On Risk and Motorcycles


I mean, look. If your post is about how really investing in your marriage made you sign up to take a course on learning how to ride a motorcycle, even though it scares the shit out of you, I’m pretty much in. Marriages, man. They really do lead you to the most surprising places. Amy Christensen is a longtime reader who runs Expand Outdoors and was a wedding graduate years ago. What she has to say today about learning to accept the person you’re actually married to (not the idea you have of them in your head) even when it’s terrifying made me do some digging around in my soul. (Plus, motorcycles.)

Meg

 

On Risk and Motorcycles | A Practical Wedding

I finally made the call and signed up. The months between the decision (which was really hard) and the action (even harder) were filled with procrastination and avoidance. The class? I’m going to learn how to ride a motorcycle. For me, it’s overwhelming, daunting, and downright scary. I’m doing this for my husband. You see, my husband wants to buy a motorcycle. It’s way more practical and economic than a new car. I get this. But I have been incredibly (and unfairly) resistant. For months I avoided any conversations around the topic, nodded my head and deftly changed the subject every time he brought it up.

Here’s the thing: It’s been hammered into my head since I can remember that motorcycles are Dangerous. People who ride them are Reckless and Asking for Trouble. The mere thought of it causes fear to course through my body. I’ve only been on the back of a motorcycle once. It was when I was in college and doing other dangerous and stupid things that you tend to do when you’re nineteen and believe you’ve got the world at your feet and nothing bad can ever happen to you.

The decision to take the class wasn’t actually the most difficult decision I had to make. No, the toughest decision was about letting go. There I was. Almost forty, fighting a very strong urge to deny my husband—a man I deeply love, respect and trust—something that is a core part of who he is. And in fact, a core part of exactly what I love about him. Not to mention that our partnership doesn’t even use phrases like “deny my husband/wife.” We’re pretty open and supportive of each other, which made this particular issue especially hard for me.

He’s adventurous, and I trust his judgment implicitly. I routinely put my life in his hands when we go rock climbing. And in turn, I take his life in mine when I’m belaying on the other end of the rope. I’m no stranger to risk. I’ve done some research around it and eventually built my business on the premise that healthy risks are essential to personal growth and living a fully authentic life. Most likely my interest in the topic is because I tend to be more risk-averse than I’d like.

I’m an independent woman. I was happily single for a long time and thought nothing of moving twelve thousand miles away from home at the age of twenty; traveling alone to a foreign country to run a marathon; or quitting my corporate job to start my own business with no experience or real plan on exactly how I was going to make that work. I trail run alone on a regular basis, have backpacked into the wilderness alone, and driven hundreds of miles by myself on road trips. And together we traveled around the country living out of a van for the second year of our marriage.

I’ve experienced amazing transformations and insights into myself and grown exponentially as a person by taking said risks. I have realized I’m stronger than I think I am, more capable than I believed, and feel empowered to be exactly the woman I want to be. And I work with other women to help them realize the same. All this to say that I appreciate and recognize that risk is part of life. But that hasn’t meant that it’s been all that easy to come to terms with the risks my husband takes. I knew this going into our marriage. And like I said, it’s something I’ve always admired and appreciated about him.

I know he loves hurtling down a mountain bike trail at thirty-three miles per hour. His speed record for the road bike is fifty-nine miles per hour. He’s comfortable climbing a fourteen-thousand-foot mountaintop with thousands of feet of exposure below him—certain death if he makes a wrong move, or a rock suddenly breaks loose. (Have I mentioned he’s interested in skydiving and BASE jumping sometime in the future?)

We were friends for a number of years before we started dating. We were climbing partners and training partners, running endurance trail races and hiking mountains together. When we were friends, his activities didn’t weigh on my mind all that much. I knew they were potentially dangerous, and of course, if anything had happened, it would’ve been awful. But it wasn’t until we began dating that I realized I needed to do some serious thinking before getting too involved.

Really hard questions needed to be asked. Was I willing to partner with someone at the risk of losing them early? What about permanent disability? Not to mention emotional stability and general personality changes. My husband thrives on being active and I’m convinced it’s an essential element to his happiness and well-being. When he’s injured and can’t run or bike or get out to climb on a regular basis, it affects his mood. But I was falling in love. And I knew I’d never want him to give up something so integral to his personality and livelihood for my comfort. His love of adventure and risk is woven into the fabric of who he is—and has been all his life. Who was I to alter that? However, understanding this on an intellectual level is very different than being comfortable with it in my heart.

