Street Savvy - Accident-Free Riding

MC Garage

Photography by Yamaha

I've ridden accident-free for four decades and nearly 300,000 miles. My present mount is a 1982 Yamaha Seca 650 Turbo that I have piloted 137,665 miles without incident. Before that, I put 50,000 uneventful miles on a 1975 Yamaha RD350. Then there was my 1989 Yamaha XT350 with 35,000 miles. The list goes on...

Early in my riding career, I noticed that it was unusual to have an unscathed, high-mileage machine. Everyone I met seemed to have gotten caught out at some point and downed their bike. From the way post-ride conversations unfolded, it was apparent I wasn't having the same reaction to the road as other riders, even when we were on the same road. While my friends' recollections of a specific ride were dotted with close calls and "almosts," my memories were devoid of such highlights. For me, the only thing that required enough awareness to be memorable was where I applied the brakes and to what extent. Above the normal enjoyment of riding my motorcycle, nothing specific about handling the bike registered in my mind.

As the years and miles rolled on, I became aware of the rarified atmosphere in which I was operating a motorcycle. One day, after another tire-kicking session where I listened to other riders' war (read: crash) stories, I realized I had never met anyone else that traveled two-lane roads at a sporting pace and had more accident-free miles than me. On the long ride home, I was determined to figure out how I had arrived at this lonely place...

After some contemplation, I came to understand that it was how I rode, my thought processes as I rode and the way I put them together that enabled me to ride accident-free for so many miles. Initially the techniques had to be learned, but over the years they became instinctive. In fact, they had become so second-nature that I had to concentrate to draw them from my memory and identify them.

It began with analyzing what I was doing as I rode, and ended with a simple five-item list that encapsulates everything I've used to remain upright for all this time: 1) off-road riding techniques; 2) the visualization method described by Kenny Roberts some 30 years ago; 3) the analytic techniques discussed in Keith Code's A Twist Of The Wrist; 4) a constant self-awareness while riding; and 5) riding with the right attitude. And considering I have never been hit by an asteroid or struck by lightning while in the saddle, I have to admit that luck is also an important part of the equation.

The most important factor is the sliding techniques one learns riding off-road. There is no safer way to learn how to control an out-of-shape motorcycle than in the dirt, and when you have those skills in your back pocket, you're a much safer rider.

King Kenny's philosophy of visualizing everything about the race (or ride) ahead of time and Keith Code's many techniques and strategies for bike control and subduing "survival reactions" serve as valuable mental preparation for the various dangers you may encounter on any given ride.

The other aspects-a constant self-awareness and the proper attitude-seem minor, but they ensure that your head is in the right place and your body is up to the task of controlling the bike.

How these factors interact and affect every riding situation is the key to putting the accident-free puzzle together. I don't have a wall full of safety certificates and I don't consider myself a motorcycling expert, but being intimately familiar with these techniques has kept me safe, and it can do the same for you. The proof is in the pristine condition of my '82 Seca Turbo and the six-digit figure on its odometer.

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