I have just returned from the granddaddy of motorcycle events for the v-twin market — Sturgis! Half a million people descend on the Black Hills every year for the rally and races and I can tell you there is really more rally than racing!
One of these days, I'm going to head to Sturgis for an actual vacation. While I've been fortunate to ride out on several occasions, the majority of the trips have been by plane; deadlines unfortunately don't allow me the three days out and three days back on a bike. When I do head up for leisure, that trip will be well before or well after the rally. Some of you might be able to relate. For those who can't, I'm not trying to discourage you from going — everyone should see it once in their lifetime — but merely issuing a warning.
The Black Hills have some of the best riding in the country. But riding Spearfish Canyon with a couple of your buddies is one thing; riding it with a couple hundred of your new closest friends is another. Especially those who have just purchased their new machines and thought Sturgis would provide a great backdrop for breaking them in, or those who spent half the day riding and the other half soaking up $6 beers.
Not to be a bummer, but I've seen it too many times over the past ten years attending the rally. SAFETY seems to head right out of the saddlebag when folks get to Sturgis! It's almost like the words STUPID and SAFETY get interchanged! It could be the fresh air of the Black Hills or the effects of the $6 beers; I have yet to figure that one out.
Safety can be broken down into three basic categories: vehicle safety, gear and education and training. As ambassadors for motorcycling we have a responsibility to educate ourselves, our friends and those non-motorcyclists.
What's in it for you? The quick, smart-ass answer is dead riders don't tend to log as many miles as live ones! The better answer is that all three of these categories affect the industry as a whole, not just within but also those folks that think that every guy or girl on a motorcycle is going to steal their wallets and wake them up at 2:00 am in the morning with a loud exhaust! Well-trained riders are usually long-term riders. We can never stop learning and the motorcycle industry provides some of the best training available. A good place to start, whether a beginner or experienced rider, is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's (www.msf-usa.org) Basic and Experienced Rider Course programs.
Responsibility is something we can probably not teach but we certainly can preach. Of course, preaching it is one thing and practicing it is another. We're all likely guilty of taking short cuts when it comes to common sense motorcycling. How many times have you ridden without a helmet or just had a beer or two?
I'm not advocating a big clampdown, but I would bet the odds aren't in your favor if you down some cocktails, throw a leg over your bike and head down the road. Just a guess, but sooner or later it's going to bite you where it hurts.
For those of you who have been through the training, preach to your riding buddies the confidence found in that training. Remind them that drinking and riding don't go together and that the proper gear can save their lives. You can't count the huge number of people at some of Sturgis' establishments, but you can stand in the parking lot and watch them all head home when the night is done, hoping that they make it.
Remember that dead riders don't get to enjoy the benefits that live ones do!
See you down the road.