There Are Two Kinds Of Riders

There Are Two Kinds Of Riders

By Stacey “Ax” Axmaker

I’m sure that we have all heard this phrase – “There are two kinds of riders; those who have gone down, and those who will go down.” 

I’d like to suggest that we STOP saying this – especially to new riders. Let’s talk about why I feel that way.

#1 – It’s an opinion, not a fact. It can be proven true (but it also can be proven untrue; just find a rider who has never crashed and has recently passed away of natural causes.)

#2 – There are multiple strategies and techniques that arm riders to avoid crashing. You can find them in books, videos, and rider training courses. 

#3 – Giving up. This one is probably the least thought of reason, but can have some severe consequences. Let’s picture a new rider who has been told that ‘sooner or later, all riders crash’. When this new rider gets into a situation with crash potential (skidding rear tire, car pulls out in front of them, starting to run wide in a curve, bike starts to fall over at low speed, etc.), they may simply decide that ‘this must be my time to crash’ – in other words, they give up and accept the crash as inevitable. When the human mind holds a thought like this, the motivation to think of solutions and act on them diminishes, and the belief that there simply may not be a solution grows. 

The late Ron Shepard (former MSF staffer and director of the Idaho STAR program) was fond of the phrase “Never throw away a perfectly good motorcycle.” What this means is that while crashes do happen, and any given riding situation could end up in a crash – you don’t have to help it get there (don’t lay it down to avoid the crash). Another longtime rider education expert put it this way, “If you’re going to crash, ride it all the way to the ground.” The reasoning being that if you keep riding it (stay on the bike, stay in control, use the controls, look where you want to go, etc.), you stand a good chance of not crashing. In other words, don’t give up.

We want all riders to ride with the belief that what happens to them when they ride is primarily up to them. Yes, crashes happen, and all riders should be aware of and prepared for that possibility (armed with skills and dressed to survive a crash). However, the reality is that crashing is not inevitable. We – as veteran riders – have a responsibility to the new riders. Let’s NOT teach them to give up.

(Stacey “Ax” Axmaker is the Founder and Owner of Be Crash Free)

(This article originally appeared in Go For A Ride Magazine July 2011)

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Riding In The Heat

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Riding In The Heat

By Miller Langhorne

One of the cool things about living in Florida is we get to ride year-round. Unfortunately, the summer riding season is anything but cool. With overnight temperatures in the ’70s and humidity that can literally drip, going for a ride to ‘cool off’ is not an option. If you’ve not yet had the chance to experience what a Sunshine State summer ride is like; get about 6 hair-dryers and line them up across your bike’s handlebars facing towards the rider. Plug them in and turn them all on High. Put your face directly in front of the hot air blast. You now know how it feels to ride a motorcycle during the summer in Florida.

Your Body And Heat

The human body is a marvelous machine, far more complicated than any mechanical riding contraption. It even comes with its own natural cooling process by allowing heat to escape through our skin and by evaporating sweat. Overtax the system and you risk succumbing to hyperthermia, which is when your body overheats. Extreme cases can cause damage to the brain or other vital body organs. To prevent this, it’s important you recognize the symptoms and take appropriate action.

Dehydration is caused when more fluid is leaving the body than is being taken in. Some of the symptoms are dry mouth, muscle cramps, nausea, heart palpitations, and feeling lightheaded. Your urine output will decrease, becoming more yellow in color. You may also stop sweating and your eyes may stop making tears. Severe cases can lead to mental confusion and possibly a coma or death. Treating a severe case can require intravenous fluids to replenish the body but most cases can be relieved by drinking small amounts of clear fluids like water or a drink that contains electrolytes. And the fluids don’t have to be cold to provide relief so tossing a bottle or two of water into your bags is a good idea.

Having something cool and wet next to your skin will help and there are several commercially made cooling vests and bandannas on the market. I prefer the old-school method of dousing my denim shirt in cool water and wearing that over my t-shirt. It dries out in about 30 minutes but it does provide some temporary relief. You get additional points for wearing light-colored clothing. We all know the black biker shirts are cool but heatstroke is not. Dark stuff is hot. Find a black helmet and a white helmet that has been sitting in the sun. See how long you can hold a hand to each one. That’s basic science, folks.

Long sleeves, helmets, gloves, and anything else that helps to shield your skin are good. Sunscreen should be applied to any exposed skin.  One type of sunscreen that most bikers don’t think of is a folding umbrella. It’s not for the rain, but it’ll give you a bit of shade if you happen to break down and you don't have a shade tree nearby to stand under while you wait for the tow truck.

