Join Date: Nov 2005
Experience: 10+ years
2009 Nissan GTR - sold
2015 Nissan GTR
This hits home for me personally...
Charity begins at home
By Mark Gardiner
I’ve been in the middle of a move from SoCal to Texas for the last few weeks. Flying back and forth. Packing up in San Diego, buying into McInney. At one point, The Chick and I took a break from house hunting and checked out a motorcycle auction in Arlington. Since I don’t have any money, I was just a spectator when she all of a sudden upped and started bidding on a minty toaster-tank BMW R75. She loves anything German.
“What’s it worth?” she asked as the auctioneer rat-a-tatted his sales rap.
“$2,500, easy,” I told her.
Sure enough, the bidding ended with her getting the bike, complete with groovy ‘70s saddlebags, for $2,300.
We went to the auction office to do the paperwork then pondered the problem of how, exactly, we could get the bike off the premises that evening. It was never going to fit in our rental Hyundai; assuming it ran, I still had no riding gear.
Then it occurred to us that we’d seen idiots riding around without helmets all week.
“I guess you could just ride it back to the hotel,” said The Chick.
I did a few seasons in the Loudon Road Racing Series up in New Hampshire, so Texas isn’t the first place I’ve seen guys riding without lids. But seeing people ride that way always reminded me that the “or” in the New Hampshire license plates’ “Live Free or Die” slogan could just as easily have read “and.”
Nonetheless, when the 30-something airhead rumbled to life, I found myself riding 50 miles of Texas freeway without so much as sunscreen for protection. Talk about paranoia.
The experience served to remind me that motorcyclists are always vulnerable. Which makes me wonder why our big industry-supported charity efforts have nothing to do with the motorcycle-specific injuries we endure. (With rare exceptions like Riders for Health and the Clayton Memorial Foundation, they have nothing to do with motorcycles at all.)
Here in the U.S., there are Ride for Kids events in dozens of cities, to benefit the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. BMW’s official support goes to breast-cancer research; Kyle Petty plugs a camp for children with severe burns and other skin disorders. The biggest Canadian charity ride is Ride for Sight. Those are worthy causes and other groups—not motorcyclists—should back them.
Where should our money go? Frankly, though I recently risked my skin and brain because I was too cheap to rent a pickup truck, brain injuries or skin grafting research aren’t worthwhile causes; the vast majority of such injuries can be prevented with basic safety equipment. (And having now tried it, I can assure you wearing a full-face lid is quieter and far more comfortable than going au naturel.)
We motorcyclists should all support spinal-injury research, all the time. For years, the motorcycle industry has refused to stick its neck out, studiously avoiding the support of medical research that highlights the inherent risks in our sport. In fact, to listen to most of our spokesmen, you’d think riding motorcycles was hardly dangerous at all. Don’t kid yourself.
Of all the unspoken risks, the dread is paralysis. In years of low-level club racing, I suppose my cowardice kept me safe, but given some of the tracks I rode (to say nothing of my mediocre skills), even I had reason to say, “It’s not ‘dying’ that scares me, it’s ‘not dying.’” The companies that make our protective gear, from Dainese to Airfence, are making strides in spinal-injury prevention, but as long as there’s motorcycle racing, we’ll have paralyzing injuries. Racers have too often collected money that goes to building a ramp up to some guy’s front door. We—all of us, especially manufacturers with big networks of dealers and lots of retail consumers—need to focus on a cure.
The simultaneously inspiring and frustrating thing is that unlike brain tumors or breast cancer, an outright cure for spinal-cord injuries seems tantalizingly close. The application of stem-cell technology and other techniques has yielded promising results in animal trials, and most of us will live to see the day when now-crippling injuries can be greatly mitigated, maybe even cured. It’s that close that we, if we all got behind it, could appreciably shorten the wait for that day.
So instead of having a toy run, let’s do another kind of ride. In my mind’s eye, I picture a massive relay ride, from New York to L.A. through dozens of northern cities beginning in the Spring and returning through the south in the Fall. We’d call it Out and Back or something. But it doesn’t have to start that big to make a difference. We’d find the research scientist closest to the breakthrough—I bet Vince Haskovec already knows who it is—and say, “Here’s 10 million bucks, hurry up; we have friends we want to see back on track.”
Of course, I got back to my hotel just fine riding essentially naked. The Chick followed close behind me in the rental car, both to protect me from being rear-ended and to ensure no cops pulled in behind me to notice that the bike’s plate had expired some time during the Carter administration. Our room at AmeriSuites was actually a handicapped room, and not just some token conversion with a handhold at the toilet; it was a really good one. It was oversized with wide passageways and had a massive roll-in shower. I always note good handicapped facilities because there’s a grim part of me that thinks, “Someday, maybe I’ll need this.”
Someday, maybe I won’t have to worry so much.