The Top 10 motorcycling myths

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

Posted: 13 August 2013
by Simon Hargreaves

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.


1) I’LL BE FASTER ON RACE RUBBER

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).


2) EXPENSIVE BIKES ARE BETTER

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

Wrong.

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…


3) MOST ACCIDENTS ARE CAUSED BY CAR DRIVERS

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.


4) WHEN CAR DRIVERS PULL OVER TO LET YOU OVERTAKE THEY'RE BEING POLITE

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.


5) V-TWINS HAVE MORE TRACTION THAN INLINE FOURS

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…



6) IT WON'T HAPPEN TO ME

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.




7) NEW BIKES ARE BETTER THAN OLD ONES

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.


8) I’LL BE FASTER ON TRACTION CONTROL

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.



9) A GOOD RIDER CAN BEAT ABS

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..



10) GOLDWINGS ARE MORE COMFORTABLE

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.


11) IT'S NOT MY FAULT

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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Discuss this story

Sorry Simon but your wrong on the Goldwing. We have just bought a 2012 model and been over to Austria on it riding the passes, and never once had any problems with comfort.

I have a back problem which is why I also have a Varadero, had a Blackbird for 11 years but after a trip around the coast of Scotland and back to Kent. For 4 days we had problems walking because of the cramped style on the bird.

I wear a support belt which helps with my back and have a break every 100 or so miles, the wife has no problems at all on the back.

I think it's a case of each to their own!

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 12:25

Number three is wrong.

75% of motorcycle accidents involve a collision with a car, and 2/3 of them are the car's fault - i.e. half of all crashes.

Only 1/5th of bike accidents are solo bike crashes.

Which leaves 5% for bikes hitting other bikes, HGVs, cyclists or pedestrians.

Here's the full info: http://www.maids-study.eu/pdf/OTS_MAIDS_comparison.pdf

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 12:53

Yeah... No. 3... maybe a case of interpretation of statistics... it doesn't take there to be over 50% of any particular occurrence to be the most common... most bike accidents may not involve cars (though I believe they do) but it's the CAUSE of the accident we're examining. If only 25% of bike accidents are CAUSED by cars & that's the highest CAUSE then they CAUSE most bike accidents. I haven't the time at the moment to check through the actual stats & I'm sure there are several sources whose findings probably conflict to some extent.

... & still on No. 3, almost all drivers & riders ignore aspects of the highway code on a daily basis (most notably on signalling & observation) & are equally unpredictable.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 13:33

Except that 3 doesn't talk about cause, only about numbers.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 14:42

"MOST ACCIDENTS ARE CAUSED BY CAR DRIVERS"... erm... ok... ?

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 15:57

Why do people print this sort of crap

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 17:00

I haven't heard of most of these myths and I've been biking for over 35 years!!

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 17:17

Very good, thought provoking stuff, Simon. And mostly not too far off the mark.
Few riders will admit the crash was their fault, but in 99% of cases a little more 'forward planning and observation' could have avoided it.
Comfort on a bike is a very individual thing. When I was 20 a racing crouch felt fine for an hour or two, now a sports bike would cripple me in ten minutes. But I can ride a sit-up-and-beg Varadero all day and step off fresh as a daisy.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 17:50

I'm calling, based on having raced for several years and ridden on the street for many more, bs on 1, 2, 7, 9, and 10.

Race rubber is stickier at ANY given temperature. The bullshit about losing feel going to slicks... needing warmers for street rubber... Give me a break. This guy is talking out of his ass. BTW, Marc Marquez uses completely different rubber (much harder and more difficult to get heat into) than production race rubber, so that example isn't even relevant. The only instance where street rubber is better, which the author failed to mention, is in the wet as the sipes are larger and more numerous. Additionally, superstock classes use race rubber, for Pete's sake. Do some damn research, guy.

