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Attitude problems
Who is responsibile for biking's image. Do you have the biggest part to play?

Over the last couple of issues, I have been discussing the whys and wherefores of biking accidents and deaths and what could be done to reverse the trend. As noted, the government is getting decidedly worried about the ever increasing numbers of bikers involved in incidents and is threatening the industry with a big stick if we don't do something about it.

So whose responsibility is it? The motorcycle industry is a very diverse one but made up of a few key sectors: the bike and accessories manufacturers, distributors for the same, the insurance brokers and underwriters, service and repair centres, the media and, of course, the bikers themselves. Who, of these, can we point the finger at and say, "YOU must do something about this. It's all down to YOU."

To my mind, the last two in the list, the bikers and the media, are responsible for the government' attention.

So what's the problem with bikers? It's partly one of perception - how the non-biking community relate to us. Interlinked with, and reinforcing the negative aspects, are the bikers who are doing their level best to see that we all get tarred with the same brush. We also have a high-exposure motorcycle media seemingly intent on massaging an unachievable, never-ending desire for the ultimate bike that directly or indirectly (however you want to read it) encourages riders to push themselves beyond their own, or the roads, capabilities.

Attitude plays a big part in all this and there seems to be a general increase in anti-social behaviour in all walks of life, including biking. But it's a personal choice to be anti-social and while it's not always possible to know when you're being annoying while you're having fun, speeding through a country village, race cans blaring, well, if you think that isn't anti-social, you probably shouldn't be reading TRD. If you think it is anti-social but would go ahead and do it anyway, you're the type of biker who will be responsible for any new draconian legislation the government decides to bring in.

It's difficult to do but try and step outside your bikerhood for a moment. Try and imagine you've never ridden a bike and have no desire to do so. You're quite happy in your four-door saloon and your only contacts with bikes are the ones that pass too close to your wing mirror during the daily commute. You don't read the motorcycle magazines but occasionally glance at the front cover when you're in the newsagent. Your perception is defined by what you see around you. Bikes being ridden fast.

Perhaps an experience of a group of bikes screaming past you on a country road one Sunday morning. Bikes filtering fast through heavy traffic. Despatch riders hacking through the City. Images of bikes with their front wheels up in the air. Images of knees scraping the tarmac. Images of semi-naked women draped over the latest model (not that you'd know it was the latest model - they all look the same to you). News reports of speeding bikers caught doing 143mph. Local press stories about another dead teenager, hit by a car while riding a scooter. What is your opinion of bikes now?

It seems to me that there needs to be a wholesale shift in attitude among bikers. The industry lobby groups succeed only when the public perception of bikers shows them in a positive light.

Let me paint a picture: two bikes, 400cc race reps, riding down Wandsworth Road, lunchtime. At the traffic lights: Red - 5,000 revs. Amber - 9,000 revs. Green - RED LINE! Clouds of black smoke and off they scream reaching probably 50mph before having to decelerate for the next set of traffic lights where they do it all over again.

Ignoring the fact that they are breaking the speed limit of 30mph I check out the potential hazards they face as they race each other down the road. The side road, the car parked on double yellow lines, the petrol station entry and exit, the other side road, the cyclist... I don't care how big their balls are, if they did it deliberately knowing the risks then they are idiots. If they didn't understand the risks then they need more training otherwise they will not only take themselves out but an unfortunate passer-by who happens to be in the way.

Most bikers are aware of the 'red mist' situation. I have been a victim of it more than once, culminating in an almost fatal crash while riding in Scotland last year. I understand what it feels like to ride fast and smooth, cranking over for another corner, keeping the revs in the sweet spot and all that stuff. I also believe that I have limited my fast riding (in the main) to appropriate times and places. The road on which I had my accident, the A837, was sparsely populated with traffic and was, for the most part, open, offering good forward vision. The accident occurred due to my lack of appropriate riding skills.

Unfortunately, there are far too many riders who seem to think that it is acceptable to ride at licence losing speeds on roads that just weren't designed for it. Either they annoy the local inhabitants with illegal stunt riding or racing or wrap themselves around a lamp-post or other piece of street furniture and become another headline in the local press.

