Often, as bikers we forget just how lucky we are to be able to ride and enjoy motorcycles, and at times we need to perhaps remind ourselves of what a privilege being able to ride a motorcycle really is. Christmas - and any holiday period for that, is a time to recommit ourselves to a greater and less stressful appreciation of our role as owners and riders.
Between now and mid-December, traffic volumes will increase countrywide as we head to our favourite holiday destinations, and this increases our need to be responsible and aware of everything around us on the roads. This past weekend, I witnessed some truly jaw-dropping stupidity by bikers travelling in heavy traffic, and wondered just how much patience they think motorists have with their antics. Riding two-abreast; overtaking on the left- or right-shoulders and hogging lanes were just some of the insensitive and provocative 'games' being played-out on the road, and while there are elements of our community that think it's 'cute' to provoke other road users, it's often the careful and law-abiding riders that feel the backlash that will inevitably come.
Fortunately the rally-rash period is almost past, but the festive season encourages irresponsible drinking in the biking community, and without doubt, this is a major contributor to unnecessary deaths on the road. For the life of me, I cannot understand the need to ride like a maniac to get to a drinking hole; get plastered with your mates and then get back onto your bike only to weave - and I mean weave, back to your home. Why? Riding a bike demands a measure of maturity and the ability to understand that drinking and riding only ends in sadness, no matter how well you think you ride. Consider the mixture of an inebriated rider meeting an equally inebriated motorist and picture the outcome guys! Remember that you are the airbag in an accident and that you need every bit of situational awareness you have just to survive unscathed these days. How can you possibly survive intact if you have impaired awareness when you enter that dark space around drunk drivers? Party like you have no time left on earth, but stay away from your bike - it's just not worth it.
Traffic volumes are going to get hectic in the coming weeks, and everyone is impatient and eager to get to their destinations, so make yourself visible and ride safely. This includes lighting yourself up like a Christmas tree by using full-beam and any spots, fogs or coloured lenses you can. Never mind how 'sissy' you think reflective gear is - or that it clashes with your leathers and patches, they increase your visibility and your chances of being seen. You can never be to 'bright' so whatever it takes to be seen, do it. Secondly, ride for the dummy in front of you by being aware of his actions - actions that we can see through his window because of our riding height, and anticipate his next irrational move - one the driver in front will surely make. On a recent ride, a group of riders found themselves behind a 'window-shopper' looking for an address on a country road, but because of their focus on passing the vehicle - and at oncoming traffic, some failed to anticipate that the car would brake irrationally to check a farm road, and two bikes had a very close encounter with tar after grabbing a handful of emergency brakes. Motorists often don't see us - even with a mirror filled with light, and for this reason we need to allow for their potential for mental incapacity by riding defensively.
And perhaps the most important thing to remember is that if you are off your bike for the coming month as you spend time with you family and friends, take it easy when you get back on your bike. Safety is an acquired skill and one that is easily forgotten if you don't ride often - or after extended breaks, so leave the heroics and grandstanding at home when you get back on your bike.
Have a great, safe and happy holiday (for those that are lucky-enough to have one) and keep safe. Remember why you ride and enjoy it by being - or becoming, the best rider you can be in the new year.