Riding After

I went for my second motorcycle ride in about eight months yesterday. The hiatus was due to a fairly bad accident (seven broken ribs and some bone in my upper back), punctuated by getting my bike back from the shop last October. It was much easier to repair the bike than it was to patch me up!

I have no memory of the accident. But from what I can piece together, I high-sided the bike. Fortunately, I was only doing about 25 miles per hour, because those kinds of accidents can be lethal at high speeds.

A month or so after the accident, it struck me that I’d learned something interesting. One moment I was doing something I really enjoyed, and the next I was coming to in the back of an ambulance (first thought, looking at the ceiling: “This is not good”). If I had died during the intervening time it would’ve been like pulling the plug on a computer. Crash! Gone.

Oddly, this gave me a small degree of comfort. Going out like a light isn’t all that bad of a way to die. Of course, there are no guarantees in life.

But yesterday, while I was out riding I learned the flip side of that insight. I found myself being even more alert than usual — you have to be very alert on a bike because of all the blind drivers in those big death-dealing contraptions called “cars” — and, as a result, didn’t enjoy the ride as much as I used to.

It occurred to me later that such a reaction was both reasonable and inevitable. Since I don’t know what caused the accident, “everything” is now a potentially serious threat. Rationally, that makes no sense. Or is at least not a useful model. You have to make quick judgments constantly while riding, and focusing all your attention on each item as it comes up is a sure-fire way to wander right into a bad situation. But the the subconscious is not known for its rationality.

It’ll be interesting to see if I continue to react that way. I don’t plan on doing a lot of riding in the near future, if for no other reason than it’s the rainy season right now, and rain and bikes don’t get along well. But depending upon how much of the enjoyment is dissipated, the hobby makes less sense from a risk/reward perspective.

Of course, many people think it makes no sense at all to start with. Most of those aren’t riders, however.

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