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Old 12-30-2010, 10:37 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Location: The Cosmos
How Dangerous are Motorcycles, Really?

What are your opinions on how dangerous motorcycles are? Both street and dirt. I've been wanting one but my family has persuaded me not to because of the "danger". But if you're an excellent driver, how dangerous is it really? Are all those stats of motorcyclists dieing from people who took too many risks?

Last edited by amonkie; 12-30-2010 at 11:08 AM..
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:28 AM   #2 (permalink)
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Yes they're incredibly dangerous. The number one cause of death for motorcyclists is not actually the rider themselves, but other drivers. "Boxers" don't see motorcycles, don't care, merge into you, tailgate you (bikes stop in half the distance of a car) or turn left across you (incoming traffic) because they simply weren't looking for a motorcycle-sized target.

The second cause of death, so far as I know, is "failed to negotiate the curve", meaning a motorcyclist who forgot the cardinal lesson, i.e. look *through* the curve. They looked at another car, they looked across the road, they were distracted, they were going too fast, they braked too late, they were riding a bike with more HP than they should've, the conditions were poor, they forgot to check the air in their tires, etc., etc., ad nauseum.

I don't know the statistics, but I'd wager that motorcycles actually get in far fewer accidents per capita than cars. The problem is that *any* accident on a motorcycle is likely to be fatal. Even a properly protected rider (helmet, abrasion-resistant gloves, jacket, pants, boots) is likely to break a handful of bones from a crash above 25 mph.

That said, you can die on the shitter, of cancer, of a disease you didn't even know you had, a manufacturer defect in your house, exposure, in a bar fight, walking down the street, choking on your lunch, lighting your pilot light, slipping in the shower, tripping down the stairs, the flu, a domestic violence situation, or even self-inflicted gunshot wound.

I'd stay away from motorcycles if you're supremely uncomfortable with moderate to high risk things, but unless you have kids, I don't think you should be limiting yourself because other people are afraid for your safety. Ever seen that Ben Stiller movie, "Along Came Polly"? He wouldn't even eat Indian food because he knew the risk of infection was statistically higher. *You* have to decide where your line of comfort is, and abide it.

Note: If you do get a bike, do yourself and the world a favor and do a few things; life insurance policy for your loved ones (you should have one anyway, for the above causes of death), get a good SNELL + DOT helmet, don't get a bike above 750cc (see "more HP than they should have had"), and take the beginner (and advanced, if costs are reasonable) rider safety classes. Practice the low speed turn (avoid U-turn tipping over embarrassment), emergency braking (both brakes damn-near locked from 30 mph) and the emergency lane change. I still do the last two drills for a good hour or so - over and over again - each time I bring the bike out for the season.
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Last edited by Jinn; 12-30-2010 at 11:39 AM..
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:41 AM   #3 (permalink)
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In terms of accidents, you are nearly three times more likely to die in an accident not involving a motor vehicle than you are in a motor vehicle accident. And that includes all motor vehicles.

Then again, motorcycles have three times more fatal accidents than cars: Wikipedia – Motorcycle safety – Accident Rates

Motorcycles are dangerous, yes...when they are in accidents. I'd rather be in a car.
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Last edited by Baraka_Guru; 12-30-2010 at 11:45 AM..
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Old 12-30-2010, 11:55 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Grants Pass OR
Yes. They are. I have been down at 60+ miles an hour, on a freeway, in So. Cal. (The 91 in anaheim) on a friday at about 6:00 p.m. How I survived w/ no major injuries I do not know. I was struck by a woman that freaked about something in the road, there was absolutely nothing I could do to avoid it. It was a perfect storm kind of situation.

I was extremely lucky, I was even able to ride the bike the next day.

If you ride in the dirt, you are likely to crash, stuff happens.

If you go through life being afraid to get hurt, you will never live. If you don't take some risks, then you never realize the benefits.

I haven't had a bike for better than 20 years, I miss it all the time, almost every day. I will have one again.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:10 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Very dangerous. Jinn has it right, you are at more risk from other drivers.

