167_Hipby: Bruce Mike

As of June 17th the total number of motorcycle fatalities in Minnesota was 24. That’s eight more than last year at this time. That’s a 50% increase. It turns out 11 of these fatal crashes happened while the rider was “negotiating a curve”. In 14 of these deaths they weren’t wearing helmets, in seven, they were. In the remaining three they couldn’t make a determination which seems weird to me.

What I get out of these statistics, my math is pretty rough, you increase your chances of survival by almost 50% if you ride only in a straight line. If you wear a helmet your chance of survival is over 60%. Now, riding in a straight line is not only boring but pretty much impossible. To get everyone to wear a helmet would require a law and I’m not a fan of more motorcycle laws.

I’ve been riding for a lot of years and what I know for a fact is that training has made me a better and safer rider. I’ve taken advanced rider courses that were a ton of fun. I pay close attention to people who I ride with who are better than I am. I ask questions and I try to apply the things I learn.

Currently I wear a helmet, gloves, jacket and boots when I ride. That’s about as close as I get to ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time). I haven’t always ridden this way. I’ve gone back and forth over the years and I’m not certain why. Currently, I believe it’s directly related to seeing my wife get hit by an inattentive driver and because she was wearing appropriate riding gear, she only suffered a broken wrist. Nobody can tell me to wear a helmet, take a class or ride safer. These are choices I have to make. As I get older I have gotten a little wiser. I don’t ride nearly as fast or recklessly as I did when I was younger.

I have been making a conscious effort since my wife’s accident to ride better. When I first started riding an old guy told me “you have to ride like you’re invisible, nobody can see you so you need to see them”. I think of that often when I see all the distracted drivers out there. I really keep my head on a swivel and stay focused on the driving. I position myself in my lane so I can be seen. I don’t wear high-vis gear all the time but I do when it’s raining. One of my biggest struggles is being a defensive driver on a bike. Bikes maneuver, accelerate and stop faster than any other vehicle on the road. When I’m not driving defensively, I take those advantages away. While I don’t drive as aggressively as I did in my sport bike years, there is definitely room for improvement.

What I find frustrating is the fact that most motorcycle fatalities are a result of the bike rider losing control of their motorcycle while not wearing a helmet. We all ride at a certain skill level and when I ride outside that, I crash. Fortunately for me, these days, I only seem to push my limits when I’m riding off-road and my crashes tend to be at lower speeds and I wear gear. My bike and I get banged up a little but we live.

Over the years I’ve done my share of riding in shorts and a t-shirt. I loved the freedom of just hopping on the bike and going. I also spent a lot of years wearing appropriate riding gear as I do now. One of the big differences with gear is the fatigue factor. A full face helmet, jacket and gloves allow me to ride a lot more miles without getting tired and when I’m not tired I’m much more alert. If you’re new to riding please take a class. You’ll save on your insurance. If you’re a rider who doesn’t wear gear, give it a try . You might like it and it may save your life.



  1. I just got back from a four day trip across northern Nebraska and back through the SD Badlands. It was interesting to see the difference between riders entering Nebraska (where the state has a helmet law) and what passes for riders in South Dakota. There were motorcycles all over Nebraska, at least on the state’s county and state roads (I didn’t experience the freeway). In SD, the only riders I saw in quantity were on I90 between the Black Hills and just short of the east end of Rapid City. For the rest of my SD route, mostly on SD 44 and US 18, I saw one motorcycle, another guy on a V-Strom heading north on US 83 between 18 and I90 in full AGAT. I took away two things from that: 1) someone can make you wear a helmet [if you plan to ride in Nebraska] and 2) people without gear are timid and largely unskilled. The hairballs danging from apehangars in SD are just embarrassing; nothing more than streamers waving from the ends of their bars, skill and control-wise. Helmets may be a real gatekeeper for motorcycle safety. If you won’t wear one, you’re probably not good enough to be on two wheels. In my MSF classes I’ve noticed that the less ability a student has to be competent on a motorcycle, the crappier the helmet they grudgingly bring to the class.

  2. An update: Sadly, this trend is continuing. As of July 16, there have been 37 motorcycle deaths this year in Minnesota.

    And riding off the road is still a major cause of these fatal crashes.

    So, I’ll chime in with the others and plead with riders to get more training. That, and ATGATT can save your life.

    And Bruce, you wonder why in some crashes there is no information about whether a rider was or was not wearing a helmet in a fatal crash. You say that it’s weird that they couldn’t determine this. But it’s simply that the cop reporting on the crash didn’t note this information on his/her report. As the year progresses, it’s likely that these “unknown” cases will be clarified, as DPS statisticians will be working hard to get this information.

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