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All Things Motorcycle: Part 2

'If everyone would remain calm, offer a little more courtesy and kindness, and smile more, then everyone would have a better life'

By Novella Carpenter

Last week, we talked with Charles (never Charlie!) Statman, motorcycle wonderboy, who described what riding a motorcycle is like, and who explained that an accident is inevitable and that loud pipes are just showboating. This week, we're going to get the dirt on how cars and motorcycles can learn to love each other and what riders can do to reduce scarring.

Charles, you've gotten in several accidents that broke bones and lost body parts. How does a motorcycle accident make you feel?

After I get over the adrenaline shot to my heart and calm down, I am not angry, just disappointed that folks pay no attention whatsoever when they drive. When you pilot a car, you should pay at least 90 percent attention to driving. Not the cell phone, not the radio, makeup, hamburgers, kids, dogs, newspaper, etc. Drive the car.

It seems like a lot of drivers--like me, even--don't know what to do with motorcyclists. I find myself cheering for them, and I slow down and give them some space, but is that the right thing to do? If a car driver was sitting across from you right now, what advice would you give them that would make it so cars and motorcycles could get along?

I think drivers of any vehicle should take about the same actions. Pay attention to what you are doing. If you want to listen to the stereo, do it at home. If you are driving, you should drive. Share the road. Everyone out there has the same right. Let them. You don't get extra points for being first. There is no trophy waiting at your house. Drive calm, steady and courteous. Stay in the center of your lane. Signal all lane changes. Yield to someone else every so often.

Specifically on dealing with motorcycles? Lane sharing is not illegal; it is unsafe. This is all the California DMV says about it. When you see a motorcyclist going up the center during rush hour, please do not honk, yell, open doors, throw coffee, etc. Just think that it is one less car you are stuck behind in traffic. On the weekends, if you are up in the mountains and you see bikes coming, use the turnouts.

That gear--all those armored gloves and pants--do they really make you safer than just plain leather?

Gear does not make you safe. It just provides a little more protection. As with any tools, buy the best. There is a constant debate between high tech and leather. Like Imelda Marcos and the shoes, you need the right gear to wear to the right party.

When I am road-racing, I wear a padded, armored full-leather suit, special road-race boots, a helmet and gloves. It's hot and a pain to put on. When I am commuting to work, I wear an armored fabric jacket, cowboy boots, jeans, gloves and a helmet. I should wear armored fabric pants, but I am lazy.

People ask me, "What's the difference between a $200 helmet and a $700 helmet. Does it really provide $500 more protection?" Well, no. It provides $500 more comfort: a removable, washable liner; maybe nicer foam; a lighter, more comfortable shell; a quieter ride. You can wear it longer, that's a plus. Whatever you do, wear the best you can buy. A motorcyclist's gear is all that stands between him or her and some nasty road rash, broken bones and more.

Do you think motorcyclists push boundaries that make car drivers angry?

Yes, I think motorcyclists do things every day that piss car drivers off. We filter through traffic and get home faster. We pay lower insurance. We use less resources, like gas, tires and oil. But mainly, I think some car drivers dislike motorcyclists because while they are commuting, we are living. If everyone would remain calm, offer a little more courtesy and kindness, and smile more, then everyone would have a better life.

Hop on the circuit by emailing Novella at [email protected]

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From the May 18-25, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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