Hot Machines & Hot Streets
Heat is heat, whether you’re riding an air or water-cooled machine. Both types of modern engines are very capable when it comes to operating in hot temperatures. While an oil cooler isn’t necessary on every bike – fresh, cool oil is the drink of choice of any hot engine. Of course, both types of engines produce heat which you, as the rider, are going to feel a certain amount of, along with the heat radiating from the pavement. Oh yea, and there’s that big bright Sun up above beating down on you.

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Ever notice how your bike just seems to run stronger when the atmosphere is a certain temperature and humidity. Changing those factors will impact your performance. Carburetor jets may need adjustment to ensure the hotter weather isn’t causing the engine to run lean, which can cause it to overheat.

Overheated brake pads and discs are dangerous. Repeated starting and stopping in extremely hot weather, or overusing the brakes, can render them useless. Remember, unlike cars, there’s no emergency brake to pull. 

Windscreens don’t usually add much to the looks of a bike but they have some excellent functional uses. Along with shielding you from the road debris we encounter, a windscreen will reduce the amount of hot wind blowing on your skin which can make you dehydrated. As the warm wind passes over exposed skin, the perspiration is quickly evaporated instead of cooling you as it was intended to do. That’s why you don’t want to ride in shorts and a tank top with all that skin exposed. Reducing the amount of wind hitting your body by using a windscreen will also reduce rider fatigue.

Pull into a popular biker bar during the summer and you may find small squares of plywood in the parking lot. The heat can make the pavement soft and putting one of those under your kickstand can help to keep your bike from tipping. There are many commercially made pads and you’ll find them given away at many bike events. They also work when parking in soft sand. Toss it in the saddlebag or toolkit and you’ll have it when needed. Picking your bike up after it does a side flop is never fun. Crushed cans are a recyclable parking pad just waiting to happen.

Seats get hot too. Carrying a towel to cover the seat is an easy solution for this problem if you can't find parking in the shade.  

Managing The Ride

Unless you’re on a mission from God and you positively have to be somewhere at a certain time, there’s no need to hurry. There’s also no need to join the super-slab crowd with all those hot truck and car exhaust fumes. If you do have a particular destination, leave a little bit earlier and take a more rural route. You’ll find it more relaxing and you’re more likely to find some shaded byways which will be cooler than the exposed interstates. With less traffic around you, you’ll be less likely to be following another vehicle and you and your bike will get better airflow. Simple things like that are the key to enjoying a ride in the heat.  

An exception to this might be if the highway alternative involves an urban route with many stop signs and traffic lights. The stops will cause more engine heating. As a rider, you’ll be moving slower and will feel the heat from the bike and the pavement more so than if you were rolling along at highway speeds. In either case, unexpected traffic jams, accidents, or road construction projects can leave you boiling under the summer sun. (Remember that water in the saddlebag suggestion?) If you’re sitting for more than a few minutes, shut the engine off.

The summer heat also produces some intense thunderstorms, usually in the late afternoon. A cheap rain suit will protect you from the small sprinkles and a good rain suit will keep you dry in most downpours. But when the streets are flooding and the lightning is flashing, it’s time to bail. Find a safe, dry place to wait until things clear up. Even if you feel comfortable riding in the rain, remember there are a lot of inattentive cage drivers with greatly diminished visibility.

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One last thing to consider when riding during the Summer is that the majority of people driving other vehicles have all the windows closed tight and their a/c blowers set to MAX. Loud pipes don’t mean a thing. Better to play it safe and make sure the other drivers know you are thereby avoiding their visual blind spots.

Be cool out there.

(Originally published in Go For A Ride Magazine July 2011.)

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If I Have To Explain

If I Have To Explain

By Lowell Anderson

Have you ever been so far outside your element that you just couldn’t relax no matter how hard you tried?

Recently my wife made me attend a holiday “work” party with her and I was simply dreading it. She works in the computer software industry, and most of her colleagues are really nice people. All of them are very fluent in the “science” of computers and how they work…and all that stuff I find to be, well…really boring. Now it’s pretty obvious to her colleagues when I walk in the door that I am a bit of an outsider. It could be because they are all wearing V-neck sweaters and Dockers and chatting about the latest apps and downloads and I come in the door wearing a Hoody and Alpinestars hat and jeans. I stood there for some time and said absolutely nothing for fear I would be noticed and invited into a conversation. Conversations that would simply accomplish nothing and make me look like a complete idiot. Don’t get me wrong here, I love computers, and I have even built a few myself, but these people are WAY beyond the home PC realm. These people speak a whole different language.

