Once again it’s May which means it’s Motorcycle Awareness Month in the United States. Obviously it’s a subject near and dear to me. When I’m riding, I’m the most me I can possibly be.
One of the things about riding I often noodle on is the gap in understanding between riders and non-riders. That gap reaches a tense apex when it involves our friends and family who worry about us. They know that so much of our vulnerability is because of other drivers but they can’t help but focus their worry on us, oftentimes putting pressure on us to not put ourselves out there because of the danger in the world. Obviously, that sucks.
With all of the challenges life presents, having a passion that fulfills you makes life worth living. But most riders have loved ones who don’t understand the allure of motorcycling. They only see the dangers. Their love often morphs into fear and criticism. It’s well-intentioned but misguided. Their fear for your safety is based on lack of information (or misinformation) and their ability to assess risk reasonably.
That pressure can take a lot of the fun out of riding. Understatement of the year, right?
Reclaiming your passion
How do you get your joy back when your loved ones’ concerns are bringing you down?
First, talk with them about the things they love to do in life. Even if you’ve tried to explain your passion in the past, try again by relating it to their passions. Tell them that’s riding for you; that it’s what fulfills you. And there’s no substitute for it. Have a frank but compassionate discussion about how they would feel if the situation was reversed and they were struggling to enjoy their pursuits because of outside pressure.
Next, involve them in your safety.
- They can help by educating themselves and their friends about what riders need non-riders to know. Redirect their focus. Inspire them to be a crusader for motorcycle awareness. The bulk of motorcycle incidents are driver-caused. Get them fired up about that and educating the people around them. One person at a time, we can change the discussion from the strawman argument that “motorcycling is dangerous” to the bigger issue of driver attention and perception.
- Speaking of perception, help them understand that drivers training themselves to see motorcycles on the road is one of our biggest challenges.
- If having a GPS tracker helps relieve some of their anxiety by being able to follow your ride, then get one.
- If they’re looking for the best gift they can give you, tell them what quality protective gear and equipment is on your wish list.
- Same goes for training classes. Don’t forget that off-road skills improve your pavement performance.
- Have them sit in on an introductory riding course. Or better yet, take it themselves. Even if your loved one has no desire to ride and never sits his or her ass on a saddle again, it will help them be a better driver. It will catapult their understanding of the complexities of motorcycling and our challenges on the road to a new level that only direct experience can provide. From there, they can share their experience with others.
Finally, remind them that undermining your passion is asking you not to be you. That isn’t love. But love is them helping you be the safest you can be while on the bike.
If after all that, there’s still a disconnect it’s time to evaluate the appropriateness of their pressure based on your relationship. Obviously there’s an infinite range of spouse/partner, sibling, parent, child, and friend relationships out there. Depending upon your situation, it may simply be time to put some healthy boundaries in place. Maybe your riding belongs in the taboo arena of discussion, much like religion and politics for most people.
And, in thinking of the larger world of my fabulously adventurous readers, this extends to any of you facing pressure to curtail the risk in your pursuits. The details might differ a little but the idea is the same in reducing the pressure on you—connect, involve, be you.
Adventure on, friends!
Randall Shepard says
Great stuff, Val. Nice meeting you at Tremont.
Thanks so much! It was great to meet you to. I hope you’ll come back for the fall workshop.