Better Late Than Never?

by Thomas Day

Sometimes acting in your own best interest has a foundation in logic. Since humans pride themselves in being able to avoid logic in favor of superstition, politics, and habit, maybe I’ve answered my own question before I get around to ask it. Still, I admit that it amazes me that motorcyclists do so many things to try and purge motorcycles from the mainstream.

Maybe it’s good old ole’ American intolerance or maybe it’s an example of the more modern universal desire to be accepted as a persecuted minority. Maybe it’s the ever-popular tendency to try to figure out “who did this to us?” when we’ve done something stupid that causes us harm. For example, dirt bikers like to pretend they are innocent, law-abiding, salt-of-the-earth types who are being persecuted by evil agents of the government and tree-hugging environmentalists. Evil tree-huggers? That’s the sort of flawed logic that gets bikers labeled as nutballs or idiots.

You can call an environmentalist “overzealous” or “radically conservative” or “overly protective,” but evil is not in the logical list. We’re talking about people who believe the earth and its inhabitants aren’t the indisputable property of a single generation of humans who want to rape and pillage the planet for entertainment and convenience. Get a grip, kids. This is simple logic and while it might put a damper on your fun, that’s neither a crime or immoral. Most environmentalists agree there’s a fine balance between protecting the environment and exposing the public to that environment so that all of us want to protect it even more. Yeah, there are radicals who think humans cover more than enough of the planet without being allowed to plow up or pave over what little is left. I can’t imagine where they get that idea.

I recently stumbled into a piece of literature that practically demolished my faith in human stupidity. District 23’s Amateur Riders Motorcycle Association (ARMCA) and the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota (ATVAM) are distributing at “Trail Alert!” that has listed seven bad habits of dirt bikers that make us easy targets for elimination from public lands. Stuff like “riding off-trail” and “riding in wetlands” and “riding on private property.” They even listed “riding with a loud exhaust” and didn’t follow it with the ever-inane “loud pipes save lives” idio-babble. Maybe these guys aren’t real bikers. Maybe it’s an infiltration conspiracy double-agent tactic designed to turn us against ourselves?

Dirt biking either attracts a significant hooligan population or brings out the hooligan in all of us. On the track, hooliganism is a terrific attribute. The only thing that’s more fun than watching a spectacular and vicious block-pass is doing one. Unfortunately, too many wannabe hooligans have turned out to be more hulla-hoop-ian than hooligan. Their allergy to taking personal responsibility for the risks in their hobbies has closed down most of the great tracks across the country. So they take their irresponsibility to public property. This same mindset has spread into all aspects of motorcycling and the financial risk for taxpayers allowing motorcyclists on public lands is completely unreasonable.

From what I can glean, this is a typical scenario: You’re riding in a state park, probably off-trail, probably at high speeds and a tree jumps in front of you. You simply can’t escape the tree’s quick movement and you slam into it. You sue the state for negligence, explaining that trees simply shouldn’t be allowed to attack humans.

At the risk of being liable for inciting violent action against folks who really deserve to be beaten to a pulp, I personally think these characters should have what’s left of their bikes stuffed where the sun almost never shines.

Thirty years ago, I moved to Nebraska and discovered the state’s “limited access roads.” Unused roads between fields that had to remain open until the farmers could prove that no traffic had existed for at least ten years. Dozens and hundreds of miles of untended trails that were free for the riding. I started riding with some locals and, immediately, learned that bikers cut and ran when they met farmers on these roads. I’m not fond of running from things that shouldn’t be dangerous. So, I stopped and talked to the land owners and discovered that the other guys ran because they had a habit of chasing cattle, tearing down fences, crashing into outbuildings, and general vandalism. I introduced myself, let the farmers know where I lived and who I worked for, and began a small tradition of doing a little good every time I went riding. When I found a broken fence, I fixed it. When cattle got out into the trails, I’d herd them back in (with my bike, which is almost as much fun as racing). When I did crash into something and screw it up, I’d figure out whose property it was on and tell them about the accident.

Three years later, my friends and I put on a 150-mile cross-country race on those roads and the local farmers provided checkpoints, camping grounds, and general purpose support. Unfortunately, a fair number of the out-of-town riders acted like normal bikers and it took us about a month of hard work to reassemble the fences. The lesson we learned was that if we wanted to keep our riding area open, we had to keep it closed to most off-road bikers. Sound familiar?

M.M.M.

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