RoadRUNNER Zen Motorcyclist

The Road Often Traveled: Rage Against The Machines

Apr 08, 2012 View Comments by

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” – Siddharta

The quote applies directly to motorcycle riding. Last Thursday was a beautiful day for late March here in southeastern Pennsylvania. I had an appointment with my optometrist so I decided to take the bike so I could relax and enjoy the morning; but two miles into my ride a small red sports car pulled up behind me and the car I was following. We were riding about 10 miles over the speed limit, so it wasn’t like we were dawdling. There was no place to pass since it was a twisty rural two-lane road. However, the sports car was tailgating me.

Tailgating in any instance is a bad idea and a dangerous thing to do; but I live in deer country and presumably, everyone driving here also knows this. So to tailgate, especially a motorcycle, is particularly inconsiderate and dangerous.

I could feel my blood pressure rising as he crept closer and closer, and my focus was drifting from where it should have been (on the road ahead) to the brain-dead driver behind me. I gave him the polite “back off” hand signal but to no avail. My second “back off” attempt, along with the point to my helmet “think” signal was also ignored.

It’s taken me years to learn that if trying those two things doesn’t work, I just have to get my attention off being pushed from behind and into being proactive. My first inclination is to find an alternate route so I can turn off, relax and regain focus. Since that wasn’t an option in this instance, I eventually throttled down to 15 miles per hour below the speed limit, which allowed the car in front of me to get further ahead and limited the danger to myself.

Giving in to that anger, holding on to it and trying to teach the driver a lesson only hurts the rider – causing he or she to lose focus and control. Let’s face it, we all get angry but there’s little we can do to change the behavior of the drivers around us. Better to turn off, wave them by or slow down to regain control and keep yourself safer.

Mark Twain said, “When angry count to four, when very angry swear”. I’ve done my fair share of swearing in my helmet and when I was younger, had my fair share of confrontations on the bike when I thought I could change the driving habits of everyone on the road. Had the opportunity presented itself in a safe environment, I would’ve given the young man a piece of my mind rather than the one finger salute he got as he turned off; but as it was I could only swallow my anger, throttle back, stay focused and in control and live to ride another day.

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About the author

I have been motorcycle commuting since 1998. I created Zen Motorcyclist (formerly Commuting Motorcyclist) in 2011 and work as a motojournalist, software developer, CAD designer and IT/CAD manager in the Surveying and Civil Engineering field.