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Examiner editorial "A dozen ways to die"


In the January 2010 issue of Motor Cyclist magazine, Vince Ciotti enlightened us with a column called "Street Savvy A Dozen Ways to Die  Killer advice for the living-impaired."

According to the NHTSA. there were 5091 motorcyle fatalities in the U.S. in 2008 - more than any other year since 1975.  Meanwhile, there were fewer automotive fatalities in '08 than any other year in that time period.  After 40 years of riding, I'm the sort of coward who plays it safe.  If you don't, here are 12 ways to drastically increase your chances of dieing.

Now I'm all about calling out FUD and BS when it's readily prevailant, and that's what we have here.  There are lies, damned lies and statistics.  If memory serves, the summer of '08 saw gas prices over $4.00 a gallon and every Tom, Dick and Harry, not to mention a host of DILF's, MILF's and GILF's were running down to the hub cap shop, the leather shop, Quik Trip and everywhere else that miraculously found enough floor space to add step-through scooters to their inventory.   Two-wheeled transportation and all the associated swag sales and re-sales, as well as every form of public transportation, saw an increase in '08.  Automobiles saw fewer of everything.  Please Vince, the only thing that might be truly relevant in the above paragraph, is that you are indeed some "sort of coward."  Ok, so on with Vince's "12 ways to drastically increase your chances of dieing."

1.  Lose the helmet:  NASCAR drivers wear them to race again next weekend.  Kids wear them on bicycles because mom wants them home for dinner.  Football and hockey players survive puny,  20 mph collisions all afternoon, but your unprotected skull is hard enough.  Smack it against something solid and you're toast - or hamburger.

Let's face it, riding motorcycles is an inherent risk.  A helmet will protect you in the event of a puny 15 mph fall in a parking lot.  Odds are if your helmet wearing head impacts something solid at speed in the event of an unplanned get-off, said helmet will probably be good enough to pour your scrambled brains out of, if it doesn't shatter.  Besides that, your neck will break before that $600.00 Shoei helmet can protect your gray matter.  Lets say that again... "$600.00 Shoei helmet..."   Anyone share the opinion that "really good helmets" are priced out of the reach of the average John Q. Consumer?

2.  Wear basic black:  How many times has some policeman presiding over a motorcycle accident heard a driver say "I never saw him, officer?"  Why stand out in bright colors like white, orange, or yellow when you can peg the macho-meter in black leather?  That's the color your family and friends will wear to your funeral.

Get real Vince. Cell phone talking and texting, burger eating, makeup applying, news paper reading cage driving sheep don't see us anyway.  We could have 3 heads covered in day-glo white, orange and yellow and they'll still plow us at an intersection.  Thank the MoCo Mad Men and all the other marketing gurus for the "lifestyle look," not the average rider.   When Sonny Barger and Pappy Hoel and several other revered entities started most of this madness, there weren't any nylons or textiles in bright, shiny gay colors.   Besides, some of us "purists" appreciate history and legacy and understand the carrying on of traditions.  We'll leave the fancy leather suits with the bright pretty colors to the sport bike crowd.  We'd rather see stricter penalties for the morons that kill us with their guided metal missles because they're too wrapped up in their own litte world to pull their collective heads out long enough to pay attention to what they're doing.   Last but not least, would one prefer to take an asphalt slide at 60 in a set of bright yellow textiles or covered in good old fashioned tough-as-nails black leather?  Bueller?  Bueller?  Anyone?

3. Go naked: Okay, it's against the law to ride in the nude, but to really wow those ER nurses, strip down to a T-shirt, cutoffs and flip-flops.  Beauty may be skin-deep, but nothing impresses a medical proffesional like road rash down to the bone.

This must  be referencing the squid crowd again.  Squids are the only ones foolish to ride in the gear described above.  Refer back to "black leather" above for the cruiser crowd.  Oh, and we have seen folks who ride in the nude.

