Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Kudos to Scooter in the Sticks

Steve Williams, over at Scooter in the Sticks, had a particularly hairy ride awhile back. He's posted twice about it, the first time describing the ride itself, and the second time meditating on the experience with some hindsight. These posts have generated some controversy in the comments on his blog, and I feel moved to comment as well.

From the first post:

I admit at this point it is a challenge. I want to know if I can do it and I assess the risk to be manageable. It is close to the edge though. The route now has seen much less traffic and the quality of the snow on the road is different, deeper, and much slicker. Feet come down more often. The wind is worse when I get to the open areas and I'm breathing heavily from the effort only making the visor problems worse. I stop to take pictures mainly as a chance to clean the visor.

From the second post:

When I began riding again less than two years ago I read a lot of motorcycle training books. I remember one warned against riding at night and in the rain. Ever. And it provided strong arguments in support of that position. Riding in the snow was at best a fool’s errand. So how have I arrived at a place where I ride in rain, at night, and in the snow?

I am not indifferent to the risks posed by these conditions and have considered them carefully while sitting in the comfort of my living room, while standing in the doorway making a decision about riding, and while on the back of the scooter. I ask myself if I am up to the ride technically, physically, and mentally. I run through the potential pitfalls. And finally I ask if I am ready to accept the consequences of my decisions.

Now personally, I don't wanna ride on ice. Period. I can handle a quick ride with a few light flurries, if that's all there is... but I know that I can't ride safely through icy roads AND deal with other traffic. If I was on deserted roads, and could slow to 15 mph, I think I could manage it, but around here, even if there is ice on the road, other drivers are just not considerate enough. That's my assessment of my skill level and my scoots. If I had an automatic, "twist n' go" scoot, I would have to reconsider that assessment.

At the same time, I ride regularly in the dark and rain. I am extra cautious, of course, but I am also aware that these are risks that are within skills. Every rider, every time they get on their two wheeled conveyance, and for every instant which they are on it, should be making these kinds of calculations. "What is the risk level? What is my skill level? Is this a ride which, though challenging, I am prepared for physically, emotionally, and technically?" I think these posts by Steve, illustrate this process better than most motorcycle safety books. They also illustrate an often overlooked, but vitally imporant part of the riding experience, which processing the ride for lessons afterward.

My comments to Scooter in the Sticks:

Steve, I wasn't gonna comment on this, but since you haven't posted in a few days, I figured you could use some encouragement.

A)You assessed your skill level, and the risk level.
B)The risk level grew to greater than your original assessment.
C)You constantly reassessed the skill/risk equation.
D)It got hairy, but you arrived home with scoot and self in one piece.
E)Like any ride that gets hairy, after the adreniline wears off, there is a part of you that wonders "What in the name of Buddha was I thinking?"
F)At no point did you imply that your skill/risk calculations apply to anyone else.

My concluscion: A right fine post using extreme riding conditions to illustrate dilemmas every rider faces every time they thumb or kick the ignition. There is a reason you won that "best blog" my friend, and this post was a great illustration of that.

My hat is off to you, sir.

More then just those of us who choose to commute on a Vespa, a scooter, or a motorcycle, Life is constantly a game of making these kinds of assessments. Risk versus skill, risk versus reward. For many they are part and parcel of why we choose to get around on two-wheels.

Until next time, becareful out there, kids.


Steve Williams said...

Thanks for your kind words and pointing out this post. This ride has raised a lot of questions for me personally and seems to have touched a nerve with others. Generally the things I write about aren't at all controversial.

I haven't put the risk topic away yet. There are a few other issues I'm wrestling with that I write about as soon as I sort them out in my head.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Honky-Tonk Dragon said...

I don't know if you'll read this or not, if I get time I'll post it on your blog.
But... I can tell this issue has raised some personal issues for you, and I think it is important that folks keep in mind that these issues are, ultimately, personal.
I mean, I know you are a safe mature, rider. If you had wiped out in that snow storm, most likely you'd be looking at some superficial damage scoot, which you would face the consequences of. Medical bills, higher insurance premiums, limitations on your ability to perform famial obligations, etc.
BUT... you are a mature, aware, member of society. Either you are able to make those descions for yourself, or we don't live in a free society. Period.
I look forward to hearing your further thoughts, and as always, I bid you peace, long life, and safe but exciting rides...
the Dragon