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Old 08-16-2007, 11:21 AM   #1
oldapeman
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When should we stop riding? -- perspectives of an older rider

The recent reports of casualties of experienced expert bikers, plus my own experiences on the highways, have led me to pondering when I should consider parking the bike permanently. I encourage responses of all levels and ages of riders -- those over 50, who might be having the same thoughts as me, and those much younger, because, like it or not, you will be old someday too if your luck does not run out sooner.

NOTE: I apologize for the length of this post -- I guess I needed to set the stage for all this.

I am nearing 59 years old. I learned to ride a Honda S90 when I was 15, then rode a dirtbike for a while, then spent years in the Navy riding a wide variety of street bikes owned by my shipmates (Triumphs, BSA, BMW, Harley, Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Puch(!) and many more I have forgotten I left motorcycles behind for a while when I was in my late 20's , switching to bicycling, and riding motorcycles only occassionally until about ten years ago. It was then that I sent my son to MSF training, and decided to go along and do the course with him just for fun. I remembered how much fun I was having and decided to get back into motorcycling.

I consider myself to be a very expert, experienced and safe rider. Despite riding for nearly 44 years, I have never once been in an accident, nor dropped a bike on the street.

I ride one of my vintage Kawasakis from Berkeley to SF nearly every weekday (although I avoid the rain). I am in generally decent physical shape, have good reflexes, and corrected vision. My balance is very good (something that usually deteriorates with age), probably because of my long term motorcycle and bicycle riding.

That said, I must be the first to acknowledge that I do not have the physical capabilities I had at my peak (which for me was in my mid to late 30's, when I was doing century rides and San Francisco hillclimbs on my Bianchi ). While motorcycling, I now make up for this with my knowledge and experience, knowing what is the right thing to do at all times, plus not riding like a foolish teenager who just discovered that sex and motorcycle riding are a lot alike. Without doubt, I am slower, with weaker senses (eyes and ears) than I once had, less than perfect balance, and losing a little bit of the physical edge every year.

I am a realist. Ageing is a one-way street, sloping downhill at an increasing rate. I know that doing this at age 75 is not realistic, unless someone finds the fountain of youth soon.

Combine the above with the madness that I see everyday on the freeways and the Bay Bridge, with weaving inattentive drivers during commute hours, and road racing intoxicated idiots later at night (since I sometimes work late). Then, around the urban streets, I see people pulling in front of me from all sides, even though I wear very bright yellow and black gear. I have had a few scary moments, but have never had what I would consider to be a "close call", yet.

I have no desire to go out in a flameball. I prefer to die in bed, at a very old age, making love to my wife.

I love motorcycling, which I believe energizes me and keeps me young at heart, and helps relieve the stress from my high pressure work (I am a lawyer). BUT, I truly want to live to see my children grow up and give me grandchildren, and to travel to far off places with my lovely wife, who has grudgingly induged my motorcycling thus far.

So, fellow riders, at what point do I leave this behind, accepting the physical limitations that come with age, that in turn make this an unsafe risk to myself and my family?

Last edited by oldapeman; 08-16-2007 at 01:35 PM..
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:24 AM   #2
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As long as you can continue to do so enjoyably. Once it stops being fun for you, what's the point?

P.S. Dying while making love to your wife at a very old age is WRONG! First, you should never make love to your wife once you become very old. Old people sex is disgusting! Second, what would possess you to want to die during this act? That'd be a funny story for the mortician.

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Old 08-16-2007, 11:26 AM   #3
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When it feels right, then it's time to leave it behind.
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:27 AM   #4
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When BMW's start looking good
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:30 AM   #5
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I really don't worry about it.

I figure with Social Security headed down the shitter, the crooked bastards on Wall Street looting my 401K and the implosion of the mortgage bubble triggering the start of Great Depression II... once I'm too old to work my only "retirement option" will be to run the bike into a rock wall at 100 mph.
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:30 AM   #6
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Would you feel comfortable limiting your motorcycling to weekend rides, limiting your exposure to the hazards of daily commute riding?
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:31 AM   #7
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I would think that as you get older, you would adjust your riding accordingly (slower, more careful and cognizant of traffic around, or even riding when there is less traffic). Doesn't mean that you give it up entirely unless there is something that is definitely off like eyesight or sense of balance.

