The Top 10 motorcycling myths

The things we think we know, but don’t. Actually.

SiH's picture
Submitted by SiH on Tue, 13/08/2013 - 10:50

If you say something often enough, even if it’s bollocks, eventually the world will come round to your point of view. TV presenters, politicians and bike journalists have been using this fact for years. Like I just did then.

Here are the top 10 biggest biking myths, in no particular order other than the order I thought of them in. Feel free to add your own, and disabuse me of mine.


No, you’ll fall off. Especially if you’re on the road. Race tyres are built to shed heat very quickly because they get very hot when Marc Marquez is using them. So if a race tyre can get cold on one side because the circuit has fewer rights than lefts, or because that backmarker CRT just held you up for half a lap, imagine how stone cold they’ll be at the traffic lights in town?

Some of the stickiest road rubber available is next to useless unless you stick them in tyre warmers. You might fit slicks to your trackbike, but what you gain in outright grip, you'll more than lose in feedback and you won't know where the limit is and the result is, you'll lap slower than if you were on the right tyre. Look how quick some of the Superstock classes go on road rubber, they don't need slicks. You don't either.

Use road tyres on the road, every time (unless you make like Michael Dunlop when you nip to the shops).


The more expensive it is, the better it’ll be at whatever it’s supposed to be good at. Usually right. But with bikes?


Or rather, wrong with Italian bikes. The nicest bike to ride in Ducati’s range is the Monster 696. It’s also the cheapest. The worst? Panigale R: built to win races (er…), it makes oodles of grunt, looks simply amazing and ought to be a dream to ride.

It isn’t. It’s a demanding, finicky, lumpy-bumpy, awkward ride and it costs £26,550. Still, cheaper than the £42,500 Desmosedici on eBay. Because that’s really nasty.

It’s not just Ducati. MV Agusta’s £8999 Brutale 920 is more fun and nicer than a Fazer 1000. But the £18,499 F4-RR is a cruel, hard-ass bike which looks fantastic but rides like it’s got its thumb up its ass.

And don’t even mention Bimotas. Or ‘classic’ bikes. If you think you have to pay a lot for an uncomfortable, unrideable modern Italian bike, wait til you see how much you have to pay for a bike that wasn't that great back then, is even worse twenty years later and comes with a guaranteed oil leak…


While most car drivers are dozy, slow-witted, ignorant and myopic, they at least tend to follow predictable patterns of behaviour. Called ‘The Highway Code’. In fact most car drivers follow it unwaveringly, so plotting a route round them on your nimble bike is a doddle. Only problem is when they stop behaving in an orderly fashion and go rogue. It makes them hard to predict.

But most bike accidents don’t involve cars. They involve other bikes. Police accident statistics show by far the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike is ride in a group (although, to be fair, seeing as most bikes travel in a group, that’s what they would show). Accidents involving cars also come behind solo accidents, in which no other vehicle is involved.

It's us goddammit and the sooner we admit it, the safer we'll be.


No, they’re annoyed by the way you’ve appeared out of nowhere to sit millimetres off their rear bumper with a headlight burning out their retinas at eye level.

When they pull over and put a pair of wheels in the kerb to let you pass, it’s not because they love you and respect you. It’s because they want you to piss off. Which makes a friendly wave as you pass all the more important.

Do you need to sit a foot off their bumper at 40mph to prove to them how slow the're going? No.


Do they? Do they really? It depends who you ask. If you ask the bloke on the GSX-R1000 who’s just been tonked by the dude on the Panigale, then yes, they do.

But ‘experts’ have long been divided over the idea that big gaps in firing intervals give the rear tyre more time to ‘recover’ grip between power pulses. Some say it’s significant, some smile like Jerry Burgess and do the whole gimlet eyes thing.

The idea first cropped up in the early 90s when Ducatis were romping away with World Superbike titles and in Grand Prix V4 two stroke 500s were mucking about with a Big Bang firing order. But Ducati had a capacity advantage and Honda had Mick Doohan, so it was hard to know for sure.

It’s easy to believe both sides – a long recovery time between pulses would allow for unmolested grip, but you’d be more likely to lose it come the time for the power pulses. A steady stream of power would spread the load on the rubber, giving a more consistent level of grip.