Before we were married, and during the first couple of years as a married couple, I asked these questions based on the activities he was currently doing. I didn’t actually consider new risks he might want to take. The risks I knew about were familiar to me. I’d watched him study a potential mountain biking line or jump and decide to pass it up. I’d watched him practice and build his skills methodically and deliberately before trying a bigger jump. I love him. And support him and encourage him to get out and have fun. I know he takes very calculated risks and weighs the dangers with objectivity. He rarely (if ever) lets his ego get in the way. He’s backed off from reaching a summit just a few hundred yards away because of weather or a friend’s needs. He considers safety and exercises good judgment.

But things happen outside of our control all the time. Weather moves in. Mechanical difficulties happen. A small pebble on the road in just the wrong place or gust of wind at just the wrong time. Inattentive drivers. And these new risks—particularly riding a motorcycle—felt very different. I didn’t know anything about them, had very minimal experience with one, and had learned from a very young age that it was Very Dangerous.

Which brings me back to the motorcycle. It took a long time to find objectivity in my thoughts and feelings in order to make what I feel is a fair decision whether or not we should buy one for our baby family. The first step is to get more familiar with it myself and work on opening my mind to this idea little by little. The head and the heart have to come together—especially when the head tells me to trust and let go, and the heart tells me to do everything I can to keep him safe. So the decision I finally came to, the one that’s been the hardest, is to decide to fully let go and accept all the risks my husband takes with as much grace as I can manage, with a fully open heart. To not cherry pick which risks I can handle and which ones I don’t want to. Because when it comes down to it, I chose all of him, risks and all.

I’m not sure if we’ll be buying a motorcycle anytime soon, but at least it’s an option that’s on the table. And if we do, who knows, we might just end up sharing it. Stranger things have happened! What I do know is that by letting go, I’ve gained so much more. Our marriage is stronger, our communication is more open, and our love continues to grow deeper.

Photo by Greg Benz Photography from Claire & Christopher’s One-and-Done Eff It Wedding

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  • Steph

    Wow!!! Thank you so much for this post! Hubby and I are about to make a calculated risk in the near future and though it has nothing to do with motorcycles this post was so exactly what I needed to read today. Would love to hear more about your experiences traveling the country with your husband too :)

    • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

      Same here. Prepping for some risks, though of the financial type this time.

      I find that there are times I can’t watch my fiance do something, because seeing him freaks me out. When we bike, I have to bike in front of him, because his tendency to ride with his hands off the handle bars and his habit of weaving back and forth for fun leave me convinced he is going to crash. Our first date (which was a road trip to a friend’s wedding in Nova Scotia) involved some hiking in the woods by a river. He was scrambling up slippery rocks and up to the edge of a rapids in a way that made me dizzy and I had to look away.

      I have learned to not scold him like a mom when this happens. Breathe deeply and let go, even as my mind’s eye sees him falling to death or injury, instead of yelling, “Get down from there, young man!” I need to trust him as an adult, rather than treat him as a child.

      • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

        Also: last summer, we had a chance to rent and ride a tandem bike while on Mackinac Island for a wedding. We only rode it for a couple of blocks before I freaked out and couldn’t do it anymore. We walked the bike back and traded it for two regular bikes.

        I’d felt sure the whole time that we were going to fall over. If I can’t *watch* him ride his bike, riding a bike *with* him was not going to be in the cards. Maybe someday…baby steps.

        • Kess

          Ha! My SO and I did tandem bike on Mackinac Island. We managed to make it around the entire island (7-ish miles, so not too long) and we learned quite quickly that I HAD to be in the back.

          I had assumed that I would hate not having control, but in fact, I freaked out having the control over both of us. I was ok trusting him, but I didn’t trust myself to not plow us into Lake Michigan. Once I was in the back, I could just let my mind wander as I didn’t have to think about steering, and was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it.

          Anyway, I think everyone should try riding a tandem bike at sometime, if simply for the fact that you’ll probably learn something about yourself or your partner or your relationship.

          • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

            Maybe I’ll try it again sometime.

          • CJ

            I’m a long-time bike commuter and have always thought fondly of tandems, so a while back I picked up a cheap one to ride with my SO.