While sitting at the table chatting, one of her co-workers started talking to me about my “lifestyle” in the motorcycle world. She was asking me the normal questions about where I work and what I do, what type of riding I do, and what the bikes are like the normal stuff. As the conversation progressed, it took a turn for the worse. She was making it pretty clear that she was not really fond of motorcycles at all. She brought up every different genre of motorcycling she was familiar with and had really nothing positive to say about them….at all. 

She talked about Harleys and asked me why they were so loud. She talked about people who don’t ride with helmets and how dangerous it was… Then…(yes this was the straw that almost broke my back) she brought up a question concerning my age and asked me why I continue to ride when it is so dangerous…(there was an undertone about me having children in there too…uggg!!) 

Now my first thought was..(Ok Lowell. Don’t say anything stupid or offensive) simply because I have a tendency to do that sort of thing and I really didn’t want to embarrass my wife. I was a bit pissed-off and my initial response was crude and involved me asking her why she bothered to put make-up on her ugly fa.….(as I said…I have to turn on the thinker before I open the flapper sometimes). So I gathered myself and gave her a really honest response. 

I told her that I continue to ride because it is one of the few things I still enjoy doing no matter how often I do it. I explained that the risk involved with riding was worth it to me. I let her know those motorcycle enthusiasts come from all different backgrounds and professions and that she might want to go out and experience motorcycling for herself for some time. In the end, she accepted the response, but I am not sure she really understood it.

 After I calmed down a bit I rewound the conversation in my mind a few times. What I realized is that people just don’t get it. Many people will only scratch the surface and make judgments based on very little knowledge. The point here is that the non-motorcycling community is becoming more motivated to speak out, and the motorcycle community needs to unite and speak out too, but with the right mindset. I think if I would have gotten angry and let her “have it”…it would have convinced her and the others in the room that “motorcycle people” are bad. This is becoming more and more of a problem these days. Riding areas are being shut down daily, helmet laws are being mandated, sound laws are being established, and motorcyclists are soon going to lose the things we love the most. 

I guess I was guilty of doing the same thing that evening. To me, these people were from another planet, but in the end, I guess I judged them the same way they were judging me. It’s hard to convince someone how great something is if they have never tried it. I don’t see myself sitting down learning to write computer code anytime soon, but next time I go to a function like this I will try to have a different mindset before I walk in the door. 

(This article was originally published in Go FAR Magazine January 2012)

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Ready To Ride?

Ready To Ride?

By Lowell Anderson

Have you ever had a friend that is always late? Really annoying isn’t it?

I have never been considered a patient person….ever! I tend to live my life in a structured way and I find myself often wondering why many people in the world get caught with their pants down every now and then. Nowadays with all the things going on in the world, “prepping” has become a catchphrase you hear all over the place. Everyone is prepping for the next big disaster or getting ready for the next collapse of the financial system. Personally, I don’t worry about things like that too much. There isn’t a whole lot you can do about it and I imagine when the next big disaster hits I will find myself in the mix like everyone else trying to figure out what to do next. My daily life, on the other hand, is something that I am always prepped for. As I said, I tend to do things in a very structured manner and that includes getting ready to ride.

Time is something we don’t get a lot of and as the world moves at a faster pace I find myself feeling like I am always behind. This isn’t due to lack of effort, it's due to my personality. I am always striving to get to the next thing. I don’t know why, but this is just the way I think. I have a sense of regret that builds if I waste time and that always keeps me moving. My family is constantly telling me to relax, but that’s just not something I do well.

That being said, it’s bad enough when I feel like I am wasting time, it’s twice as bad when someone else is wasting my time. Nothing bothers me more than when I finally get some time to go riding and the people I am riding with are not prepared. Doesn’t matter if I am going street riding or off-road. Having that buddy that is always late and gets to the ride with all sorts of problems really drives me nuts! You know the guy. The one who shows up late, no air in the tires, the bike won’t start because the air cleaner hasn’t been changed in months. The guy that spends half the day doing all the stuff he should have done days ago when you decided you were going. The guy that stops over your house with a flat tire and says he needs a hand getting it changed when you were supposed to be on the way to the track. Yeah…That guy!

