Tiers of a Clown: Gabe Responds to ''Power to Wait'' Feedback

Motorcycle.com Staff
by Motorcycle.com Staff
We're pretty surprised at the amount of feedback Gabe's latest column generated, but we shouldn't be. After all, as responsible riders -- and aren't we all? -- we feel like we have a duty to make motorcycling a safer and more inclusive sport. So an impassioned, critical response should be welcome and expected. They don't call us MOrons for nothing!

Gabe found a lot of folks who agree with him and a lot who don't (by the way, the first person who really "gets" his point that he notices will also get a free
Che Gabevara T-shirt shipped to his door, congratulations to MO reader Schizuki) , and lots of carefully thought out and measured responses. He thanks you for that. However....

Gabe Responds

Reading the over 200 responses that came in has taken up a lot of my time over the last 24 hours, and there is no way I can respond individually as I like to do. However, I would like to address a few specific points.

First off, I want to make my position clear, as it might have been a little murky (do not drink and write). Hey, directly stating a position seems pedestrian to me, but I'll get off my high horse for a second and get my boots muddy.

Tiered licensing without any kind of meaningful rider education would have a minimal effect on rider safety in the United States. Anybody with scientifically-gathered data suggesting otherwise is welcome to present it, but I just don't think there's a convincing argument that introducing a tiered licensing structure for motorcyclists absent any mandatory training would have much effect on either crashes or fatalities.

I would not eschew the idea of a practical tiered-licensing structure if it was in conjunction with serious and mandatory rider's training. However, I think that the benefits of real riders' training -- manifested by a plummeting accident and fatality rate -- would make tiered licensing moot.

The common thread I see in the pro-tiering forces is "common sense". After all, it's "common sense" that bigger, faster bikes are harder to control and are the cause of many motorcycle crashes. But is that true? Schizuki summed it up for me rather neatly:

"After we've compiled reports of all motorcycle accidents in 2006, and culled out the ones in which (1) a cager was at fault, (2) the rider was drinking, (3) the rider was unlicensed, and (4) the rider was riding a small-displacement bike, how many remain that could conceivably be blamed on a sober, licensed rider riding a bike that was too much for him? Because until we have that number, we've got nothing to talk about."

I'm guessing the number of fatalities to be about 100. Even if it's 1000 (about 25% of all motorcycle fatalities in the USA) it's negligible compared to all the other ways Americans die. So why are we still talking? "Common Sense". It's "common sense" that marijuana is illegal, it's "common sense" that Jim Crow laws were enforced until the 1950s, and "common sense" that had the US government intern thousands of US citizens in WWII for having Japanese ancestry (but not those of German or Italian ancestry). Do we want our motorcycling policies based on research and data or solely on "common sense" solutions that possibly do nothing except reinforce stereotyping of our sport?

Let's face it; we all agree that we need mandatory, realistic and useful rider training for all riders. Not everyone can or should ride a motorcycle, and real training would weed them out. As for the rest of us, once we're properly trained -- and can show someone who knows how to ride that he or she can handle a bike without crashing -- we should be able to purchase what we like.

I firmly believe that a rider who has passed a rigorous training program and is a competent rider will buy a bike that suits her needs, not what she thinks is cool. That should be a self-regulating tiered model that needs no government interference. And we all like that, right?

In any case, what's the best kind of tired structure anyway? How do you account for rider weight, height and experience? What about geography or local traffic density? And does a 650 V-Star present the same risk to a new rider as a GSXR-600? And is the power-to-weight ratio of a Husqvarna 610 (3.7 pounds per HP) the same thing as that of a Yamaha R6 (also 3.7 lbs/hp)? Why involve government legislators in something they know nothing about that changes monthly? It's insane.

In any case, I want to thank all of you who took the time (or your employer's time) to comment. It's what makes MO special and we appreciate it!

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Motorcycle.com Staff
Motorcycle.com Staff

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