Spotting Riding Perils

This week, I personally know a person who got into an accident while on his motorcycle which I learned all about it after I have arrived at work–on my motorcycle. My friend survived the supposedly fatal crash but it’s one more person added to the statistic of motorcycle-related accident victims, whether his own fault or not. Now anti-motorcycle advocates are out once again with their see-I-told-yous.

These days proponents of motorcycles seem to be losing their case as the incidents involving two-wheeled vehicles share the headlines with reports of employees being laid off. Incidentally, these two headline makers are expected to thrive more while the financial crisis continues like an incurable itch. Nowadays, a lot of people are trying to save and one of the ways is by saving on gas. Of course, when gas gets mentioned, the thought of having a motorcycle, specifically what others call mopeds, scooters or underbones enters the picture. These crotch rockets are gas misers and it’s no wonder almost everyone wants one. And that’s because almost everyone can actually afford one.

This is when motorcycle safety advocates begin to have nightmares about this uncontrollable and unregulated scenario. There are just so much eager and capable buyers (and sellers) that the aspect of safety is often forgotten. Anyone with a cash or downpayment, normally just around Php3,000 (approx. $60), gets to go home with a decent motorcycle. That’s with or without a “valid” license, training, or worse, even without the common sense.

Now other motorcycle riders cry foul about all the stereotyping. Some instinctively point their fingers to the four-wheeled vehicle drivers for causing all the troubles. Others blame poor road lighting, open manholes, wayward pedestrians, and I’ve even read complaints about dog poops. All fingers are pointing to other factors but their own. Denial is the reason live motorcycle crash test dummies continue to exist.

Failing to recognize the risk is often what leads to unnecessary crashes. I remember from one defensive driving seminar I’ve attended the four guides of a responsible driver:

  1. Identify and anticipate the risk or danger.
  2. Act accordingly. Example, adjust following distance depending on the driving condition.
  3. Control whatever you can as you can’t technically influence others. (This is what I often forget. Hehehe.)
  4. Consider a plan B if everything else goes wrong.

Unfortunately, with the fact that not everyone seems to take time to even read about driving safety stuffs anymore is what makes the road a far less safe place to ride. It’s already a given that riding makes one vulnerable to elements like reckless cage (a term used by riders to distinguish a car) drivers. So I went further to identifying every risk that I possibly can. After more than six months of riding my motorcycle, I have compiled several of these hazards.

Stay away from riders without the basic gear or clothing. Riders are sitting open to almost everything hazardous and the least one can do to protect himself is to wear long sleeved shirts, long pants (jeans if possible), and a closed-toe footwear. Decent helmet, included. If you spot one without these bare minimums means just one thing: he doesn’t care about himself and most likely he doesn’t care about you. So stay clear.

Stay away from those with confused persona. These people are easy to spot. They have rosaries and crucifixes wrapped around their motorcycles (mounted on the dash if in cars) but when you see them, they are either poorly clothed (at times even lewd) or drives like someone who has just escaped from a straight jacket.

Stay away from cars with Japanese or Chinese stickers or decals. Some of these have even extra large ones that almost cover the whole rear window. These stickers scream anything but “I understand what my stickers say.” If these people don’t even know what the stickers mean, most likely they don’t even understand what an amber light is for.

Stay away from skinheads who for a moment are seen driving slowly over an ear-shattering base music. These people (often in their teens) are beat- driven so expect them to speed up anytime a Snoop Dogg rhythm picks up.

Needless to say, also stay away from pony-tailed or dreadlocked drivers especially if the car’s interior appears foggy despite the untinted windows.

Stay away from truck drivers especially those concentrating on picking their noses. I’m thinking that this is as distracting (or even more) as using a cellphone while driving.

Stay away from motorcycle-riding policemen without helmets. Period.

Lastly, stay away from someone who is absent-mindedly composing a blog while riding a motorcycle. He’s easy to spot. He made this blog. Ti abi.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks!

Advertisements

Cold Blog

It’s been cold for days, literally, and the frigid temperature has brought some changes in my routines other than the mandatory blanket curl that made me look like a huge fetus for several early mornings already.

Yesterday, I had to don three layers of clothing on my way to work. Being on a motorcycle may be beginning to be a fun ride but the biting cold makes it necessary to add just another layer so that I don’t get stiff nipples. I’m now even considering riding gloves not for looks but rather for the insulation that it could provide. I just can’t imagine myself riding a motorcycle somewhere in Europe. Back there, I’m quite sure that Vespas are not among their favorite transport options right now.