            We learned very quickly (and entertainingly) that it’s very important for her to simply relax and enjoy the ride without trying to balance. One person controlling and balancing the bike works wonderfully, but two people trying to balance it at the same time leads to wild swings and anything but relaxation.

            (One could possibly analogize on the subject, I imagine.)

      • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

        I *totally* relate to you Kayjayoh. I feel a mix of emotions (pride, admiration, envy, fear) when I watch my husband do things that would scare me. But I also know that he’s excellent at assessing and mitigating risks, so I try to learn from him as opposed to shying away.

        • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

          I think a big part of it, for me, is not that these are scary things (I rock climb and sail) but that part of me still doesn’t trust that he is being careful while taking risks. I know *I* am being cautious when I make my way up a wall. I have my harness and rope and I am in my own head. But when I watch him do thing like take his hands off the handlebars, my brain doesn’t want to let go of the idea that he is being careless, and therefore is going to get hurt.

          I really want to get past that. Part of getting past that is controlling my outward reaction. Part of it may end up being me talking to him about it, and getting reassurance that he is thinking about the things he is doing.

          It isn’t fair of me to assume his risks are careless and mine aren’t. It treats him like an irresponsible fool who needs someone to look after him.

          • dawn

            It’s not fair to assume that his risks are careless, of course, but it’s also true that some people are more careless than others.

          • Aine

            I think part of that is the natural outgrowth of loving someone- we want them to be safe, and so things that we’d put up with for ourselves are too far for them. Less “I’m a control freak” than “S/He is so precious to me, I couldn’t bear if anything went wrong!”

        • Claire

          I feel exactly the same way about my husband.

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      Thanks Steph. Glad it resonated with you.

      And you can read about our “adVANture” at http://www.theadvanture.com. 365 days; 25,000 miles; 25 states; 2 provinces; and 23 Nat’l parks, all living out of a Ford Cargo Van we built out ourselves. :0) We also worked part time (I launched my biz on the road).

      • Steph

        awesome!! Hubby and I have bought an RV and are trying to figure out the logistics of getting enough time off this summer to have our adventure I will definitely be hitting up your blog :)

        • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

          Feel free to contact me anytime with questions. I find I can talk for HOURS about our trip. Loved it!! (There’s a contact form on my website.) :)

          • Steph

            I will definitely be taking you up on that very soon! Can’t wait to talk :)

  • Ashley

    Timing of this is great. We bought a motorcycle last fall and I am taking the course in a couple of weeks! It didn’t seem like much of leap for me at the time, it literally went something like this:

    Him: “I’d have to get a bike with a back seat so you could come”
    Me:” If you get a bike, I’m not riding on the back, I’m getting my own!”
    Him: “Really? Cool!” and he proceeded to make plans for us to buy TWO motorcycles!

    It wasn’t as much of a leap for me but I am now feeling like I took a rather un-calculated risk and am getting a little nervous about it. Hubby is much more of a risk-seeker than me, so this is definitely outside my comfort zone. Thanks for the reminder and the perspective.

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      Awesome Ashley! Yeah… my husband keeps telling me how different (and often more dangerous) it is to ride in the back instead of on your own. If the passenger doesn’t lean the right way around a curve, it can make it more difficult, etc.

      I’m excited for you. Take a deep breath and a step back. I work a lot with my clients on learning how to create the best environment for you, in order to take a risk, and there’s a lot of factors that can go into it. Sometimes the uncalculated risks can serve as just the motivation we need. Trust your instincts and make sure you’ve got plenty of support around you.

      • LZ

        Not sure this will help — But I have ridden on the back of motorcycles and been scared. Then I bought a motorcyle, and fell in love with being the rider, instead of the passenger — It’s much less scary when you understand the mechanics (i.e.: weaving back and forth isn’t so scary because the motorcyle is naturally gyroscopic, and wants to spring back up!) and get some practice in! The class is awesome, as it gives you a feeling of understanding and control.

        My husband even rode on the back of mine (once…) which was pretty hilarious.

        I’ve sold mine for now (wasn’t riding it enough once we started dating, since he didn’t have one) — But we have plans to get two in the future.

        I never rode mine much in the city — I live near the mountains, so I’d always take it up and putz around in the canyons on warm summer days.

        • Claire

          Ha! I have never, ever been able to get my husband to agree to ride on the back!