On the whole, more expensive bikes ARE better. Whether you think the minor difference is worthwhile is another issue, but things like Ohlins suspension on Ducatis (or the new active electronic fork system) and SS brake lines on Triumph 675's to name two off the top of my head, are better. Period. Sure, it's not true across the board, but on the whole it holds up. That's not to say that a given rider can take advantage of the improvements, but they are frequently better.

The same argument holds for newer bikes. USD forks, more horsepower and better power delivery, better stock suspension, lighter weight, etc, etc are very real improvements. Again, a given rider may not be able to take advantage of them, but the improvement is real and demonstrable.

9 I'm calling out on the basis of stock ABS. If we get into a custom race-type setup which is set for a given circuit, a given rider, and given conditions, I'll happily agree that ABS allows for quick lap times under some circumstances. For a given road bike, the stock systems quite often are sub-par and could be beaten in most conditions by a competent rider. The fact that the author can't tell the ABS is kicking in simply demonstrates the weak-sauce braking he's engaging in. When ABS works, you damn well feel it. To be fair, you'd probably never even engage the ABS on the street, and so (gathering that the author is a street rider) I'm not surprised the author didn't notice the ABS working as it never needed to work. I certainly can't ever remember locking up the front on the street in all my years riding.

10 is admittedly subjective, but I've done plenty of 4+ hour rides and refuse to believe that a Goldwing's upright, cushy seat is less comfy than being hunched over a tank on a sport bike for long periods of time. I find that assertion to be ridiculous.

All in all, I find the author to be blatantly ignorant. Did you do any research for this little blurb?

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 18:19

I'm calling BS on #2.

First, you only look at a few Italian bikes. You even admit it in the second and third paragraphs! ("Wrong. Or rather, wrong with Italian bikes.") Why isn't the myth itself, then, "Expensive Italian bikes are better"?

Second, you're only looking at currently produced motorcycles. Everybody I know would rather have a SportClassic 1000 than a Monster 696. The SportClassic was both more expensive when it was being built, and is still more expensive on the used market today.

Third, Ducati 696 the best motorcycle to ride? I've never read any reviews that found the Ducati 696 to be in any way better than the 796. You guys are going to have to explain yourselves on that one.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 18:49

That was a fun read. thank you.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 18:53

Busting myths by evoking mystery unsourced "Police accident statistics", very droll. If a copper told me that my bike had two wheels, I'd count them to be sure.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 19:06

"Police accident statistics show by far the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike is ride in a group."

In my country, police accident statistics show that by far the most dangerous thing you can do on a bike is drink alcohol.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 20:15

10 is an excellent point afaic.

I've ridden hundreds of thousands of miles on Pan Euros and felt like shit at the end of every long day. The seams on my kegs are digging into my thighs, my arse is trying to force its way into my skull.

On the other hand after 400 miles across country on my MV F4 with the hardest seat in the world, I have no aches at all - except in my clutch hand, which is falling off.

The foetal position supported by wind is much under-rated.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 21:40

Well done, Si. Provocative, curmudgeonly and contrary. I don't agree with all of it, some I know to be wrong, some I don't know enough to say and other bits ring true. For those of you who don't know Simon, he has been riding and writing about bikes for the last millennium. He edited PB from the age of about 12. And he likes to provoke! Fair enough assessment, Si? Glad to see you venting your spleen, my old mate.

Posted: 13/08/2013 at 22:05


h h
Ok a myth is a story told with an element of the fantastic in order to make it memorable and containing a lesson or truth in order to sustain it. What you are going on about here is the fiction that these fictions are myths. Fact: They are not myths. They are everyday claptrap fictions or susperstitions. And as far as they go they are ALL... wrong!!!!! You ride the bike you ride and the stuff that you and others make up like what causes accidents or new vs old, techno vs old school, etc is just the stuff you believe and it is all crap crap crap because in the end you ride what you ride...or you don't....ride. Now there is the myth of how one night a mr harley or was it mr davidson was riding his prize horse down a steep hill on a winter night to secretly court Harvey Firestone's mother's sister when the horse lost his footing and slid down the coarse hill side shaving off the horses legs and then sliding across a frozen pond into the back of a broken plough and in the crash the concept for HD was born...this myth contains the lesson that some moments of inspiration are full of insight and invention while others are suspect and probably should have been left at the crash site.