Blogging has to be rescheduled as well. I now prefer sleeping earlier as the cold early evenings seem to suggest nothing but to hit the sack — that is, after everything about the baby has been taken care of. I now blog whenever I get up sometime between midnight to early morning which is at the very least an hour ahead of my wake up alarm. I find the cold and calm morning more conducive to write.

I heard from the news that this cold season may be until another month more or so. This means that I’d have to get used seeing our thermometer stuck at 22 degrees Celsius or less. This means more alarms to be snoozed. And every time I wake up, this means that that I’d be wondering for a few more weeks how much it would take me to install that water heater in the shower. Ti abi.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks!

 

The Rain and the Road

Several days this week have been rainy and each time presents random memories.

Baptismal by Rain

Thursday. I commuted to work on my motorcycle. Unfortunately, when I headed back home the sky went dark and the threat of rain became a reality–my first time to get caught in the rain while on a motorcycle. I was almost soaked midway of my trip and the laptop in my backpack forced me to seek shelter. While waiting for the rain to stop, I had flashbacks of days when times like this doesn’t matter. As long as we’re with our bikes, sunny days and rainy days seem to be just the same. I miss the carefree days when we’d be racing in the rain and bunny-hopping puddles oblivious to the dangers such as riding without a helmet or any other body protection. Back then it was just our bikes and us, no worries.

freestyle days
Good old bike days.

Star Tollway

Friday was another rainy road trip. After dropping by work earlier than usual and then driving to Sto. Tomas, Batangas to meet my brother-in-law and his wife for an urgent and stressful meeting, I decided it was the perfect time and reason to hit the long road again to relax. Thanks to the scarcity of the road signs and markers in the Star Toll way, I missed the exit to Lipa  which made me decide to go straight towards Batangas City as the rest of Star Toll way’s well-paved highway made me achieve 120 KPH with almost no effort at all.

star tollway
This is noontime.

The long and fast drive sent me back to a mixture of memories and imagination. I began to remember Kuala Lumpur’s road wherein Mercedes Benz and compact cars are as ubiquitous as our Jeepneys. I also recalled my dream-like trip from Wisconsin to Madison which until now I can’t believe I was there for a moment in my life.  This also reminded me of disaster movies. The whole horizon was covered with thin nimbus clouds that it was easy to forget it was just noontime then.

After lunch in SM Batangas, we started our way back home around 4 PM. The drive turned out not to be uneventful. We had a near miss when some guy placed an improvised spike on the middle of Star Toll way. Good thing I noticed him doing something fishy and I remembered from motoring forum threads that this modus operandi is being done by some vulcanizing guys to get customers. I was doing 100 KPH and had that spike punctured our tire, some funeral homes will for sure profit from that a**hole’s enterprising scheme.

Sta. Rosa Exit

highway works
Believe it or not, this is South Luzon Expressway.

That Friday wasn’t meant to be SSDD. After dropping Noel and Lani back in Sto. Tomas, my wife and I took another route home to Cavite. I’ve had enough of bad roads and I won’t mind another long drive. So we took the Sta. Rosa exit instead of Carmona. This route has been in construction for a couple of months already and even to those familiar with it may find it dangerous especially at night.

Carmona road
Segment of Carmona Road. Road repair almost invisible at night. Beware.

But all’s not so dark and gloomy. Somewhere in the middle of our trip while tuned in to Magic 89.9′s Friday Magic program, I heard a familiar name greeted by another familiar name. Hahaha. It was my wife who sent an SMS greeting for me over the radio. She’s done it several times in the past which still surprises me every time.

The last time we passed the Sta. Rosa route was more than a year ago and we still have our cute Kia Pride that time. Nothing has changed so far but at least it’s better than keeping my eye open for road under repair signs (or the lack of it) in Carmona. An obvious improvement though is noticeable right after we reached Tagaytay. Now, large portions of the road have a dividing line between two lanes. Years ago, one has to drive with wide eyes open and lights in full beam to survive. At least, some of our public works officials finally(!) acted on this problem. I’m just wondering though who (or how many) got into an accident for this to happen. I just hope he’s a politician.

 

Rookie Rider’s Day Out

Almost a week after I bought my motorcycle and I’ve ridden it only once. It was one quick ride inside our village and I’ve craved to do more. Due to work and recent heavy downpour I had no choice but to lock and cover it in our yard until today.