        • Ashley

          Thanks! I am looking foward to the course. I live in the country so we’ll mostly be riding for fun not for my commute into the city, too much traffic. What really sold me on the idea was the thought of the two us touring around on them. I think it’ll be a great way to spend time together and it’s really me showing an interest in something he’s excited about which I can tell has meant a lot to him.

      • Ashley

        Thanks for the support! I am excited, I’m actually the most concerned about getting the shifting part. I don’t drive standard so it just seems like a lot to think about. Clutch, shift, two brakes, throttle, keeping myself alive!

        I practiced on a dirt bike in the fall (I live in canada so the season is short) and was pleasantly surprised by how patient and supportive my guy was in teaching me. He’s been into motorsports since the time he could walk so this kind of thing is second nature to him, I was worried that he wouldn’t be able to understand how not instinctual it is for me, but he was great. I know I’ll get there, I just have to be patient with myself.

        • Denzi

          If you’re in the States, I highly, highly recommend the Motorcycle Safety Foundation rider training course. There’s a reason why it’s the course that will let you bypass the motorcycle driving test at the DMV. (Well, one reason is they administer the test at the end of your course.) It’s all about learning to quickly analyze risk and ride strategically, and there’s a whole bunch of time on their little starter road bikes practicing basic skills. Slow? Yes. But it’s kind of nice to make sure you have in your muscle memory as well as your head how to make an emergency stop.

          • Ashley

            Thanks! I am actually taking the Canadian equivalent of that in two weeks. I’m pretty excited :)

  • http://poppiesandicecream.blogspot.nl/ Amanda

    Wow this is so inspiring. Taking risks, growing together, letting go, and jumping together. These are lessons that can be applied to many, many situations. As the support for each other that you so eloquently describe.

    On a side note, I saw Kon-Tiki yesterday and your words reminded me of that letter that Thor’s wife writes to him, about how she loves him despite or even because of how she know he thrives and lives for adventures, crazy as they seem, against all odds.

    I wish you all the best in your journey!

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      Thanks Amanda. :)

  • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.com/ Sheryl

    When my husband decided to start riding it was terrifying. Motorcycles can be scary microscosms of risk especially when you introduce them after the relationship started. Every time my husband takes his out of the highway I have to actively quell my nerves, but he loves his bike and I trust him to make all the right decisions. (I just don’t trust all the other drivers out there, really.)

    Dealing with the fear of this particular risk came down to reminding myself that tragedy happens even you make all the right moves, even when you avoid all the risks you can. We might as well live life to the fullest and do the things that make us happy and support the same decisions from our partners.

    Riding the bike myself has been a whole different matter. Getting on the back seat is something I won’t do until he gets his final level of licensing, and I’m constantly wavering as to whether I’m comfortable learning to ride one myself. They’re such an integral part of his life that I want to at least try and see what it’s like … but terrifying. Possibly a sign I should push myself and at least try.

    • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

      I’ve ridden on the backs of motorcycles a number of times, and I don’t think I ever will again. If I ride on a motorcycle, it will be one that I am driving myself.

      What I learned is that, as a passenger I have all the same risk as the driver, but none of the control. While “letting go of control and trusting” is a great metaphor and works well for other areas of life, this was not one area where I found myself willing to give up all control.

      (When I was a kid, my dad sometimes gave me rides on his motorcycle. I loved it. He even picked me up from school on it when I was seven. Best ever. As an adult, I have twice had troubles with the tailpipe: once I melted the soles of my shoes, mistaking the pipe for the footpegs in the dark. Once I got a big burn on my calf, when I got an unexpected motorcycle ride on a day I was wearing shorts. Ooops!)

      • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.com/ Sheryl

        Being on the back can be dangerous all in its own ways. I’d never thought of how dangerous the tailpipe could be.

        When Bunny talks about getting me on the back of his bike, after I remind him that he’s got another level of licensing to go (although legally I could ride with him) I like to razz him about how he ran over my foot the one time I rode on the back of the ATV.

        • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

          The “best” part of my tailpipe burn is that the very next day was my first time on a sailboat. I had a gross, giant blister on my calf while also trying to crouch and move around on a moving racing boat (at night). I was worried about the damn thing all night. Ew!

