by Victor Wanchena
I love the mail. The mail MMM receives is always full of real treats. Credit card offers, realtor come-ons, salacious dating services and “valuable coupons” seem to fill our mailbox. So imagine my joy when running the daily mail load past the bomb-sniffing dog (note to potential mail bombers: if it looks even slightly suspicious, I make the interns open it outside and downwind) when I saw that the new Riderwearhouse Catalog was out. For those not acquainted with this little tome of the essentials and non-essentials of motorcycling, it is far more than just a catalog. Packed in its pages are pithy quotes and motorcycling wisdom interspersed with great photos and goofy product descriptions. Among some the of notable quotes was this one tucked at the bottom of page 27, ” Rider should always be over machine. Machine should never be more than rider. That is how I make motorcycles. It is important to think ‘What is the best for me?’ not ‘What is best?'” It was from Tado Baba, a Honda Senior Chief Engineer of Motorcycles. What a tremendous statement. A simple concept that is most often terribly difficult to swallow.
We as riders are driven by the desire to be the best, an obvious part of the self-confident nature of motorcyclists. Unfortunately we often overestimate our own riding prowess. Most of us aren’t half as good as we think we are. There is more to riding than holding the throttle open on the straights and leaning in the curves. It takes time and practice to do it well. That being said, I am amazed that our selection of which motorcycle we ride is most often influenced by the desire to have the fastest, most powerful, shiniest, or the machine festooned by the most geegaws and gadgets. This “king of the hill” attitude often blinds us to the reality that a slightly more sensible machine would probably suit us better. What truly is best for me? Are my skills refined enough to ride a 150+ horsepower sport bike or do I need to hone my skills further? Is my parade light festooned mega-tourer a pound or two too heavy for me to maneuver deftly? These are hard questions to answer honestly because most of us are so confident in our abilities we can’t take an honest assessment of our skills. To paraphrase Top Gun, “Your bike is writing checks your body can’t cash.” Most of us don’t want to admit that we are in over our heads on anything with more than a 100 horsepower or 500 pounds, but the reality is we are.
The point of all of this is not that high performance or large motorcycles are wrong, it is that we as motorcyclists need to raise our skill level to meet the ever-improving motorcycle. We need to take an honest look at our skills and improve on the areas we are lacking. We need to choose wisely. In short, ride with less ego and more skill.
Ride fast, take chances.