What’s probably more important is the way the combustion torque is applied to the tyre, and the tyre to the track. If the combustion torque could be ‘smoothed out’, the tyre would have an easier time. Sounds like what we really need is a crossplane crank inline four, or an inline triple, or even a pentagram crank in an inline five…


Sorry, but it will. There aren’t many riders who hang up their boots for good without taking one for the team at some point. It’s just a matter of time and luck, no matter how many advanced riding badges you carry. Good luck.


Better in what sense? Faster or more powerful or cheaper to run or more technically advanced? Sometimes, yes. But better to ride and own? Not often.

There are a couple of things going on here: the maturing of the European market, the impact of emissions legislation, and... we’re all getting older.

When a company loses confidence in a market to provide revenue through growth, it starts to cut costs instead. And when it does that, it inevitably focuses less on what the customer wants and shifts focus to the process of making the product. Because making it more cheaply is now where the money is coming from.

That’s where the European bike market is now. Bike manufacturers know they aren’t going to get a return on investment by growing the market because the market is shrinking and there’s not much chance of getting it back. So they’re unlikely to bombard the market with high risk, high investment new models. The best they can hope for is stealing a bite of someone else’s dinner (BMW with the S1000RR), making whatever it is they make even cheaper (Suzuki GSR750), or looking for new, different or growing markets elsewhere and starting all over again (like India, China and Brazil).

That’s why the best year for new bikes was 1998 – ZX-9R, R1, RSV Mille, GSX-R750, Fazer 600 etc – and this year the best Suzuki could manage was a scooter, a cruiser and I’ve forgotten what the last bike was. And while Honda make noises about a new prestige superbike, their cheap-as-chips, fairly unsexy CB and NC runarounds… run around.

Emissions haven’t helped make bikes better. In 2007 they all got heavier as catalytic converters demanded by Euro 3 regulations bulked out exhaust systems – have you seen the plumbing on a Kawasaki Z1000SX? – and anyone who thinks a modern, lean-running, gravelly, snatchy fuel-injected throttle system is nicer to use than a 20 year-old bank of CV carbs is deluded.

Me? I’ll stick to my 1996 VFR750, thanks. It’s still shiny, it’s got gear-driven cams, fuels as smoothly as butter, and does 160 miles on a tank.


Not necessarily. For traction control to make you faster it has to give you the confidence to go faster. For many people who are already as fast as they feel comfortable, the acronym on a fairing isn’t going to persuade them to get on the gas harder coming out of Clearways at Brands. Nothing will.

And for guys at the other end of the spectrum – top end club racers – then traction control will already be starting to get in the way, slowing them down by cutting in even on its least intervening setting.

If, however, you’re in the sweet spot of riders who are averagely quick track day jockeys – top end intermediate to fast group – then having a safety net to scoop you up as you tap it on harder than you dare at the apex is definitely a good thing.

And, more importantly than quicker lap times, it’s fun but it's not a guaranteed way of going faster.


Have you ridden an ABS CBR600 or Blade, or ZX-6R or 10R? If you can outbrake them – in fact if you can even tell when the ABS is working – you’ll get a lifetime supply of Visordown cup cakes..


Unless you’re the shape of a sponge, they shouldn’t be. Sitting upright in a classic schoolroom position, hands in front and legs at 90° then bent again at the knee at 90°, places upper bodyweight squarely through your bum. Try sitting like that in the comfiest chair in your house, and you’ll be shifting about and slumping your back in no time.

The most natural position is loosely foetal – as if you’re curled up in bed. The natural angle for your legs is slightly to the rear, lending support to your body. Your torso should slope forward, with a straight back, letting your arms also take some of the weight.

And, of course, you need to be doing around 80mph to let the wind blast also support you.

This the exactly the riding position that most popular long distance bikes don’t have – Goldwings and other grand tourers, and most adventure sportsbikes. They all flatter to deceive – they look comfy, they might even feel it for a few miles. But after a day in the saddle, you’ll be crying out for a Honda VFR800, Triumph Sprint ST, BMW K1300S or Yamaha’s Fazer 1000. Fact.


The bonus myth. You know that bit when you’ve stopped sliding and you’re lying under your bike looking up at the sky? It's a bit late to be blaming other people then.

No matter what the scenario or whether it was diesel in the road, or a massive pile-up, you can never walk away and say: 'I couldn't have done anything better'.

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