  • falnfenix

    congrats on taking the dive! motorcycles can be a bit of an addiction.

    i request one thing, though: make sure you wear All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT). i ask this of everyone i know and most people i don’t after they say they want to get a motorcycle. ATGATT means helmet, armored jacket (either leather or textile), armored gloves, armored/kevlar-lined pants, and riding boots with full ankle protection. even if you’re going around the block, or to the post office. EVERY rider goes down eventually, it’s just a matter of time, and it’s better to be prepared for it with proper gear. because pavement hurts and regular pants don’t protect against road rash.

    (the first time i hit pavement i was less than a mile from my house, and i WASN’T wearing protective pants or riding boots. my doc martens didn’t prevent the nasty sprain i got when the bike landed on my leg, and my jeans didn’t prevent the massive road rash i got on my hip.)

    • http://unexpected-moments.blogspot.com/ Sheryl

      Big yes to the gear. When Bunny started to ride the one thing I insisted on was the gear. It’s a safety non-negotiable.

      Everytime I see riders in shorts or t shirts just coasting around I cringe inside. Yes it’s hot, and maybe it’s cooler to just wear your t shirt or whatever but it’s asking for trouble.

      • falnfenix

        when my ex started riding, i made him pay for health insurance (as he didn’t have any) and life insurance (as i couldn’t afford to bury him). fortunately he’d just helped out his landlord, who spent 3 months in the hospital after “stunting” into the back of a parked semi. broken bones galore were enough to keep the ex in gear.

        the current SO is fully insured, wears all gear when he rides, and he rides a touring bike…so i’m not as afraid for him as i was with the ex. still, every time he goes out my heart’s a little in my throat.

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      Totally agree! I feel fortunate that everyone I know who does ride is incredibly safety-conscious and even in 100º weather, will ride fully geared up.

      • falnfenix

        I’m glad to hear that. :)

    • http://snippetsof.blogspot.com SarahE

      “Exactly” is not enough. My aunt and uncle are both Harley enthusiasts (and both retired from careers largely spend working at the plant), and they always, always wear everything. I’ve heard other bikers also agree: it’s not IF you get in an accident, it’s WHEN. My aunt and uncle ride responsibly, but my uncle has still had two major injuries from bad accidents on his bike, and if he weren’t wearing leather or a helmet, they would have been much worse.

      Of course, my aunt loves her motorcycle, but would never have guessed in all her life that she’d learn to ride one and like it!

      • falnfenix

        It’s pretty much guaranteed: the odds are against the rider the second they get on the bike, and it’s only a matter of time before they put it on the ground. It might be a catastrophic accident, or it may be something small and stupid with no injuries or bike damage, but it’ll happen. Best to stack the odds in favor of the rider.

    • falnfenix

      forgot to mention: by helmet, i mean a full-face helmet that covers your chin. anything less isn’t full protection, no matter how uncomfortable they may be.

  • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

    I also married an active, adventurous, and risk-taking guy after having to seriously consider the same kinds of questions. He’s also in the military, so there’s the added risk of something happening to him and I know exactly what you mean about the potential for an injury to cause depression since being active is so important to his mood and self-image. But it’s who he is. And it’s led me to take skiing lessons and get SCUBA certified so I can share adventures with him. We’ve gone snorkeling, snowshoeing, backpacking, caving, horseback riding, traveled to five countries together (and counting) and just moved overseas.
    However, if it comes down to getting on the motorcycle and you find that you really, really don’t want to, don’t. My husband signed us up for a sailing class so we could get certified to rent sailboats from the base. No biggie for him since he’s sailed a million times. I was nervous, but figured we’d go together. Nope. They were one-person boats and we’d have to practice dealing with every difficult situation you could possibly encounter when sailing, without any practice on the easy part of sailing. I felt physically sick by the time we were getting in the boats from anxiety, but I went, only to make my husband happy. I ended up having a full-on panic attack about 30 minutes in while the cranky instructor tried to help shaking and crying me sail myself back to shore via megaphone from his boat. It was humiliating and awful. (Insult to injury: my husband failed to realize when scheduling the class that the date he picked was my birthday.) All of which is to say, it’s great to have a partner who helps you push your boundaries, but know and respect your own limits.

    • http://irvingplace.net Kayjayoh

      Aw, I’m sorry you had such a terrible experience sailing. Did it turn you off to sailing entirely, or do you think you might try it again at a more beginner level class?

      I started sailing last summer (on an inland lake) and they really let us learn at whatever pace was comfortable, and on a range of boats. If you think you could manage it, I’d definitely recommend giving a novice-level learn-to-sail class at some point. But I can certainly understand not wanting to do it again after such a bad first experience.

