4. Your Schedule
If something’s on the burner, whether it’s a call you’re expecting or a meeting you ought to attend, or even if there’s a chance you might get summoned, please don’t join our leisurely motorcycle ride. You shouldn’t even get on the bike, because even if you’re riding solo, you’ll be so stressed you won’t enjoy it. Worse, you’ll be a distracted rider, and that’s far more dangerous (to you) than a distracted driver.
Me? I don’t even ride when I might be tardy, preferring instead to take the car just in case I need to make the “sorry, I’m running late” call. Look, the two times I’ve kissed the pavement it happened solely because I was in a hurry. If I hadn’t been rushing, I would not have been distracted or taking risks I probably shouldn’t have been taking in an effort to arrive on time.
Make this your mantra: ”Motorcycling is supposed to be fun.” If it’s not fun, it’s probably dangerous and you shouldn’t be doing it right then and there.
5. Your Route
There’s nothing more maddening than finding a road closed — unless it’s sitting at a roadblock, waiting for a flagman to wave you through. With a bit of preparation, it’s a breeze to spot potential delays — construction or traffic or whatever — and work around them.
I once went out with a coworker who kept insisting I “simply must” ride this one particular stretch of twisties. Only problem was, by the time we arrived at the fabled strip of pavement, after two hours of interstate slog, we discovered the road closed for construction; it had been for weeks, it turns out, and we were forced to turn around and backtrack.
One summer, on a cross-country press ride, our group got caught in the mountains of Idaho, carefully navigating big, brand-new touring bikes over a 30-mile stretch of treacherous gravel road that had been ground up for repaving. We made it through unscathed, but the delay threw us off by hours, and we didn’t arrive at our hotel that night until the bar had closed. The horror!
In both instances, these were long-planned construction projects with warnings posted on the Internet — only no one had bothered to check out the route online beforehand. Once you’re stuck there, there’s no one to blame but yourself. So don’t get stuck there.
6. Your Head
Whoever made up the slogan “don’t drive angry” was definitely onto something. But it’s more than just anger. There are a million mindsets to avoid while riding: stressed, frazzled, over-caffeinated, and, of course, loaded. All of these and more detract from your ability to focus. And lack of focus on a motorcycle will get you killed.
I mentioned my two crashes, where I was too busy rushing to be properly cautious. Both instances could have had far worse results. I still carry a zipper on my forearm and a titanium rod in my hip as reminders that motorcycling requires full attention to the matter at hand.
Smart, seasoned riders know better than to take risks. Before you ride, check your head.
Everyone’s checklist is different. What’s yours?