A question often asked by new riders particularly in Vietnam as from the outside it all seems so crazy. The road toll would suggest yes but sadly that statistic is due primarily to uncalculated risk.
Riding in the mountains yesterday on a relatively unfamiliar bike and pushing to find its limits, I got to thinking about RISK. Asking myself, am I at unnecessary risk? Am I being responsible to my family, friends and myself? As I rode here's some food for thought I wanted to share!
Firstly I felt comfortable as I was fully on point concentration wise, wearing the appropriate gear and riding to the conditions within my ability. All factors extremely important on a motorcycle. I knew the bike was fully maintained including the correct tyre pressures so as I eased into the flow, satisfied myself this was "calculated risk". I then started to think about uncalculated risk and what makes me uncomfortable.
The night before walking to dinner with my wife and little boy I felt uncomfortable. A section on the opposite side of the road had no accessible footpath so, though a quiet back street, we were walking with the traffic flow at times also with no footpath and leaving us vulnerable to other road users. Constantly looking back to ensure our safety and not leave our fate to chance was my only way to calculate the risk.
On the same night walking home from dinner two expats, two abreast in dark clothing with no lights on bicycles? The street so dark I heard them talking before we seen them. A scooter jockey, particularly if one of the many also without lights most certainly wouldn't. The only thing good to come out of that was the opportunity to explain to my boy how dangerous it was. Uncalculated risk!
Riding pillion on a GRAB bike to me is the greatest example of putting your faith and fate in a complete strangers hands I think I've ever seen. I see people sitting on the back texting, the strap of the completely inadequate "helmet" blowing in the wind whilst the rider, one handed is fixated on his phone. If you absolutely must use this service have your own decent helmet, correctly fitted and refuse any rider without a phone holder as bare minimum toward calculating the risk.
Sure there are times I have certainly put my faith in others. Skydiving, bungy jumping, white water rafting etc. In these endeavors whilst there is risk you choose a professional company with an impeccable record to as best you can, calculate the risk.
So it is the same with motorcycling. Know and understand the risk so you can take the appropriate measures to minimize it. There are a few checks which I go into detail about in other blogs on my website. Spatial awareness, appropriate helmet and maintenance being three of the big ones. Understanding this can take what some see as a risky form of commuting or pleasure to a relatively safe one. Calculated risk!
We all take risk. As soon as your feet hit the floor in the morning there is some element of risk in everything we do. It's what keeps us alive, sharp, the adrenalin flowing. None of us wants to live in an over regulated world. If we are to take risk though shouldn't we get some reward? Walking up or across the street without looking, riding at night with no lights or wearing an inappropriate helmet doesn't really seem enough reward to magnify risk of major injury or death to me.
Calculate that risk by looking as a pedestrian, lights on at night, a decent helmet always and a correctly maintained bike and the risk is immeasurably minimised. It really isn't difficult to be safe on a motorcycle with a bit of thought around reducing your risk.
Enjoy the wonder of riding motorcycles for sure. It is the most efficient means of transport in the cities and the perfect companion to explore the country but as with any pursuit you and only you are the master of your destiny!
Ride smart, ride safe