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      I hate it when the fear sneaks up on me like that. I’ve had that happen and it totally sucks, because you’re not only feeling scared of the situation, but (at least for me), I got really frustrated and discouraged with myself for *being* scared, which only made it worse. And YES!! Knowing our own boundaries (and how they can sometimes change even day-to-day) can be super-empowering. And being able to voice those boundaries and have them respected is essential.

      Sending you hugs.

      • http://www.superfantastic.blogs.com Superfantastic

        Kayjayoh, I’ve gone sailing since with other people and have really liked it. My husband took the second certification class without me and said right away that it was the class I should have taken. They were in two-person boats that weren’t fully manual and didn’t have to spend the whole time making 180 degree turns around buoys. I’m sure there will be more sailing in our future.

        Amy, yes, being upset with myself for being so afraid made the whole thing exponentially worse. Thank you!

  • http://thedilettantista.com/ The Dilettantista

    And then, on the flip side, there is this article about grieving families of extreme athletes, and what someone can leave behind when risk-taking. This is particularly about winter sports but could easily be about other risky activities:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/sports/skiing/grieving-families-of-extreme-sports-enthusiasts-are-left-to-wonder-was-the-thrill-worth-it.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    The article talks about a documentary made by an extreme-sports enthusiast, Ben Clark, (who has since toned down his ways) about a deadly skiing accident that took place last year. Clark’s decision to cut back on some of his risk-taking was a direct result of conversations he had with the bereaved parents of one of the skiers who died in the accident. A quote:

    “’Until I spoke with [the mother of the dead skier], it finally sunk in to me why my parents were upset,’ Clark said. ‘It had nothing to do with dying, doing something you love or being willing to risk your life for something that thrills you. People think that’s admirable. But the people who think that’s admirable are not the people that were close to me, that I loved, that I left behind. We need to let people know that it is not just about you and the risk that you take, it’s about what you leave behind when you make this decision.’”

    Give the article a read–it is the first thing that came to mind when I read this post. I am personally motorcycle-adverse (too many dumb people on the road–I know car accidents happen all the time but I’d still rather have metal and airbags between me and the enormous variable of humans driving cars) but I wouldn’t say I’m risk-adverse. Just walking outside your door is a risk. But I do frequently think “What would my family and manfriend and friends do if I died?” So I tend to dial back obvious risk-taking activities because of that thought (although part of me does still want to sky-dive at some point in my existence).

    • Claire

      Skydiving is definitely a thrill! Interestingly, my extreme sports loving, risk-taking partner was totally opposed to my little skydiving habit and tried his best to convince me to give that up. Instead, he ended up joining me for a tandem sky-dive and fell in love with a whole new thrill.

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      Thank you for the link! I’m definitely going to give it a solid read. Maria Coffey has written extensively as well about those left behind (Where the Mountain Casts its Shadows is a great read). Really thought-provoking and fascinating.

    • dawn

      “People think that’s admirable” –
      exactly. I’m glad to see your post. We often talk like we think that risk-taking is inherently good.

      But– There is certainly nothing particularly admirable about taking risk in pursuit of excitement. It’s not more admirable to ride a motorcycle when you don’t want to than it is to refrain from riding a motorcycle when you do want to.

      I think it would be fun to have a motorcycle, but have decided against it because it’s too risky. I do other things for excitement that are less likely to cause injury or death. I’m interested in a realistic assessment of the risks of riding a motorcycle and am open to re-evaluating my risk analysis. But the crucial point is: I don’t think I am less admirable and authentic than people who ride motorcycles (or engage in other activities that exceed my risk tolerance).

      Essentially, I’m uncomfortable with valorizing risk. Taking some degree of risk is necessary in life, but risk-taking itself is not an inherent good. Plus,we know that some people who engage in risk seeking behaviors are doing so for less than healthy reasons.

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      I meant to post this earlier and completely space it… I highly recommend reading this article as a counterpoint to the New York Times one: http://www.adventure-journal.com/2013/03/in-defense-of-taking-risks/

      It makes a lot of great points.