Listen…If you go riding with your friends, don’t be that guy! Off-road riding, just like street riding, is dangerous, so over the years, I have made it a habit to always make sure I have a buddy along just in case things don’t go my way. Having a reliable buddy to go riding with is essential. Having a guy that just sucks up your day because they spent their time doing what they wanted to do instead of getting ready to go is useless. If you want to have people to ride with, make sure you check everything over the day before the ride. Start the bike, change the oil, clean your air filter and check your tire pressure. Make sure you pack your gear and have it in the bag ready to go. Pack your lunch and throw it in the fridge, and for god’s sake set your damn alarm so you get to ride on time! If you do these things you will always have friends to ride with simply because they know they can rely on you. You will be known as the guy that’s always Ready to Ride!

(This article was originally published in Go FAR Magazine July 2014)

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Ride Your Own Ride

Ride Your Own Ride

By Lowell Anderson

Every now and then you will hear a piece of advice that sticks with you. Sometimes it’s a saying dreamed up by a celebrity or someone famous, sometimes it’s something your parents used to say to you growing up. Sayings like, “If ya want it done right, do it yourself!” or “Nothing worth having ever comes easy.” These are the types of sayings that stick in my mind and come to the surface when I am looking for answers. One of my fondest riding memories was the first time I ever jumped a big double-riding moto. On a Sunday at a local track, I made the decision to finally jump a series of doubles that I was never brave enough to attempt. I remember finally doing the jumps and showing up for work the next day. I was pretty excited about my experience and the word had gotten to Sane Watts that I was jumping some pretty big doubles at the local track. He asked me about my riding the previous day and then gave me another saying I haven’t forgotten. “Big doubles, big troubles!” I think that was his way of just telling me to be careful. I never forgot that moment. For myself, these are more than sayings. These are memories and anthems to live by and I find myself referring to them often.

 When it comes to riding, there have been some sayings like this that has always stuck with me. I remember when I first started riding road bikes, a group of us were getting ready to go on an aggressive street ride. Most of the guys going with us were racers, and at the time, I hadn’t even been to a track day. Needless to say, I was a bit nervous when all the guys started gathering and we were getting ready to go. I had ridden with a few of these guys before and I remember thinking that it was going to be a real struggle just to keep up without killing myself. Some of these guys were really fast, and I knew once we got out on the open road we were going to be hammering through some corners. One of my buddies obviously saw the distress all over my face and came over to chat just before we headed out. In a brief two-minute conversation, he gave me a piece of advice that has stuck with me through every riding adventure I have been on since that day. What was that gem you ask? What was this piece of wisdom that has more than once saved me from an early demise? Four little words…”Ride your own ride.” I remember reciting that saying a few times that day in my helmet when I was pushing my limits to stay with the group. In the end, I am sure it saved me from pushing it too far. I made it through that ride without any injuries and to my delight, I wasn’t the slowest guy that day.

 Those four words have followed me through all my different riding adventures. When I first started riding off-road, certain types of riding came to me a lot easier than others. I remember going to a motocross track with some friends many years later. We went to a large riding facility and they had all kinds of different terrain to ride. Motocross came pretty naturally to me because it was on a track and much like the road racing I had done in the past, it was easy for me to adapt to that environment, but when we went into the woods, things got real in a hurry! I remember going into the woods on a beaten trail trying to keep up with some of my more experienced friends. Within minutes I found myself struggling to keep my stability. I hit some bare tree roots that had come through on the trail. The next thing I knew I was bouncing myself and my bike off of a few trees before I finally came off the bike and nearly knocked myself out cold. I remember lying there thinking to myself, “Wow! This is way harder than it looks!” When I got up to get my bike the second thought in my mind was, “Ride your own ride….idiot!”

This little statement is so important no matter what your skill level is. Many new motorcyclists make the mistake of going into motorcycling without taking the time to learn a little about what they are doing. I have seen so many people get new dirt bikes only to find themselves selling them after a few trips to the hospital. I have also seen tons of incidents on the street that simply could have been avoided with a little training. Simple things like not smashing your front brake on wet grass or gravel.

This sport isn’t something you want to jump into and just try to “Keep up” with your riding buddies. Sometimes that is the worst thing you can do. You have to pace yourself and increase your skillset. Avoid being pressured by others to do things you don’t think you are ready for. You should be the one that pushes yourself and your levels.

So whatever style of riding you enjoy please keep those four simple words in your memory bank. Hopefully, they will keep you from doing something silly…”HEY Y’ALL! WATCH THIS!”

(This article was originally published in Go FAR Magazine January 2016)

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