Common Tread

What experienced riders owe new and would-be riders

May 28, 2014

Marcus Ledezma decided he wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle last week. Just 150 yards after swinging his leg over something we all hold near and dear to our hearts for the very first time, he drifted into oncoming traffic and collided with an SUV.

The collision that killed Ledezma happened at night on Imperial Highway in Brea, Calif., a major six-lane thoroughfare through the city. He was not wearing a helmet or any other safety gear.

All this has me thinking about what we, as experienced riders, owe our friends or relatives or even strangers who express an interest in learning to ride.

Now, I’m definitely not an ATGATT crusader. I started riding wearing denim jackets, novelty three-quarters helmets, sunglasses, and Vans. I don’t think anyone learns when being talked down to about safety. I learned to wear real gear by asking my friends who were good examples. They let me borrow their gear to try it out. Like most people, I felt naked when I tried to go back.

Formal training by a professional is great, but I also admit I’ve taught friends to ride on my bikes. I get that many people don’t want to shell out the money for a training course without ever having ridden at all. Plus, I understand that for some people it's easier to take those first steps without a class full of people staring at you.

So, it’s from that place that I say we, as experienced riders, need to show some common sense and responsibility. It’s our job not to talk down to and nag new or would-be riders, like some overbearing mother or annoying teacher, but to lead by example. We should set the bar higher.

Running wide in a corner, like Ledezma did, is an easy mistake to make. It's a mistake just about all of us have made, so imagine how easily it could happen just seconds into your first-ever ride, with no training or preparation. Run a little wide, lack the knowledge of what to do, fix your gaze on the giant SUV you're praying you don’t hit — crash.

Simple words could have prevented all of this.

“Sure you can ride my bike. Meet me in the parking lot at the church. It's always empty on Saturday evening.”

“Yeah, I’ll teach you how to ride, but it’s easy to tip over when you’re just getting started and you’re going to have to wear some of my gear. I don’t want to be the guy telling your family you got hurt.”

These stories keep our families and significant others scared, discourage potential riders from trying to learn, and give us a bad reputation. Yes, motorcycles can be dangerous, but we don’t need to make them more dangerous. These kinds of tragedies don’t need to be a part of our story.