Monday, November 28, 2005

Why Hate Change?

We're a funny bunch, us humans. So full of contradictions are we that we'll walk up to the pulpit and preach the merits of a certain technology, only to turn around and condemn that very same tool a few minutes later. I'm speaking, more specifically, about the love/hate relationship we seem to have with technology. I think it has to do with the duality of being addicted to technology and its fast paced evolution, while still longing for "the good 'ole days of yore" when things were simpler, quieter and less stressful. Call it nostalgia; which is synonymous with "selective memory".

Many motorcyclists suffer from this same affliction. On one hand, we're in love with new technologies when applied to our cars. Many of us drive European and Japanese cars and trucks loaded to the hilt with options and goodies like ABS brakes, anti-skid sensors, HID headlights, dual-stage passenger sensing airbags, and the list goes on and on. So why, as motorcyclists, are we so apprehensive when a manufacturer tries to adapt these same technologies to motorcycles?

I recently got a first hand look at motorcyclists' reactions to new technologies when Honda came out with an airbag-equipped GoldWing. Journalists and magazine writers gave their usual spiel of "interesting possibilities" and "a major step forward in motorcycle safety"; but in most cases they get important advertising dollars from manufacturers - so they can't simply come out and say "it’s a stupid idea"! John Q. Public, however, speaks his mind. On multiple forums, blogs and newsgroups, many motorcyclists were quick to pan Honda's idea, some even claiming that this will most likely result in more motorcycle deaths. All of a sudden, everyone's an expert. I even read a forum post where the writer was enumerating the many design flaws of the GoldWing's airbag system. When I questioned how he came about these conclusions, and had he actually had a first-hand look at the system, I was answered with the tired old "been riding for 200 years without any of these gadgets and we're better off without them 'cause they're all part of a government conspiracy to make us clones, blah, blah, blah". Human arrogance; ain't it great? Just about any motorcyclist has witnessed the dreaded "ABS Brakes" debate in two-wheeled circles. It goes like this: "A great motorcyclist can out-brake an ABS-equipped motorcycle with normal brakes". This, I believe, is absolutely true. But how many of us are up to par with Pascal Picotte, Miguel Duhamel or Valentino Rossi? Funny thing is that these same anti-ABS bikers would never consider buying a new car or truck without ABS.

I remember having a similar conversation with my grandfather (86 years young). To paraphrase him, all this nostalgia about things being better years ago is nothing more than "a pile of fresh manure". He remembers tires that would blow for no apparent reason, engines that would overheat when going up a minor grade, cars that wouldn't start in winter when the temps got too cold, 8 miles to the gallon, brakes that would lock up, hydroplaning and losing control, etc. When asked if he would like to have his old 1948 GMC truck back instead of his Camry, he glares at me with that you're-too-young-and-stupid grin, and says "Hell, NO!"

"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." - Douglas N. Adams

Perhaps I am a Bear.

Saturday night signaled a momentous yearly occasion - first snow. Although we didn't get much (only a few centimeters), it stuck; unlike some years when we get a "teaser" snowfall that melts away within a few hours. To me, the first snowfall is a trigger for many events, like the holiday season. It seems that the holidays just aren't right without some of the white stuff. I tried running away to Florida a few years ago for Christmas; but it ended up feeling too foreign. Palm trees and egg-nog by the poolside just weren't meant to go together.

Another event triggered by first snow is the dreaded motorcycle hibernation. It's that time of the year when thousands of motorcyclists shine-up their iron horses, take out the battery, make sure the fluids are topped off, and put them away for a long winter's nap. Not particularly my favorite thing to do.

I enjoy motorcycling so much that I dream about it... in winter doubly so! But for the lucky few who have their motorcycle stored in a heated garage or workshop: winter 'tis also the season for farkling. What better time to fool around with the latest accessories, toys, gizmos and gadgets in an ever increasing desire to build the ultimate ride. On my project list: re-upholstered seat, touring windshield, adjustable passenger pegs, and maybe some LED turn signals.

If you're looking for me, I'll be in the garage.

"Perhaps I am a bear, or some hibernating animal underneath, for the instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh