There is a romantic old saying “if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you it is true love”. However, those of us that race and ride motorcycles know the saying actually goes,
“If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it means you high sided!
In years past, our parents generation, retirement meant selling the house, moving to a senior citizen community somewhere near Palm Springs, Palm Beach or Phoenix and taking up Golf. If you were a little more adventurous you might buy a Winnebago and go see the National Parks or visit the Grandkids. Well, over the past decade or two that scenario has changed a bit. Today, Grandma and Grandpa are just as likely to show up on a motorcycle as they are in a motorhome.
One of my day jobs is coaching new and returning motorcycle riders to be better riders, safer riders and have more fun on two wheels. As I’m planning for the upcoming riding season, which here in Southern California is pretty much all year, I look back through all our customer/client/student files and realize that the majority are of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation. When I get a new client, I always ask them what made them want to get into motorcycling? The answers generally fall into three categories… 1; I used to ride when I was younger and want to get back into it. 2; It’s something I have always wanted to do but just never really had the time (the second part of that answer is often, my wife didn’t want me to have a motorcycle while we had kids in the house…um, Ok?) and 3; I’m tired of riding behind my husband! Number three is a lot more common than you might think, as a matter fact, new women riders account for the fastest growing segment of new motorcycle sales. And actually there is a number 4 reason, one of our clients told us that he bought a motorcycle because…get ready, here it comes…”the ladies like bikers.” Now mind you, this gentleman has been collecting Social Security for a while, but he was having fun.
Despite what some may say, motorcycles are big business, particularly in the over 45 years old category, these are the buyers that have the time and the money to get into higher end motorcycles. It was back in the late 70’s early 80’s that Willie G. Davidson (grandson to the one of the founders of Harley-Davidson) said, “It’s not just a motorcycle, it’s a lifestyle.” It’s so true and it doesn’t just go for Harley Davidson, motorcycle riding is a lifestyle no matter what you ride. For some people a motorcycle really does define who they are.
How big is the motorcycle business outside of the dealership? Well, cities around the country hold rallies that draw thousands of riders who spend lots of cash, which stimulates the local economy. Look at the biggest…Sturgis South Dakota, Daytona Bike Week (going on right now) and more. But as you look around these rallies, what do see, besides big motorcycles? Grey hair. The American Motorcyclist Association says that their average member age is 48+.
All of that is all well and good for the motorcycle industry and the peripherals but there is a down side for older motorcyclists on the road. We get hurt more often and more seriously than younger riders. Damn…I hate when that happens. It’s really simple…we don’t bounce as good as we used to.
Here are some statistics that should wake some of us up.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2007 showed that motorcycle fatalities involving riders over the age of 45 grew four times (4X) from 2001-2005.
Motorcyclists over the age of 60 are three times more likely to be hospitalized than a younger rider (DUH!!). Serious chest and rib cage fractures are among the most common.
The list goes on but you get the idea.
**These statistics are based on ‘averages’, this can include things like not wearing a helmet, riding impaired, unlicensed, no training, etc..
Ok, why does all this happen? it’s just life. The physiological changes we go through…little things like bone strength, fat redistribution, declining vision, slower reaction times all contribute to potential injury (crashing)…and the fact that modern motorcycles are incredibly powerful!
So, what can older riders do to lower the risk of crashing? Well, for one, more senior (I like that term better than ‘older’) riders do tend to ride more safely (their ego was put in the closet a long time ago), they understand better their limitations. Joining a riding club, such as HOG (Harley Owners Group), GWRRA (Gold Wing Road Riders Association) or any other club where you can ride with other motorcyclists and learn from one another. Many riding groups can, and do, bring in guest instructors to help beginning riders become road ready and give refresher courses to more experienced riders. My friend Les Brown of Motorcycle Coaching 101 spends a lot of time with riding clubs helping riders enjoy the road more safely.
We all love riding our motorcycles as much as we can, whenever we can and wherever we can and we want to keep doing it for a long time. So, my advice for older riders is this …keep riding! Go take a refresher riding course, there are a lot of them out there just do a google search to find one in your area, you want to keep your skills up. You want to ride deliberately, not just instinctively. If you’re riding with friends, pay attention to their riding, when you stop, ask them “are you OK?” “Are you tired yet?” and then most importantly ask yourself those same questions.
