Common Tread

Take it to the track: This kind of riding is irresponsible

Jun 23, 2014

A recent video circulating on the Internet showed a motorcycle crash on a local Los Angeles-area road known as "the snake." As you can see in the video, the rider low-sides while coming down the hill, slides into the other lane, and right into an oncoming car.

My reaction to the video: Screw these guys. Honestly. Screw the guy who low-sided his Yamaha YZF-R6 and speared himself into the bumper of a Honda Civic, and each and every one of the guys who turn busy public roads into a race track at the expense of people using the roads as intended.

First of all, I’m glad he’s okay. I don’t wish harm on 99.9999 percent of the population and this guy’s transgressions certainly don’t warrant anyone wishing bodily harm on him. While it’s all too easy to sit back from our anonymous computers and say, “Good, he got what he deserved,” we wouldn’t feel that way if it was our brother, husband, or dad.

So, with all that said, screw this guy and the others who act like this kind of riding on public streets is acceptable. This sort of behavior is incredibly selfish and shows huge disrespect for both our rider community and other humans in general. Even if you ignore the financial ramifications – which are massive – you are engaging in incredibly dangerous behavior and involving innocent people who shouldn’t have to live with running over another human just because they went out for a Sunday drive. On top of that, from my perspective inside the industry, I also see all of the negative effects in terms of public perception that these incidents have on all of us who ride.

I suppose I should also mention that I’m not better (or much better) than the guy shown in the video. I’ve ridden at speeds slightly faster than I can probably handle on public roads full of other riders and cars and had my own scary moments when I felt lucky not to go down. The fact that I haven’t fallen is less about my superior skills and more about luck, and it’s from that position that I say that we need to stop acting like this behavior is normal or acceptable.

The guy was wearing leathers, a full-face helmet, boots, and gloves. By many people’s standards, he was doing it right until he fell. But his gear wouldn’t have helped the driver of the first car, who alertly swerved to miss his sliding body, if the car had rolled into the ravine.

Riding fast on public roads can be incredibly fun, but will never match the level of riding achieved by visiting the local racetrack. Riding on the track allows you to focus on your abilities and technique by taking out all of the other variables. There are no corners with rocks or gravel around the bend, no spots with hidden pavement transitions, no cars coming the opposite direction, no water running across the pavement, and no animals to jump out onto the road.

Everyone on the track understands and has signed up for the risks, and, while some will say the same for areas like the snake, you just simply don’t have the right to make that claim about a public road. Many of us avoid popular roads like the snake because of the unpredictable behavior that takes place, but it is not your right to tell me I don’t belong on a public road just because you’re going to put me in danger. Arguments about the cost or accessibility of track days also have no bearing on whether it is okay to ride at this level on the street.

A quick look at the YouTube comments shows people blaming the car driver, people blaming the road conditions, people blaming the tires, and a few blaming the rider. Riders who frequent that area like to blame the individual, but in reality it’s the fault of all of them for making this kind of riding appear acceptable. There is no test to determine who should be allowed to go knee-down riding on the snake and who shouldn’t. “Oh, well that guy just wasn’t good enough,” isn’t an acceptable answer when the method of weeding out the unworthy comes with such a potentially high price.

I realize I may be alienating many of you by saying this. Understand it is not my intention to drive more wedges between the different types of riding people do. I absolutely understand the canyon rider's perspective. I’ve gotten a few speeding tickets in my day and each one was followed by the feeling that what I was doing just wasn’t worth the cost, and not just because I got caught. I’ve finally come to a place in my riding that I don’t have to wait until I get unlucky to realize that the behavior wasn’t worth it in the first place.

Next time you suit up to head out, think about whether your hobby is worth possibly taking a life or giving your own. Decide whether you’re okay with the idea of your mom or grandma going out for a Sunday drive and accidentally taking the life of a motorcyclist who ran wide into her lane. Consider that the guy riding down the hill as you ride up might low-side like this guy did and send you flying. You may be good enough, but he may not be, and if you’re out there riding like this, you’re sending the message that the entire scene is acceptable. This sort of riding isn’t a right, and it’s time we all evaluated whether we should even consider it an option.

Hope to see you on the track, and not on the news.