Everyone know how much Charlie and I love to ride. The farther away from a perceived safety net, the better we like it. What’s more, mom rides. So does Zach. And Fletch, Nathan, Bryan, Michael, Kyle, Don, Craig, Carolyn,Shane, Lynn, Rodney, Lisa, Ken Sr, Ken Jr, Armando, and too many others to name here, brothers and sisters all. And I think that I know the habits of these riders well enough to know that not one of them would drink and ride.
As motorcyclists, we have a legitimate fear that the rest of the driving public is out to get us; road rage, distracted driving, “sorry, officer, I didn’t see him”. But what about what we are doing to ourselves?
Earlier tonight, I saw a post on a local biker’s forum: “meeting for drinks, then going riding, who wants to go?” was the gist of it. When I commented simply “drinking? Riding? Wow…”, they simultaneously crawfished and attacked, saying that they weren’t implying alcoholic drinks, but there was nothing wrong with having a beer before riding, that they weren’t alcoholics. And that I had better “STAY IN MY LANE!”, (their caps, not mine), I guess this being biker talk for minding my own business. Very original, if a bit passive aggressive.
Since when is someone swinging wide into my lane NOT my business? (My caps this time). And where do you draw the line? One beer? Two? Six? Or, while we bitch snd moan about the impaired actions of the cars around us, we casually joke about passing “biker bars” with their lines of rolling thunder lounging outside, left elbow languidly resting on the asphalt, while their jockeys sit inside supposedly sipping Fresca and Perrier? Or the kegs and ice chests at “biker” rallies contain only the purest spring water? Because we know that there is no way that alcohol is being consumed; we’re good people! We do toy runs and other charitable works! Besides, what real harm does an occasional beer cause, any way?
As much as we like to blame car drivers for the riskiness of riding, the GHSA study says that the vast majority of fatal motorcycle crashes don’t involve another vehicle, and of these incidents, alcohol use is all too often the common denominator; “had to lay her down” is ususlky preceded by “believe I’ll have another round”. We kill ourselves more often than “cagers” kill us. The GHSA report also says that motorcyclists who die in a crash are more likely to have been drinking than drivers of other kinds of vehicles.
And for some, motorcycling is a weekend hobby that involves riding with friends to a favorite eating spot or bar. And what harm could a few beers do,right?
To find a scientific answer to that question, the GHSA report cites a 2007 study by researchers in Minnesota in which experienced riders were tested while riding under controlled levels od inebriation, employing drills used in qualifying students during Motorcycling Safety Foundation instruction. They found that that while reduced performance was evident at the legal limit of 0.08 percent blood alcohol content, reduced performance showed up in some tests at 0.05 percent BAC, or even below.
That goes back to an issue that many find to be a conundrum with drinking and riding. You need to have the good judgment to know when the alcohol is starting to affect your ability to ride, but unfortunately one of the things first affected by alcohol, even before a breakdown in motor skills is evident, is judgment. So at the very time it’s most critical to make an accurate assessment, your judgment is impaired. Could that also be the reason for the kneejerk reaction every time the issue of helmet laws is raised? Oh, Lordy, now I went and done it.
Ah, well, where were we? Oh yeah, the BAC of.O5; that’s approximately two beers. Let’s say that I’ve just bought a brand new bike, my dream bike,
with Charlie holding court from her vantage point in the Charkstream.
We all choose our own levels of risk. But what would yours be for me? What should I say if my best friend that happens to be a very good rider but had had a couple of PBR’S and blew an .05? I don’t even have to ask; before I would allow Charlie to be carried around by an impaired driver, I have a feeling that I would be drawn and quartered, then tarred and feathed, with no place to hide the quarter. So why don’t we care enouph for ourselves to stop this nonsense, or at least maybe even leave enough of an example to other riders. That, while riding is an enjoyable pastime, it is also a desdly serious activity?
So, back to my hypothetical new bike; would I let my imaginary impaired friend ride it after one beer? Two? Three? Or at what point would I even refuse to ride with them entirely? I wonder how we ever got to the point that drinking and riding, even as little bit, is socially acceptable in the first place? As motorcyclists, we would rise up with pitchforks and torches at the thought of those in traffic around us in traffic engaging in any type of distracted driving, but as bikers, it’s somehow permissible.
The hypocrisy is strong with this one, weedhopper.
I am fully aware that these words will gain me few friends in certain circles, and I find it regrettable, as I’m nothing if not a social animal and actually hate confrontation. But it is a fact that the numbers of motorcyclists in the US is declining daily due to many factors: an aging population, a sedentary lifestyle, rising costs of ownership, societal preconceptions, etc, so why add attrition to the list? All of us are needed to keep this wonderful lifestyle around for future generations…
…much more than that one beer.