Why is Safety a Dirty Word?safety

by Mark Junkersfeld

It’s as predictable as bugs on your face shield in July. When I tell a motorcyclist that I am a motorcycle safety instructor, three things happen: 1. Their eyes avert mine. 2. They mumble something like. “I already know how to ride.” And 3. They walk away. Why is safety a dirty word? I’m not asking about personal hygiene or trying to sell them insurance or religion. I’m not selling anything and I don’t preach, but in the general motorcycling community, safety and bikes are not usually discussed in the same sentence. Why is that? You answer for yourself, but I’ll offer some ideas.

Motorcycles elicit an image of inherent danger, and they are dangerous. Maybe most riders don’t want to be reminded of that danger.

Mastering a motorcycle is an accomplishment. If a rider makes it 10, 20 or more years he/she feels they know what they are doing. They don’t want to hear that there may be a safer way to navigate on two wheels.

Bikes are cool, Man. Why bum us out with safety crap?!!!

No one wants the helmet statistics trotted out for the umpteenth time.

Lucky for me, the beginning motorcyclist wants all the information they can get. And truth be known, the experienced biker really wants the safety info too, it’s just that he/she has to get over the peer pressure. So quit hiding behind that leather jacket and admit that every one of us wants all the safety information we can get. Our butts are on the line every time we ride. And whether you are 16 or 60, you should try to be a student every day.

Psssst, I’ve got a secret. Safe riding techniques can make you a smoother and, yes, a faster rider. This isn’t snake oil to get you hooked; it’s a fact. I rode on the street for 25 plus years, roadraced and toured two continents before I took my first safety course. I’ve been a safer rider the past six years and maneuver my sport bike through the twisties faster than I ever did before.

If you have a passion for motorcycles and you haven’t taken a class from the Motorcycle Safety Center (612-7841488, toll free 1-800 407-677 or www.motorcyclesafety.org) you don’t know what you don’t know and you ought to find out. The Riding and Street Strategies (RSS) Course is technically designed for beginners, but after all the miles I put in before becoming an instructor, I found it to be illuminating and challenging. The ERC or Experienced Riders Course is really the advanced turning and braking curriculum pulled from the RSS.

Students who have attended these classes are almost universally “pumped” and become great advocates. They come from all walks of life, all ages, shapes and sizes. Men and women are almost equally represented as well as the brands of bikes they own. They are not geeks whose mother said they have to take a course before riding a scooter.

My personal experience has been with the beginners and it really is the only way to go if you want to learn how to ride right. Plus the statistics are overwhelmingly on the side of safety courses: 90 percent of the riders involved in accidents on motorcycles were either self taught or taught by a friend or relative.

Minnesota trains more than 3000 riders per year. And guess what? You pay for it with your motorcycle registration fees. Did you know the State of Minnesota owns more than 300 bikes?

What are you waiting for? Well maybe for a course to open up. The training is hot and heavy in late spring and summer and you may have to register well ahead, but it’s worth it. Some students show up just to get the insurance discounts available to graduates. Hey, when was the last time an insurance company was wrong? If they are willing to give part of your insurance premium back they must be pretty sure you are going to be less accident prone.

This may sound a little dreamy, but I believe a lot of students leave with a whole new appreciation for the sport after a course. I love the guy who took the course and said, “I’ve been riding for thirty years, but tomorrow, I am going to be a different rider.”

Psssst, last secret. Being an instructor is a great gig. Beginners who overcome their trepidation and learn to ride think you are God. That feels good. You get paid for being on and around motorcycles. There are about 100 instructors in the state and more are needed. Many treat it as an occasional weekend pursuit and others use it as a summer Job. Course sites are all over the state.

The motorcycle magazines don’t educate us on safety. It’s been proven Uncle Al who had a ’34 Indian wasn’t a very good teacher. So who ya gonna call? The Motorcycle Safety Center. A weekend of training for a lifetime of better biking. Period, the end.

Mark Junkersfeld
Motorcycle Safety Foundation
Instructor ID 47007



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