Most Common Motorcycle Myths Debunked Part 6

Ahoy there, fellow riders, and welcome to the place where another page in motorcycle myths is being turned. It's now time to step into another tricky zone of motorcycle piloting, namely the ability to respond almost perfectly to any situation.
Basically, this is one of the things claimed by those who don't actually ride, and it's being constantly thrown off in the face of those motorcyclists unfortunate enough to crash. I'm quite sure that most of you who have spilled once or twice, with little or nasty consequences, have heard this line: “if you were indeed a good rider, you could have saved the day and avoid the crash.”

Real life vs. what people believe

Well, things in real life tend to differ quite much from what people – especially those who have never ridden a bike – think they'd be. One of the attributes of riding a motorcycle is – and we must admit it – the fact that a motorbike is able to gain speed way faster that a car would / could. The only situation when a comparison would be somewhat OK is when we're talking about supercars.

Since speed is also one of the fun factors when it comes to bikes, it comes with a lot of things which are not to be taken lightly, and the ability to get to a complete stop is one of them.

There are many crashes involving motorcycles where the rider has no time to brake. While in some cases we're talking about panic, point fixation or the utter lack of experience, it's the short collision courses that are of interest. In many situations, the obstacle intersects the bike's trajectory with little to no distance at all between the two vehicles, leaving little room and little time for reaction.

SIPDE – it's worth thinking ahead

Awareness plays a major role in such less fortunate occasions and the SIPDE routine can really make the difference between a safe and a bitter end of the day. SIPDE is an abbreviation for a 5-step routine that is expected to “run in the background” of a rider's mind; it stands for SCAN, IDENTIFY, PREDICT, DECIDE, EXECUTE.

In fact, that's what a skilled rider is actually doing, even as he or she is enjoying the scenery. Being able to analyze what's going on around you and thinking ahead provides some “slack” when nasty things are in line for a rider. Some claim that riders should be thinking as much as 12 seconds “in front”, depending of the cruising speed.
Scanning and identifying potential dangers is the first stage. While stationary object such as holes and bumps, road signs, trees and so on are sure not to jump in front of your bike, they should also be taken into consideration for plotting escape routes. Cars and other moving vehicles are second on the list of potentially dangerous things, with animals and pedestrians being the most unpredictable and therefore posing the greatest threat.

Attempting to predict the possible courses of action and interactions between all the elements in traffic at a given time creates scenarios that can help the rider decide one way or another. In a way, a skilled and aware rider should be constantly creating such dynamic scenarios in his or her mind and thus be prepared to meet them.

Finally, as one of these potential scenarios is becoming reality, the “forewarned” rider is to decide which action to take, no matter whether we're thinking about braking, evasive maneuvers, accelerating, leaving the road or jumping off the bike (as an extreme, last-resort option, see here why).

Skills are nothing without some bit of luck

Having considered all the above, let us turn back to the “mythical statement”. In the real life out there on the streets, a lot of pedestrians and animals happen to simply jump in front of a bike (or card, for what's worth) and be hit. It's exactly the same with drivers who turn or pull out in front of a motorbike (or – again, another car)... and in such situations, avoiding the crash is a matter of combining awareness, skills and luck.

One of the big mistakes a rider can make is to believe that his / her skills are sufficient to keep the trouble off. While people usually tend to think they're better riders than they are in reality, these well-trained skills are not enough.

Nobody is able to brake in a couple of feet as a child jumps in the street from the row of parked cars in front of a bike, not at 100 mph (160kph) and not at 10 mph (16 kph)... because this is the very meaning of a sudden move. The lower the predictability of an event, the lesser the chances a rider has to countermeasure it.

That's why, when it comes to meeting such unfortunate events, thinking ahead and adapting the riding style to the environment are the only way to go. When riding through a crowded neighborhood, it's better to slow down and like always, keep two fingers on the brake lever. If a dog jumps in your way you'll most likely hit it, but at least you have better chances to hit it at a slightly lower speed and even remain upright.

Finally, when taking that tiny bit of luck into consideration, I believe you all know guys who have made it through in situations that seemed hopeless. On the flip side, there are those who end up in terrible crashes just because they have had the misfortune of meeting a pothole, oil slick or anything like this as they were swerving out of a negligent driver's way. Riding, braking or obstacle avoiding skills are to be perfected constantly and they are a key element to making it safe at home... but they've never been enough.