4. Start big:  Rookie riders in Europe and Japan are required to learn the basics on something small and manageable, but you don't.  Life is short, and the best way to shorten it further is with inexperience and 180 horsepower.

Couldn't agree with you more on this one Vince.  Too many squids buy extremely powerful sport bikes and then promptly go out and get themselves killed.  Most cruiser riders start out on small machines and move up incrementaly but we're older and wiser.  

5.  Be a night rider: Nighttime is the right time, because that's when four-wheelers can't see so well. Especially the ones who just popped a few cold ones after work.  One little bike headlight makes you half as visible as the two on a car.  Everytime the sun goes down, your odds of becoming a statistic go up.

Hmmmm... No kiddin Vince?  As noted before, cagers don't see us, period.  Day or night.  How about you keep your paranoia in your pocket and we'll continue to enjoy riding at night when four-wheeler traffic is at a minimum.  It's up to the rider to have a riding strategy, and to SEE, every minute, everytime they're on the scooter.  We are invisible folks, if you ride, you have to deal with it.  It doesn't matter what time of day it is.  Night riding is some of the most enjoyable riding most of us have ever experienced.  Don't get me started on drinking and riding.  Has anyone else ever questioned the conventional wisdom of having Poker Runs that go from bar, to bar, to bar, to bar? 

 6. Have one or more for the road:  Toss back enough liquid talent to slow your reaction time and dull your senses. If you're really lucky, you'll just end up in a nice, safe jail cell with a DUI conviction and no driver's license.

No argument there.  Shucks.  I do like "liquid talent."  I might have to use that some time.

7.  Cut class:  What's with these motorcycle-training programs anyway?  We'll never crack 10,000 deaths per annum if instructors have their way.  Real life is the best education-followed shortly by real death.

Couldn't agree more.  While we're at it, lets bring Drivers Ed back to the schools so we can try to teach our ignorant offspring the evils of multitasking while driving.   As a societal collective, we're becoming worse drivers instead of better ones.

8.  Go faster:  Newton's laws of motion say you're less likely to die at 5 mph: not enough kinetic energy, no equal/opposite reaction.  Crank it up to 70 or more so even a little mistake will have major consequences.

Newton didn't say a thing about how likely you are to die at any speed, but if you're advocating doing 5 mph on the Interstate thats a good way to get a Buick up your butt.  Riders have to have a strategy for the type of riding undertaken.  If you don't have the skills to ride the minimum speed of the roadway you're on, you shouldn't be there.

 9.  Let it be: Forget preventive maintenance.  Checking the oil, tire pressure and chain tension could actually prevent an accident, so don't.  Imagine the thrill of seizing an engine on the Interstate.

Preventive maintenance good, seizing engine bad.  Vince is making some sense, but he's about to flubb.

 10.  Let it rain:  One tiny contact patch steers the bike and does most of the stopping.  Another puts the power down.  Boring?  Just add water.  Snow and ice are even better.

Dude, yours truly just did over 400 miles in the rain recently coming back to Kansas City from Nashville.  It's doable, one just has to have some common sense.  Slow down, cover your controls, increase your distance, ride in the tire tracks of the vehicle in front of you if it's raining heavily.

11.  Loud pipes waste lives:  Remember that thundering V-twin that set off car alarms as it passed?  Ditch your muffler so oncoming traffic will hear you and be extra careful.  Actually, they won't, but ride like an immortal anyway 'til some cager proves your not.

Huh?  What's your point?  When the thundering herd approacheth, people stop, look and listen.  I'm just sayin...

12.  Bring on the E-stractions.  Talk to and text everybody in your cell phone's address bookwhile you ride.  If that's too difficult, clutter your cockpit with a GPS receiver, satellite radio, MP3 player, radar detector, etc. and let them lull you into an electronic trance.  You'll never see what hit you.

 Whew!  You been hanging with the Gold Winger's too long Vincent.   My StreetGlide has a nice stereo and I run a GPS and neither have proven to be a problem yet.   None of the Brothers I ride with have a habit of talking or texting while they ride either.

