Friday, November 1, 2013

Only Dead Riders are Unsafe Riders

Hearing someone tell me to "ride safe" as they bid me goodbye hasn't ever found a final resting place in the synapses of my neurons. Yet, I continue to hear those words from people and they continue to fire around until at some point my conscience tunes them out of focus.

"Of course I'm going to ride safe!", I think to myself.

But what the Hell is safe riding anyway?

Is it correct to say that only dead riders are "unsafe riders"?

If I'm able to ride a motorcycle and still be alive and well, then aren't I a "safe rider"?

Does it really matter if I wear gear or not, ride fast or slow, drink alcohol or iced tea?  As long as I get to my destination in good condition, then I rode safely, right?

Think about helmets.

There are riders who wear helmets with the highest safety ratings, yet some of them still died in motorcycle accidents.  On the other hand, there were riders who wear novelty helmets (skid lids), that also got into motorcycle accidents, but suffered little to no head injury.

If being alive and well is the end goal of safe riding, then I suppose it doesn't matter what helmet you wear.  If you're still riding your motorcycle, then you've done just fine, whatever you did.

It's only when you die in a motorcycle accident, where it was your fault, that people can point to your helmet, point to your speed, point to your lack of training, point to your electronic gadget distraction, point to your handlebar mounted cup holder, and everything else under the sun, on why you were an "unsafe rider".



  1. Disagree completely :) When I tell you to "ride safe" it doesn't just mean "make it home alive" - though certainly that's my wish for you every time you ride. The expression "ride safe" is also short-hand for a whole host of things that are too long to fit into a simple goodbye/well-wish. It means: think consciously about your safety while you are riding, don't take unnecessary risks, don't cause "oh shit moments" for others, DO make smart hazard-avoidance decisions, be diligent in looking out for yourself, don't cause a slew of near-misses or be a danger to others, don't make a hot-dogging ass of yourself in front of motorists who already hate you and want you dead, don't ride drunk/high/impaired, etc. You can make it home alive and still have violated every one of the above, but if you did, then no you are not a safe rider and you did not "ride safe."

  2. Steve, I have to agree with Janet. When I tell someone to "Ride Safe" it's not just about arriving at your destination in one entails everything you do to get there. For instance, drinking alcohol and jumping on your bike isn't "riding safe" even if you don't kill yourself or someone else along the way.

    I also use "Ride Safe" as a way to show another rider respect. Respect for the fact that they have chosen to live life and not let it pass them by...respect for the fact that riding can be dangerous and that you have to be more concerned with watching out for others who may not be watching out for you.

    While not mutually exclusive, arriving alive and "riding safe" aren't the same thing...but you already knew that, didn't you. Thanks for writing an interesting "thought" piece. ~Curt

  3. I too am inclined to agree with Curt and Janet.

    And IMHO arriving alive and unscathed after drinking any amount of alcohol isn't riding safe, it is riding lucky.

    Around here we don't usually say ride safe, it is usually - keep the shiny side up.

  4. Well, your poke of the pig didn't cause the rash of comments I suspected. Just the title alone was thought invoking. Such as, "What the Hell did I just read?"

    However, as I read the piece I began to see it as it, hopefully, was pointing out those useless phrases folks use; sorta like why do you ride a motorcycle? Of course everyone who throws a leg over a bike intends to ride safe. Now some idiots, like those sports bike riders, in the New York area aren't sure what riding safe entails, but riding safe does factor into arriving at your destination. Sometimes getting lucky is part of safely riding.

    Personally, I enjoyed the post and trying decide if there was any hidden meaning to it.

    1. There's no hidden meaning. A few posts ago I wrote a piece called, "Devil in the Details" where I felt that writing shorter articles where I let you think about the details, instead of me pounding everything out, will encourage you to think about what it means to you, instead of what it means to me.

  5. Because I understand you a little bit I know what you mean, as we've had this discussion many times. I feel all riders have their own individual definition of riding safely and most choose to exercise that to the degree that suits their mood that day.

    That said, I don't see any need to impose my ideas of safe riding on anyone else.

    As a closing bid of fare-thee-well, I choose to say Ride Fun! This implies "I hope you enjoy your ride, however you choose to ride it."

    Love you,

  6. Steve:

    I like your idea of promoting controversy and letting us use our own "life's filters" . I know what you mean about hearing certain phrases which just filter into one ear and out the other. Phrases like " riding a motorcycle is dangerous " or they don't understand why we don't just trailer our bike to where we are going, rather than understand that it is all about riding the roads and the journey

    I used to say "ride safe" too, now I have to find another phrase

    Enjoy your ride
    Riding the Wet Coast

  7. Like in many things, folks get so wrapped up in safety, security, reliability and all the other baggage of "being a good person"... they forget the main thing... To freaking live.

    You know what happens in the end to the safe? the reliable? and the careful?

    The same damn thing that happens to the wild eyed risk taker... They DIE.

    So, the issue isn't, or shouldn't be, how you avoid the unavoidable... but how you best LIVE what time you do have. ... I'm not telling anyone to go out, get drunk and do wheelies in the city park while riding standing up naked on the pillion! ... I'm saying... all this fanatical focus about safety, paranoia, and eternal vigilance so that NOTHING goes wrong... is misguided.

  8. I see your line of thought, but a quick comment from a fellow rider may mean the difference of wearing ATGATT and taking care with lane splitting.

    Hearing, "Ride Safe!" from a friend is always a nice reminder (as "sometimes" I ride in a manner that wouldn't make my mama proud...think "wheelies on the I-8" while wearing shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops for a point of reference!).

  9. I can remember Sash making a comment about how the phrase "ride safe" irks her. My feeling on it is that it's just a general farewell. But at the same time, I suppose, yeah, I do want you to ride safe. Perhaps I should more accurately say to riders: "Don't die. And, to a lesser extent, please don't make motorcycling more difficult for me through your actions toward those who can't tell us apart."

    I like offering some sort of farewell to fellow riders. With y'all's opinions about "ride safe" on my mind, recently I've been trying out "Vaya con Dios" but it doesn't really work well in the UK because Spanish is (strangely) a pretty uncommon language here.

    I've noticed that the dudes at Indian Motorcycles will often say "Ride far" in their videos. Perhaps I'll try that on for size.

    1. Chris - you may have it with "ride far," after all that would imply that one might have ridden safely, that is if they have gotten far either that or their luck just hasn't run out yet.

  10. "Only Dead Riders are Unsafe Riders"

    What do you define as a safe rider? Simply people who don't die? I find this statement very disrespectful toward those bikers who have died through the unavoidable incompetence of others. Freak accidents do happen you know. Not everything is avoidable, no matter how safe you are. What an ignorant generalization to make.

    1. Since there is no way to define "safe riding" over "unsafe riding", what other way is there to define it?

    2. You've tried to define something which can't be defined in a general sense. What about riders who are alive but paralyzed? They're not dead.

  11. Disagree. Safe riding is defined. There is a body of riding knowledge backed up by research and well-tested methodologies.
    Whether you like the greeting or the reminder is separate from whether safe riding is defined.
    Whether road racing or street riding, the strategies, skills and equipment are known for safety as well as performance,
    There are many books and riding schools that list, explain and teach these.
    Whether we care to be aware of all that or learn it is separate from if it exists. (Philosophy?)
    Professional riders know it and practice it often. Riding safe is defined.
    I try to ride safe. I hope you do too. No apologies.


About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)