News Item: Bareheaded bikers pick their poison
(Category: Biker News)
Posted by
Saturday 24 June 2006 - 17:23:34

In five NFL seasons, defensive end Jared Tomich was blindsided by 300-pound linemen and knocked into the middle of next week, repeatedly battered and bruised, had reconstructive ankle surgery and retired with more stitching than grandma's quilt.

But growing up in a motorcycle family, Tomich never had an accident or close call -- except for that time he was struck by a bird while rolling along on his Harley Davidson.

He was not wearing a helmet. OUCH!

The Lake Central grad had to grimace after reading the scary account of Ben Roethlisberger's crackup on a Pittsburgh street, the seven-hour surgery that followed and then seeing the quarterback's totaled Suzuki Hayabusa capable of reaching 140 mph.

"When you have a vehicle that fast, whether it be a motorcycle or a race car, it's built to go that fast only on a race track that's perfect," Tomich said. "There's so many imperfections on a road. You hit a speed bump, you hit a rock, you hit an animal that jumps out, you're done.

"It only takes a fraction of a second."

Surprisingly, that has not forced the 290-pound Tomich to wear a helmet, despite this country's 205 motorcycle deaths in 2005 -- up from 134 in 2002.

Call him a creature of habit. And damn lucky.

"Some teams do have rules where you cannot have a motorcycle. It's in your contract," Tomich said. "Coach (Mike) Ditka was not one of those (in New Orleans), the biggest reason being he had one himself. The four years I was in New Orleans, I was the only guy with a motorcycle. They weren't as popular then.

"When I was in Green Bay, a couple of guys had 'em but it wasn't a big deal. I didn't ride as much then as I do now. I tried not to put myself in situations that would end my career quicker than I was gonna end it myself."

Roethlisberger has apologized to the organization and its fans for his careless behavior, vowing never again to ride without a helmet, but the Steelers were gutless in not prohibiting motorcycle riding in his contract. They may as well have filled the gas tank and handed him the keys.

Tomich used to work in a shop that built and repaired Harleys while playing for the Saints. He said you take a chance each time you climb on a chopper -- as well as sliding behind the wheel of your car. He also noted that if you crashed at a high rate of speed, a helmet probably wouldn't save you.

The fact only 20 states require that all motorcycle riders wear helmets makes it easier for older, more experienced bikers like Tomich to remain set in their ways.

"I've been riding since I was a little kid, but that doesn't really mean a heckuva lot when somebody else isn't paying attention," he said. "If it's not a car, they don't see it and I've had people pull right out in front of me. Luckily, I was paying close attention."

The University of Nebraska Hall-of-Famer has never had a chopper buddy killed while out riding, nor witnessed a deadly accident where body parts are scattered along the highway. Either would force him to wear a helmet, he says. Or if he settles down one day and has a family to consider.

I've been told helmets ruin the open-road experience. I've been told it's like driving a convertible with the top up, windows closed, and the air conditioning off, on a 90-degree day.

But is this cheap thrill worth risking your life for?

As I travel Route 30 and see all the bareheaded bikers cruising by, it would appear so.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at ahamnik©

This news item is from White Trash Networks
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