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I found this in the AMA magazine for March. I tried to get a link, but there was none, so here's the whole thing, with copyright notice.

Concerned about the Future after 9/11? Get a Bike!
By Rick Gray / Chairman, AMA Board of Directors


There's a young lawyer who works in my office who, in response to the cowardly acts of September 11, expressed concern for her future. Her question to me was, “Now that we have terrorism and war, how can we be anything but demoralized about the future?”

I told her that the children of my generation were taught in school how to hide under our desks so that when the nuclear bomb was dropped we wouldn't be killed by the first blast. In other words, we grew up not assuming that there were any guarantees of a tomorrow.

This led to my advice: “You should go buy a motorcycle.”

Initially, she couldn't understand how this advice related to terrorism. But then I explained to her that as a motorcyclist, I know I am involved in an endeavor that has an element of risk. Each time I ride, I know there's a chance that this will be the ride I don't come back from.

Over the years, I have lost friends who have taken that last ride. Our regular encounter with this element of risk differentiates motorcyclists from the rest of society. As motorcyclists, we confront the indisputable fact that our time on Earth is finite. In other words, there will be an end.

The old expression, “Ride hard; die fast,” still bubbles under the surface of motorcycling. Not that we are fatalists—rather, we are realists. Car and truck drivers may feel safe inside their protective metal shells, but that doesn't prevent them from dying at a rate of nearly 35,000 per year. Because we are so exposed in traffic, motorcyclists tend to have greater recognition of the risks we all take. This leads us to seize and enjoy the day.

As the Dalai Lama says, “Tomorrow or the next life, who knows which comes first?” With motorcycling as a constant reminder, we know that we might plan for tomorrow, but we must live for today.

Unfortunately, in today's culture, some believe that there is an attainable state of absolute safety. They fool themselves into concluding that things are in their control; that all they have to do is follow the rules and they'll be safe.

When anthrax or terrorist bombings or war come along, they give these people an uneasy feeling that there are risks beyond their control. To a biker, this comes as no surprise. We know there never will be a state of absolute safety. We recognize that to set such a goal endangers individual freedom.

This basic orientation leads to a different set of notions about what is and is not important in life. The most important concerns should be those things we have some control over. Yes, anthrax in the mail is a potential danger, but wet leaves on the road pose a more direct threat.

Life is a constant tradeoff, in which we as individuals balance risk against reward, deciding for ourselves which risks we find acceptable. Isn't that what all the arguments over helmet laws boil down to?

Our background as motorcyclists helps us put into perspective what poses a threat, and whether that risk is acceptable. I told the young lawyer that this is the essence of freedom, and motorcycling is all about freedom.

Motorcyclists understand freedom because to us it is not some abstract concept. Through motorcycles, we feel and experience freedom every time we ride. So I told her to get a motorcycle and put her life in perspective. I suggested that she learn about freedom as more than an abstraction, and understand that until you accept risk, you can never be free.

This should be the message of motorcyclists to America during these times. We will not give up freedom for safety. We will accept the terrorists' challenge, and the terrorists will be terrified when they realize who they picked a fight with. We will risk our lives for freedom. We do it every day.

So what effect did this ramble have on the young lawyer? Two days later, she asked me for advice on a good starter bike.

Just goes to show you, maybe an old biker can teach a young lawyer what those things she learned in law school actually mean.

© 2002 by the American Motorcyclist Association

Ride on...

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