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He Was 5 Years Old, He Was On A Motorcycle, And He Was Headed Straight For A Tree

May 8, 2018

“Motorcycle” might be too strong of a word. It was more a “mini-bike.” Basically, a lawnmower engine on a kid sized frame.

A friend of mine recently got his motorcycle endorsement and bought a bike. He posted a picture on Facebook with the caption,

Sorry, Mom. Took the class at the Harley dealership and got my motorcycle license last week. Got my first Sunday bike ride in tonight on my Nightster and it was completely wicked!

And yes, I’m wayyyy too afraid to ride without a helmet.

My friend lives in my little town of Pleasant Grove, UT. Utah doesn’t have a helmet law. Seat belts are required, but not any sort of safety gear when you get on a two wheeled vehicle with nothing between you and the pavement.

I was happy for my friend. I posted,

I’ve been riding since I was 5 years old. Motorcycles don’t scare me at all. I would NEVER ride without a helmet. I would also never ride without long pants, closed toed shoes/boots and gloves.

Welcome to the open road.

Last fall I renewed my motorcycle endoresment after having let it lapse several years ago.

I had a motorcyle in college. It was a 125cc “enduro.” It was a street-legal dirt bike. I sold it the year after I got married. It wasn’t my wife’s insistance. It was mine. I realized that as we were starting our family, it was too dangerous to risk my health.

I’m a great rider. I have no doubt about my ability to control a motorcycle in virtually any environment. I’m not as confident about those around me. My son wants to start riding. I gave him the following advice.

Always assume the other drives cannot see you.
Assume that any drivers that can see you are actively trying to kill you.

I don’t own a bike currently, but my children will soon be graduated and off starting their own lives. I’ll probably get another bike at that point. As an old man, I’ll skip the street-legal dirt bike and go for a regular street bike. Probably a Harley.

I have to admit, I’m just a little jealous when I see pictures of my friend and his bike. I borrowed another friend’s bike last fall to take the test. I’d forgotten just how liberating it feels to ride a motorcycle. Naturally, I followed ATGATT (All The Gear All The Time.) I’ve just always followed that rule when I ride.

I think it goes back to when I started as a 5 year old. My dad ensured we learned to ride, but that we also paid attention to safety.

I don’t actually remember the time I hit the tree but it’s a family story I heard enough growing up. We hauled the bikes to a field where we were going to go riding. My dad put my gear on me. He put me on the tiny mini-bike with its single forward gear and hand brake.

The field was wide open. In fact, it only had a single tree. Yep, as soon as they cut me loose, I made a beeline for the only obstacle in the entire area. I smacked into the tree, but thanks to the gear I was unhurt. My bike, not so much. The chain broke. And that was the end of my day. Thirty seconds of riding and I was done.

But, I walked away from it.

All the gear, all the time.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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