  • http://turtlelove.com Adrianne

    Riding on the back of a motorcycle carries a lot of the same kinds of issue-sorting and politics prioritizing questions as many of the more “mainstream” issues discussed on APW. Our honeymoon was a cross-country motorcycle trip, which I spent as the passenger. I had just finished a major in Women’s Studies, and dreaded being “the chick on the back,” but came to love seeing everything and not having to focus on the driving. (I only told my husband this after the trip was over… tee hee hee). Anyway, I’m impressed that you’re learning to ride, and I’m jealous of what I assume must be your long(er than mine) legs!

    • Ashley

      Yes! See my comment above, my knee jerk reaction when my SO said something about me on the back of his bike, was no! I need a bike of my own. Which of course means now i’m in the position of learning to drive said bike. It was just an instant reaction to the “back” we have a side by side ATV and I happily ride in the passenger seat, so go figure.

      Also I have short legs too, but our Harley Sportster is just small enough for me and you can often have the seat lowered on other bikes if you want to learn to ride!

  • Claire

    Oh so much to relate to in this post! My husband is also a very athletic thrill-seeker. He’s a sponsored kiteboarder and mountain biker, extreme skier and snowboarder who bikes to work (35 miles each way) and rides a motorcycle (that’s his Triumph in the picture!) and rock climbs in his spare time. Just typing all that has me exhausted.

    Early in our relationship, some of his activities made me anxious for his safety. He had recently torn his ACL while kiteboarding and I really had to fight the urge to constantly try to rein him in. I would catch myself scolding him to be careful or slow down. I had his best interests in mind but realized it was actually kind of arrogant of me to assume that I knew better than him what his limits were in his sports. I didn’t want to suck the fun out of these activities that he clearly loved and had been doing (really well) for a decade (or three) before I came along.

    I’ve had to make a conscious effort to back off and trust that he knows what he’s doing. I’ve made peace with the fact that many of the things he loves most in this world do carry a level of inherent risk and I can’t protect him from everything. His need for adventure and adrenaline is part of who he is as a person. While he would give them up for me, I would never want to take that away from him.

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      Claire – thanks for commenting and sharing. I nodded in recognition through your entire comment. The conscious effort to back off can be really hard, but so worth it. Do you guy participate in any of these together?

      • Claire

        Yeah, I participate in some of his activities at a much less extreme level. I took some snowboarding lessons so I can join in on ski trips, but I’m content to stay on blues and greens and let him go off on the black diamonds and heli-skiing excursions. He built me a mountain bike and I enjoyed some easy trails with him last fall, but won’t be entering races or working on jumps anytime soon. Next month we’re heading to South Padre Island for our second kiteboarding vacation, where he’ll spend 8 hours a day kiting and I’ll take one or two kiteboarding lessons and hang out at the beach with my books. We ride his Triumph together occasionally (but will be selling it soon to pay for his other sports equipment), but I refuse to road bike with him. That’s my own fear and my own boundary. My dad was almost killed by a hit-and-run driver while on his bike and I’m just too anxious to enjoy riding on roads.

  • KatyKey

    Just wanted to chime in and second FALNFENIX’s recommendation. Also worth noting that it’s not a question of if there will be an accident, but only when. That accident could be minor and perhaps a result of your own action or it could be major and the fault of another driver. It doesn’t matter. It will happen and you should discuss that inevitability with your partner. It’s a lot easier to have already talked it out, rather than trying to begin conversation at the hospital with someone who is concussed!

  • LikelyLaura

    I really appreciate this post because it actually gives me a clearer view of why I don’t think it’s the right choice for my husband to get a motorcycle. I did not marry a thrill seeker. And I like that.

    But mainly I don’t want him to ride because he isn’t smart about it. He’s a really brilliant guy, don’t get me wrong. But not about everything. He doesn’t think he needs all the gear. (Ack!!)He doesn’t consider the differences between different bikes/situations. (He once rode a huge bike at a demo – I don’t know the terminology – and almost fell over on the highway because it was too heavy for him.) And frankly, he’s really not that safe of a car driver, so it really scares me to think of him being careless on a bike.

    However, peer pressure gets to my husband every now and then (two of his good friends have bikes) and he decides he NEEDS a bike. He doesn’t. He doesn’t even really WANT one. He took the course and got his license, but decided riding on a regular basis isn’t for him. It’s freaking hot in Texas a good 90% of the year. Ok, maybe like 65%, but odds are the rest of the time it’s raining. The helmet and jacket make him sweaty. And he hates being hot and sweaty. Nor does he like riding in the rain. And he wants a new car before getting a bike (to drive in the said heat and/or rain), and we’re trying to save for a house so money is an issue.

