I am not a thrill seeker. I never have been. Ever since I was a kid, I hated roller coasters, avoided horror movies, I didn’t drink any alcohol until my late twenties, I have never smoked, never done any drugs, never experimented. I never pushed the envelope. I was a band geek. I loved Star Trek. I wouldn’t consider myself an adrenaline junkie.
I suppose the reason I feel that I am not a thrill seeker is because my job is one of risk management. I am a commercial pilot. I fly a LearJet 60.
This airplane has the highest approach speeds of any civilian aircraft in production. It will outclimb any other airplane in the sky, except a military jet fighter.
I don’t fly this airplane for the thrills, although it can be exciting. I fly it because I love to fly. I flew a Cessna Caravan in Hawaii for years, and that airplane was about as sporty as a Dodge Caravan. I have been a pilot for over a third of my life. I know that Lindbergh was spot on when he said, ”Science, freedom, beauty, adventure, What more could you ask of life?”
“Science, freedom, beauty, adventure:
What more could you ask of life?”
Now I say I am not a thrill seeker, yet I love to ride motorcycles. To me it is not about the thrill. It is a simple extension of that love of freedom, beauty, and adventure. Adventure is not the same as thrills, just as an adventure movie is not the same as a thriller.
For someone who has a love of machines as I do, a motorcycle represents an almost Zen approach to mechanized transport. It is a simple machine. It is not much more than a bicycle with a motor. There are many interpretations and variations in design, from the chrome plated rolling work of art cruisers, with their loud belching pipes, the RV like Touring bikes, with built-in Stereos, heated handgrips and engines larger than those found in cars, to the high pitched sewing machine whine of the supersport bikes that look like they are racing even when standing still.
There are many parallels I see between aviation and motorcycling. First and foremost, for some reason the public has major misunderstandings about both endeavors. Both activities are seen as being somewhat dangerous. Not a single person was killed in a Western-built commercial aircraft in 2010. Flying is the SAFEST form of transport out there, yet there are folks you probably know that will not get on a plane, or are scared of airplanes for no logical reason. A person driving is more of a danger to themselves and others than anyone flying, yet there is a perception of danger with aviation.
I have actually crash landed an airplane. I survived without injuries to myself or anyone else. It was more a forced landing due to an engine failure on a Downtown LA freeway at rush hour, but that’s another story. Was it thrilling? YES! Thrilling is not good. I do not want to thrill myself, my passengers or motorists on the Harbor Freeway in Los Angeles.
Motorcycling is more dangerous than flying. It is more dangerous than driving an automobile. In a car you have a cage around you. The motorcycle offers no such protection. You don’t have airbags, a seat belt, crumple zones or reinforced steel beams between you and a collision hazard. A motorcycle is more nimble, quicker, and stops better than any car. Those attributes somewhat offset the lack of protection, but in reality safety comes down to one thing. The rider.
Motorcycling can be a wonderful activity. My wife and I have ridden tens of thousands of miles without incident on 6 different bikes over the years. She put over 14,000 miles on her Kawasaki Ninja 250 in one year!
“…good judgment is more important than skill.”
Some would say that we have been lucky. Motorcycles are dangerous. You are gambling with your life. I don’t dispute that. However I will say that any activity can be made safer or more dangerous by the approach and attitude of the person involved. I want to be on the this Good Earth as long as possible. I always wear safety gear. Full face helmet, armored jacket, gloves, pants, boots, the works. When it comes to motorcycling, an assertive risk management approach should be used just as is used in any other high risk environment. I had an old flight instructor that used to tell me, “Anything dangerous can be done safely.” His comment may be taken a bit incredulously by some, but his mantra has proven itself to be true more than not.
One of the lessons that a motorcylist, just like a pilot should learn early on is that good judgment is more important than skill. Using good judgment helps you to avoid situations where you would need to use extraordinary skill to survive. A conservative safety minded approach to riding will matter more over the long term life of a rider than any displays of skill.
I leave the thrill seeking to those who want to show off. I have no need to pop wheelies, do burnouts, or race through traffic at triple digit speeds.
I do want to ride twisty mountain roads enjoying the feel of the road beneath me. I love the sound of the motor, the smell of gas and oil, and the challenge of maintaining a proper line through a curve.
There is nothing like a cruise down Pacific Coast Highway, with the wind rippling around your body, the cool salty air soothing your skin, enjoying it all without having to roll down a window.
To me that is what motorcycling is. An adventure. Rarely a thrill. Well, okay, maybe sometimes.