Monday, January 28, 2008

Long Way Down

Yesterday, Andy and I enjoyed an afternoon watching Long Way Down, the story of a 15,000-mile odyssey from John O'Groats Scotland to Cape Town South Africa on motorcycles. Part of the enjoyment was that we watched this six-hour documentary with motorcycling friends from the New England Riders. One of the oft repeated mantras of the NER is “safety first.” Imagine our surprise and shock when the wife of one of the riders in the documentary expressed a desire to take part in a small portion of the adventure. The twist was that she had never ridden a motorcycle before.

The next day, in an off-the-cuff remark on the NER forum, to what was missed by an early departing viewer, made the alarm bells ring in my head. In true Pat fashion, I could not let the statement go unchallenged, as it was in my opinion, gender based and unflattering.

To the NER’s credit, they preach safety first. I agree that safety is paramount when riding alone or in groups. The wife, Ev, took a rider training course, and with little riding experience under her belt, joined the group for a small segment of the ride. She dumped the bike several times, and showed herself to the world for the inexperienced rider that she was.

I have great admiration for Ev in challenging herself, and conquering her fears. The rest of the NER group thought it was foolishness to allow such a novice rider to take part in the expedition. Not only was she inexperienced, but they were in a foreign country to boot. She could, they said, have killed herself or others in the group. To be true to the NER mantra, they are correct in saying this was a bad idea.

As for the documentary, I feel it put an interesting twist on the story. The situation was more controlled than it appears to be from the viewers point. Often, Ev was seen out in front, where everyone could keep an eye on her and ride at her pace. The others followed at a distance to avoid collision should she go down. The cameras were rolling all the time, so now Ev has plenty of footage to see her mistakes, practice, and become proficient. Moreover, they had a medic along to treat any injury.

The NER is sticking to its guns. “She should not have gone.” is the consensus. “Her husband doesn’t have the stones to tell her she can’t come.” is another. Would they say the same for a novice male rider? “Yes,” they tell me. In trying to convince themselves this statement is true, I have yet to be.

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