As I say at the end of my podcasts, “Ride safe, Ride Fast and I’ll see you on the Road.” For a lot of years to come.
I have been interviewing motorcycle racers for a number of years now, some interviews are notable for how good they turn out and a few are like “well, there is a half hour I’ll never get back”, and then there are the ones that just make you feel good all over, you’re laughing your ass off through the whole thing and you talk about it months and years after. My interview with Tommy Aquino was one of the latter.
We were at the AMA races at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana California and Kevin Foley of Yamaha set up an interview with the ‘Young Guns’ Tommy Aquino and Josh Herrin.
When I arrived at the appointed time and place (the Yamaha mega trailer) I met the two while they were playing video games. Mind you, these were not motorcycle video games but your basic shoot ’em up games and they were having a great time. The interview was conducted with all kinds of distractions, background noise and a lot of fun. That interview has been a consistent favorite of The Motoworld Podcast. I spent nearly an hour with the two of them and found them to be very fun, welcoming, smart and above all else, they loved racing motorcycles. They also were great teammates.
Being a follower and reporter of motorcycle racing, and specifically a follower of those we have interviewed, I have kept track of Tommy’s career. Tommy moved on from AMA racing to the British National Series in the 1000cc Superstock class, which is a stepping stone to British Superbike which is THE stepping stone to Worlds Superbike and MotoGP. In 2013 he had a good season, he was on his way. Sadly, Tommy’s career was cut short while training at a local motocross track.
Piru motocross track is only 9 miles from my home and I happened to be riding by the track at about the time of the incident, it wasn’t until the next morning that I heard the news that Tommy Aquino had died. My heart was broken and my thoughts and prayers went out to his family and friends. Tommy was only 21 years young with so much ahead of him.
Racing has lost a wonderful young talent and the rest of us have lost a wonderful young friend. To hear my interview with Tommy go to
Good-bye Tommy you are missed.
Ok, here I am sitting at my computer on a truly beautiful day in Southern California wishing I was out riding my motorcycle instead. Such is life for all too many of us. Doing research for a story about Vintage Triumph 250’s, I open up my Thumper Talk Newsletter email and am glad I’m only riding a keyboard today and not a Honda in the sand dunes.
Ok, back to work…you too. Thanks to Thumper Talk (www.thumpertalk.com) for a well needed laugh…even if it is at someone else’s expense.
…doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. I read that on a fortune cookie at Folk Yews Szechuan Buffet in Walla Walla Washington one evening after a long days ride. When I got on my bike to head back to my deluxe accommodations, room 116 at the Motel 6, I looked over each shoulder, twice…I checked the mirrors, twice…when I got to the street I looked up and down and over my shoulders again. I knew they were out there. Waiting for me.
More and more you see them, or actually you don’t and that’s the idea. The ‘stealth’ cars. The unmarked cop car that oh so casually pulls in behind you and then fills your rear view mirrors with pretty red and blue lights. “Damn…where’d he come from?” Next thing you know a smiling officer is handing you an invitation to contribute to his states general fund. Isn’t that special.
Unmarked cars are nothing new, state troopers have been using them for decades, I believe Arizona was one of the first, clear back in the early ’70s…take a guess as to how I know. Wow, good guess. Early stealth cars were the standard highway patrol cruisers, the lights were tucked in the windshield (but still pretty noticeable), some even retained the push bar in the front. They weren’t too hard to spot, if you were paying attention. Over the years, law enforcement agencies have been getting sneakier when it comes to unmarked cars. Is it because we as drivers / riders are getting smarter? Look around you next time you’re on the road and you’ll know the answer to that question is no.
Coming home from the World Superbike races in Utah a couple of years back, we were just droning along I15 listening to Rush Limbaugh or some other loudmouth spouting off his views of the world on the radio, when we got passed by a little Toyota econobox doing about 85. As the Toyota was disappearing into the scenery, we were passed again, this time by a sweet looking Mustang GT. As I watch the GT motor off, I was thinking ‘people in Utah like to drive fast’, cuz I’m doing 80 and getting passed like I’m in second gear?! A little farther up the road we pass the Toyota and the Mustang like they were standing still, they were. The Toyota and the Mustang were pulled off on the side of the road and the driver of the Mustang, looking pretty spiffy in his Utah State Police uniform, was asking the other driver for the usual paperwork that means this is not a social visit.
