The seven most annoying things for motorcyclists

Take a man who is by default a little annoyed and ask what annoys him most. That’s what Visordown did. These are Simon Hargreaves’ answers.

LIFE'S too short to get angry. Especially while marshalling a 150bhp motorcycle. Then life really will be too short.

If someone annoys you, the best way to annoy them back is to turn the other cheek. Nothing upsets an enraged driver like a polite wave, a nod, a thumbs-up, a cheery shrug of the shoulders. Getting angry in return is to acknowledge their influence over you. Rise above it, and watch them writhe in helpless indignation.

It’s a good theory. Unfortunately, many of the things that annoy us, including machinery, weather and dumb animals, don’t respond to reverse psychology.

My advice, if you find your blood starting to boil, is to slow down, take a deep breath, wait for the rage to subside and carry on calmly, taking pride in your stoic equanimity.

Or, on the other hand, you could always just nail it.

Here, in no particular order, are some things that might well annoy you as a motorcyclist. Because they do me.

1) Fog

Fog is worse than snow, ice, rain, hurricanes or hail because even when it’s icy or windy or wet our vision tends not to be fatally impaired. Whatever the conditions, we maintain a full suite of useful motorcycling senses.

But fog – not the misty vapours wafting about hedgerows of a summer’s evening, but the full-on impenetrable Hound Of The Baskervilles fug – is a disorientating cloud of condensed water droplets that wraps itself around us like an evil airborne quagmire of grey. It tends to be thickest in areas of pollution, where particles in the air permit the easy formation of water droplets – hence Victorian London’s soot-based pea-soupers.

Fog comes in three official strengths based on visibility: aviation fog (less than 1000m), thick fog (less than 200m) and dense fog (less than 50m). There are another six classifications based on origin and location, but the one that concerns us is freezing fog (sub-zero but liquid water droplets that turn to ice crystals when they settle). The kind that forms a layer of ice over your visor which you can’t wipe away with a glove, limiting visibility to around two inches. 

2) Oncoming main beam headlights

Scenario: riding at night along straight single-carriageway. It’s dark. You’ve got your head down and you’re tanking on a bit. A car swings around the corner way ahead up the road. You instinctively switch to dipped beam. It’s a courtesy thing, an empathy thing; you dip your beam for his benefit, he ought to reciprocate.

But he has his main beam on. Turn it off, you think. Your closing distance shrinks. Still he’s on main beam. He gets closer still and now you can’t see where your side of the road is. You sit up, roll off, slow down, don’t look at the lights. You ride past thinking, ‘What a grade-A cock’.

And you’d be right. 

3) Oncoming overtaking cars

Same scenario as above but this time the oncoming driver dips his headlights. But what really takes you by surprise, as your closing distance narrows to a few yards, is when the pair of headlights on the opposite side of the road becomes a quartet spreading into your lane – the following driver has completely failed to spot your oncoming presence and decided to overtake. Cue braking, swerving, swearing and generally getting out of the way.

This has happened to me many times riding at night across the unknown vastness of the Fens, and more than once I’ve been tempted to spin round, chase the fecker down and kick his tail-lights in. 

4) Double white lines

A couple of years ago a new bypass was built around the existing bypass that was so busy it needed bypassing. Hopefully in a few years it will itself need a bypass, which will make it a triple bypass. Anyway, the new new bypass isn’t quite wide enough to be the dual carriageway it ought to be, so instead it’s a single carriageway just wide enough for car, van, truck and taxi drivers to overtake like lemmings and kill themselves and, probably, someone else.

As a result of a few of these accidents the Highways Agency has converted a substantial stretch of the road from dotted white line (overtake when safe to do so) to double white lines (DO. NOT. OVERTAKE. EVER).

Bikers are not generally in favour of someone else deciding what they should and shouldn’t do because it’s not their neck on the block. And besides, the people who worked out where to put the double white lines never rode a modern superbike. We don’t follow the normal rules of physics.

It’s entirely unfair and pointless to enforce such a rule for all road traffic regardless of its width, road footprint and accelerative potential. Why can’t bikes be exempt? 

5) Side-by-side truck overtakes

Not all speed-limited lorries are limited to the same speed. They’re regulated - mostly for fuel economy – to between 54mph and 56mph.

So some can go a little faster than others, and they do, blocking two lanes for miles on end as one crawls maddeningly past the other. On a motorway with no third lane, like sections of the A1M, no one can get past.

The solution, some say – and we don’t recommend this because it’s naughty on so many levels – is to undertake both vehicles, up the hard shoulder, then pull in front of the inside lorry and slow down. Don’t slam your brakes on or you risk being flattened, but gently decelerate until the overtaking truck is clear. He’ll then have no option but to pull back in. And off you – and the half-mile tail-back behind you – go. It’s also guaranteed to reduce both lorry drivers to apoplectic rage.

6) Rear tyre wear

Here are two things I don’t understand about tyres: 1) why fronts last twice as long as rears, and 2) why rears square off.

Now I know (or at least I think I know) what you’re thinking. I think you’re thinking, ‘What an idiot,’ and you’d be right. But you might also be thinking, ‘What an idiot, it’s obvious. 1) Fronts don’t wear as fast as rears because rears handle the bike’s driving force, and 2) rears square off because the bike spends more time upright than leaned over.’

But that begs the questions 1) why don’t tyre manufacturers make fronts even more grippy, so they wear at one-to-one rate with the rear and 2) why don’t they make the shoulders of the rear even more grippy, so they wear at the same rate as the crown?

Knowing I didn’t know, I asked Gary Hartshorne, product manager at Bridgestone. He said, "When you think about it, what tyres today are capable of is pretty staggering. We’re actually getting pretty close to a one-tyre-suits-all situation. You think a few years back and the difference between a hypersports tyre and sports touring tyre was quite wide, but now – you look at the T30 and the BT23 and you’re talking about 8000 miles and more, yet you can do a track day on them quite comfortably. They’re so versatile. We use the T30 on the Ron Haslam race school and they’re doing over 1000 miles of track use. They work in the dry, in the wet – the other week Leon Haslam did a 1m 36s lap on a standard Blade on those tyres. Still got the mirrors on it. That’s about five seconds off the Superstock lap record. It’s incredible."

So, er, stop complaining. 

7) British climate

There are worse places – Scandinavians are a bit screwed with their two-month riding season. And there’s never been an Eskimo in MotoGP.

But there are better places too. Us Brits, if we’re lucky, only get from mid-April to early October, a fleeting few months before interminable winter sets in again. The only benefit is plenty of time off for dreaming about the following summer, planning trips, choosing kit and upgrades, maybe even adding to the collection (I’m thinking Africa Twin next, or maybe a vintage Beemer).

Those are my top biking bug-bears. What are yours? Vent your spleen below.