You shouldn't quit unless you feel it's time. As someone said, you'll know it because you don't enjoy it any longer.
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:33 AM   #8
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When BMW's start looking good
damn..it's time for me to hang it up too....

probably when the MILF's you lusted for when younger are now 20 years younger than you these days...

Last edited by V4; 08-16-2007 at 12:26 PM..
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:43 AM   #9
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Originally posted by squid vicious
When BMW's start looking good
Damn! Too late for me!

Okay, I'm 51, and the news about Craig Hightower shook me up and caused me to - briefly - consider hanging it up. I think I understand what you're talking about.

It's a very individual decision, and for me there is still far too much joy to be had from motorcycling to quit, despite the fact that it is inherently dangerous. If I live longer, but forgo that joy the best thing I might have gotten out of the deal is that I get some other joy in return. The only other compelling future joy that comes to mind is potential grandchildren. Still, even that trade is speculative. I might not live longer as a result of not riding, or my kids may choose not to have grandchildren, etc. Similarly, if I quit riding I may improve my chance for a longer life, but only my chances. My actual life may not be any longer.

At the same time as we've seen these sad deaths in the local moto community, some friends of ours are presiding over a deathwatch of their 12 year old son who is in the last stages of brain cancer and has slipped into a coma. Death is much on our minds in our household. That little guy got a shitty deal. His parents' deal is almost as bad. No one should outlive their kids. At least some of our departed moto friends got to leave this earth doing something they loved.

Sorry, for the digression. Like what Tom said, when it no longer gives you enough to justify the risk, walk away. But, walk away knowing that you haven't guaranteed anything other than not riding motorcycles any longer.

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Old 08-16-2007, 11:45 AM   #10
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I'm thinking that the motorcycle riding is probably keeping you young. Sure there's risk but, that's life and it's your decision. If you feel you can still ride then ride...

I'm not stoppin' till I drop, thank you very much...
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:48 AM   #11
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Originally posted by flying_hun
Sorry, for the digression. Like what Tom said, when it no longer gives you enough to justify the risk, walk away.
I don't know that I'll ever walk away, but I do plan on changing my riding habits in such a way that the risk is minimized. By commuting in my truck rather than on my bike, I'm already doing it...
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:50 AM   #12
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I don't know that I'll ever walk away, but I do plan on changing my riding habits in such a way that the risk is minimized.
+1 amen to that...
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:54 AM   #13
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Whenever I take a road trip, or am on a long highway ride, I see older men and women on Goldwings quite often. The sightings are increasingly more frequent around casinos for some reason.

My point being, that while age may slowly take a toll on your physical abilities, it doesn't necessarily make you less apt to ride a motorcycle (within limits of course). As you mentioned, your knowledge of riding for so long helps to offset the deficit of physical ability. I mean, if all of these others are capable of riding their HUGE Goldwing (in extreme comfort I might add) then why should you not be able to grow old doing the same? If this is truly something you love and enjoy doing, then why stop if you are able to continue?

As a previous poster stated, however, if you are no longer finding as much enjoyment from the activity, then there really is no point in continuing. You are the only on who can make the decision. You ultimately will determine wether the risks of riding are worth what you would forego should something tragic happen. I think you still find enjoyment in riding though, as you mention it is a release from your stressful job, not to mention you have been doing this for over 40 years.

You did mention the recent casualty threads. Perhaps hearing these has caused you to reflect in this way, and think of the things in life you would be missing, had one of them been you. The problem is that in one of the most recent threads, of the long time rider (RIP), his demise was not at all his fault. It was just the wrong place at the wrong time, and you have been taking these risks your entire riding career as well. Fortunately, you haven't had any mishaps.

I'm mainly trying to help you think through a decision, rather than post a cut and dry solution, but what will determine the end of your riding careeer is you. Your assessment ofthe risk involved with continuing to ride vs. the things in life that would be missed in the event something goes wrong. If you are in doubt, then it may be a sign the end of your riding career is near, but I'm sure you will know for sure when to hang up the helmet for good.
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:58 AM   #14
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I don't know that I'll ever walk away, but I do plan on changing my riding habits in such a way that the risk is minimized. By commuting in my truck rather than on my bike, I'm already doing it...
Commuting... the greatest risk of all places we go with a motorcycle.
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Old 08-16-2007, 11:58 AM   #15
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I don't know that I'll ever walk away, but I do plan on changing my riding habits in such a way that the risk is minimized. By commuting in my truck rather than on my bike, I'm already doing it...
Yes, or modify the risk....

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