Never Too Old to Die

To some, the words that will follow might seem plain common sense, a tautology… and it’s true, they are. Still, I believe that it’s also great to remember how fragile we are from time to time, and how easily things can go wrong when we make mistakes while riding. Someone once said that “motorcycling is not, of itself, inherently dangerous. It is, however, extremely unforgiving of inattention, ignorance, incompetence, or stupidity.” These words are worth remembering, if not each time we get on the bike, at least every other day or so.
This whole frailty thing came into mind after I’ve written an article on a rather in-your-face road safety campaign in the UK, with the short video showing a message from a grieving mother whose 38-year-old son was killed in a motorcycle crash. I realized (again) that we’re really never too old to die, no matter how skilled we are or we think we are.

Things can go wrong in so many ways while we ride on both new and familiar roads, and unfortunately, we are the only ones who can do something to avoid coming home in a black plastic bag. Or better said, avoid arriving to the morgue in such an unfashionable livery. It’s somehow funny (in a rather ominous way) how things tend to go wrong when we expect it the least.

Most of you know the old saying about the period when the biggest risks threaten a rider. It’s not in the early stages of the motorcyclist career, because people are usually quite careful and even scared as they start building up confidence in their own skills. The biggest dangers loom after the rider becomes better-acquainted to the whole business, and starts pushing his or her limits. With the new enthusiasm derived from the bettering skills, people start to relax while actually riding harder and faster and it’s then when disaster is most likely to strike.

Truth is that even after many years of riding, we can never afford to relax, at least not in the way non-riding or non-driving people would. Awareness is a biker’s best friend and most of the times the only thing which makes the difference between a safe ride and a crash. Regardless of whether we like it or not, awareness is the thin thread our lives hang by. Fail to properly understand our own riding and we’re doomed. It’s sad but it’s true.

We are never skilled enough to avoid EVERY and ANY dangers, and old riders know this for a fact, as they continue to learn new things each time they get on two wheels. An old guy once told me that I have better chances of being safe as long as I know there’s a lot to learn and a lot of dangers to avoid during every ride I will ever take, and I have grown to understand his words.

We all ride fast, or at least most of us do, on multiple occasions and on every road. It’s no use pretending it ain’t so. When confronted with this reality, most of us just reply with the same old line: “I know what I am doing, everything will be fine.” Most of the times the ride ends well, but not all are that lucky, and this doesn’t have to do with age, but with the mind frame.

Unfortunately, I happened to meet older fellows who were more stupid and reckless than a teenager who gets his dream bike and swings a leg over it for the first time. And obviously, I met a lot of young guys who were considerate, focused, and aware that their presence on the road meant a lot of risks, and they were trying to avoid taking them unnecessarily.

Whether it’s a drunk driver running the red, or a rider who believes that doing 100 mph (160 km/h) on a busy street, danger finds a way cause trouble. Some crashes are real accidents, which cannot be foreseen or avoided, but most of them aren’t. And since we’re the last in line to keep our own hides safe, acting mindlessly forfeits the last chances we have to make it back home in one piece, with luck being all we’ve got left.

With each riding season passing I start trusting my luck less and less, and understand that it wasn’t luck that kept me alive and kicking after all the tens of thousands of miles I left behind. It was the fact that I realize more and more that learning’s never over, and even more, that I really can’t afford being too inattentive, ignorant, incompetent or stupid.

I know this will only go away when I decide to stop riding, which is definitely not on my to-do list for the foreseeable future. The more I understand this, the more I love riding my bike and the more I want to stay out of trouble so I can ride more. It’s a vicious circle with only two ways out: hang your leathers or move to the small flat six feet under. I hope there’s going to many oil changes before it’s time for either of these two, and I hope the same goes for you.

Really, we’re never too old to die.


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