This morning’s weather hasn’t improved still and it isn’t a motorcycle-friendly day but the call to take another ride took over my worries of getting wet. I felt a mix of anxiety and excitement once I got home after dropping my wife off the shuttle bus stop. Today’s D-Day and here’s my first ride log:

  1. Motorcycles are meant to be started and left idling for a few minutes before taking it for a ride – It’s not about wasting gas but it’s a requirement to warm up its engine unlike cars that one can start and step on the gas right after.
  2. I wore shirt, jeans, sneakers, and helmet which I got free from the motorcycle dealer. These are the minimum although one item in the newly debated LTO guidelines states that a leather jacket is a must.
  3. A P500 in the wallet is more than enough for a full I have a full capacity of only 3.7 liters or P200 worth of gas. That’s just sweet. I’m yet in the process though of figuring out how far one liter can go.
  4. Motorcycle signal lights do not automatically turn off after executing a turn so don’t forget to switch it off or drivers behind would be confused.
  5. A jacket is indeed needed for an early morning ride. I realized midway of my trip that my nipples are getting harder with the cold wind blowing all around me. Ti abi.
  6. You can’t scratch your nose or any part of your face while your helmet is on. I unconsciously tried doing it and saw some smiles by the sidewalk. Embarrassing.
  7. Fixing something somewhere in your crotch is a no-no. Do I need to elaborate
  8. Water puddles aren’t fun. I love to go fast on these while driving my car (making sure of course that no one’s around to be reached by the splash) as I imagine myself in a Peugeot and trying to beat Sebastian Loeb. Now I guess I’ll have to get used to imagining beating Jeremy McGrath instead.
  9. Coasting isn’t possible. My motorcycle’s shifting pattern does not allow me to shift to neutral after achieving a sustainable speed like on a downhill. But then, other than being illegal according to the rule of defensive driving, motorcycle’s fuel consumption is already thrifty compared to cars that coasting isn’t significant anymore.

I covered 32 kilometers for this morning’s ride and it felt good to be out on the road and coming home safe. Riding a motorcycle is not actually scary as most people (usually wives and those without motorcycles) would say. The rules that need to be followed are still similar to driving a car except for some other things that need to be observed such as staying more visible to other motorist, giving more focus due to the obvious reason that a rider is exposed to all elements and maintaining balance at all times.

With my introduction to the world of motorcycles, it opened me to a new perspective. I’m now beginning to feel empathy to those people who have no choice but to take a motorcycle to work despite heavy rain. I now respect their space on the road and I now understand the need for car (and any other four-wheel vehicles) drivers and motorcycle riders to co-exist in order to create a healthy and safe commuter environment. Of course, I still believe that education is the key to achieve order and hopefully, more people will soon get educated enough to drive safely.

***

Postscript

Having held back from telling my mother about the idea of buying an motorcycle, I finally called her after this morning’s ride and told her all about it. I was expecting some sort of worried remarks coming from the other end of the line, but I was all smiles when I heard her say, ”Ay gali? Ano ginbakal mo? Ang mga pambabayi na motor? (Really? What did you get? Those feminine motorcycles)

I was laughing when I asked her what she meant by “feminine” motorcycles and I laughed harder when her description fitted that of the underbones –the one I have. She must be expecting me having a motocross (also known today as motards) which I remember were the “in” thing when I was a kid. Anyway, I explained to her that underbones (and scooters) are now the trend as they are cheaper and have lower displacement thus, lower fuel consumption; AND that they’re not just for women. (she’ll be mobbed in the forums with those remarks. hahahaha)

I was still wondering about the unexpected jolly remarks from her after I ended our conversation, and then I remembered that she was the one who taught me how to ride a bike during my elementary days. I recalled her patiently holding on to me until I feel comfortable with the balance and she ran along while I pedal it all by myself. From my late high school to college years, she likewise never questioned my scuffed shoes, tattered jeans and tiny bruises when I was into BMX flatland. AND she even approved when I came home with a haircut which has the word “BMX” shaved behind my head. Come to think of it, she’s a cool mother.

We are Damned

donut choices
Damn centerpiece. (Photofunia done by wifey)

Whoever coined the phrase “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” is just damn right. In our elementary science class, we were told that we humans actually belong to the animal kingdom but what sets us apart from our crawling, flying, swimming and walking brethren is the ability to make choices, not instinctively, but intelligently. (Although the bible is one proof that our great great great ancestor Adam might have instinctively given in to Eve’s temptation to take the supposedly fruit of knowledge. The irony. Whatever the real reason is, I think we won’t know, but I have a hunch. Hint: they were fully naked.)

