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Conversation with a Motorcycle Cop

So, I stopped to get gas the other day and ended up in a conversation with a motorcycle cop. or I should say, motorcycle policeman or motor officer. I’m not sure if a cop is considered a derogatory term anymore or not. If it is, I am apologizing to all the policemen out there right now because I have huge respect for all policemen.

Okay now that that’s out of the way, here’s what happened. I had finished getting gas when California Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer pulled in and parked next to me on his BMW, outfitted with all the police goodies. I suddenly had a dilemma. My '06 wide glide has essentially straight pipes. Actually, I have replaced the screaming Eagle exhaust pipes with Thunder City baffles which are simply a flat fender washer welded inside the center of the baffle. They are really loud. (I like loud pipes, but that’s a conversation for another day.) In short, I was paranoid about starting up my motorcycle and leaving because I didn’t want to get an equipment violation of the loud pipes, so, I struck up a conversation, and here’s how it went.

We exchanged the “Hi, how's it going?” blah, blah, blah, and I asked him,

Q: So, at the end of the day are you more of a motorcycle rider or a policeman?

A: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Every day there’s so much going on that I never think about the motorcycle much. I just know that if I have a headache at the end of the day it was a really intense day. If I had any weather like hail or rain, I start thinking about the motorcycle. I guess I would have to say I’m a policeman first and a motorcycle rider second. I don’t ride on my off time, but I do have a dirt bike at home, and I go out occasionally on it.

Q: How about your safety gear? I see you have a three-quarter helmet, why not wear a full-face helmet?

A: I wouldn’t mind a full-face helmet but that three-quarter helmet is department regulation. The CHP has done some studies on full-face helmets, and they are reluctant to standardize on a full-face helmet based upon the public’s reaction to this helmet.

Q: Oh, OK, I get it. The CHP does not want the Robocop look?

A: Yes, that’s it. have you seen (he mentions a nearby community Police Department) wearing full-face helmets with the blue face shield? Those guys really have the Robocop look. but it’s more than just the look that the CHP is concerned about. The attitude is that an open-face helmet allows better communication with the public in general.

Q: A motorcycle officer once told me that he defined an excellent rider as a rider who could do their whole shift and never put their feet on the ground. How do you define an excellent rider?

A: I define an excellent rider as one who does not fall down very often (He laughs.). We received refresher motorcycle rider training every 90 days. That refresher training tends to keep us really focused on what we are doing on the motorcycle.

He went on to tell me about a time when he fell, 15 years ago, at high speed, on the Los Angeles freeways. He said he was going really fast, about 85 mph, enroute to an emergency call, when he went down. He said he went down on the shoulder next to the center divider and somehow his motorcycle continued forward while he went over the divider and rolled in the fast Lane in the oncoming traffic. He rolled over a couple of lanes without being hit and a tractor-trailer truck saw him and slammed on the brakes. The truck was in the middle of a jackknife stop as he rolled under the trailer. The only thing that hit him was a piece of metal under the trailer which smacked his helmet hard enough to crack it and knocked him unconscious. He ended up with a slight concussion but no other injuries. And as he told me this story, I could see that he was reliving the crash as he told the story. It was quite dramatic.

Q: I changed the subject. I think I saw a woman motorcycle cop the other day. Do you have a female motorcycle policeman?

A: Yes, we do. We must in our department, and I think down in LA they have 8 or 9 female motorcycle officers.

I could have stayed and talked to him for another couple of hours, but he got a radio call, gave me a smile, jumped on his BMW, and blasted off.

In this blog, I write about equipment and rider safety. It is awfully hard for me to imagine trying to be a policeman on a motorcycle doing a policeman’s job. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I have an enormous amount of respect for these officers of the law.