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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What they didn't teach us in motorcycle safety school

The class where the instructor spent nearly half an hour discussing riding safety apparel (while we all sat looking longingly at the shiny scooters and motorcycles lined up behind him) seemed deliberately evil. 

As he droned on about riding jackets, gloves, helmet construction, full-face vs. 3/4, the improved visibility to be had from cleaning bug spatter off the face shield before each ride, and about flipping up the face shield when stopped at a light to avoid fogging it up with your breath... we all struggled with our impatience and nodded dutifully in all the right places.

All those obstacle course hours and endless slaloms/figure eights between orange cones prepared us well to deftly avoid potholes, roadkill, suicidal pedestrians, feral dogs, brainless partridges and scattered piles of sheep and donkey sh!t.

Those über-slow riding exercises, teetering on the verge of falling over, that we found so mind-crushingly boring have proven invaluable for riding in stopped traffic, lane splitting and balancing my scoot for those last few milliseconds before the light turns green.

The emergency braking drills that we did over and over and over again - on dry pavement, wet pavement and pavement soaked with motor oil - helped us understand, identify and experience the outer limits of traction... and also hammered home that there is an important difference in the use and function of the front and rear brakes.

The additional segment where they taught us not to panic in case of attacks with rocks or Molotov cocktails; the one where the instructors tossed water balloons at us and had us ride through puddles of burning gasoline, was an eye-opener (my wife had done that segment in a car a few years ago).  But in the back of my mind I felt it was like taking boxing or Judo lessons in preparation for a street fight.

But now that I am riding nearly every day, I am truly grateful for all those skills whose acquisition seemed so dull and impractical while I was yearning to get that motorcycle endorsement on my driver's license.  The safety course has certainly made me a better, safer driver than I otherwise would have been... and has prepared me to share the road with people who are anything but safe.

However, in light of recent experience, I'm just a little disappointed that the instructors didn't find a moment during all those theory and riding hours to mention - even once! - the strategy and mechanics of sneezing inside a full face helmet at highway speeds.  I feel that at some point they should have found the time to prepare us for the possibility that if we don't do it exactly right, we might end up riding for an indefinite period of time while squinting at the world through the freshly evacuated contents of our sinus cavities.

I'm just saying...

Posted by David Bogner on April 28, 2010 | Permalink


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Nice post. Funny as usual. How much (NIS) was the course? Do you need a manual transmission specification on your car drivers license?

Posted by: Andy | Apr 28, 2010 9:48:19 AM

Andy... The course that my wife took was offered through the Moetza of Efrat. It was part of a larger course in personal safety that was offered primarily to women. Feel free to call Zahava if you need more info. The sourse I took was in Beer Sheva and was part of a prep course to get a motorcycle license.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Apr 28, 2010 9:54:49 AM

Yechhh. Funny, but yechhh. What is it with you, motorcycle riding, and nasal contents?

(Note to self: "Motorcycles & Nasal Contents" - worst alternative band name ever...)

Posted by: efrex | Apr 28, 2010 2:33:04 PM

I once quickly flipped open my visor before a sneeze, not realizing the wind was so strong, then sneezed and lost a contact lens.

As someone who rode for a number of years (1962 Rabbit Touring 150), I'm glad you're taking safety into consideration. We don't see much of that around here. The best piece of advice is one a friend gave me many years ago: "always be looking for a way out. You never know what's coming your way." That one saved my tuchos many times.

Posted by: Morey Altman | Apr 28, 2010 3:04:51 PM

I've always been so glad I took the motorcycle safety course. It's amazing to me how differently I drive on my motorcycle as opposed to in a car - although I guess riding has made me a better driver overall. On my bike I take it a lot more personally when people try to run me over and "kill me"! I've always wanted a bat carrier attached so I can beat someone when they stop or pull out right in front of me. I guess you just need a shepherd's rod :-)

Love your posts lately.

Posted by: Beth | Apr 28, 2010 3:13:26 PM

Yucky but funny.

