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Monthly Archives: September 2012

You Ride a Motorcycle? Isn’t that Dangerous?

Sitting in the cafeteria at my office I can’t help overhear the conversation at another table. There are three people talking about motorcycles and I can tell by how the discussion is going none of them are riders. I want to go over and talk with them and share what I know about bikes from my 15 years of riding. I should go over there, but I don’t. There’s a better way to make my point than getting into a discussion about the relative safety of riding a motorcycle.

We’ve all had conversations with non-riders that start out “You ride a motorcycle? Isn’t that dangerous?” There are a thousand ways to answer this question. I’ve read as many articles and books that have tried to explain it in one way or another. Of course non-riders don’t read articles in motorcycle magazines or motorcycle books where most of these discussions are printed. So, how do I educate people on what riding is and what it’s not? To me the answer is easy. In order to change people’s perceptions about motorcycles I must be an example of what I want people to think of when they see a motorcycle and rider.

If I want non-riders to think bikes are safe, I need to ride safely. If I want them to see a bike as a practical means of transportation, then I need to use my bike for transportation. If I want people to think riders are safe, then I need to wear safety gear and show them what safe riding is.

Honda had an ad campaign in the 50’s with the tag line “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” They showed pictures of normal people riding and having fun on a motorcycle. It was a huge success and Honda’s sales soared. What images in advertising for motorcycles do we see these days? The most recognized brand in motorcycles today promotes a lifestyle that is an escape from reality. It is the antithesis of normal people. The ads promote an individuality achieved by joining and looking like a specific group. They are also more than happy to outfit you with both clothes and a bike. Just like Honda, selling a lifestyle is almost more important than selling the motorcycle. The other ads I’ve seen are more about financing and deals and less about the bike or a lifestyle associated with riding.

It’s no wonder then that most people’s impressions of motorcycles are that they are dangerous toys. All they see are ads and riders that reinforce this opinion. I have a lot of elevator conversations when I come to work in my riding gear that goes something like this:

Them: “You ride a motorcycle?”
Me: “Yes, as much as I can.”
Them: “I saw this guy blast past me the other day weaving in and out of traffic. He was crazy!”
Me: “I agree, I don’t ride like that.”
Them: “Looks pretty dangerous to me. You’d never catch me on one of those things.”

It’s time, in my opinion, that these incidents become the exception and not the rule. Wouldn’t it be a nicer conversation if it went more like this:

Them: “You ride a motorcycle?”
Me: “Yes, as much as I can.”
Them: “That sure looks fun. I see a lot of bikes on the road and they are having a good time. Sure is a better way to get to work than riding in a car. How’s the fuel mileage on your bike?”
Me: “It’s a blast … etc.

As a rider who wants to have the respect of car drivers, the law, and even other riders I need to make a concerted effort to ride the way I want others to see riders. I am making a conscious effort to ride as if I was an ambassador for motorcycling. I want others to see me and think positively about riders and motorcycles.

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Posted by on September 13, 2012 in Motorcycling

 

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