Not so long ago, a young woman who’s boyfriend just crashed on a motorcycle asked the internet, “Internet, how do I stop my boyfriend, a motorcyclist, from showing off on his motorcycle?” Her boyfriend, meanwhile, was already in the hospital and dreaming about being back on two wheels. His crash was the result of underestimating a corner, and overestimating his own skills while out on a group ride.
Countless riders chimed in on the evils of showing off on your motorcycle. Only one dared to stand up for the nation of loud and proud motorcycle show-offs. Naturally, that one voice was my own.
I read attentively as rider after rider gave suggestions on how to get this poor young lady’s squid of a boyfriend to stop riding his motorcycle so aggressively. I’ll even admit there were a few good suggestions, while others were just a tad overdramatic:
- He needs a riding buddy who can show him he can have a good time at a slower pace
- If the accident doesn’t talk him out of it, you won’t either, leave him for me (this is the motorcycle world, where the female to male ratio too often feels like 7,000:1, so you had to expect this at some point)
- Give him an ultimatum, leave him if he won’t stop showing off on his motorcycle
- Write “No” on a cricket bat… and hit him in the face (that was my favorite)
- Peer pressure him with his friends and family
- Get him into a track day / closed course racing so he can let it out there (that was my favorite serious suggestion)
And then came my reply…
We all have varying skill levels when it comes to motorcycling. We all apply our skills to various degrees depending on the situation we find ourselves in. I’ve often said, “Motorcycling leaves zero margin for error. That’s why perfect people ride motorcycles.” But the truth is that there is a fair room for error, as long as you aren’t riding to your full capabilities.
I almost never leave myself zero margin of error while riding, and usually when I do it’s due to circumstances, and not my first course of action. At the time of my originally writing this, years ago, I was a riding to within 80% to 90% of my skill level often enough. Should I run into trouble I should still have 20% skill left to keep myself safe. That is to say, I can ride hard without giving it ALL my best, all the time. Should I need to correct, I can correct. Should I need to adjust, I can adjust. I never push myself to the point that there isn’t room for reaction, evasion, recovery, or whatever else the situation may call for.
My ex of the past five years is more of a 70% rider. That said, there was nothing she could do to change my habits. I never gunned it through situations that would invite her to follow me if I knew she couldn’t make it, but sometimes she would be extra cautious and just catch up with me later, and I never blamed her for that. I didn’t pressure her to change any more than she did with me. What’s important was that we were both having fun and arriving safely, even if she sometimes arrived a minute later.
We were riding together for years and neither of us have changed. You can’t accept the person until you’ve accepted their faults. We’ve accepted our differences miles ago. Yes, sometimes that means moving on. I’ll always be grateful for what we had.
My friend, “G” is a performer, a la Cirque du Soleil variety. Her aerial acrobatics have her swinging and flipping and contorting at 30 feet in the air, with zero safety gear save for, uhm, spandex, a lot of sparkles, and circus make-up. Like motorcycling, aerial performance has that same that same zero margin for error, at first glance.
Her training and performances scare the hell out of me, even as I blast down the highway straddling a two wheeled rocketship at 140 km/hr on a test ride for a motorcycle review. So who am I to ask her stop performing? Who is she to ask me to change the way I ride? We respect each other, and part of that means accepting the risks we both take. If that changes, we’ll move on. Right now we both love, work in, and live for the industries we take our risks in. We’re well aware of the consequences of the risks we take. We don’t care if you agree with us. You’re welcome to leave us, not ride with us, or not get attached to us. We wouldn’t even hold it against you. We are the risk takers. We are the thrill seekers. We take planned, calculated, and carefully executed risks. This isn’t a hobby. This is our lifestyle. This is our art.
Just remember… Just because we’ve been doing this long enough to make it look easy, it doesn’t mean we take it lightly. We are the show offs and this is our show. Don’t try to change us.
Find even more debate on how to stop a motorcycle show off on beginnerbikers.org