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by guest columnist Adam Wolkoff

Until two days ago, things were looking great. I had my first ever “From the Hip” column in the can, and boy was it a good one. It was a funny piece, but full of the life affirming lessons I have learned since I turned traitor on the BMW boys and began riding rice. Sadly, recent developments have forced me to bag that column in favor of something a bit more important: the vanishing notion that personal responsibility is a Good Thing.

Some of you may know me from my work with TeamStrange and its Minnesota 1000 and ButtLite rallies. If you have participated in those events, you have signed one of our liability release forms. (The sad fact that we need such forms at all is another topic for a different–and much longer–article.) I’m familiar with the releases myself, because I wrote them. They contain language stating, in essence, that you assume responsibility for claims resulting from your actions during the rally. At my day job, we call it indemnification. When your actions result in a claim against me, I can see that you bear responsibility for those actions.

I have signed releases similar to ours many times while riding in a variety of motorcycling events. Hell, I had to sign three of them before they’d let me in the Ironbutt Rally. After all, what’s the big deal? Of course I’m responsible for my own actions. Who could expect that someone else would assume responsibility (financial or otherwise) for something that was my fault? To put an even finer point on it, who would expect an event organizer to pay for my mistakes?

Unfortunately, I met the man with these expectations three days ago. This individual didn’t think it was right that he had to agree–in writing, no less–that TeamStrange was not going to assume responsibility for the bills if he got in an accident, or stiffed a dealer, or trashed a hotel room while participating in our rally.

The short-term solution for TeamStrange is simple. We explain (politely, always politely) that we require the release as a condition precedent to participation in the event. If that presents a problem, we wish the rider luck in starting their own rally, or finding another event that doesn’t require a release.

The larger questions raised by this gentleman’s views are more troubling. Are we as a society unwilling to take responsibility for our actions? Have we gone from a nation of pioneers to a nation of victims? If the 1970s were the “me generation,” then are we doomed to enter the next millennium as the “not me” generation: “It’s not me, it’s never my fault?”

Riding is the ultimate expression of personal responsibility. We take responsibility for our bikes by seeing that they are well cared for. We take responsibility for our own safety every time we leave the driveway, because we sure can’t count on anyone else to do so. I encourage you to allow the personal responsibility you express through riding extend into every other area of your life. Its another way we riders can make this world a better place.

M.M.M.

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