My husband can never understand how people drive without helmets considering the amount of squashed bugs he always had to wipe off his visor.

So pleased to see your post this morning . I was a little concerned when I heard about that accident on the news.

And Beth, my husband recommends heavy work boots for 'dinging' the paintwork of those drivers who purposely/carelessly open doors or pull out in front of you :0)

Posted by: Esther | Apr 28, 2010 4:28:42 PM

The same warning should have been applied to the post (as I clean off my coffee-infused display)

Thanks for sharing a chuckle, though... been there... usually that first ride in spring when the pollen is kicked into full gear

Posted by: Jethro | Apr 28, 2010 5:00:02 PM


Posted by: LARRY | Apr 28, 2010 5:24:23 PM

Fortunately you won't have to experience the frost forming on the inside of the face mask while on the highway praying the exit was coming up soon.

Posted by: dave | Apr 28, 2010 5:27:42 PM

thanx for that. my diet starts.. now.

Posted by: shabtai | Apr 28, 2010 5:28:09 PM

Esther - My husband can never understand how people drive without helmets considering the amount of squashed bugs he always had to wipe off his visor.

They (those who ride without helmets) do the same as your husband ... except they scrape the bugs out of their teeth :-)

Isn't that why helmetless riders always carry a toothpick around with them?

Posted by: Mark | Apr 28, 2010 5:58:07 PM

You get to drive through burning gasoline in driving school in Israel? While what that implies about your safety situation is sad, this is pretty awesome! Yay for Evil Knievil safety lessons!

Posted by: Carsten | Apr 28, 2010 8:09:37 PM

Aw, geez, Dave, I'm EATING here!

Posted by: Marsha, in Paramus at the moment | Apr 28, 2010 8:25:57 PM

At the risk of sounding like my Ema (who by the way is a big fan of your blog), I do have to say, "Do you know how DANGEROUS motorcycles are?!" Seriously, be careful. Remember what country you are in ...driving in an armored tank on our roads means risking life and limb from our non-signaling, yet triple lane-changing, speed up and then slam on the brakes drivers. Zahava tell him about eggshell fractures!

Posted by: Yael | Apr 28, 2010 8:31:06 PM

Wow, I teach motorcycle classes here in the States, so a lot of what I read was yeah, yeah, yeah, but dodging water balloons and puddles of burning gas... WOW. And yes, I've sneezed in my full face helmet. I open the visor, pull the helmet down as much as possible, so most of the sneeze goes out the opening. Actually the part I worry about most is the few milliseconds of a sneeze when my eyes are closed.

Posted by: JDMDad | Apr 29, 2010 12:45:06 AM

Funny post! That course sounds like the two-day one I took by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. I also had a Vespa (200cc) but upgraded to a 1600 cc Kawasaki. More practical for highway touring.

Posted by: Yaron | Apr 29, 2010 12:47:29 AM

S'not fun when that happens. :)

Posted by: Karl Newman | Apr 29, 2010 5:26:53 AM

I forgot to add, if you use my technique, also turn your head so the sneeze goes to the side, and not right back into you!

Posted by: JDMDad | Apr 29, 2010 10:21:54 PM

Um. Ew.

Posted by: Alissa | May 2, 2010 5:01:56 PM

You could always try a modular helmet with a "one-touch" release to open the face mask then turn your head to the side so that your sneeze doesn't blow back into your eyes and face! Don't visualize that.

Posted by: Full Faced Motorcycle Helmets | Oct 30, 2012 8:25:36 PM

Over the weekend I travel with my bike. Along the way on my first stop over I saw a kid riding a motorcycle while his dad tagging along him at the back. At first the kid goes slow, and as soon as I was beside the motorcycle. The kid, whom I think felt nervous, suddenly swerve and skid in the road. Good thing that his dad is at the back and the kid was save. This just shows how much people needs to be taught before riding the motor vehicles on the road.

Posted by: Marty Klaine | Mar 25, 2013 5:45:37 PM

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