And for all those who can't wait to point a finger to a crashed rider, just take your time to learn the exact predicaments of that event and keep in mind that even the best riders will get it, when their time comes.

The drink'n'ride issue

The driving under influence matter has been debated time and again, yet there still are people who do not realize the danger they put themselves and the others in as they mix alcohol with operating a vehicle.

There are a lot of additional myths to the same initial claim that a beer won't hurt anyone. You'll meet people who say that they can drive perfectly even after 6 beers, like you'll see those who argue strongly that they can fool a breathalyzer. Add in all sorts of “magical recipes” to trick an officer and you get a hell of a story ending (preferably) in smiles or jail / graveyard.

No, you don't

This is the only answer to all those who claim they are not affected by alcohol consumption. This matter is old and there are innumerable clinical studies showing that alcohol is a negative factor when it comes to operating vehicles and machinery. What booze lovers should understand is the fact that while the levels of intoxication vary widely from individual to individual, the end result is most likely to be a conviction for DUI / DWI.
Leaving the traffic itself aside, we should remember that riding a motorcycle is a game of balance... and a high BAC (blood alcohol content) won't be of too much help staying upright. As I assume most of you have gotten way too drunk once or twice, I'd ask you to remember not being able to stand or walk straight... and now imagine having to ride in traffic :) Of course, falling off the bike is not a thing with 100% chances to happen, but the risk of this happening is sky-high.

Sobering up is a process that requires a long time, as the human body needs to process all the ingested alcohol and eliminate it from the bloodstream in one way or another. That's why drinking a couple of strong coffees, running a bit around the block, eating some excessively spicy stuff or splashing some cold water on the face will not sober you up.

Even if a cold shower might shake off the sleepiness for a short period of time, your reaction time is still slower than when sober, and coordination, judgment and balance perform way worse. And in that unfortunate scenario when you get involved in a crash, even though you're not the one causing it, you'll still be held guilty for driving / riding while intoxicated. In even worse cases, you could even meet a prosecutor who will claim that you could have avoided the crash should you have not been drinking.

Breath mints and all the other funny stuff

So, you've finally decided you should ride after all the beers and other drinks you had. You pop the cap of a breath mints box and start sucking and chewing to half of the candy inside. And then what? As a police officer pulls you to the side of the road and as he gets to you, he feels like on a school trip to the breath mint factory, you'll probably try your nicest smile and hope for the best. It won't work, 99% of the times.

Riding erratically and a powerful minty breath won't fool anyone; in fact this combination is more likely to have the officer asking you to step away from the vehicle and reach for the breathalyzer as a first reaction.

It's common sense that breathalyzers are not 100% accurate, but they rarely are that off such as to mistake 0.05 with 0.2 (% by vol. in the US, or 0.05 permille to 0.2 permille in Europe). And if things are amiss, a blood sample will have everything cleared out with little chances for mistake. Chewing mints, a piece of cloth soaked in petrol, a penny and other similar tricks have little chances to fool a police officer if you are pulled over.

Food, anyone?

Some say that a good meal before you start drinking helps a lot. Well, they're right in one aspect... you'll be getting drunk slightly slower after a meal, but his has nothing to do with the amount of alcohol you're pouring in. That alcohol is still in your blood, can be detected in your breath by specialized gear and will not get you through.
While fats ingested prior to drinks could make the alcohol absorption slower, they'll not prevent the alcohol from entering your bloodstream. It's the same with those who think that diluting alcohol with water or fruit juice will help them in one way or another. While adding sugar to your intoxicated body keeps the drunkenness and the hangover going on longer, water actually helps your liver process the alcohol better and prevents dehydration (one of the main causes of headaches the next day).

But again, the quantity of booze you're taking in is the same, regardless of what you eat or drink, regardless of whether you're drinking beer or screwdrivers. Once it's in, it will pass into your blood and disengage the riding mode, while activating the party mode. If you're set on drinking, leave the keys to your motorcycle with a non-drinking rider, or just call a cab.

The roads will be safer without you drunk on them and you and your friends / family will get to enjoy the next party, instead of a memorial or planning visits to the county jail.

For more motorcycle myths debated, please read the articles below:
Most Common Motorcycle Myths Debunked Part 1
Most Common Motorcycle Myths Debunked Part 2
Most Common Motorcycle Myths Debunked Part 3
Most Common Motorcycle Myths Debunked Part 4
Most Common Motorcycle Myths Debunked Part 5.
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