Monday, October 12, 2015

When is a Squid Not a Squid?

Me riding through Arches National Park, Utah, June 17, 2015
Can someone ever rightfully claim to be a safe motorcycle rider? Can someone ever point out another rider as being unsafe? Can ATGATTers pat themselves on the back for being safe riders? Are squids destined to die?

I go crazy when I hear a rider point out another rider as being a "squid", or publicly espousing the virtues of wearing ATGATT, because those terms are relative. In some respects, they're just fantasy.

Binary Opposition is a subject that has been much observed particularly in recent times through feminism, racism, religion, and politics. It's basically refers to polar opposites. Humans measure things linearly. We understand expressions of "up and down", "hot and cold", "white and black", "male and female", "God and Satan", "gay and straight", "liberal and conservative", et al. But we tend to prefer one opposite over the other. Males tend to dominate females. God is good, Satan is bad. Whites are priviledged, Blacks are discriminated.

Humans are social animals, and as such, we assemble into groups and look at the world as "us versus them".

In motorcycling, ATGATT is perceived more favorably than Squid. And while ATGATT proponents point to data in the course of defending their position, the data still remains relative and inconclusive. That is, there are many motorcyclists who died despite wearing a lot of gear. Moreover, many of those lives could have been spared, had they wore even more gear.

And that's why I go crazy when I hear people espouse the virtues of ATGATT. It's simply impossible to wear all the gear, all the time. A rider can never wear enough gear to be 100% safe. You can always put on more gear that will get you closer to 100%, but you can never get to 100%.

But, safety and death do not have a direct correlation to gear. How much more gear you wear does not equate to how much more safe you'll be. Likewise, how little gear you wear does not equate to how many more injuries you'll suffer. It's very possible for an ATGATTer to suffer more injuries than a squid over the course of 100,000 miles.

So why do ATGATT afficionados like to point fingers at squids?

Again, "binary opposition" is one of those things that make up humanity. We're obsessed with polar opposites. I think it's because humans can never be 100% neutral. We're always going to have some bias, somewhere. And because we want to assemble with like-minded persons, we tend to point out those who are opposite to us. Some of this opposition becomes highly emotional, particularly with religion, politics, racism, and sexuality. I tend to witness the same emotional level of opposition in motorcycling.

I mean, look at Harley versus Metric. Cruiser versus Sportbike. Leather versus Textile. I've been around enough BMW riders to know how much they despise Harley riders. This is all under the supposed, "brotherhood of motorcycling", and yet the mudslinging can get pretty passionate.

Meanwhile, it's impossible to be a squid, simply because by definition, a squid is the polar opposite of ATGATT. And if you're the opposite of being 100% safe, then you're 100% dead. In my opinion, if a rider traveled from Point A to Point B safely, then technically speaking, they rode safely. It doesn't matter how much gear they wore, or even how fast.

In reality, we all exist in the grey area. We all wear some amount of gear, even if it's just a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Even if you rode naked, you still have a brain that kept you safe.

Safety can only be declared at the end of the ride, and is not a reflection of how much gear you wear.

I will agree, however, that wearing more gear will reduce injury and the risk of death. But there's an irony in wearing more gear. If you agree that you can't wear enough gear to be 100% safe, then you're obviously willing to risk death. And if you're willing to risk death, are you not a squid?

Otherwise, the difference between ATGATT and squid is a sliding scale of risk, with each person getting to decide how risky they want to be. That's grey area. I can see how someone would "feel" more safe if they wore more gear, but does that make them more safe? Does that give them the right to declare someone else as unsafe?

So, when is a squid not a squid?

Well, we're all squids, and we're all ATGATTers. The sliding scale doesn't include or exclude us from either opposite. We can never be either or. That really ought to unite us all.

The terms "ATGATT" and "Squid" only end up dividing us.

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Friday, October 9, 2015

A Body In Motion Tends To Stay In Motion

Tule River swimming hole, along CA-190, Sequoia National Forest
My one week solo motorcycle trip last month was rather unremarkable, aside from some challenging tight, twisty riding through the Sequoia National Forest. Originally, I had planned to ride through Yosemite National Park, but considering I've already ridden through there a few times, I decided to change course.

The Sequoia National Forest lies in the southern portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, and contains several tight, twisty roads that reach high elevations. And since lately, I've been wanting to focus on roads I've never ridden before. (See route map)

But I'm starting to lament.

Sash and I are now committing to stay in our hometown of San Diego for at least a year. We're looking to sign a one-year rental agreement on a house or apartment somewhere. As of this writing, we're staying in a vacation rental we booked on Airbnb for a month.

I say "lament" because it's sad to leave the road life. When your mind, body, and soul is tuned to the frenetic pace of arriving and leaving, of being thrust into new environments, and the chaos of ever-changing variables, it becomes somewhat depressing to be surrounded by the same four walls, day in, and day out.

Sir Isaac Newton wrote in his Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosphy, that...

"...an object either remains at rest or continues to move at a constant velocity, unless acted upon by an external force."

We always remain who we are until another person, place, or thing influences us. Without any external force, we continue to do as we always have.

And so, what external force brought about this change?

Well, it's quite tough to live the way Sash and I had been living the past few years. The constant packing and unpacking of our stuff. The physical toll of riding long distances, day after day. Keeping up with our work while riding across the country is mentally demanding. Riding through consecutive days of rain or heat tests your resolve.

You get to a point where you want the luxury of saying, "I think I'll stay in today."

But it's also having to be together 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Sash and I often get on each other nerves, and push each other's buttons when together so often. Constantly being on the road means constantly being together. By contrast, if we were permanently settled, we'd have more time to be apart.

Sash has already found a new apartment building that she wants to move into. It's located in the Park West community of San Diego, which is just up the hill from downtown. It's a contemporary neighborhood filled with 6-figure income hipsters. People there ride bicycles, eat vegan food, and do yoga in the park.

It's a complete 180 degree change from the motorcycle road life.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)