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Hagerty Employee

Even in the rain, the track is safer than the street

In the interest of starting the Michigan riding season off correctly, I swiped my credit card for two days at Grattan Raceway with Sport Bike Track Time (SBTT) in the hopes of learning something. My main takeaway? I never really loved street riding. I certainly don't now.
New Driver

Safer? The worst I ever got hurt riding a motorcycle was at the track. Sure, if you putt around on the track the same way you do when riding to work, it's much safer. But that's not what really happens at race tracks, is it?

It all comes down to how hard you push your luck. When I crashed at summit point I was chasing a guy I was never going to catch, and wound up in the gravel trap. EVERY time I've crashed on the street or the track I was doing something that put me at risk beyond the circumstances I was in.

When my dad hung up his helmet at age 75 it was because of a crash. Nothing horrific, but enough to give him pause. Prior to that he hadn't crashed in over 50 years, before I was born. In those 50 years I crashed plenty of times. I habitually take risks, he rarely does.
Riding defensively isn't nearly as much fun as going balls-out, but if it's safety you're concerned about, you are the master of your destiny, regardless of where you're riding.

I pulled a biker out from under a car that hit him. It was not his fault but he was the one in the Coma. That finished my street riding. 

Track and off road cuts the risk in half. If you screw up it is your fault you hit the tree or laid down a bike at the track. 

Bikes are fun but the risk goes up and you just have to decide if it is worth it. For me it was for a while but not anymore. I still love ‘em and admire them but. No longer on the streets. 

New Driver

As I said before, when I crashed, I was part of the problem. I was hit when a girl who was high on crack ran a red light. Concussion, broken bones, etc., and legally her fault. Still, had I done a better job of defensive riding, I could have mitigated injury or avoided it completely.
I knew a guy who was killed in front of his family when a drunk driver ran a red light and struck the driver's side door if his SUV. Cars are much less dangerous, but they're not safe. No one looks at an accident like that and says "I'm never driving a car again," because we're in a collective state of denial about risk. We hear about auto accident fatalities and think either there was nothing that could be done, or, they had an accident because they're not a good driver like me. Then we hop into our cars with our children and babies and roll the dice.
New Driver

I'm about to turn 76, a rider since I began with my first bike (a Honda C-110 Supersport...50 screaming ccs) back in my soph HS days. I'm also a retired aerospace physiologist and aero-human factors historian (major emphasis on safety in design engineering for aircrew), so I have keenly witnessed our streets and roads turn into MC killing fields over the recent past decades. It's inarguable that riding motorcycles among 4-wheeled traffic is exponentially more hazardous and downright dangerous today than it was, say 50 years ago. In recent years I've gone through a number of high-performance sportsbikes, all of them much-loved as expressions of masterful Japanese technology, and I still have three in my stable. However...big pause... once one hits his 7th decade, even the slightest musculoskeletal injury can be catastrophic and one has to seriously consider turning in one's membership in the street-rider club. Today, my superbikes remain out there in the garage, staring reproachfully at me when I come and go, and I religiously run them all up and keep them fresh...but rarely risk taking them out on the mean streets that are chock-a-block full of inexperienced, youngish, easily distracted car drivers who can and will take you out in a heart-beat. [No thanks to the 'forever-juvenile' boy-racers who we see doing crazy things on bikes and in cars themselves, every day, since they are all potential organ-donors (not brain-donors, however) just begging for some short-tethered reactive pickup truck driver to remove them from the face of the Earth!]

I've never been on a track myself (I have a rep as 'the Little Old Lady of Sportsbikes' to maintain, LoL) and I rarely ever take risks, but at my age, the odds are simply too stacked against me to tempt fate! I would agree that supervised and regulated tracks are a great investment in personal safety and I wish that more drivers (both 4-wheeled and two-wheeled) had the benefit of some professional instruction in the fine art of road-driving (both on the track and off).

In aviation, we have many trite aphorisms. One of them is "There are old pilots and there are bold pilots, but there are few if any old-bold pilots". The same is true for two-wheelers! And in the words of an anonymous wit, "Go fast until you see God, but then SLOW DOWN!"

I would still be quite timid on the wet in anything two wheeled. I've landed flat on my hip in an instant on a damp area that some leaves had happend to be. I can't imagine that at motorcycle speeds.

I would not do a motorcycle here in Texas. Too many oblivious drivers in F-250's and SUV's to just flatten me.

   I rode for 50 years almost exactly to the day, and then I crashed.  I had to admit to myself that I didn't have the reflexes I once did, and the crash also reminded me that I broke more easily and didn't heal nearly as quickly than when I was 50 years younger.  When I called my wife from the ER, her response was, "time to get rid of the motorcycle".  After a little reflection (and a few pain pills to get that first night's sleep), I saw that she was completely right.  I had my 50 years of fun on the street.  Now I (and the grandkids) ride a minibike around the field at the ranch and as long as I don't forget where the barbed wire fence is, and the gophers don't make a new hole hidden somewhere, I feel pretty safe out there.

   Do I miss riding the big bike our on a curvy road?  Absolutely.  Am I sorry I gave it up?  Nope - not even a little bit.  😃

Intermediate Driver

I've got a Honda Civ... I mean SV650. Front end washed out on a slow but tight corner and I've never really understood why. Been a little gun shy on the bike since then. Still, this looks fun.