Always wear full gear, take a safety course, and don't be stupid and you should do alright. Unless of course something unpreventable happens (like what happened to cj) you will be as safe as possible.
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Old 12-30-2010, 12:31 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: Grants Pass OR
Speaking of gear, I was wearing a helmet (this was before helmet laws, it saved my life. There is no question. I was very thankful for my boots and leather gloves. The levi jacket, and jeans I was wearing offered some protection, but again I was lucky, I slid on top of the bike the entire time, I would have been hamburger were it not for that simple twist of fate.
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Old 12-30-2010, 01:57 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Location: The Great NorthWet
HOLY SHIT! I know most of you ride, according to your posts, but fuck. After reading this string I almost feel like I might die just walking past a motorcycle.

Yes motorcycles are unforgiving of mistakes and an accident is more likely to be fatal or cause permanent damage.
Yes the biggest risks are other drivers and inexperience.
But, the experience of riding is so much better than being in a car.

If you want to learn to ride, go for it. I recommend starting in the dirt. It will teach how to handle most of the hazards that kill people on the street. Start small, but with enough power to scare you. You need to develop a real respect for what a motorcycle can do. The difference between knowing and thinking you respect the bike; Can be the difference that matters.

Find some experienced riders to learn from, or take a riding course if one is available in your area. Usually the courses are for street riding, but most of the fundamentals apply to both dirt and street. And it's a good place to start.

Don't buy a new bike, find a good used bike and start with it. You will crash, you will scrape the paint, you will break things on the bike. No need to do that to a new bike.

Always wear full gear, even if your just 'going around the corner'. Gear will save you a lot of flesh and pain.

If you have an interest in both street and dirt, try a Dual-Sport. They do well in either environment and won't limit you as much as a specialty bike. They're also good 'training' bikes. Heavier and more cumbersome than a dirt bike, but slower and more forgiving than a rice rocket. Good middle ground to learn the basics. And an all around great bike for adventures. Nothing beats riding out of the city, onto a winding mountain road, then off the pavement up a logging road, onto a deer trail and stopping only when there's no where left to go. OUTSTANDING.

I've been riding for over 35yrs and I still don't like riding on the road much. Not nearly as fun as the dirt and far more hazards. On the road, loud pipes and bright chrome are your friend. The more you can do to get noticed, the safer you will be. You maybe the master of your bike, but that fuckin' soccer mom in the SUV talking on the cell phone is your obituary rolling down the road. You might scratch her pretty Escalade, but her Escalade is going to turn you into paste. The more annoyingly loud and bright you are, the farther away they stay. Be bright and annoying on the road.

Damn, my post doesn't sound much better than most of the others. Bikes are dangerous, but I guess that's what makes them sooooo fun. Know your bike and know your skills, the rest is what it is.

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Old 12-30-2010, 02:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Location: New England, USA
There is a lot of good advice in this thread. I ride as if everyone is trying to run me over. You need to always be aware of your surroundings and mentally prepare yourself for the risks around you.

Originally Posted by Zeraph View Post
Are all those stats of motorcyclists dieing from people who took too many risks?
Yes, a good percentage were due to alcohol and reckless riding, but the danger from car/truck drivers cannot be understated. I advocate safe motorcycle riding. Motorcycle riding is dangerous, but it is really fun and worth the risk to me.

Here is a death chart I copied from a motorcycle forum:

Last edited by Nepenthes; 12-31-2010 at 08:00 AM..
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Old 12-30-2010, 03:10 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Location: Manhattan, NY
Originally Posted by cj2112 View Post
I haven't had a bike for better than 20 years, I miss it all the time, almost every day. I will have one again.
Me too.

I was hit on Route 4 in the evening after a 90 mile ride. I was 1 mile from home on the return leg of the trip.

I too was amazed I wasn't killed.

I never rode again as a request from several family members.

