Sunday, June 27, 2010

Riding... by the Numbers

When I was doing my initial research into motorcycles and motorcycle safety, one of the things I noticed was that many things were done by percentages. For example:

1% (Or 1 Percenter): a term commonly used to refer to "outlaw bikers". Apparently the term was in the movie The Wild One which starred Marlon Brando and had to do with some incident that occurred in California with a group of bikers -- I have never seen it. Supposedly, the amount of bikers who participate in this type of activity is around 1%. On this, I am in the 99% category.

10%: This is the estimated percentage you can reduce possible accidents by if you wear a white helmet instead of a black one. This actually makes a lot of sense to me because a white helmet is much easier to see in low light situations. According to the article, the red helmet that I wear reduces accidents by a grand total of 7% -- I'll take it

24%: This is the percentage of accidents for people my age group caused by failing to yield the right-of-way or simply competing for the right-of-way; it is also the leading cause of accidents for folks in my age group. I think the reason is simple: When you get to this point in life it is harder to admit when you are wrong. I'm not saying that I won't ever do this, but being aware of it makes me a little more patient before I jump in front of a car.

40%: I had a salesman tell me this one. It is the percentage of people that trade in a bike after one year of riding. He said it is about half and half with people trading up and those simply deciding not to ride. Based on my experience so far, I can only see me trading up and not out.

50%: The percentage of motorcycle accidents linked to alcohol. I have a little problem with this number because linked to, also means that other factors were involved. But, having had a drunk total not one but two cars I was driving makes me leery of anyone in a reality altered state. Given the amount of skill and balance necessary to operate a motorcycle safely tends to keep me from having more than one when I am riding.

56%: Recently on the TV program Numbers one of the main characters started riding a motorcycle; this caused one of the mathematicians in the show to remark that 56% of guys who start riding a motorcycle get a piece of strange within the first month. My knee-jerk reaction was to say that I was part of the 44% because I've had my SilverWing for over two months without that happening. But then I thought back when I first started riding at 18 that did happen within the first month. I guess that makes me 100% on this one.

100%: This is my own statistic based on a lunch that I had with several more experienced riders during a recent riding event. This is the percentage of bikers who think that: June bugs hurt the worst, any bug with green guts is the hardest to clean off leather or the windshield and all bugs (even though they are a fantastic source of protein) taste bad.  Based on my short period of riding I have to agree with that.

Well, that's all for now -- I have bugs splats to get off my bike and brush my teeth.  Yech!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Get a Bike. It Will Get You into a Woman's Arms

One of my favorite websites is PostSecret by Frank Warren. My son even took me to see Frank speak in person when he came to his university and I found it very interesting. Basically, Frank's project is to have people send him their secrets on postcards and then he posts a select few on the web, or in books. The goal is very basic, it gives people a way to share their secrets anonymously. In some small way this probably gives the confessor a bit of peace, and  gives those of us who are reading them a bit of insight into the psyche of the human race. Quite often I have read secrets that relate to things that I have felt or have been secrets of people I have known.

When I read this card, it made me wonder how many of the single rider bikes that I see share this same secret? I actually don't think that this was such a bad thing, but  just a little sad.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Straight May Not Beat a Full House, But It Does Win $50

Today I went on the Cereal City Poker Run and had a great time.  There were about 50 bikes on the ride with about 80 folks participating.  The ride itself was sponsored by the Cereal City Cyclists, a local riding group.

We started in Battle Creek and then rode south through Marshall, Colon, and Athens  stopping at various places along the way to share some friendship.  I arrived late,  due to some last minute maintenance on my bike, so when we took off I had not been briefed on what the hand signals for the ride meant.  So,  the first time the guy in front of me pointed down at the road, I thought he wanted me to see something.  As I passed byt he spot I noticed the roadkill and my first thought was "Okay, he is telling me he is hungry".  It didn't take long until I deciphered what he meant.  The hand signals of the riders in front let us know of road hazards, roadkill, and upcoming turns.

I had never ridden in formation before so this was new, but I easily picked up on it because of how experienced the others riders were.    It was awesome to be in that large group of bikers heading down the road. 

