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  • Sarah Merrell

Risk-taker vs Reckless: Which Rider Are you?

Shortly after graduating from college, I landed a job where I managed a marketing department. My year-one review rolled around with the CEO, and while most of it was glowing, there was one major criticism: I wasn't taking risks, and in fact, I seemed risk-adverse. He explained to me that sometimes you have to be willing to fail in order to have successes. And sometimes the big wins come from having the courage to take a chance. But there is another facet of risk and that is the fine line between risk-taking and recklessness.

In motorcycling, we as riders are accepting a risk every time we throw a leg over the bike. And we often stretch our limits, push outside our comfort zones and to take calculated risks to become better, faster riders. The best motorcyclists in the world are risk takers. They make daring passes, hold the throttle open while others begin to brake and ride their bikes to their absolute limit. Other motorcyclists are brave risk-takers by adventuring across the globe to experience the world on two wheels. As for me, I personally am always working to progress, and making strides rarely comes from staying within a comfort zone. But stepping outside a comfort zone isn‘t easy. Last spring I was working on my braking in a specific corner at Little Tally and braked too late and ran off the track. I was fine—bike stayed up and I rode right back on the track—but that was a risk. But by taking that risk I learned where my limit existed.

In motorcycling, I have always considered myself a cautious rider and far from reckless. I actually think I could benefit from pushing myself more. But recently I‘ve been questioning it. Am I a smart, confident rider who takes calculated risks? Or do I sometimes cross the line into reckless? After all, where do you even draw the line for a concept so subjective.

Sometimes the difference is not so gray and seems rather obvious. Most would agree making a pass on the road going into a completely blind corner is being reckless. A rider who is riding outside of their limit and crossing the double yellow line into the opposite lane is reckless. Riding while intoxicated is reckless.

But sometimes it’s not so easy to label.

Take for example my new Z125. It‘s completely stock and has inferior stock tires and brakes on it, but I’ve been hammering on that bike and dragging knee in technical corners on roads like The Dragon. Some experienced friends who’s opinions I value mentioned they would never a push that particular bike that far. It’s too likely to tuck the front or slide out and they don’t have confidence in those stock tires. Am I taking a reasonable risk in pushing the Z125 as hard as I do or being reckless?

I think it’s complicated but I do think we, as riders, can have a road map (so to speak) to know if we are being reckless or not. And if we are, to rein ourselves back in. Because nothing good comes from being reckless. Being reckless will hurt you or someone else.

Ask yourself this:

1. Am I thinking about the outcome of this action? Am I concerned about the consequences?

2. Is it impulsive?

3. What is the likelihood it could hurt or kill me or someone else?

4. Does the potential benefit outweigh the possible negative outcomes?

When I think about this, I think that on the spectrum of reasonable risk-taking and recklessness that I can use the above 4 items to admit to myself that yes, it is probably on the reckless end if the spectrum to ride the Z125 as hard as I do without good tires—or good brakes for that matter. So I need to stop messing around and make the smart decision to buy some decent tires and make some mods!

So I can apply this to my own riding, but what about those who say that motorcycling, in and of itself, is reckless, or that riding 150+ miles per hour on the track is reckless? If you apply the above criteria, it’s not reckless since 1) You’re aware of the outcome and consequences, 2) It’s not impulsive, 3) You’re not going to hurt yourself or someone else if you stay in control of your motorcycle and ride safely with good technique, and 4) Even though motorcycling is inherently risky, so is walking across the street or driving to work. When we get on a bike we accept the risk. The thrill and joy of riding outweighs the possible negative outcomes.

So what about you? With your riding, where do you think you fall on the risk-taking and reckless spectrum?

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