One rider I spoke to recently offered the argument that bikers are rebels and are expected to be a little outside the law. After all, for many of us, the freedoms offered us by biking are the strongest reason we do it. The point he is missing is that times and people move on. It's all very well being eighteen and tearing around like a tearaway (sorry) but what excuse does a forty year-old have for doing 90mph in a 30 zone?

The media aren't helping the biker's cause either. Please don't get me wrong, there are plenty of excellently written and well presented motorcycle magazines (TRD, I hope, among them) that focus on motorcycling in general. Alongside them, however, are those that become the reference material for anyone in power who hates bikes.

Typically, they will have a loud, colourful cover (the magazine, not the people in power), usually with a bike pulling a wheelie or showing a rider getting his knee down. Inside they will focus their editorial on the latest model of bike that has to be able to do at least 160mph, handle like it's on rails or be better than the rest at one thing or another. If it can't do any of these, it's either a 'good try' or 'piece of crap'. The problem these magazines face is that there aren't really any 'bad' bikes around anymore. Sure, some of the Chinese and Southeast Asian offerings leave a little to be desired in the finish and durability stakes but, for what they are, they're functional bikes.

So how do you spice up a review of a bike? You accent features such as weight, power, top speed, looks, handling, making sure you push all the right buttons in your typically 30-50 year old male reader. You want him to desire this bike, to aspire to being a better, faster rider. Ultimately, you want him to buy the bike so the manufacturer will place more advertising with your magazine and you can keep your job.

I agree that a reference point is required when reviewing anything and that the bike journalists provide a necessary link between the manufacturers and the customers. Where I differ from other editors is that I don't believe you need a picture of two bikes on a public road, both approximately two feet off the ground, side by side as they ride over a hump-back bridge, to illustrate their potential.

Yes, the image is exciting and impressive. Yes, it gets the adrenalin pumping and makes the reader go, "Cor! Look at that!" What it will also do is encourage some numpty to go out and do the same. The constant series of sensationalist headlines and extreme photography causes a kind of sense of inadequacy in the reader.

What? You can't pull a wheelie? Never had your knee down? Never been over 100mph? Can't be much of a rider then. Readers are lead to believe that because their bikes are capable of such feats, so are they. Or they should be. So the rider goes out and tries to get his knee down, or pull a wheelie, or break his personal speed barrier. If he's not doing it on a track or private land, he's on public roads risking himself and others. Who is responsible? The rider? Or the magazine for inciting him to do it?

I have spoken to a couple of editors of these magazines and they both argued that all they are doing is reflecting the readership. I say that this state of affairs has been going on so long now that there is a state of positive feedback where the magazines are creating the readership. One feeds on the other and on it goes.

The circle has to be broken and it will take changes on both sides to make it happen. The big boys of the motorcycle media should take a good hard look at their editorial policies because they have the influence. If MCN can persuade a manufacturer to import a particular model just because their readers said they wanted it, surely they can do more within their editorial to encourage riders to either slow down or take it on a track or off-road, at least before bikes are banned totally from the countryside.

I don't want to stop bikers from enjoying their bikes. For heaven's sake, I've been biking since I was twelve and I certainly ain't going to give it up. I like riding fast, I love the freedom, the sheer exhilaration you get from a good ride-out. But I want to be able to do it for as long as I can and unless the nutters and numptys out there are put on a leash, my biking future and yours is threatened.

We all have a part to play in changing the way we ride, changing our attitudes to other road users, letting our more exuberant riding friends know that even we find their riding style unacceptable and letting the non-biking public see that we can respect the freedom that we have been given. If we don't, and the government decides to legislate us off the road, we'll only have ourselves to blame.

Rog

My ever-loving other half, Kat, says she has the perfect solution for dealing with these problems. As 95% of riders are male, and thereâ??s all this testosterone washing around causing riders to exceed their limits, all we need to do is: when a male reaches the age of sixteen, cut his balls off! Problem solved.

Source: visordown
 

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shove the last bit ............ besides its to late for me now LOL
 
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