Defensive Riding

As motorcycle enthusiasts, we usually stay focused on the idealized aspects of the sport: freedom of the open road, kinship with other riders, and a sense of individuality in an increasingly homogenized world. And then there's our appreciation for all things mechanical: power, engineering, design. The passion for motorcycling goes beyond being a mere hobby—it truly is a way of living.

But there's a dark side we don't often want to think about, one that also makes us appreciate every moment we ride on two wheels: It can all end very suddenly, through no fault of our own, with one car or truck making a wrong turn.

This year seems especially bad for motorcycle fatalities. Maybe now that I'm riding again, I'm just more aware of the short items in the newspaper that appear nearly every week: "Man dies from injuries in motorcycle wreck." But the tragic stories of people we know who've been killed or badly hurt on the road have been piling up. And I don't mean just on the twisty proving grounds of the Dragon—wrecks happen everywhere, to newbies and to veteran riders alike.

So, in this issue, we're tackling a very unglamorous topic: What you need to do to legally to protect yourself after an accident. Nobody really wants to plan for such a thing, but there are actions you can take now to make life easier for yourself should misfortune meet you on the road.

Also, our 6th Gear columnist Ben Steinberg—manager of the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort and organizer of the first annual "Safety Awareness Day" there—has written up some safe-riding tips gleaned from years of witnessing mishaps on the Dragon.

And it's worth repeating: If you haven't taken a rider education course, do so. Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson (www.smh-d.com) and the Knoxville Rider Education Program (www.krep-tn.com) both offer programs that are worthwhile for any rider.

Let's all work to stay out of the papers.