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What are the biggest myths in biking, and why?

By Mario

We recently posted about biking myths on Facebook, inviting suggestions. Here’s some of those that turned up

There are quite a lot of myths, untruths, misconceptions, call them what you will about motorcycling. And they tend to hang around, even after they should have been ‘fact-checked’ into oblivion. Why is that? What underlies the persistence of these myths?

To steer or counter steer, that is the question

Let’s start with one of the most fundamental shaggy-dog stories of all: how a motorcycle steers. Nowadays, we should all have heard of the term ‘counter steering’, but some riders are still a little unclear about how it works. And a few are adamant that they steer some other way. For the latter, the best way we’ve seen of busting that myth is the ‘No BS Bike’ put together by Keith Code and the California Superbike School crew. Take a look:

California Superbike Schools No B.S Machine

Grab the top set of bars and see how you get on steering...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VqXBA-sGHA

So why do some people maintain that steering involves shifting bodyweight, weighting the pegs, ‘dropping a shoulder’ or other permutations? Because it’s true. These things will cause a bike to change direction, just as we all used to show off riding our bicycles ‘no hands’. But all they are doing is initiating a very small counter-steering effect or a tiny tightening of line (the actual physics can be complicated). Compared to the speed, accuracy and dramatic effect of counter steering, we are talking marginal inputs, and they do have their place. But counter steering is what you absolutely need to make a bike turn.

Tyresome Tales

One of the FB comments was along the lines of, if you want more grip you need slicks or track-day tyres. Well, yes, if you’re racing or doing track days. But road use is something quite different.

For road use, you need a tyre that will warm up quickly and deliver most grip at cooler temperatures. You won’t be using tyre warmers. And when you need to do an emergency stop just a few hundred metres after setting off you’ll be glad of the extra grip afforded by a good set of street/touring hoops. In any case, even the most road-orientated of modern tyres offers astonishing adhesion: running out of grip while cornering in the dry just ain’t going to happen.

Michelin road tyres

Great when it's hot, when it's cold, when it's dry, when it's wet, on the road and will even cope well with a track day.

Slick Racing Tyres

Great for racing or a track day

Why the myth? Most likely a carry-over from days long past, when tyres were truly terrible and running out of grip was an everyday occurrence. Back then, race tyres were just better. But, since the advent of radial bike tyres at the end of the 1980s, and especially in the past decade or so as silica compound science has taken leaps and bounds, street/touring tyres are all-round amazing.

Car drivers are to blame

A favourite one, this. It’s still easy to find lots of riders who believe that the majority of motorcycle accidents, including fatalities, are the fault of car drivers. They’ll make up some statistic, like 70%. And usually it’s ‘car drivers failing to see us’.

Totally wrong, and easily disproved by the actual data. It’s true that the most common accident type is one involving another vehicle–around 65% of the total. But not all of those are the fault, mainly or exclusively, of the driver. In fact 23% are primarily or exclusively the fault of the rider.  in 7% the rider had some responsibility, leaving 35% where no rider fault was identified.

In any case, crashes with other vehicles are not the most serious accidents. Not by a long way. The second most common motorcycle crash scenario, accounting for a third of all those recorded, is ‘single-vehicle, motorcyclist at fault’. Most common of these is described as ‘run-off-road/failed to take corner’. In other words, the rider has run out of talent and crashed on their own, with no involvement from anyone. Also, these are by far the worst crashes in terms of deaths and serious injuries. 

There are of course other crash types and causes, but each is a relatively small number and the picture is clear. The vast majority of motorcycle crashes, and especially the most serious ones, are partly, mostly or exclusively the fault of motorcycle riders. Sorry.

Too experienced for a LAMS bike

LAMS regs have given us a hugely expanded choice of bikes on which to learn to ride - some of them highly desirable. So why would anyone think, and some do, that a LAMS bike would be ‘beneath’ their experience to learn on?

The rejoinder to this is quite simple, if a little expensive at $13,990 RRP: The Triumph Street Triple 660. We’ve ridden two versions of this LAMS-spec bike and been blown away at its all-round ability. So much so that we cautioned it was better suited to an ‘experienced’ rider going through the licensing process than any novice. Clearly, anyone who thinks a LAMS bike isn’t much fun hasn’t had the pleasure of Hinkley’s offering, nor other fantastic middleweights in LAMS spec, such as Kawasaki’s er-6n or Yamaha’s MT-07. Or perhaps they’re just skint.

Triumph Street Triple

Too experienced for this LAMS bike? Yeah, right.

Rather, the question is why anyone would need these regulation-stretching bikes if you’re looking for a learner bike? Should you have a lot of riding experience, perhaps from overseas or racing or off-road, and you want a bike you can keep for a while after getting your licence, then they make sense. Even so, learning to ride on the road comes with its own set of challenges. And when you can have a choice of classy small-capacity bikes like BMW’s G 310 R, the MT-03 or KTM’s 390 Duke, why break the bank? All will provide plenty of thrills and huge fun, even for seasoned riders, at a lower cost.

BMW LAMS

Perfect for learners, still fun for experienced riders.

Got a myth you think needs busting? Get in touch via Facebook or using the Contact page.