I began riding in Taiwan back in 2008. Well, actually, it was a motorcycle. A sweet ride called a Yamaha RXZ (or RZX) 135cc two-stroke.
A few weeks after getting Max, I got myself into an accident. I had never ridden before I came to Taiwan and the principles of centrifugal force were very new to me – it turns out that, while on a motorcycle, suddenly turning your front wheel is never a good idea. It creates an effect called “counter-steering” due, in part, to that centrifugal force I mentioned (along with the single-track of being on two wheels).
You see, once your speed increases to the point where the wheel creates that centrifugal force, if you turn the wheel to the right, it will make your bike lean to the left. Usually, we do this without thinking, because when we lean left (thinking that’s what is making the bike lean left) we actually steer right, which is what causes the bike to lean to the left.
But if we jam that wheel in one direction quickly, the bike lays down.
Often, on top of us.
Essentially, your bike has one goal: keep both wheels in-line. So, the bike only leans in an attempt to straighten out the single-track wheel system it’s riding on. It all goes back to basic physics.
Anyway, the accident I got into mere weeks after buying the bike wouldn’t be my last. A few months later, I was flying down the road way too fast and slammed into a BMW who decided to make a sudden right-hand-turn from the left-turn-lane.
Now, describing the pain of having one’s skin peeled from one’s hand from a pavement-based friction-burn is…well, it’s not describable. Imagine if you pressed your hand into an electric coil stove. That’s as close as I can give you to a metaphor.
And since I was a keyboard-based English materials creator, at the time, I was out of work for a month. I actually came out of it fine – I was healed up after a month, my work paid me for my time off, and I got paid by the BMW despite the fact that I was cooking down a 50kph (30mph) road at around 120kph (75mph).
But that wasn’t my last accident, either. Three months after that, a scooter ran a red light, as I was entering the intersection; I slammed in to the back of him and went down. Actually, the whole incident was written about by his passenger, in Chinese: if you search for my name on Yahoo Taiwan, his blog is in the first search results (and is written in kind-of a lovesick way, so if you read Chinese, it’s worth reading).
I actually didn’t get cut up, at all, that time (so no fun pictures, this round): instead, I injured my left foot. While the impact was enough to break my half-inch thick steel center-stand in half, it only mangled my foot. For a better explanation, do me a favor: take your left hand, look at it, and slowly make a fist. Now imagine your foot doing that.
Ah, the joy and the pain. So, now you know that I’ve got experience in this sort of thing. You should also know I’m like Weapon X in how I heal. My foot didn’t break, that time (I’ve never broken a bone). And that fucked-up hand up above? Here’s what it looked like, after only a month:
Now that we’re 600 words in, it’s time for the advice. Listen closely.
Rule Number One: Do not ride angry. Riding angry will only make you drive like an idiot.
Rule Number Two: Do not ride happy. Riding happy will only make you drive like an idiot.
Rule Number Three: When you ride, you must feel only one way about every other person on the planet: they all want to murder you.
Rule Number Four: When you ride, keep your hands/feet on your brakes at all times.
Now, rule four is the most important rule, and not just because I took those pictures solely to illustrate it. It’s important because it’s really seriously important. If you don’t believe me, run the following experiment:
Step One: Get a bell/buzzer or something of the sort.
Step Two: Put your hand next to the buzzer.
Step Three: Ask your friend to suddenly slap you across the face.
Step Four: See if you can hit the buzzer before said friend slaps you.
Step Five: Put your hand directly over the buzzer.
Step Six: Ask your friend to suddenly slap you across the face.
Step Seven: See if you can hit the buzzer before said friend slaps you.
Step Eight: Slap your friend back for letting you run such an obvious experiment in the first place.
What have we learned here today? We’ve learned that you don’t have the reaction time you once thought you did. When something happens on the road, you don’t have time to process it and then move your hands/feet into position to react to it properly. You are going to wind up contributing to the many red stains on the roads of Taiwan, except the ones you make won’t be from betel nut!
Is it important to be aware? Yes. People come flying through intersections all the time, without looking, at all. Scooters do this. Trucks do this. There are no stop signs in Taiwan. Lights get ignored. And I can not stress enough how nobody is aware of anything: this goes for lane shifting, merging…almost everything. Including shopping, but that’s a discussion for another blog! People in Taiwan drive like idiots, but you can prevent problems if you are aware and are proactive instead of dismissive.
You don’t have to smash yourself up for a year until you learn what I have shared here.
Use my knowledge and save yourself from a world of pain!
You’ll notice I don’t have a rule about speed, because vehicle speed isn’t what’s important: reaction time is. As long as you are aware of your surroundings by not being too emotional when riding, you will drive at a speed that you feel comfortable with that allows you to react quickly enough to respond to people trying to murder you.
That’s all I’ve got.
Since my last accident in 2008, I never had another accident on Max, nor the motorcycle I bought after that motorcycle
nor my current motorcycle
nor the variety of scooters I’ve driven over the last few years.
I still drive fast.
But I drive smart.
Riding in Taiwan doesn’t have to be scary.
Learn from my former ignorance and current wisdom.
Live to ride another day.
And knock on wood with me, because writing this blog is really just tempting fate…
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