State law enforcement agencies say they use unmarked cars for safety reasons citing speeding as a major cause, if not the major cause of highway fatalities and that by using unmarked cars they can catch more speeders, therefore making the highways of this country safer for law-abiding citizens like you and I. What a bunch of hooey…in my opinion. Here’s my thought, you knew you were reading this for a reason, if states really want to keep the highways safer, make sure all the cars are marked in such a way that it is painfully obvious that it, the car, is a highway patrol vehicle. The reason I believe that is very simple. All of us, whether we are in a car or riding a motorcycle, if we are speeding and we see a police car, we slow down…right now, even if the cop has someone pulled over on the other side of the road! None of us wants to pay a ticket and have our insurance go up. If we see more highway patrol cars and see them more frequently, we will all (well, most of us) be motoring along a little more safely. The mission of the state troopers has been accomplished. Is it really that simple? No.
More speeding tickets means more income for the state where the ticket was issued. State police ‘stealth’ cars are nice little revenue generators. The states all say no, that’s not the reason for using unmarked cars, it’s all about safety. Again, I say hooey. Every state in this country is in fiscal trouble (except maybe Tennessee) and they are raising money any way they can. Catching more speeders with unmarked cars may slow them down for a moment and bring more money to the state, but if highway patrols would show a greater presence, drivers and riders would be more aware of their speed at all times. Not just when they are getting a ticket.
I wrote an article a while back titled, ‘The Parade Mentality’ it was about a group of riders riding two by two, side by side slowly down the road holding up traffic. The riders finally pulled off the road to the delight of the mile long stretch of motorcycles, cars and motorhomes behind them. Think about how embarassing it must be know that on a motorcycle, you’re holding up a motorhome??!! Anyway, this version of ‘The Parade Mentality’ is a bit different. Sadly.
A good friend of mine, Steve McQueen ..not the dead one but the very alive one, is a Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructor(www.motorcyclenationpodcast.com) and a rider with years of experience. He can teach you much. One thing that all motorcyclists should know, either from being told by ridinig friends, reading your DMV test booklet or taking the MSF course from my friend Steve( or his counterparts, wherever you may live), is how to ride in groups.
Steve teaches basic riding skills and, working with other organizations, more advanced skills. One of the advanced skills is how to ride in groups. The group may only be three or four riders, it may twenty or more but the same basic rules and skiills apply. Riders are taught to ride in a staggered formation, never side by side nor too close together. And there is a good reason why.
Here is what happens when ‘The Parade Mentality’ gets in the way of safe and common sense riding. A dozen riders off to the hospital, some with serious injuries, a major interstate closed down for hours and all because one or two riders couldn’t stop fast enough..hit the cars ahead of them and the rest of ‘The Parade’ ran into them…instead of being cool, how about being smart.
We just got back from cruising the pits which I love doing. I love watching mechanics swarm over a motorcycle when it comes in off the track. The rider jumps off, starts talking to the crew chief, the bike goes up on the stands, if it is going back out the tyre warmers go on or new wheels put on, a technician hooks up a laptop computer to download the information from the bikes computer, evrything is checked over, everyone has their job, including the guy that polishes the bike. The rider going back out hasn’t even taken off his helmet and is surrounded by mechanics, tyre tech and a suspension tech. Controlled chaos…I love it.
If the session is over or there is serious problem with the motorcycle it’s less chaotic, but not much. Computer tech plugs into the bike, wheels come off, bodywork comes off and work begins. The motorcycle looks a skeleton of itself. It’s a similar story if the practice session is over. The mechanics still swarm the motorcycle, the computer tech hooks into the bike instantly, wheels come off, bodywork comes off, mechanics are discecting every thing. The bike looks like a skeleton of itself.
This time the riders helmet is off he get’s a chance to sit down and is surrounded by the crew. They analyze the data from the computer,they talk about feel and how to improve the bike. Debriefing they call it and it takes about twenty to thirty minutes. Mechanics are working away and and that’s when we in the media get a chance to talk to the rider about how things are going. This is a great job.