19 Motorcycle Myths

RIDER Magazine published my first motorcycle article in a long time. If would be fun if you let me know what you think of the story – especially if you ride motorcycles. This topic has bounced around in my head for years. Artist Hector Cademartori’s illustrations make the story. There were 20 myths, but one of them did not make it by RIDER Magazine’s fact-check department. Well, it did, but only after the publication deadline.
You can read the full article here.

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2 Responses to 19 Motorcycle Myths

  1. Ben Getz says:

    Yes, Steve, it was nice to see Rider using your craft again! Enjoyed it very much even though most was already part of my lexicon of myths after a mere 49 years on two wheels. But still a great read and I only hope a little bit will stick to or resonate with the latest batch of neophytes…if they read the mag. Take care!


    Hi Steve

    I really enjoyed this. The illustrations should be framed!

    I can imagine you may well get some feedback on some of those myths! Not the least the one about the pipes. With the exception of the correct setting for loud pipes eg the TT (where it sets your spine tingling) or racetrack, here in the UK a passing car or bike with mods to increase noise is usually treated to comments such as ‘what a knob/bell-end/wanker’. I hate HD open pipes and I detest the cars (usually cheapo beaters) that annoy everyone with what looks like a catering size baked been can on the end of the pipe. Sets my neighbor’s psycho-hound off every time and that’s it as far as sleeping peacefully is concerned

    Reading though the myths as you busted each one in turn I found myself mentally saying ‘yup, oh yeah, plus one here on that’ Made me smile that did. You can’t beat experience or hard work (and a slice of luck) to get this far in years of biking without avoiding a major incident. And never ever taking it for granted, neither! You never stop learning eh?

    I remember being 16 and the deal I made with my parents to get a Honda SS50 bike was that I would do a 12 week RAC/ACU training course. Sunday mornings practical and Weds nights theory in the local college. Over and over those lessons have saved my skin. It’s been my choice to ignore said lessons on occasions – such as riding around an awful lot in the USA wearing just jeans, lightweight boots, polo shirt, open faced lid and sunglasses. I shudder now as I haul myself into my Klim suit. I wonder, does a sense of vulnerability increase with age in direct proportion to the declining sense of immortality when young?

    The training course was run by old guys that had seen it all. They’d grown up in an era where survivability was down to pure luck, equipment was by today’s standards laughable for protection and technology in the same category. Sure, traffic wasn’t then the contact sport it is now, but the core principles then are no different now; awareness, planning, position, an active interest in road-craft and the handling of the bike. They taught us little subtle things like the effect of temperature variation at this time of year and how not to be deceived. A sunny bright Sunday ride sounds nice in October or November but under trees, on a corner it could still be near zero celsius, or just above, with the dew on fallen leaves acting like oil. There were many other examples that sunk into my subconscious.

    The one saying that stuck with me has come back to the forefront now we see so much amateur film from militant cyclists taking offense and posting on social media for a pile-on. The common theme seems to be “according to the rules, I’m in the right /have right of way you should make allowances/you’re in the wrong/should be hung drawn and quartered” etc. Might have made the last one up. But you get the vibes

    One of my instructors back then said to me about surviving T-Junctions, roundabouts and, really, anywhere there’s a potential bike to car interface that “It doesn’t matter how in the right you are according to any rules or law. You are the one dead/injured. Hearing “sorry mate, I didn’t see you” won’t heal your broken legs”. I’ve had and continue to have examples. Like one the other week where a van/car/truck driver looks me right in the eyes, my BMW LED lights and fog lights burning into his/her retinas who waits until I’m committed to the apex of the roundabout and THEN pulls out across me. The training I had, plus experience had my Plan B already in operation.

    Some things I learned only relatively recently, like rear brake for trail braking (credit Frank for that on my first ever HD tour and coping with hairpin bends on my HD EG weighing the equivalent of a small house in comparison to Honda VF 750F I’d just left behind in 1991) Later in South Africa I learned a new trick from the guide Damon. He banged on about using rear brake only for the last few meters of stopping. No more diving front end. It took me a while to ingrain but now I can do it on any bike instantly and get great slow speed control. Which is perfect for lane-splitting or as we say, filtering.

    Filtering comes with responsibility. Do it too fast and the police won’t be sympathetic as they scrape you off someone’s hood. If I’ve not done any for a while I have to have a big swallow and turn up the paranoia to 11. After a while when you get into a rhythm its a great feeling of accomplishment as you work through a queue leaving all the tin box dwellers behind. The default position I take up is ‘they cant see me because they won’t expect me’. That plus blazing lights. I’ve noticed that drivers here can’t quite distinguish until I’m past them that in fact, I’m not a bike copper. The GS850 is very similar to cop bikes with all those lights on. The lights sometimes have people opening up like a zip but again, not everyone.

    I did smile about ‘real bikers never wash their bikes’. Fair enough, I suppose if you’re the kind of rider/driver that has zero mechanical empathy or interest. Their loss. I’ve always enjoyed cleaning and working on bikes and cars. So it goes with the hobby. When I started riding the classic 1955 Triumph regularly, the need to keep it wiped down and find things about to disappear became more frequent. It was whilst doing this I came up with an acroynm; C.A.D. Clean and Discover. I tried it out on my friend Ray (classic motorcycle encyclopedic brain the size of the British Library) who said, in his own salty way, words to the effect of “Well bless me, I’ve been in this industry all my bloomin’ life and tried to come up with one like that!”. A treasured moment.

    Yeah rain gear…the only place it gets in my Klim Badlands jacket and soaks me is from around the collar. Did you see the vid from my ride to Hadrian’s wall? Biblical rain. My Daytona bike boots held up well, gloves nada (but we know that), and if it wasn’t for seepeage around the neck I wouldn’t have had a wet chest and back. I’ve tried a neck tube/collar cover but it needs to be bigger, like a welder’s hood to cover the neck fully. To think, back in the 80’s on my Honda 400N I took my pal Julian from Leeds to Nottingham on the motorway in snow, using my feet as ploughs, wearing a wool jumper under a Belstaff wax jacket…. One other rain thought. My view is, if it’s optional like a ride from home and back then if it’s raining I won’t bother. If it rains on a tour then it’s part of the, er, adventure and though I’ll curse and shake my fist at the scudding clouds, I’ll say it was all fun later in the pub.

    One myth, for me, is the so-called ‘Bikers Code’. I hear that phrase mainly from the beards/tats/patches/chapter orientated gentlemen. As if any discretion or deviation from this, so far as I know, unwritten book of protocols would at best lead to a mass shunning from the Morally Righteous of the Road, or at worst to find your GS1200 has been strung up from a tree and used as a metal pinata by the Sons of Suet Pudding (Steak and Kidney Chapter). Every time I’ve been stuck by the side of the road broken down I’ve been saved by the kindness of passing car drivers. Bikers streamed past in their groups all smug and mechanically sound. The last time, in Alaska somewhere between Fairbanks and Tok, I had a proper blow out in the rear tyre. Off the rim, smoking rubber, brown trousers – the lot. Lots of guys waved as they went on their adventurous ways but the only folk that stopped were in cars. The lady that saved me was a young mother on her way to the doctors who called her dad out with a flat bed. Maybe the Bikers Code is just that – a cypher that’s so mysterious no one knows what the heck it means. But, for the love of God, never wear a POLITE vest. They’re right out. Splitters.

    I don’t often make the time to write in response to your blog, but please know I enjoy them all. Today I’m having a WFH day with a cold and thought it was about time especially as I’m not doing any work today. Thank you for keeping me in the loop!

    All the best


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