Riding A Motorcycle Is Not Horrifying

The Drive posted an article titled “Five Horrifying Reasons Not to Ride a Motorcycle, According to an EMT.” Honestly, it’s worth a read. The author, Max Goldberg, has “been an EMT in Westchester County for nearly a decade, much of that time spent in the back of ambulances hunched over victims of motor vehicle accidents—a healthy (get it?) portion of which involved motorcycles.” This isn’t some clickbait motorcycle hate – Max knows what he’s talking about. I have a great deal of respect for all emergency service personnel, including him. However, since I do choose to ride a motorcycle, I disagree with some of his points. So here’s a counterpoint to his excellent article.

1. The pavement is a cheese grater

Yes, it’s true that if you’re the stereotypical Harley rider, wearing no helmet, a leather vest, and jeans – or the stereotypical squid, wearing a full face helmet, shorts, flip-flops, and nothing else – the road is going to do very nasty things to your body if you lay ‘er down and scrape across it. That’s why we ATGATT – all the gear, all the time. Decent gear will help prevent the cheese grater effect on your skin and bones. It could make the difference between riding your battered bike home, or taking a ride in Max’s ambulance instead.

2. Falling down hurts more than you think it does. Seriously. Especially at 65 mph.

Again, true. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had the urge to fling myself out of a car flying down the road at 65 mph. I imagine the results would look very much like this.

In truth, the highway is one of the safest places to ride. Despite the higher speeds, you have no oncoming traffic and few intersections. No oncoming car will make a left turn in front of you, the leading cause of bike crashes. Of course, extended highway trips are also kind of boring for me. I like the back roads, even if they’re at lower speeds.

3. Cars are extremely heavy, and the people who drive them are oblivious.

I can’t agree with Max enough on this one. That’s why it’s absolutely necessary to ride within your limits and maintain situational awareness. Just assume that ” the other guy” is going to do the stupidest thing they possibly can, and have a plan of action to avoid a crash. When – not if – they do, you won’t lose precious seconds panicking or figuring out what you should do.

4. Highway dividers

Just because highways are relatively safe doesn’t mean you’re free from the risk of a crash. I’ve seen pictures and X-rays of a friend just after she had a highway crash and bounced off the divider. Again, not all crashes are avoidable, but many are. You can make sure you don’t ride directly next to cars or trucks, particularly in their blind spots. You can keep your eyes open for debris on the road that might cause you problems. You can, and should, keep your bike in top condition so that you don’t get a flat tire on the highway, because that really really sucks. Ask me how I know. (Fortunately I didn’t crash. Either time.)

5. Animals are not your friends

Many of my best friends are animals, but you don’t want to run into them, literally, on the road. Even close to my home I’ve seen deer, moose, and even a bear. I’ve also hit a deer on the highway in a pickup truck. My radiator resembled a potato chip afterward and all the coolant leaked out, disabling it. You’d be disabled, too, if you hit one of these. Even a pre-squashed squirrel on the road could take you down. Sorry to be crude, but roadkill is slippery. But once again, you can usually avoid these types of crashes if you keep your eyes open and ride at a speed appropriate for the conditions.

We do accept a certain level of risk every time we get on a motorcycle. Though we try not to think about it, every time we head out on a bike, we may never come home again. The same is true of a car, but the chance is greater on a motorcycle.

But I’d hazard a guess that the cases that Max sees are mostly those who didn’t take every precaution they could. They weren’t wearing protective gear, or they went into a corner too hot, or they didn’t notice that patch of sand or the car turning left in front of them until it was too late. We choose to accept the risks of riding, but we can, and should, also choose to minimize those risks as much as possible so that we’ll make it back home, each time, every time.

While I have no doubt that the stories Max tells are true, I also think he’s talking about the worst scenarios he’s seen. If what he’s seen is enough to make him choose not to ride, that’s perfectly fine. He’s not willing to accept those risks, and that’s a choice every rider (or non-rider) has to make for themselves. But there are plenty of emergency service personnel who do choose to ride. We’ve all seen motorcycle cops, and perhaps been escorted or pulled over by them. The Red Knights are an international motorcycle club of firefighters. They have certainly seen what Max has seen in the line of duty, but they’re proud to ride despite the potential consequences that they know even better than we do. I won’t try to talk anyone into riding a motorcycle who hasn’t already decided that they’re interested, but I also won’t try to talk anyone out of it the way Max does.

And now, here are five wonderful reasons to ride a motorcycle, according to our own Andrew Fails:

They’re awesome.
Kids love them.
The slowest ones are still faster than 90% of cars on the road.
You’re actually doing something.
They’re awesome.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.


1 Comment

  1. 1: I wonder what Josh would say about about the Roaddocs – a riding club of EMS professionals? Even more so than the Red Knights, these people know the risks and are happily alive and pursuing something they love and helping others:

    2: I feel kind of dirty (and not just from the humidity) for reading that article. It’s only point was as a scare tactic to keep people (and one person specifically) from riding. Clickbait. I wonder if Josh would write an article on say, all the dangers of a pregnancy from death to post-partum depression and everything between to scare someone away from having a child.

    Sorry Josh, but anyone willing to accept the risks of motorcycling is probably already aware of things that can happen, heck, just google image search “motorcycle flip flops”.

    Josh, your article comes across like a stranger saying “you’ll never get a job with a tattoo” or something similarly judgemental.

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