Tag Archive: control

Rage Against the Machines

The article “The Road Often Traveled: Rage Against the Machines” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 04/08/2012.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Siddharta

The quote applies directly to motorcycle riding. Last Thursday was a beautiful day for late March here in southeastern Pennsylvania. I had an appointment with my optometrist so I decided to take the bike so I could relax and enjoy the morning; but two miles into my ride a small red sports car pulled up behind me and the car I was following. We were riding about 10 miles over the speed limit, so it wasn’t like we were dawdling. There was no place to pass since it was a twisty rural two-lane road. However, the sports car was tailgating me.

Tailgating in any instance is a bad idea and a dangerous thing to do; but I live in deer country and presumably, everyone driving here also knows this. So to tailgate, especially a motorcycle, is particularly inconsiderate and dangerous.

I could feel my blood pressure rising as he crept closer and closer, and my focus was drifting from where it should have been (on the road ahead) to the brain-dead driver behind me. I gave him the polite “back off” hand signal but to no avail. My second “back off” attempt, along with the point to my helmet “think” signal was also ignored.

It’s taken me years to learn that if trying those two things doesn’t work, I just have to get my attention off being pushed from behind and into being proactive. My first inclination is to find an alternate route so I can turn off, relax and regain focus. Since that wasn’t an option in this instance, I eventually throttled down to 15 miles per hour below the speed limit, which allowed the car in front of me to get further ahead and limited the danger to myself.

Giving in to that anger, holding on to it and trying to teach the driver a lesson only hurts the rider – causing he or she to lose focus and control. Let’s face it, we all get angry but there’s little we can do to change the behavior of the drivers around us. Better to turn off, wave them by or slow down to regain control and keep yourself safer.

Mark Twain said, “When angry count to four, when very angry swear”. I’ve done my fair share of swearing in my helmet and when I was younger, had my fair share of confrontations on the bike when I thought I could change the driving habits of everyone on the road. Had the opportunity presented itself in a safe environment, I would’ve given the young man a piece of my mind rather than the one finger salute he got as he turned off; but as it was I could only swallow my anger, throttle back, stay focused and in control and live to ride another day.

The Smidsy

I’ve seen this video a few places now and thinks it’s something every rider should see so I’m re-posting it here. It’s the pilot of a series of videos on accident avoidance from the rider’s perspective. This one deals with a driver pulling out in front of a motorcycle he failed to see and how we, as riders, can be sure we are seen.

Ride safe.

To Feel Strong

The article “To Feel Strong” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 03/28/2012.

I am a huge fan of mountain climber and author Jon Krakauer. He is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild and Into Thin Air (the thrilling first hand account of the Everest tragedy of 1996). Into the Wild, which he wrote in 1996, was made into a film in 2007, and has one of my favorite movie lines: “it’s not always necessary to be strong, but to feel strong”.

I love the line because it perfectly describes the feeling of both climbing and motorcycling. In fact, it describes any physical and mental pursuit that expands the individual in some way. When we ride, we’re using all of our senses while balancing and controlling six-hundred to eight-hundred or more pounds of man and machine that is bound to earth on a mere two square inches or so of rubber. Not only that, but we have to control it while we navigate traffic, road and weather conditions, and share the road with other vehicles that outweigh us by three-thousand pounds at the same time.

Motorcycling is a balancing act that demands deftness of touch, courage, dexterity, focus and nerve that most people would rather make excuses to avoid. I have heard more people tell me why they don’t ride than I have heard people tell me why they do. Maybe it’s just difficult to convey our love for riding to people who find it so unfathomable. Part of the attraction, for me at least, is the challenge: I must get it right – there is no alternative. You simply have to be strong.

Twisting the throttle breathes life into a very powerful machine and that strength flows through us as we ride. Ralph Waldo Emerson said “We acquire the strength we have overcome,” mastery over a machine gives us the strength of that machine. It is a tremendous source of power and much like climbing, puts the fate of the individual completely in his or her own hands. Riding demands bravery, courage, resolve and strength; if only over the small spark of fear that can occasionally creep into our minds.

I have a little ritual I do on the last stretch of my commute where I stand on the pegs, take in some fresh air and sort of celebrate a successful ride and the strength I feel. I believe that’s what Krakauer was getting at. It is not always necessary to be strong, but to feel strong.

Ride safe.

World Superbike FIM 2012

This sunday (February 26th) marks the start of the 25th Superbike FIM World Championship at Phillip Island in Australia. 39 year old Carlos Checa will be back to defend his title from 2011 aboard a Ducati 1098R. 24 Riders from 10 countries will compete on 14 circuits around the world at speeds topping 180mph. Manufactures represented in the 2012 edition are: Aprilia, BMW, Ducati, Honda, Kawasaki and Suzuki. Speed TV will have coverage as usual. Every year after Dakar ends in January I can’t wait for SBK and MotoGP to start racing. MotoGP starts April 8th in Qatar…

Here’s a short video of Team Kawasaki preparing for this years series:

Safer Roads Through Robotics?

Google Car

Google Car

Did you know Nevada is now licensing robot cars? I heard a story on NPR discussing the Google robotic car and how Nevada has created a special licensing program with special plates to allow the use of the technology on public roads. Google has logged some 200,000 miles in the robotic cars on public roads to date. Equipped with laser scanners these machines can actually see things human drivers can’t. (more…)