I miss it tremendously.
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Old 12-31-2010, 07:33 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Location: New Jersey
Nice to see so many positive posts here, all good advice. As for the "loud pipes", that is a whole other discussion - when I ride with a group, I stay just ahead of the loud pipes and do not even hear them. Ride like you are invisible to other drivers - don't ever assume that they can see or hear you. Ride Safe & Enjoy!
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Old 12-31-2010, 12:29 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Location: The Cosmos
Hmm. Thanks for the good advice. I have some thinking to do though. On the one hand, I am a very aware person. On the other, people in my city are terrible drivers and scare me in a car much less a motorcycle...
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Old 12-31-2010, 12:56 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Location: Rancho Cucamonga, CA
Thankfully, you are much more maneuverable on a motorcycle. As long as you are paying attention, you can avoid most nasty situations or squeeze out of trouble.

FYI, I'm not trying to make motorcycling sound scary, but there are real threats especially on the road. That being said, I have gone 45,000 miles in the past 5 years on my first and only motorcycle and I have loved every minute of it, rain or shine, good and bad.
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Old 01-02-2011, 05:35 PM   #13 (permalink)
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It's much worth the risk. As long as you are smart about it, you'll be fine. I don't go riding during rush hour... I don't put myself in situations in which accidents are more likely to happen. I ride with a helmet, armored jacket and armored pants with ballistic material and hard armor inserts. If I crash, my head will be protected and my skin will not bet ripped off from sliding on the road. The lack of helmet and armor does significantly affect safety... out of all of the local fatal incidents since I've got a bike, I'm pretty sure none of them were as armored as I was and most of them were not wearing helmets.

FYI... to show what a difference armor can make, watch some moto gp racing you tube. those guys have ridiculously dangerous looking crashes during races quite often, they usually are going well over 100mph while ending up sliding and tumbling on the pavement and though the grass, only to smash into walls while their bikes are flying left and right...they almost always stand up and walk away, sometimes picking the bike back up to finish the race if it's not too beat up. A Harley rider wearing a vest and mini-helmet would have died long before hitting anything from the slide alone.


discovery channel's 'Twist The Throttle" did a good job of talking about armor a while ago... they did a segement on alpine star.


Last edited by AquaFox; 01-02-2011 at 05:38 PM..
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Old 01-02-2011, 07:30 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Location: Detroit, MI
You need to ask yourself if the rewards outweigh the risks or vice versa. Its a personal choice every motorcyclist makes. It can be an extremely enjoyable experience and you can also get hit by a car and burst into pieces.
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Old 01-02-2011, 09:37 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Nepenthes posted an interesting little picture graph there.

ive been involved in a few accidents that a non motorbike related that were serious enough to kill me and got through ok.

motor vehicle 1:84
falling 1:218
drowning 1:1008
accidental electrocution 1:9968

my point being, you can pretty much do anything and almost be killed. as long as you identify and mitigate the risks involved, and you're smart about it, then there's not much else you can do.

some of my best friends ride offroad. some have been involved in serious accidents and keep going, others have hung up the helmet because they decided that the rewards were not worth it.

weigh up your own situation and decide on what its worth to you. good luck!
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Old 01-03-2011, 08:22 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Location: Detroit, MI
I think that while that graph is interesting to read, it is misleading. For example many more people drive in cars or have strokes or whatever....the control group for these is presumably much much larger than the control group for people who ride motorcycle. For example 1 in 24 out of a group of 200 million is different than 1 in 24 out of a group of 5000. Yes there is potential for getting injured by simply leaving your house in the morning. Ive been riding motorcycles for many years and have never been seriously hurt. But it takes a certainly mechanical savvy and situational awareness that some people don't have, and its kind of scary to think these people are very, very close to seriously hurting themselves.
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Old 01-03-2011, 04:46 PM   #17 (permalink)
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Location: Ventura County
I ride a BMW 1200Rt and have been riding off and on for about 30 years. Rule #1 AGATT (all gear all the time). Rule #2 Rider training course. Rule #3 100% focus 100% of the time, including no drinking. Rule #4 know your limits. Rule #5 enhance your skills through practice. There are risks but the risks can be minimized. Riding is a very fulfilling activity for me, I don't care about looking cool, image, excessive speed or other risky behaviors on a bike. Being smooth and in control is what is all about. an internet picture of what i ride:

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Old 01-04-2011, 06:35 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Those people in Germany know how to build cool stuff. I would shoot my neighbors dog in the leg for one of those. Well maybe not.
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