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As you may or may not know, I have recently written a book. It’s called The Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Woman. For this week’s column, I’ll write about the Three Strategies of the Unstoppable Biker, be you a she or a he.

The three strategies are accountability, collaboration and initiative. If you master these, you can master anything. Own what’s within your control to own, tap into the expertise of others and get off your butt (or in a wannabe biker’s case, get ON your butt) and do something.

I’ll start backwards here, and begin with initiative. That’s what separates the biker from the unfulfilled wannabe. Some people buy into the Rhonda Byrne’s Law of Attraction and think that all you have to do is visualize yourself riding a motorcycle and it will be so. Personally, I call it the f(L)aw of Attraction.

You and I know better: We’ve taken self-propelled initiative and actively pursued the dream. Our action was (in great likelihood) against all the advice of the best-intentioned people in the world (husband, wife, mom, dad, kids, etc). We’ve had to face their fears and we’ve had to face our own. Yet, we’ve stuck to our dream and learned how to ride. If we’re among the smarter segment in this country, we’ve taken some form of lessons from a course.

The key to initiative is remembering that the world of information is always changing. If you learned to ride 35 years ago, know that the technology of everything has changed and it’s up to you to learn what you don’t yet know.

Which leads to collaboration. As with anything in the world, we can either start from scratch or leverage the experience of others. Collaboration means learning from an experienced friend, a family member, or (my personal recommendation) a riding school.

There are degrees of collaboration, producing results that range from awful to good, better and best. What degree you get depends on the choices you make.

Leveraging the experience of others goes beyond the initial act of learning and extends well into the art of doing. Which was the point of last week’s column. It wasn’t about the wave; It was about building and belonging to a community.

When I ride, I physically prefer to ride alone. But in spirit I’m never alone. I ride with my teachers as well as those responsible for the technological advances. I keep company with T. E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) whose motorcycle head injury (and subsequent death) led to the introduction of helmets. And, of course, I share the road in the context of my current community, my fellow bikers (at whom I always wave).

Accountability is about taking responsibility for yourself. As bikers, we accept a certain degree of risk. We know that our likelihood of surviving an impact — any impact — on a bike is significantly lower than if we were in a car. We have to accept that we are the biker who will come out of nowhere.

I personally choose to counter this by being conspicuous (the art of being seen, calling on the 80 per cent factor of visual input); others counter it by the art of being heard, whether through pipes or airhorns. We also have to accept that some accidents are completely random — as when a driver in an oncoming car has a heart attack.

When it comes to looking out for your safety, you cannot depend on others to look out for you. One might not do a shoulder check, another might not cancel a signal light. Aunt Jane knows where she is going, so she doesn’t signal her left turn. Young Cameron in the boom box won’t hear you as you enter his blind spot, even though you have on aftermarket pipes.

The lifetime odds of dying in a motorcycle accident are one in 802 (the lifetime odds of dying as a pedestrian are even greater, at one in 623). You increase your own personal odds when you take a course, when you wear effective gear, when you choose an appropriate helmet. You decrease the odds when you drink and ride, when you ride in icy conditions or when you expect others to look out for your safety.

It breaks my heart whenever a motorcyclist dies. I won’t even invoke the old cliché of saying that at least they died doing something they love. Hell, I love riding but I’d prefer to complete each ride alive and unharmed. I’d prefer to die when I’m sick and tired of life, not when I’m in the throes of enjoying it to the fullest.

Mastering the three strategies with the conscious intent of continually improving our own personal odds of surviving can increase the pleasure we all have in riding. Being open to learning, open to new technological advances, and new information will help each and every one of us arrive alive. But, as with anything in life, there are no guarantees.

– Britt Santowski

Britt Santowski is a former chief instructor with the Vancouver Island Safety Council, where she trained instructors and taught riders for almost a decade. Santowski is also a keynote speaker, workshop facilitator, speaker, consultant and author.


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