Last week, I received a call from a friend that asked me if I would like to join him on a poker run. He said the poker run was for a good cause. They were trying to raise some money for a rider injured in a motorcycle crash. My friend told me they had picked some of the best roads in central Florida and will cover 125 miles with all the stops at the best biker bars in the area.
That’s where the conversation ended for me. My friend said “hey, you don’t have to drink a beer at every stop you know”. He was correct. In fact, I wouldn’t drink alcohol at any of the poker run stops should I accept the invitation. The problem as I see it, the vast majority of riders will have at least a few beers during the run. That’s the main reason I stopped going on poker runs several years ago.
I avoid riding with people whose skill level I’m not aware of, let alone riders that have been drinking… you can count me out. Drinking and driving a car is bad. Drinking and riding a motorcycle is much worse. Think about this for a moment. When driving a car, to steer, you turn the steering wheel. To stop, you step on the brake. At low speeds, you must turn your handlebars in the direction you want to go along with your head and eyes, while manipulating the clutch and throttle to help maintain your balance. At speeds above 15 mph you have to counter-steer in order to force the bike into a lean which causes the bike to turn. You also have to remember to look in the direction you want to go. That’s a wide variety of things to do all at once. Since even a small amount of alcohol impairs your judgment, you can see how riding under the influence is considerably worse than driving a four-wheeled vehicle.
Now, let’s talk about stopping. In the car, you just slam on the brakes; since your motorcycle has two separate brakes and both must be modulated. You have to maintain your balance as you come to even a slow stop. You must agree that riding under the influence is not the smart thing to do. Suppose you have to make a quick stop to avoid a vehicle that violates your right of way? Most sober riders tend to lock the rear tire and under brake the front brake.
Alcohol not only impairs your judgment, it slows your reaction time. The chances of you avoiding that vehicle are slim to none…and, as they say in the South, “Slim’s done left town”. When a vehicle violates your right of way, you may have to brake, then release the brakes, then swerve left to right, or right to left. That’s a tough maneuver to make. Under the influence, it’s not going to happen. Alcohol, unlike most other drugs, is both a stimulant and a depressant. The initial reaction to alcohol is a loss of inhibition. Also, known as “the buzz”. This drops your fear level and will cause you to take chances you wouldn’t normally take. That could mean taking a corner faster, speeding, and or, cutting in and out of traffic. This is known as aggressive riding.
In single vehicle motorcycle fatalities, 41% of motorcyclists were intoxicated. That means no other vehicle was involved in the crash. I would be willing to bet if the rider was not intoxicated, his or her normal fear level would have prevented the crash from happening. Once the stimulant effect wears off, the depressant state takes over. This is where your reflexes slow way down and your ability to perform several tasks at once is seriously impaired.
The bottom line, don’t drink and ride. If you go on a poker run with bar stops, have a non-alcoholic beer or drink a coke. When you head out for the next stop, stay away from the pack. Leave before everyone else, or let them get out ahead of you. Don’t go on one of these rides with a friend whom you know is a drinker. You can’t help an intoxicated rider by following him. Never let anyone influence you into making poor riding decisions. It may be the last one you ever make.
Copyright 2014 Jerry “Motorman” Palladino