate 5 in California's Orange County. Rush hour, heavy traffic, moving about 40 mph, I was in the slow lane and noticed a woman hitchhiking on an on-ramp, wearing a trench-coat. A car approached the ramp, she opened the coat, and was starkers underneath. I was riveted for that brief moment as I passed, and fortunately traffic continued to flow smoothly. I don't know whether the car stopped or not.

Out in the countryside, two-lane road, 60 mph, no cars, lovely scenes, easy to turn my head to admire a few horses galloping in a field, a herd of cows heading for the barn, half a dozen kids diving into a pond. Am I aware how quickly my front wheel can be on the shoulder? Real quick.

Or how quickly a car in front of you can slow, even stop, without warning? Maybe an animal runs out, or a box has fallen out of a truck and is in the middle of the road. I see these cruiser types with footpegs bolted onto the crashbars--engine guards, sorry--legs stretched out, ankles laying on the pegs, right foot a good two feet and two seconds from the rear brake pedal, and they are rolling down a freeway at 70 mph, 10 yards behind a contractor in his ladder-laden pickup talking on his cell phone. Painful to watch. Not bright. Stupid.

So the cruising guy says he likes to relax like this. Not me. I've had enough brakelights flare up in front of me quite unexpectedly to make me keep my foot near the rear brake, my hand close to the brake lever. The delay of one second at 60 mph equals ... you do the math, I'm going to concentrate on the road.

Stupid has to do with maintenance as well, especially tires. If you fail to check the oil and burn up your bike's engine, you might coast to a stop by the side of a country road, or get stuck in that breakdown strip next to the freeway fast lane, but it should not be fatal. Except to your wallet. However, if you think you need a new tire, get a new tire. And check the pressure regularly, and not with a casual kick to the tire. Nor one of those nasty little gauges you screw permanently onto your valve stems; the added weight can actually cause a valve stem to break. Put your own gauge, not that much-abused one down at the service station, on each tire at least once a week. If you have been riding your touring bike for three months without checking psi, you may not have noticed that the pressure is down to 18 pounds, and that could prove disastrous.

Not all stupidity is life-threatening; it might just involve getting wet. One of the Nevada inlaw clubs, the Reno Rolex Riders, was doing its annual 10-day ride; in 2003 it was down to Southern California. It never rains in SoCal in the summer, thought Terrible Terry, as he left his rainsuit on the shelf in the garage and packed an extra bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label instead. You guessed it--it rained five of the 10 days.

Myself, I still fall prey to rain. I'm cruising along on a cloudy day, and see windshield wipers moving on oncoming cars. Ah, it's just a shower, I say to myself, I can ride through it OK. Only to find myself getting soaked in a brief but heavy rain.

The wonderful thing about stupidity is that the condition can usually be alleviated. Granted, you have to focus on the cure every day, because recidivist stupidity is quite common.

01-09-2005, 09:26 PM
Good article. Thanks. :)

01-09-2005, 11:01 PM
Thanks, good read.

01-11-2005, 02:56 PM
Good read. ^_^ Thanks.

01-11-2005, 03:52 PM
Yes, real good thread! Thanks!

01-11-2005, 08:40 PM
Thanx for another good read Drebbin,
It's the smart folk that can learn from other peoples mistakes.