The best way to become an accomplished motorcyclist with a portfolio of safe riding skills is to ride often. Practice makes “better.” We’re never perfect.
What is an accomplished motorcyclist, especially one that’s a northern55er? Here is my list, and, this is only my opinion and does not reflect the opinions of the MSF or CONREP, Connecticut’s Rider Education Program. A northern55 rider should possess some of the following traits to maximize their riding safety and enjoyment:
- A desire for continuing education. Check with your state for what educational and riding programs they have available. Often, completing such a class will reduce your insurance rates. They’re also a ton of fun! You’ll meet other riders with the same positive motivation to ride better. Keep learning and you’ll keep riding.
- An acceptance of our diminished physical capacities, such as slower reflexes, declining eyesight, and waning overall fitness. Oh, and don’t forget higher stress levels. What’s it all mean? Simple. Ride at a comfortable pace without feeling the need to ride faster to keep up (lest we look old, in our own distorted way of thinking.)
- Understanding the importance of wearing a helmet with eye protection. Dress yourself in protective gear. Ensure that the fragile bones we now have are protected. Recovery from injury when you’re north of 55 years old takes longer, is harder, and may not ever return you to how things were before the “moment.”
- Demanding of oneself to be seen! See the accompanying photo of the back of my motorcycle. The reflector tape strips I applied are a big visual improvement over the stock taillight, which is truthfully no bigger than a sponge.The other photo is of the protective vest I wear on every ride without fail. Remember, be seen!
- Allowing for greater space around you, what we call in class, a bigger space cushion. Don’t tailgate. With slower reaction times due to age we need more distance to safely stop in. Obey all speed laws. It’s easy to ride over our head and lose control because we lacked the skill set and youth needed to extricate us from harm. That’s why there are no northern55ers piloting fighter jets. We’ve lost those necessary reflexes years ago.
- Keeping away from booze and drugs. Just don’t do it. The urban legends of knowledgeable, experienced drinkers “that know how to drink” are just that, urban legends. Alcohol and drugs enter your system and make changes by compromising your vision and judgment. Period. DUI arrests are not fun at any age, but at our age with serious work responsibilities, family obligations, and professional reputations, we lose more than our license, and that’s not even touching upon the life threatening dangers to ourselves and others. A club soda with lime is refreshing, thirst quenching, and to the casual observer, could appear to be a mixed drink (if that’s important to you.)
- Riding often.
- Finally, involving family. With spouses, kids, and grand kids, a lot of people are looking up to us. Give them a sense of your route that day. Show them the responsibility you’ve taken to the riding lifestyle by the gear you’re wearing and the education you’ve taken. Tell them what you get out of riding so that they understand your need to ride. Introduce them to your riding friends with confidence. Show them that everyone with you is a responsible rider. Of course, if your friends are not responsible riders, why the heck are you riding with them?
Now, go forth and ride, you northern55ers!