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Spare Parts: Adventures in risk management

By Ernie Copper

As I sat in a room reviewing the necessary paperwork to rent a bike, my mind reeled with the potential consequences of my simple desire to ride. I was not currently planning any willful, wanton or reckless conduct resulting in damage to my rental bike, but ya never know. So there’s that.

I wasn’t planning to use the vehicle in connection with conduct that could be considered a felony, either. I just wanted to go for a ride. You and I both know there is no shortage of people who will tell you on a daily basis that going for a ride is a bad idea. But this was different. It was like a drug dealer telling an addict what all could go wrong up front, so that when it did, the dealer was absolved of responsibility.

Had I considered that I might be injured or worse in the pursuit of this happiness? Well, I suppose you consider that every time you saddle up on some level, but it’s somewhere in the back of your mind, not on a checklist under your nose.

Then there was the issue of responsibility; even with the Collision Damage Waiver, a.k.a. Loss Damage option, I was responsible for the first grand if something went wrong or someone vandalized the rental property. If something went wrong while riding one of my own bikes, I would fully expect to pay my deductible and would do so happily to restore balance to my world, but the prospect of paying the first grand to restore peace and order to someone else’s world was not very appealing. In some places it’s the first two grand.

None of that would have been as troubling if the unit had been deemed fit to ride. Although a reasonable effort had been made, there were no guaranties that it was fit for the purpose that I intended to use it for, nor was it warranted to be merchantable.

Then there was also the $2,000 security deposit, just in case.

People rent experiences of all types today: parachuting, parasailing, white-water rafting, race car driving and bungee jumping, to name a few. Throw in mountain climbing, scuba diving and mountain biking just to round out the field. I’m sure they all have consent/waiver forms to go along with the experience.

Nothing sucks the fun from a spontaneous adventure quite as quickly as a waiver or contract. As ridiculous as it sounds, what if you did review all of the agreements you sign to rent a bike every time you rode your bike? Would you ever leave the driveway? Waivers aren’t just for pregnant woman and heart patients anymore.

Do you consider the mechanical condition of your bike before you ride? Are the tires, brakes, lights and controls up to the task? If so, are you? Are you impaired, unfocused or in a state of maleficence? Regardless of your preparedness, if something unplanned happens, you already know exactly who is going to pay for it—you.

So the next time you find yourself poring over page after page of insurance and contractual agreements at a dealership when renting a bike, remember that you are the one doing the riding. You are essentially borrowing someone else’s bike for a fee and they are just setting clear guidelines up front about what happens if it all goes sideways. It is important to understand and, moreover, important that you are covered by someone’s insurance or a combination of insurances. Things do go wrong from time to time, but don’t dwell on that. If you do, before long you’ll be hesitant to tackle a flight of stairs without additional insurance.

About 20 years ago the prospect of renting any motorcycle was a remote one. In today’s world we wrestle with political unrest and fragile economics, but not only can we rent a motorcycle, we can rent specific brands, models and even vintage motorcycles. We’re lucky. Even though we all look down our noses at trailer queens, there are times when it’s nice to be able to rent and use a bike someplace you didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t ride to. Some places are half a world away and you’d be lucky to get there on a plane, let alone a bike.

We already know we’re ready to risk it all to varying degrees for the experience we call motorcycling. Look at your next rental agreement as written proof of that, then go out and ride it like you rented it.


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