    We came up with a compromise that a 4-5 times a year he rents a bike for a day and goes to ride with his friends. I trust his friends because they are very safe drivers and smartly calculate all their risks (and sound a lot like the husband in the post.) So those guys riding with him makes me feel better. We both agree that this is fair to everyone, but the conversation never really seems to end. So we’ll see…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/whitehindu Carolyn Moir

    Wonderful post!

    You actually opened my mind a little bit on this.

    I am totally up for emotional risk, but terrified of physical risk. (Dating a guy who was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident did not help with that!)

    I started reading your post thinking: NO! DON’T DO IT!

    But then you changed my mind. Because I can see how you are carefully accepting risk because it is part of who your husband is. I applaud you for being able to see through the fear. I don’t know if I would be able to do the same.

    Side note, I would love if you would tell us more about the starting your business with little plan or experience! I’m building my own small business and I want to quit my job and go for it full time, but am really scared to!

    • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

      Carolyn – you totally made my day. :) So glad my story helped give you a different perspective.

      The starting my own biz topic is another story altogether and probably best left for another day… but definitely feel free to contact me with any questions or a chat over the phone. Congrats on starting your own! I’m happy to share my experiences (just don’t want to write a novel here in the comments). :)

      You can shoot me a message via the contact page at http://expandoutdoors.com.

  • http://www.anawerks.etsy.com Alvi the Small

    Word. When then – fiancee decided he’d get a motorcycle to supplement bussing/walking, I felt really wierd about it. I mean, I do research about people with disabilities, I know what can happen. But, on the flip side, it made him so obviously happy, I got to be more okay with it. Part of what we agreed on to make this happen is that he’s a pretty safe rider and driver, and wears All the Gear. The other part was that I asked him to set up a medical power of attorney. I just couldn’t cope with the thought of having to route all his medical decisions through his mom in Utah, who can’t decide on what to have for dinner, much less whether or not to go on with a tracheostomy. Now that we’re married, it’s a non – issue, but it really helped me feel okay about it.

    Interestingly, I originally wanted to ride with him, eventually. Now, I realize that having a super anxious person on the back of the bike is a bad idea, and having a super anxious motorcycle driver is even worse. So, I happily drive support for long trips – I carry all the camping gear in the car, I listen to loud music, everyone wins.

  • http://www.karinajean.com karinajean

    OH GUYS. I am so excited to see so many motorcycle riding ladies in the comments!

    I started riding after I met my dude. He took me on the back a few times, and he said he hoped I’d like it, and he strongly recommended I take the course. Four years later and I’m putting more miles on my motorcycle than he is! I thought it seemed pretty neat, but as I learned I became so passionate about riding that I am now a terrible passenger.

    Taking a class is the absolute right way to learn about motorcycling. learning from friends or loved ones seems great, but often has too many FEELINGS involved and you may not get a chance to really concentrate. AND! If you get a bad teacher, or one that you feel is rushing you, be up front with the school and see if there’s an opportunity to take a different class with someone whose teaching style is more comfortable. it really may not be you, but THEM.

    there’s a really great motorcycle community that is primarily to support women motorcyclists – if you’re up front or behind – it’s at http://twowheelfemales.com/. Guys are welcome there too but they need to be sponsored in, so the forum lacks the machismo that most motorcycle forums have.

  • http://www.expandoutdoors.com Amy C

    Just a quick update for y’all – I took the course this weekend and passed my tests (hooray!). I’m pretty sure I won’t be riding one myself anytime soon (it did more to inspire me to get out on my mountain bike), but I loved the class and loved learning about how motorcycles work, etc. And perhaps I’ll get some practice in an empty parking lot one of these days or back at the school (which offers free 1:1 lessons every week to help get you more comfortable and road-ready).

    I did learn a LOT and am very proud of myself for finishing it (as by the end of the first day I was pretty spent and figured I’d met my goal of learning and gaining a better understanding). But I returned, had a great day today and felt really good about it.

    The teachers and course were amazing. If you’re in the Denver, CO area, I highly recommend Full Throttle Academy. They don’t do it to make money – they do it because they want you to be safe and confident on the road.

    Thanks for all the support and encouragement here in the comments. :) Y’all rock.