Posted: 14/08/2013 at 05:14

Yuck. What a crap article.

Posted: 14/08/2013 at 05:25

Instead of trying to dispel myths that don't exist, how about doing something fun like Motorcycling's 10 Best Muffs ? If nothing else, you'll love working on that... but be careful, because, as everyone knows, you'll go blind...

Posted: 14/08/2013 at 10:45

Damn you simon hargreaves,I read your article thinking it would be full of holes,I agree with everything you said ! Absolutely spot on especially the cars that pull over as whilst a passenger in friends cars they have pulled over and shouted go on piss off you annoying twat,! I always wave,Dont listen to the piss and moan about everything brigade on here.good article.

Posted: 14/08/2013 at 16:04

'The most natural position is loosely foetal'

Err. Try googling 'good posture when sitting' and see what hundreds of physiotherapists have to say...

Posted: 14/08/2013 at 20:30

haha!!! I love it when people argue about how the myths are wrong.... Ironic isn't it?

I would reword the whole new motorcycles are not better... Often they can be better, not always.

I would argue that a CB500 is probably not as good as a panigale... or S1000RR, in addition you often get a long warranty, protection by EU law over your purchase if on credit (regardless of warranty) have a larger availability of parts, more fuel efficiency and lower emissions and more safety technology.

finally, I would LOVE to see someone try and outbreak ABS on a CBR600RR or Blade there are so many armchair bellends who right utter bullshit and believe it so I think it would be halarious to watch a 60 year old wrinkle bag and his 26 stone beer belly lay truth to his claim that, in fact he is the man that can do anything we can do but better.

namly chuck B

Posted: 15/08/2013 at 00:58

write* because its ironic

Posted: 15/08/2013 at 01:01

#10 is interesting - I've found that my VFR750F is uncomfortable on long trips because of there being too much weight on my shoulders, arms and wrists. I imagined that the upright position would be more comfortable and was thinking about getting a Pan European. Maybe I should stick with the VFR then... Perhaps I'm just not riding fast enough to get enough wind blast or my screen is blocking too much of the wind blast to support my weight.

Posted: 15/08/2013 at 13:48

Or perhaps it's just subjective, or bollocks. The comfiest long distance bike I've had so far is my F650GS with a perfectly neutral sitting - I won't even say riding - position. All day comfort, no leg or arm cramps or strain.

The suggestion that arms should take weight is just risible. Go on, push down on your bars, see how that works out for you.

Posted: 16/08/2013 at 12:22

#4 is actually quite useful. It removes the doubt that the car driver may or may not have seen you. Obviously after that it's down to you whether or not you actually act on it.

Posted: 19/08/2013 at 11:27

Welcome to VD Simon Cheatgreaves.
I used to enjoy your provocations over at BIKE. Glad to see they've found a new outlet.
btw BIKE has seems to have changed to ADVENTUREBIKE in all but name recently.

Posted: 19/08/2013 at 13:50

Visordown do cupcakes?

Posted: 19/08/2013 at 20:30

Good food for thought. I reckon No. 1 is spot on. I'm not that quick around a track, but it's a laugh rounding up the blokes with slicks and tyre warmers on my Metzeler Sportecs.

Posted: 21/08/2013 at 13:00

Re comfort on bikes, The most comfortable bike I had was the Kawasaki Zephyr 550 cc Naked, and as old as the hills. (Reminds me of looking in the mirror after struggling out of the bath!) I rode this machine from Lyon to Northamptonshire in one go. apart from fuel stops (quite a few, as I could only get about 90 miles out of a tankfull) I rode through the rain, through the day, and most of the night. At the end of this epic journey, I had to phone the wife so she could help me get off the thing! But after a day or two, I was fully recovered. The bike was a good height for me, a low centre of gravity assisted with riding around towns. Useless headlights which helped keep the speed down at night; and Not too heavy to push around with confidence!  


