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Stayin’ Safe by Lawrence Grodsky

Stayin' Safe: The Art and Science of Riding Really Well

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ISBN 978-1-884313-72-1
Dimensions: 9.187 x 6.375 x 1.062 (352 pages)
Published by Whitehorse Press
Printed in U.S.A.
Price: $24.95 (Hardcover)

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This book was published in 2008, after Lawrence Grodsky’s tragic and untimely 2006 death in, of all things, a motorcycle accident. I was as shocked as anyone — beyond shocked, actually.

Although I never attended one of Grodsky’s “Stayin’ Safe” motorcycle rider training courses (I definitely wanted to but just didn’t quite get to it), I had been an ardent follower of his “Stayin’ Safe” columns in Rider magazine for many years.

I’ll venture to say that I learned more from Grodsky about safe motorcycle riding than probably anyone. All you need is Grodsky’s columns and David Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling (wBW review), and you’ll absolutely have the best resources to be found anywhere on the subject of fun, safe and aware motorcycle riding.

Thus my great shock at learning of Grodsky’s death on a bike. He hit a deer on a rural road in Texas, returning on a cross-country trip from a motorcycle safety conference (you can read more in this obituary in the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Post-Gazette).

I have never gotten over this shock…but I have learned how to put it to good use. I can honestly say that there isn’t a single time that I go for a ride when I think of this, and in this small way at least, Grodsky’s work and his life live on.

So what’s the lesson?  I do not know. Why do humans live, and why do they die?  This is deep stuff.

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Here’s a motorcycle rider who lived, breathed, understood and probably dreamed about motorcycle safety, and even with all his training; all his skill; all his knowledge of what can go wrong — something like this happens. It does go to show you that it can happen to anybody, any time. Some things, I guess, you just can’t prepare for.

Or can you?  It would be foolish to take the wrong lesson from this tragedy that we don’t fully understand. And the wrong lesson would go something like “He was an expert, and look what happened. So why should I spend time on training?  After all, the same thing could happen to me whether I was trained or not”.

Indeed…but if you knew when or where or how, you would be supernatural. There are many factors at work here; for example, Grodsky probably rode many, many more miles on a motorcycle than any of us, so the probability that he would run into a deer (or a deer would run into him, as I understand it) was naturally greater.

Or, we might not have even known of a Lawrence Grodsky, had he taken that type of casual attitude towards motorcycle safety at the beginning of his career. We just don’t know — all we can do is prepare and focus on today.

Stayin’ Safe: The Art and Science of Riding Really Well is a collection of Grodsky’s columns, first published in Rider magazine. The book was just published in 2008 and the material for the book was compiled by Grodsky’s friend Pete Tamblyn, who is also a riding instructor in Grodsky’s “Stayin’ Safe Motorcycle Training Program”, which is still going strong.

Tamblyn got some of Grodsky’s friends and colleagues to write brief introductions for some of the articles. Put in the form of a book, the articles have new meaning. As I went back through and read some familiar articles and some that I don’t remember reading previously, I am absolutely struck at what really is the science contained in the words.

This is not a “how to” book; it’s very much a thinking person’s guide to some very esoteric and deep thoughts on motorcycle riding.

And that’s the surprise and the difference in this book. I’ll guarantee that the vast majority of motorcycle riders don’t even come close to thinking about their riding with this much depth, consciousness and awareness. These are stories to be read very slowly and to savor, closing the book after each and contemplating the knowledge that has just been proffered.

I’ll admit I was surprised — I guess I either never thought of Grodsky’s work as this deep or “scientific”, or I was younger and more foolish back then, or the death of this person who I only know through his words has struck me even deeper than I thought.

All I can say is this:  just as every motorcyclist should own and covet a copy of Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling, so should every motorcyclist own a copy of Stayin’ Safe: The Art and Science of Riding Really Well. Get one, study it and think about what you have learned — you won’t regret it.

Review Date: April 2008

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From “L.N.”:  “This book compares very poorly with David Hough’s book or MSF’s 2nd edition. The writing is both cutesey and dense. There are no illustrations – so as a “How to Ride” manual, this doesn’t cut it.

As a memorial, which was what was intended, it may be o.k. – I never followed the column or subscribed to the magazine. One can only hope that Larry’s Stayin’ Safe riding training courses had a clarity which does not come through to someone unfamiliar with the man.”

From “J.S.”:  “Stayin’ Safe is an excellent read. Larry was always making “safety” entertaining as well as keeping his commentary relevant to current issues whether it was motorcycle related or correlated to the world in general.

Each article is chock-full of tips and suggestions and read very quickly. Larry was always challenging us as motorcyclists to be better thinkers, to be constantly aware of our surroundings and our abilities. As far as I am concerned each one of his articles from the “Stayin’ Safe” column in Rider magazine should be published and referenced constantly. For us looking to better understand safe riding, there was no one better at delivering the goods.”