If you happen to read the same article I did, I think we can discern that Vince is a coward who doesn't ride at night or in the rain or over 5 mph.  It's like, dude... you don't ride... but I can appreciate the 'tude. 

Yeah, this was a long article.  If you got this far, I'd be interested in your thoughts if you have an opinion.  C'mon man!  Everyone has an opinion, about everything.  Post me up some comments, if you're a mind to.

Drop me a note:


  • Patty Davis 5 years ago

    WOW, Eric. Not only did you nail Vince on his flawed logic, you did in a way that truly made me LOL.

    I will be sharing your article with others.

  • Lou R 5 years ago

    He seems to have a few things bass ackwards....I have found night riding to feel safer. First, we, like everyone else except a few morons, have the headlights going and drivers look for headlights. Second, traffic is lighter and there are less caged weavers and dodgers. I have a strong suspicion that 90% of night accidents are the fault of the biker.
    Rain? Yea, it doesn't feel good, but what frightens me more than a bike in the rain are the cars. They don't stop (God forbid they might skid or something), they keep the bad habits they use on dry days and they don't look for bikes even more than when they don't look for them when it's dry out. Later model bikes-at least the Hondas- have assisted braking to keep skid-outs down to a manageable level.
    Bright colors? Yes, they "might" help and the AMA, et al, say "wear'em", but the only time I see some lime green gear is when it's whizzing by us at 90mph on a matching sport bike. Even my body armor is black, albeit reflective too.

  • Lou R 5 years ago

    Helmets I will agree with him on. I do know riders who have hit the asphalt(two of them curbs)with their heads and didn't even realize they had until they saw the damaged lid.
    Ditto drinking. Agree.
    Speed? Whose mistake? If you can't handle the bike at 35mph, you sure won't be able it at 70mph. And that 35mph can be just as fatal-it ain't the accident, it's the landing afterwards. I fell over standing still and ended up a gimp with a 5 inch plate and a total of 8 screws holding the ankle in place. According to his logic, motocross racers would be extinct.

  • Mary Baker 5 years ago

    Wow is right, Eric. You just about said everything I believe about riding. I especially love the commentary on bright colors. I had a safety officer at the military base where I work tell us in a safety briefing that the requirement for reflective gear at night and contrasting colors during the day is not so drivers in cages can see us, but so when we "go down" they don't run over us. LOL Now, that's some faulty logic that still makes me laugh.

  • Randy Storr 5 years ago

    I had previously seen those 12 points that Vince had listed. My thought at the time was this guy doesn’t ride in my world. I believe you have addressed many of the things I found wrong with his article and I thank you for putting some common sense into the issue. Riding a motorcycle has a certain level of danger to it but most of that danger comes from having cars around you. Now, for those who believe motorcycles are dangerous because you’ve seen them fly by you at 40 mph over the speed limit, or riding down the road on the rear tire. Well, you’re right doing that is dangerous but that isn’t how a true biker rides and besides those that ride like that will take themselves out of the gene pool. Great article and I’ll watch for more to come...

  • Gunner 5 years ago

    Eric, This was a great read. It brought to light a lot of misconceptions that a lot of people have about riding. If you don't feel comfortable with riding in the rain, night riding, or any other situation, STAY ON THE PORCH, let the big dogs ride.

  • Rick Casteel 5 years ago

    Eric, I read your article and I agree this guy does not live in our world. Maybe he should sell his bike and get a play station and stay inside where it is safe

  • Steve 5 years ago

    Eric I enjoy your articles. Keep it up.

  • Mark 5 years ago

    Don't sweat it Eric, you can pick up SHOEI helmets for a lot less than $600! $189.99 today, for example:

  • 20031200 4 years ago

    I generally agree with most of Vince's comments. Eric's views seem too crude for me. His general remarks seemed too be that of a died in the wool Harley rider. Thus he wouldn't have need too mention what he rode as anyone could have guessed. I think MSF instructions are useful tools. One can never learn too much.