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New book addresses midlife urge to return to motorcycling
Life-long motorcycling enthusiast John Metzger has written a book aimed at steering fellow midlife returnees to the world of biking safely through the beckoning bends.
On sale by Motomarathon Association press at 15 dollars, “Motorcycling through Midlife: the call of the corner” looks at the particular dangers faced by the middle-aged craving their youthful urges to re-live the thrill of the open road on two wheels.
Motorcycle sales have boomed in Europe and the USA during the last three decades as more people choose to spend their spare cash on recreational motorcycling as they reach an age when maturity has not quelled the continued need for youthful excitement. With fatter wallets, they’re able at last to buy into the dream that they had as teenagers and that gleaming Harley is no longer out of reach.
However, according to Metzger, a safe return to motorcycling should be more about the riding than the image and the author favours more modern sports tourers over the laid-back street cruisers of bygone years. By opting for more modern technology, the returnee rider has the advantage of far superior brakes, geometry and suspension as well as giving the confidence to ride progressively without the fatigue associated with the riding position of a cruiser or a bike with full sports configuration.
John Metzger told TrafficSafe that his book is aimed mostly at those of a certain age who are new to motorcycling but the same principles apply to those returning after a biking hiatus. These advances in safety technology, he said, are something to behold, they will surprise returnee bikers and they’ll take some getting used to in themselves.
John doesn’t have anything against Harley Davidsons or motorcycles of similar configuration, his approach is more inclined towards the psychology of the rider. People seek different things from their motorcycling experiences with some wanting the “rebel” image which is more likely to be associated with a feet-forward, arms-up riding style, casual clothing and no helmet. TrafficSafe’s stance on helmets is unequivocal: choosing not to wear a helmet in those states which allow it is a question of congenital stupidity rather than style.
Riding position is a significant factor in terms of riding safely. The laid-back position works if the rider drives appropriately without demanding rapid handling response. With feet forward and arms raised, the ability to manoeuvre out of trouble drops dramatically, according to John, a situation made even worse on “chopped” bikes with raised handlebars and extended forks. Such riding positions are also less comfortable, especially for older riders.
Riding a motorcycle is a much more physical experience than driving a car. A car is controlled with the hands and feet – the driver’s weight distribution has no effect. Motorcycle riders can lower the centre of gravity by transferring weight from their bums to their feet, they can shift weight from the back to the front with body position or by applying more pressure to the handlebars. Whether they’re aware of the physics of it or not, most motorcyclists do this all the time to fine tune their bike’s handling. Those who don’t are quite prone to falling on greasy wet corners. This fine tuning of the balance of rider and motorcycle is more difficult to achieve on laid-back cruisers.
The point is that the choice of what motorcycle to ride should be based on the rider’s expectations of what constitutes safe motorcycling pleasure. You don’t have to have Kevlar body-armour and a 200hp sports bike to enjoy cruising the Pacific Coast Highway but neither should you expect to be able to hustle a Harley through Alpine passes. Choosing appropriately and riding appropriately is the key point.
John Metzger illustrated this when he told us, “The real problem is exhibited when I pass a cruiser on my ergonomically superior yet 40-year-old BMW, and the rider uses horsepower to try and catch up in search of misplaced youthful thrills. THAT’S dangerous, and it’s the rider’s brain, fuelled by adolescent bravado, that has created this dangerous situation. The brain is the problem, not the Harley.
So does John dismiss the Harley as being not the bike for him? He tells us in his book “Harleys are okay, and in fact, in my later midlife years, I’m riding more two-up with my wife and our next bike may very well be a cruiser! If that’s the case, I know how NOT to ride it.”
“Motorcycling through Midlife: the call of the corner” is available from Motomarathon Association Press
TrafficSafe Road Safety Blog