We've all seen those for sale ads saying "selling bike because I have a baby on the way," or been lectured by someone who says riding a motorcycle is so dangerous that we're putting our family in harm's way by riding one. Many riders will never give up riding, but some think it's the right thing to do when loved ones depend on you - we present both sides of the debate, then ask what you think!
When I was in college, I used to buy and sell used motorcycles to make extra cash. I worked nights as a security guard so I could attend class during the day, and because it was usually pretty boring, I had a lot of time to browse for sale ads looking for great deals. I probably read through thousands of ads over the years, and one thing that always stood out to me was how many people sold their bikes for the same reason, over and over again: "baby on the way."
Personally, I could never figure out why so many riders felt obligated to sell their bikes as soon as they found out they were going to become parents. It was almost like there was some unwritten law somewhere that said you could not have both a baby and a motorcycle, and still be considered a decent human being. I didn't think much of it at the time - mostly, I just felt sorry for the guys, and was grateful I wasn't in their position!
"Baby on the way..." Look through enough For Sale ads and you'll see this phrase literally hundreds of times.
But a few years later, my best friend and riding buddy - who had been riding a lot longer than I had - ended up getting his girlfriend pregnant, and the first thing he did was tell me the bike was going up for sale. I was surprised; he had a good job, and I knew he didn't need the money. When I asked him why he felt like he had to sell it all of a sudden, his response was that "it's irresponsible to ride a motorcycle when you become a parent, because you shouldn't be risking your life like that when people you love are counting on you." I was floored; this is not something I ever thought this guy would say.
But over the years, as I got to working in the industry and met a lot more riders, I've found that a surprising number of people feel the same way. These aren't just your busybody neighbors, parents, or people who have never thrown a leg over a bike saying this - some of those who are most adamantly against "riding while parenting" are people who were all "live to ride" for years! Rider or not, some people just genuinely believe that giving up the motorcycle once you become a parent is the right thing to do.
So I wondered - is it really?
Why Do People Believe This?
As this topic has come up with different people over the years, I've been surprised at how strongly some people feel about it. There really are those who get downright angry at people who have the "nerve" to ride when they have a family at home to look out for. The premise of their argument is this: that riding a motorcycle is so dangerous, that you are not just risking your life while riding one; you're risking your children's futures, and the financial support, presence, and love that you would be depriving them of if you were gone.
I have to admit there is merit in that argument. Most statistics state that motorcycle riders are roughly 30 times more likely to die in an accident than car drivers are - not an insignificant number. But most of us who ride know the risks involved, and accept them every time we fire up our bikes, because for us, the thrills we get from riding outweigh the potential dangers.
Riding is a passion - but it can be a divisive one. We all have at least one loved one that hates us riding, or thinks we're crazy, and we do it anyway. But is it different when someone you love depends on you?
But when you're a parent, it really might not be unwarranted to look at the situation another way. What if the statistics were instead reworded to say "your children are 30 times more likely to grow up without a father/mother if you ride a motorcycle," or that "your spouse is 30 times more likely to grieve for years, raise your kids as a single parent, and eventually remarry someone who will raise your children as a step-parent if you ride a motorcycle"? Would looking at it that way change your opinion about it?
Looking at it that way might change the way you think about the matter, and even make you uncomfortable - but that might not necessarily be a bad thing. If thinking about how your family's life would be with you gone gives you a sick feeling, perhaps, for you, giving up the bike when you have kids really would be the right thing to do.
Of course, if you are reading this article, you probably are a rider - parent or not - and you probably love your motorcycle enough that you're willing to keep riding, no matter what anyone else says or thinks.
So with that said - does this necessarily make you "irresponsible?" After all, there are a lot of ways to mitigate the risk that riding poses, without giving it up altogether. Investing in quality motorcycle gear can make a huge increase in your personal safety on the road, and having good motorcycle insurance and life insurance can make sure you're well taken care of in a crash, and that your family is taken care of if the worst happens.
And maybe you don't have to give up riding altogether, but instead just change the way you ride. Maybe you give up commuting daily for just Sunday morning rides, or sell the wheelie-monster supersport and get a touring bike instead, or just kiss the street goodbye altogether, and stick to dirt trails or the race track. All of those are ways to lower the risk of riding, while still doing what you love.
Riding isn't a divisive topic for everyone - some families even ride together, and it brings them closer together. Is it all just a matter of perspective?
And, to take it a step further, who is to say that riding a motorcycle makes you "irresponsible" anyway? It's painting with a pretty broad brush to say that motorcycle riders are being irresponsible in the first place; after all, motorcycle riding certainly isn't the only dangerous hobby out there that parents engage in, and there are a lot more "irresponsible" things some parents do than ride motorcycles. Heck, there are even parents out there who say that them riding makes them a better parent - because if it wasn't for the occasional two-wheeled therapy session on the open road, they'd be at home pulling their hair out! And that's not even mentioning all the families out there who ride together, and use the love of motorcycles to bond even more as a family.
The Bottom Line
There's certainly no law against being a parent and riding a motorcycle. But the social pressure can be uncomfortable, and even downright harsh, toward people with kids - especially young ones - who choose to ride a motorcycle, and it might make it tough to really know what the "right thing" to do is. Riding is dangerous, but its something we love, and whether to give up doing what you love for the sake of the people you love is something that should at least be considered carefully.
So we want to hear from you - is it the "right" thing to do to give up riding when you're raising children? If you are a parent who rides, how do you respond to people who criticize you for it?