Closing at forty MPH, I have a choice to make. Driving a car, you just slow down when the guy in front of you does. I don’t like to slow down. I stomp on the gear shift instead of the break, and tuck my elbows in.
I’ve been driving a motorcycle to work for about eight months now. It’s a fifteen minute drive each way (twenty with traffic) over surface streets. No freeway, which is actually more dangerous than it sounds. When you’re on the freeway everyone is going the same direction. On the back roads you get pickup trucks popping in from the farms, tractors crawling along at jogging pace, and a sprinkling of insane bicyclists shaving the barely paved shoulder. Also, it seems like a third of the vehicles are those giant semi-trailer trucks that you can’t see around and accelerate like a bad head cold.
So now I’m even with the mud-flaps. He’s probably going thirty, and I’m maybe doubling that. I’m sure not watching my speedometer. Looking down while your passing on a two lane road with a big trucks going both ways is just bad form. Also, it’s broken, just reads zero most of the time. Speaking of time, I’m now approaching a terrifying closing speed in the opposing lane.
But I’ve already cleared the truck on my side, so I lean the bike over a bit and glide back to the right side of the road. I’ve even got time to consider if what I just did was a good idea before the wave-front of air from the cement mixer going the other direction slams into my helmet. But the bike cuts through it, I hold on, and we both continue on our merry way.
I wear full gear when I’m riding. If I had hit that cement mixer head on, even two helmets wouldn’t keep my fillings out of the grill… but I try not to let that happen. Imagine jam in those little plastic containers. Hit it with a hammer, and it still goes “splat”. But if you rub it on toast, it stays in one piece. Gear is for when you take a spill. It keeps your flesh from getting spread over the asphalt like jam on toast.
I guess I’m hungry.
Point is, I probably spend ten minutes every day, just getting in and out of leathers. Is it worth it? I haven’t needed them yet. Though they do keep you out of the wind. And I think I look like a super-hero in my silver and black gear. Maybe it makes me more confident, which could be bad, because I’m coming up on a stoplight.
Stoplights are where a motorcycle shines. If you have to guts to split lanes and tap side-view mirrors with a couple people, you get to be first at the starting line every time. It’s like the traffic isn’t even there. I suppose I could ride the center-line the same way, but I’m not that crazy. Well, not yet anyhow. This time it’s tricky though, because the light just turned green, and I’m still a few cars back.
I try not to split lanes with moving cars. A vehicle sitting still is just scenery. A vehicle doing forty-five on the freeway is a weasel. In this version of the song, the “pop” kills you. A business man in the sports car accelerating off of a light is even worse. He’s trying to beat the truck in the other lane so he can make his turn. That means he’s looking to change lanes without checking for me.
I’m coming up between them at about “dead if you rear-end anyone” speed, with just enough space that I won’t touch either as long as I keep my knees tucked in. That, and I’m trying to beat the sports car so I can make the turn going the other way.
So far, so good!