At one place that we stopped, a VFW Hall, I had one of the best chili dogs I'd ever tasted and realized I had just completed another stage in my plan.  I had ridden to another city over 25 miles away and had a celebratory meal. 

At  all the stops everyone was very friendly and outgoing and there seemed to be an instant ease and acceptance of folks who didn't know each other but shared a commonality. 

We did get hit by rain between the second and third stop but we just kept riding. Between the windshield and the fairings I stay fairly dry with only the lower halves of my legs and my neck and shoulders   getting soaked.  But, after the next stop the rain had ceased and I rode myself dry after a few more miles.  I did make a mental note that I needed to include a towel in my saddle bags. 

At the end of the ride, we drew our cards.  I drew a 4 and a 5, then a 7.  When I set the cards down I purposely left the space between the 5 and 7 -- -- I guess I was feeling pretty damn cocky.  When I drew the 6, I think the guy behind the table almost fell out of his chair  -- I was in shock.  Then I drew a 10.  So much for cocky.  I paid an extra two bucks for another two cards; the first one out of the chute was an 8.  Can't make anything better on that so I took it and sat down.

I found out later I had placed third behind a Flush and a Full House.  It was worth $50.  So between the entry fee, the cost for lunch, and all the half-and-half and raffle tickets I bought, I broke even financially. But, I'd had a great time on a hundred mile ride with some new friends -- -- that was priceless.


Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Oskar & Larry Connection

When I read, watch TV, or surf the net I keep an eye out for topics that interest me. Since adding motorcycling back to my list of interested topics, I have found more than a few facts that surprised me; among these are the lives of two unrelated men whom I thought I would have nothing in common with Oskar Schindler and T.E. Lawrence.

Most people are now aware of the story of Oskar Schindler having seen or heard about the movie and book Schindler's List. He was a man who showed great bravery in helping protect a group of condemned Jews during the Holocaust. What I did not know was that two years before he started down the road that would lead to that magnificent show of valor he was racing motorcycles.

In 1928, Oskar was spending his time on the Moto-Guzzi circuit making a very good show of his cycling skills. According to what I could find out, he was near the top of his class and expected to have a long career. However, due to lack of funds he quit racing. When you look at the necessary personality traits that takes to jump on board a motorcycle and ride (like quick thinking, belief in your skills, and a certain amount of bravery) you start to see how this background may have helped him later when he decided in his heart to do the right thing regarding saving the Jews who were working for him.

T.E. Lawrence found his way to motorcycles later in life rather than earlier. You might know T.E. by his Hollywood name of Lawrence of Arabia. He was a simple intelligence officer in the British Army who did extraordinary things to help the Arab nations defeat the Ottoman Empire. A simple case of an average man who when caught in extraordinary times stepped up to meet them.

When he finally returned to England, he continued to look for further adventures by doing things like enlisting in the Air Force as a mechanic. Once he completed that, at the age of 46, he took up motorcycle riding. He had ridden a motorcycle earlier in life and decided to get back into it. While riding he had an accident when he swerved to avoid two young boys who were playing in the road and suffered a fatal head injury. He died six days later. But now, the rest of the story.

One of the doctors who attended him was Dr. Hugh Cairns. He was so distraught over losing Lawrence that he started a long study of head injuries due to motorcycle accidents. This led to the evolution of the first modern crash helmet. Therefore, because he treated Lawrence, Sir Hugh Cairns became unknown lifesaver of many motorcyclists who were saved because they were wearing a helmet.

Oskar Schindler and TE Lawrence were both remarkable people, who showed great bravery, self-reliance, and ingenuity in bringing about changes during their portion of world history. Somehow, while doing that they also found time to enjoy the feel and spirit freeing joy that you find only on two wheels.

Side note: in 2000, Liam Neeson the actor who portrayed Oskar Schindler in the movie Schindler's List was in a horrific Deer versus Motorcycle accident. Steven Spielberg gave the leather jacket he was wearing when the accident occurred to him after filming Schindler's list, and even though medics cut it off him, Neeson kept it due to the special meaning of the jacket. He was wearing a helmet.