Posted: 21/08/2013 at 13:22

SH - Always fun to read, always getting people bent out of shape. A natural for VD.

Posted: 27/08/2013 at 03:03

More recent myth,Honda build quality.maybe once but that was when they were made in Japan.More recent ones are not better than Suzukis (and I ride a Bandit).
I had a Hornet 900,which was a really well built bike that I still see around and still looks really nice after 10 years and over 30,000 miles,I also had a 2004 600 hornet made in Italy which before I discovered AC50 I could almost see rusting away on my ride to work.
Did over 30,000 miles on my Mk1 Fazer 600,rode it in all weathers and it always polished up like new.The little Hornet was a real rotbox,all the chrome pitted and the ally got really scabby and I never neglect my bikes.

Posted: 12/11/2013 at 19:40

Fun article, but I call 4 out as being bollocks. This is based purely on the fact that myself and everyone I know moves over for bikes because they want to, and because bikes are totally fucking awesome! :)

Posted: 06/12/2013 at 15:58

9) ABS.
This is a dangerous argument. For years we've had European bureaucrats trying to foist ABS on us against our will, on the basis that it will help reduce accidents.

Whilst it may be increasingly difficult for a rider to beat ABS in the conditions for which ABS was designed to operate, the article "Video: Bosch's cornering ABS at work" shown on VD on 09/10/2013 highlights just how totally ineffective most ABS systems currently fitted still are in the great majority of road riding situations.

In many of these situations, having a better rider that knows how to brake a bike in a corner will beat it. In the mean time your ill-considered statements fuel the euro-muppets' endeavours to legislate common sense off the roads.

ANGRY.

Posted: 10/12/2013 at 21:58

'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." ...yet again, funny as... dude, great yet short read :)

Posted: 10/12/2013 at 23:06

#4, 6, 9, and 11: true myths. They're cheesed; it happens to us; no one can consistently beat ABS, especially in "surprise" mode; and we do it.
#5 is debatable, as noted; but the reasons given are wrong. Bigger, farther-spaced thumps snatch harder and more suddenly than smaller, closer taps. See #8 and factor in TC.
#1 isn't a very common myth. The squid who thinks running on race rubber will make him faster needs to learn to ride better.
To make #2 valid, you need to specify "Italian" up front.
#3 is skewing statistics. One accident that involves a group of bikes is one accident, even if six bikes get tangled up. And many "solo" accidents don't count the car that caused the accident and then left the scene.
#7 is ridiculous. I'd rather have my modded RF900R than a new GSX-R750, but I'd rather have the new stock gixxer than a new stock RF.
#10, true or not, is irrelevant. When you need a forklift, block and tackle, a full tool kit, two men, and six hours to change a flat rear tire, the riding position doesn't mean a thing. And this doesn't go just for Gold Wings.

Posted: 25/12/2013 at 02:06

Not too sure about some of these. There's at least an element of truth to all these so called myths.

Posted: 25/12/2013 at 23:14

I enjoyed reading the points of view in these 'mythbusters' and there are certainly points worth thinking about even if you don't agree with everything which is said. From personal experience, however, I have to disagree about point 10 regarding Goldwings. I ride over 10,000 miles a year on mine including holidays to Spain, Portugal, Italy etc as well as 300+ mile rideouts on Sundays and always return home as fresh as when I left. I am certainly not the shape of a sponge but have found that sitting upright enjoying the views, with no need to do 80mph so the airflow supports part of my weight and stops my wrists and back aching, makes for immensely comfortable travelling

Posted: 27/12/2013 at 11:20

foetal position you are a joke why are chairs made the way they are for comfort the foetal position requires much more support sounds like you aint done many miles on a wing

Posted: 30/12/2013 at 17:12

I like it, very good and entertaining, had a 2006 Goldwing though & could ride that baby all day as compared to my buddies on their Cruisers who had to get off after a couple of hours. Just a marvelous motorcycle to travel on.

Posted: 31/12/2013 at 21:28

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