A couple of things bring this topic up. The most recent is a 320 mi up and back Wing ride to Barron WI on Sunday along with being in IA for the 4th weekend where the ABATE rally was being held at Algona in the area we were at. Hundreds of bikers on the road without helmets.
Riding up to Barron and back via the scenic route I saw at least 50 bikes -- maybe a handful had helmets. I was most impressed by being behind a nice burnt-orange Harley Electra Glide style who was behind a slower vehicle in hard to pass country. When we finally got an opening, he pulled out and I hit the gas and immediately closed the gap and considered just going around him as well for a second, but decided "I'm already at 80 MPH ... where is the fire? So pulled in behind.
Helmetless, he apparently was headed for a fire -- I hung with him for a bit as he slowly crept the speed up to at least 90 -- I was already back in 5th and just went back down to 64.999999. He continued blasting down the highway and disappeared. Apparently as unconcerned about tickets as his head.
BTW, I was glad that I didn't do much for speeding this weekend -- on a road in IA with VERY little traffic where the speed trap was SHOCKING, there was a county mounty with the radar that gave me the flat hand pushed down and flipped the lights on but stayed sitting for my 64.9999 in the 55 in the Avalanche. Saw four other cops set up and met a few more in both IA and WI, so the troops were out of the 4th weekend!
The second incident of impetus was on the leg home as part of a nice 360 mile jaunt up to Barron a week ago with my wife that included a great run through Somerset WI, Hudson, River Falls, Prescott and down the WI side on 35. On the S side of Pepin WI, just after acclerating back up to 60ish, a white pickup made a swerve for me ... the snake brain (unconcious automatic reflexes) worked properly and rapidly, I swerved immediately right (I was in the left side of the S bound lane with wife on the right) and nothing happened -- good shot of adrenalin for both the wife and I, and life went on.
So a little data from the linked article ...
The number of motorcycle deaths per 100 million miles traveled trended down to 23.4 in 2012 from 38.8 in 2003, U.S. government data show.The rate for cars is 1.5 deaths per 100 million miles -- so like at least 20x more dangerous to be on a bike in raw data. From other stats, one can cut the risk by close to half by wearing a helmet (10x), another close to half by not drinking (5x), and another close to half by not driving at night. So MAYBE something like 2.5x as risky -- MAYBE ... I'm being optimistic by addiung the effects. 10x is more likely as "safe" as a bike gets.
But all that is not really how our human brains work.
My mental makeup is pretty close to the "scaredy cat limit for riding a motorcycle" -- my trust level for other drivers is darned near zip even in a car and approaches "paranoid" on a bike -- especially after things like the white truck incident.
I believe that people with the "fighter pilot, surgeon, NFL QB" kind of brain get MORE confident when they successfully avoid a "close one" like the white truck -- they look at it as "see, I have what it takes". I look at it as "damn, I'm glad the snake brain didn't screw up THAT time, but I STILL don't trust it!".
I strongly suspect that the 90+% of the bikers with no helmets that I saw on the roads this past weekend enjoy their rides more than I do because they are confident that they will not be one of those bad statistics -- they will get their 10k, 50k, 100K, or even million lifetime miles on bike with nothing very bad happening to them because they are GOOD and LUCKY! -- but they mostly don't think about it at all and just enjoy the ride, which I actually believe is the much better attitude.
But that isn't me! I do enjoy the ride (with some fear) --- but what I REALLY enjoy are the glorious memories of the rides.The emotional joy of being able to completely beleive that "I'm going to be OK" and riding down the road with the wind in your hair (or your scalp in my case) is a joy that I'll never know in this life -- and I'm jealous of that on occasion, but I'm wired as I'm wired.
Statistics have real limitations for us as individuals -- cancer, heart disease, accidents, Alzheimers, etc -- none of us get out of life alive. So we live -- as best we can, but still imperfectly. Some may be certain that when that last moment comes that St Peter will (or won't) call their name, but I'll just have to go on in HOPE! Such is the lot of the Moose, who most assuredly never has and never will rule the world.
"Viva la Vida" (Live Life) !
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