How Do You Know When It’s Time to Stop Riding a Motorcycle?

written by David Mixson

I think riders should be actively looking for an exit strategy from the moment they begin. 

I didn’t start riding a real motorcycle until I was forty. My first ride in traffic was a horrifying experience. So much so that I whispered to myself inside my helmet that if things didn’t improve, I would sell the thing I was riding and call it an interesting experience.

Nearly two decades later (in 2023), I decided to stop riding. 

A Question

One of the questions I get most often is about riding during your senior season of life. Riders want to know if they’re crazy for wanting to start (or continue) riding into their 40s, 50s, or even 70s.

My motorcycle mentors are the same age. One stopped riding in his late 50s, and the other is still riding into his early 80s. Mike, the other half of my Dream Ride to Alaska, is a few years older than me, retired last year, and has ridden over 20,000 miles since.

In the end, Fred, Pete, Mike, and I decided to stop (or continue) based on our individual circumstances—which is what every rider must do.

Warning Signs

When Fred reached a certain age, he started looking for signs that it might be time to stop riding. It happened to him one afternoon while he was driving his car and blew through a four-way stop. The experience shook him up.

“David, I could have killed someone.”

Several weeks later, he shared this with me:

“David, I feel like I’ve done most everything I want to do on a motorcycle—and I’ve managed to make it without a single accident. I think now is the right time to stop riding.”

The Ratio

I know enough about the crash data to understand riding a motorcycle is riskier than getting around in an automobile. That’s why I’ve always considered my risk-to-reward ratio to help me know when it’s time to stop.

When the pleasure of riding no longer exceeds the increased risks of injury or death, it’s probably time to look for a different craft.

I wrote a book about my first big ride to Alaska, but I didn’t write one about my rides to Vermont and New York that I made several years later. When I first started, riding to work in the spring and fall gave me joy. Seventeen years later, the thought of riding to work in rush hour traffic gave me woe.

Coming Clean

There’s a motorcycle still parked in my garage, and I’m not sure why. Am I afraid to sell it because I know I’ll never get my wife’s approval to buy another one?

She said yes at 40. I’m pretty sure she’ll say no at 58.

Maybe it’s because I’d love to do another Backcountry Discover Route (BDR), and having a motorcycle in my garage signals to everyone (including myself) that I’m not fully done with things with two wheels.

Final Thoughts

When folks ask me why I stopped riding, I sometimes feel like I need to justify my decision—and I know that’s wrong. My decision to stop riding wasn’t based on fear, and it had nothing to do with my age. It had everything to do with some personal situations in my life and what my gut was saying.

If you’re in your 60s or 70s, please don’t take my decision to stop as an indication that you should too. That’s not what I’m suggesting. Deciding to stop (or start) riding a motorcycle is never a one-size-fits-all proposition.

If anything, my decision to stop riding has given me more clarity. Now, I can speak about the beginning, the middle, and the end of riding a motorcycle. Each phase has its own challenges and joys.

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About the Author

David Mixson writes about the topics other motorcycle books gloss over. He worked as a NASA engineer for over thirty years and is the author of three books.

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