Having a progressive and often disabling diagnosis certainly makes me wonder about my future. My financial future and retirement, my physical and mental decline and how multiple sclerosis (MS) may affect my relationships with family and friends. As an avid motorcyclist now using my riding passion for a purpose, one of the questions I often get asked as I travel the country sharing my story is, “What will you do if you can no longer ride your motorcycle?”
It is a legitimate question for a man whose disease often presents itself with numbness, weakness and dizziness and creates balance and mobility issues. Canes, walkers and wheelchairs are common devices people with MS often need to rely on after years of disease progression.
My answer usually involves talking about the variety of options out there, such as attaching a sidecar, using trikes or new multi-wheel vehicles that do not require balance. There are a few companies that specialize in customizing vehicle controls for people who have disabilities but still want to enjoy the freedom, excitement and fun of motorcycle travel. Riding for me is medicinal, and whatever happens to my body in the future, I will do everything possible to continue taking my Motomedicine as prescribed.
I used to wonder if there would be motorcycles in heaven, or wherever I might end up. Lately, I have to wonder if motorcycles will still be a form of transportation here in the United States a decade from now. I understand motorcycles are not for everyone, and without the proper training, gear and frequent practice, they can certainly be a more dangerous way to travel than other means. I would argue though, for those who do learn to ride and ride often, the incredible experience and benefits are unlike anything else.
Motorcycle sales are way down, accessory companies are going out of business, and attendance numbers at big rallies such as Daytona and Sturgis are way down. Millennials are not interested in bikes or even cars when compared to generations past, and no one is buying their grandchildren mini-bikes for holidays or birthdays. Heck, kids today don’t even ride bicycles around their neighborhoods anymore. The average age of a motorcyclist is increasing, and as they die off, no one is stepping in to fill their boots. The industry is scrambling to find ways to introduce new and younger riders to motorcycles and to reverse this abrupt decline in interest, but will they be able to save motorcycling in time?
There are lots of reasons for this alarming decline. Riding a motorcycle is not inexpensive. Buying a bike, getting good training, proper gear, garaging, maintaining and finding the time to ride make motorcycles an infrequent, expensive hobby at best for most people who own them.
Some employers and communities view motorcycles as loud and obnoxious toys that disturb the peace. This leads to banning all motorcycles from their property or cities. Loud pipes do nothing but lose rights.
Virtual reality is a cool toy, but when people believe sitting on a couch in 3D with a group of imaginary friends can compare in any way to getting out of the house and experiencing the world by interacting with real people and traveling on incredible adventures, we are indeed in trouble as a society. We work from home, play from home, learn from home and shop from home. Sadly, we have scared ourselves into never venturing out into the world without our survival kits containing sunscreen, sanitizer and a tracking device pre-programmed to dial 911.
I believe one of the biggest reasons interest in riding motorcycles has declined sharply is
I chuckle when they question why there are no new riders coming into the sport.
We are living in a world where we sanitize everything we touch from door knobs to shopping carts and no longer shake hands for fear of getting the bird flu. We are immune from experiencing fun and excitement, especially of it involves any hint of risk. We are overly cautious and overly disinfecting our kids, raising young quarantined adults who believe all life has to offer is available from YouTube. Fake news!
Transportation has become so blandly safe, automobile drivers need not worry about paying attention. No need to judge the distance between the car ahead or if it is safe to change lanes. We don’t even need to remember where we parked or if we put the baby in the back seat. No thinking required, our car will tell us what to do. Our quest to make a safer world over the last 30 years has created a distracted driving epidemic and now the new goal is to take all the responsibilities of driving away from the operator and hand them over to an autonomous vehicle.
I sell T-shirts that say, “Stop Distracted Drivers by Bringing Back Ashtrays and Stick Shifts.”
Seriously, it would work. Remember when driving a car was a fun activity representing freedom and exploration? Remember going out for a Sunday drive? Is joyride still in the dictionary?
For most people and municipalities, motorcycles do not fit into this disinfected safety-above-all-else world of transportation. I hear the usual concerns every time I speak to a non-rider audience or even strangers I meet at gas stations. “Do you always wear a helmet?” “How many times have you been hit?” “Aren’t you scared to ride by yourself?” “Please be safe”, and “We pray every time we see a biker”. “Ride safe.” “Be careful.” “I hope you make it home.”
Riders like myself who take motorcycling seriously are constantly defending our choice of daily transportation. We fight against the negative perceptions by listing the safety features of motorcycles, advantages of proper gear and rider training. The manufacturers, motorcycle rights groups and industry think tanks are all doing the same, trying to say motorcycles are not unsafe. This defensive approach doesn’t seem to be working very well.
With the dangers being hammered into the head of the general public from every angle, the positive benefits of riding motorcycles, of which there are so many, are rarely publicized.
What happened to promoting the fun, excitement, power, independence and the adventure made possible by two-wheeled travel?
Maybe it is finally time we stop being so defensive about motorcycles and just simply present the world with a few positive benefits of riding motorcycles. Let’s start by sharing the #1 reason we love to ride motorcycles: they are incredibly FUN.
Here is my latest, brilliant plan to protect the future of motorcycles.
We have all seen the LOOK TWICE SAVE A LIFE bumper stickers that have been alerting drivers to be aware of motorcycles for many years. The message was strong and simple, if you don’t pay attention, you could KILL someone riding a motorcycle.
I created an improved way to say the same thing without having motorcycles and death in the same message.
LOOK TWICE Riders Having FUN!
This new slogan reminds drivers to be aware AND promotes motorcycle fun at the same time.
Did I mention this was a brilliant idea that might just save the motorcycle industry?
Bumper stickers, helmet stickers and T-shirts are exclusively available here:
Together, we can take motorcycles off the endangered species list!