TOP PRIORITY: Practice Patience When Riding Your Motorcycle - RIDE CRAFT

Impatience and pushiness are traits to avoid when you're on two wheels

time illustration by Ryan Inzana
Time...Illustration by Ryan Inzana

With this latest Ride Craft, I'm not trying to teach you a physical technique that can be mastered with correct practice. Rather, I seek to drive home this simple but important message: Don't push time. This applies to all riders but particularly to riders who are always in a rush. You know who you are.

How can we avoid being at the wrong place at the wrong time? In the intersection when the drunk runs a red light in his Suburban. Next to the semi when its tire explodes. Or behind the pickup truck when the ladder falls off. In each of these cases, five seconds earlier or later would have kept us safe.

Do your best to let time flow in a normal manner when on a motorcycle. No guarantees, you understand. You still might be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the more I hang around this sport, the more I see impatience and pushiness being punished.

I’m talking about the rider who pushes everywhere, always tailgating, impatient, passing too closely, often upset at other traffic, breaking laws due to the desire to “get going.” The metronomic passing of time means nothing to this rider. He is always pushing, rushing, forcing.

I used to become impatient with a slow lunch waitress, or if I dropped my key under my bike, or if I had to wait for a fuel pump to open up. Not anymore. “Everything happens for a reason” is a great adage to recite when things don’t go as quickly or efficiently as possible on a riding day. Let it happen. Let time beat along. This also means: Do things at a pace that allows you to remain calm, attentive, and aware.

An example: My brother Bill and I went for a ride up Angeles Crest Highway above Los Angeles in 2004. Bill is a long-distance trucker and rides conservatively at the speed limit. We got about 3 miles up the Crest and came up behind a dark-blue GMC Sonoma going about 3 mph slower than we were. If I were by myself, I would have passed the truck, but I knew my brother wasn’t comfortable, so we just hung behind the truck and enjoyed the day. Cruising.

About a mile later, we came around a corner to find a car smashed against the right-hand guardrail and a minivan just coming to a stop sideways across the oncoming lane. They had hit head-on when the minivan wandered across the lane.

My brother—a successful professional driver—brought up the crash later that night. He knew I’d wanted to pass the Sonoma. He wondered where we would have been if we’d done it. So do I.

Riding can be a tough, unforgiving activity when things go wrong. We can work hard on our skills to master our surroundings. We can be mentally focused to better interpret our environment. We can spend money to perfect our ride.

And let’s also do our best to not push the flow of time.