I find this capacity to think and to decide a double-edged sword. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Each action we make right after a decision would be understood differently by different people. Reminds me as well of Newton’s third law of motion: For every action, there is an equal but opposite reaction. Remember? So does it mean that Newton may have been the man behind the damned phrase? Possible. Whoever it was, he has my respect because such is so short yet full of meaning. It summarizes one lifetime of decision making into just eight words.

So why the fascination with this damn phrase lately? Here are some reasons that it’s just damned if you do, damned if you don’t:

  • Bayani Fernando who has been in the news, forums and FM radio more often recently. Ever since I learned about this guy’s work, principle and vision, my admiration for him started. I’m one of those Filipinos who look up to a strong leadership that have become so scarce for years here in the Philippines. I read from one survey that he’s not winning approvals from most people because of the way he operates–i.e., quick and he doesn’t care who gets in the way. Although he’s got some kinks to work out within the MMDA, I believe that his personal policies are firm and he’s just the type of leader WE NEED. By the way, he has mentioned that he’s running for president in 2010.
  • Motorcycles. Due to new LTO guidelines, frequent accidents involving motorcycles, and wifey’s protests, this is hot topic. It’s now a fact that with the current gas prices up and will go up again, which is a prediction that doesn’t need a Nostradamus, everyone now thinks of an alternative to go around. Those who used to take the public transport (e.g., buses, jeepneys) and even with their own cars are now considering buying scooters or underbones. It’s a no-brainer. With the almost unstoppable gas price hike, an alternative transport is a must have. However, if a motorcycle is your choice, it requires a fully functioning brain to drive it defensively. Brain drives rider. Helmet protects brain. Take note.
  • And then this. Company business updates that gets majority of the employees jumpy and It’s just same story with a title that changes every time, as I always tell those I usually converse with about this topic—that’s 15 directly under me, and several other colleagues. At times I find this topic dragging which makes me think of recording my replies for the next similar discussion. Sooner than soon, this story will end but I can’t divulge just yet. I’d rather do it as a Grinch-who-stole-Christmas type story. You’ll read about it soon.

So are we damned? You’re guess is as good as mine.

***

 

Back On Two Wheels

 

What do these things have in common?

  1. Vietnam
  2. Discovery’s American Choppers
  3. Nat Geo’s Long Way Down
  4. Nat Geo’s Rides
  5. Wild Hogs (movie)
  6. Mo Twister’s most hated
  7. Motorista magazine

If you still haven’t got it right, the last one is supposed to be a give away. Yes, everything relates to motorcycles big or small; slow or fast; flashy or funny. And today I got my own, my first one. Now I’m back to riding, or better yet, learning, on two wheels. This time it’s motorized.

Following careful and lengthy considerations and several discussions with my own self, I am finally convinced to give in to the urge of riding a motorcycle. I’m quite sure though that my dear wifey still has some reservations on my recent toy disguised in the name of beating the gas prices.

But I can’t blame her for having such thoughts. We were both together when we witnessed an accident up close. If that’s not scary enough, the news of motorcycle riders clashing with other vehicles or pedestrians are so common nowadays that anyone could get confused if the news is current or a replay of other day’s. That’s the bad side of motorcycling these days. Its notoriety comes from becoming cheaper that even those who don’t have the capacity (read: brain) to ride defensively can now buy it as long there’s cash or down payment to start with.

honda wave
My ride. (Image from Hondaph.com)

But as any motorcycle advocate will tell you, accidents are bound to happen whether in a car, on a bus, on a train, on an airplane or just even while walking leisurely. It doesn’t matter what transportation if the one who’s in control doesn’t know what he is expected to do. And that’s when training and common sense–assuming it is common–come into play.

Luckily nowadays, motorcycle newbies like me have the internet to help us coach on how to go about learning how to ride. A couple of hours googling could lead one to a numerous motorcycle-related sites (e.g., MSF) and forums (e.g., MCP). It now depends on how one comprehends what he reads–individual learning curves differ.

So how am I doing so far?

After spending a couple of my time reading all about motorcycles since more than a month ago and right after I got my brand new unit this morning, I’ve given it a try only once by doing a couple of rounds inside our village. I did it noontime where sun is steaming hot but with fewer people outside. I was actually rather more embarrassed than nervous for riding it like a sissy unlike those I’ve seen that were so relaxed, confident and at some point, irritatingly showy. A few more practice and I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it.  I swear I’ll stay safe by then.