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Thursday, August 21, 2014


I've been giving a lot of thought lately to fear.

Fear of riding, fear of falling, fear of failing, fear of starting something new, of losing someone and some things.  Fear matters.  It motivates and it stops us. Our fight or flight reactions sometimes guide us or fail us.  We conquer it and wonder what scared us so.  We pay to be fearful every October.  Fear excites us, it scares the living hell out of us.

When I commute I sometimes take a different route and on that road is a rather easy "S" bend that quickly turns into a hard left.  It's a busy one lane road and the turn requires you to slow down drastically, going from about 40 MPH (64.4 KPH)  to 10 MPH (16 KPH) in seconds.  It's a good lean and when down right you feel the G force and stay in the lane.  When it's not done right you are put instantly into a three lane road just like a slingshot.

For a long time I would not take that road.  That turn scared the hell out of me.

Then one day I did.  Then another day.  Then the day after that.  I overcame that fear.  That being said I still give that turn a lot of respect.    I still slow down drastically, I still fear it but it's now more of a healthy respect.

Over the last week or so I've been in class.  So my riding this past week has been drastically reduced.

This class is something new for me, I've not been in a University environment in over 20 years.  I have to learn a lot.  Like the teacher said, "You have a week to learn what normally takes a quarter to teach."  I'm fearful that I won't pass it.  That I won't be given the job promised me if I fail.  Its a lot of pressure but the payoff could be worth my weight in gold (and I'm pretty fat).

Assuming all works like I hope, I'll have to ride a little further each day but will be working daylight.  The pay would be at least 3K more a year than I make now.  It has the potential to be more, and I would be management for a change.  Good changes...but tinged with fear.  I would also have to ride the highway during rush hour...which is fearful in the relative safety of my car.

In my class I met a younger man who just bought his first motorcycle, a Suzuki S40 and I'll admit I was looking at one too some time ago.  He had taken the safety course and bought the bike used.  In the last 6 months he managed to put a little over 1,500 miles (2414 km) on it.  He stated he was fearful of it.  That he would not ride on roads that had cars or people on them.  I thought about when I first started and how, particularly at night, I would let the cars pass me on my little Zuma 125.

He told me a story about the Howard Franklin Bridge that he swore he never ride again.  I know the feeling all to well.  But we do these things and overcome our fears.

Sadly, this was fatal for the biker.

I'm not sure what drove us to motorcycling and all I know is that I don't have the love for it I once did.  I'm fearful of that.  I don't want my bike to be a garage queen and I don't want my miles to only number in the low thousands at the end of the year.  I'm fearful that he will never really develop a taste for it and just be another lost soul.

He asked me what it was like when I went down.  All I could do was stress training, riding and ATGATT.  What else could I do?  What else could I do to curtail that fear?

Then I told him something a wise rider once told me.  "Going down ain't the problem, it's what you do once you get up that matters.  Don't let that fear get to ya."

We don't have to be fearful.  We just do what we need to do.


Dar said...

I have these fears, but I try not to let it make me so paralyzed with fear that I don't ride. We all know the risks and most of us take precautions and training. This fellow makes me worried, because if he is that afraid it is almost more dangerous to be that fearful and clouds critical thinking.

I have decided I am not going to let fear rule me, but I do have a healthy respect for my bike and the road.

Anonymous said...

I ride my motorcycle when I can; whenever weather (no thunderstorms/lightning) permits. I am always watchful....especially of the vehicles behind me (mostly because of a 'close call' a couple years ago (someone left rubber on the pavement after hitting their brokes in order not to run into me while I had stopped at a red traffic light.) I usually avoid riding any of the interstates here in the Tampa Bay area, although I have done so a few times. There are always some drivers of 4-wheeled vehicles who cause me to wonder how they ever got a license to drive with their antics. On the motorcycle (as in the car) I usually feel as though I'm at the mercy of those motorists around me.....and I am!! So, while in motion, I always keep an appropriate distance from any vehicle in front of me...and, if someone approaches too closely from behind I'll look in my mirrors (on the bike or in the car) and they'll see me looking at them and they'll usually back off----otherwise, I'll slow down and they'll pass. People down here like to often drive well over any posted speed limit, which doesn't make things any safer either.

Trobairitz said...

Without fear there would be no courage.

I firmly believe that a healthy dose of fear when riding a motorcycle is one of the things that helps keep us alive. If we had no fear we'd be taking too many risky chances and speeding through corners, over riding our sight distance, etc.

For the first 2 years of riding I had a pre-ride Rolaid. My stomach would be in knots before riding. While I don't need the Rolaid anymore, I do get butterflies if I haven't ridden in a few weeks.

Good luck with your classes. I am sure you'll do fine. Old dogs can learn new tricks. :-) Not that you are old.

David Masse said...

Good post Rob, and best of luck.

Too many folks let fear block their path. It takes guts to move past it.

Keith - Circle Blue said...

Excellent post. Fear and excitement are related. Fear can attenuate attention. Fear can stop us from doing things. Doing things wisely despite the fear grows us, makes us more whole somehow. I hope all goes well with the class and your future brightens in the ways you expect and in ways that surprise and delight you.