fabulous motorcycle

This is the 3rd and final part of 10 Things They Don’t Tell You About Motorcycle Riding, where we wrap up our commentary on motorcycle riding and talk a bit about the crazy motorcycle culture you may not be aware of if you don’t yet ride a motorcycle.

 

  1. Motorcycle Voodoo: There’s an awful lot of “mystery” when it comes to riding motorcycles and motorcycle maintenance. Likewise there is often what seems like “voodoo” or “mojo” when it comes to topics like:  Motorcycle riding techniques, Law enforcement, and other drivers.

Throughout this article, you’ve seen me talk about how important traction is when you only have 2 tires, so it makes sense that on the forefront of a motorcyclist’s mind is: Tires. There’s an awful lot of mystery and voodoo around tires. What brands are best? What offerings within that brand are appropriate for the kind of riding I do? Which diameter of tire is better, should I keep the 60 series front, or go to a 70 series, or should I go from a 50 series rear to a 55 series? How much air pressure do you put in “x” brand of tire on “y” model of motorcycle when riding on “z” type of road in “Ω” weather conditions?!?! As a motorcycle rider you’re constantly juggling between getting the best performance, grip, comfort, and longevity out of your tires. A big part of that juggling involves research and discussions and trying to figure out what works best, is cheapest and makes you as the rider feel the most comfortable. If you dare to go to the “darkside” and put a performance car tire on the back of your motorcycle, be prepared to freak people out and hear all kinds of stories about how that isn’t going to work, and you’re going to kill yourself…

car tire on fjr 1300

Because the Tire Gods surely wouldn’t dare allow something as simple as physics to negate the motorcycle community’s bro-science.  Don’t even get started on topics like patching/plugging a tire, or balancing a tire with something like DynaBeads! <gasp>

$.02:

  -If you plug a tire well using rope plugs with cement, and cut the excess, you can ride with up to 3-4 plugs in the rear tire and 2-3 in the front, for the life of the tires, even at high speeds….
-Mushroom plugs are harder to use correctly…
-If you’re going to go through the trouble of “patching” a tire with a bonded patch on the inside of the tire, you should just consider replacing the tire at that point due to time and labor costs.
-Punctures in the sidewall may not seal correctly since those areas don’t reach the same temperatures and flex very differently, so these shouldn’t be trusted plugged. 
-Skip the DynaBeads. Use real wheel weights, and tape them on with regular duct tape (not Gorilla Tape or you risk removing paint when pulling the tape).

 I’m always surprised at the amount of resistance newer riders have to using ear plugs. They think that if they use ear plugs, they won’t be able to hear cars, or police/ambulances, or they won’t be able to hear the sweet rumble of their V-Twin straight pipes…. Are you kidding me?!?! Seriously… unless you’re an asshat with straight pipes who deserves to lose your hearing, you need to be careful of wind noise which can quickly erode your hearing. Even with our very aero dynamic full-face helmets, once you’re at freeway speeds or above, the noise inside your helmet can easily be over 100dB! Damage to your hearing will start within 15 minutes at 100dB:

decibel danger chart

As pointed out before, I suggest cheap and disposable foam plugs like Hearos or if you’re a lady biker with small ear canals these will fit better. By using a pair of earplugs with a 30+ Noise Reduction Rating, you will be reducing the decibel level your eardrums experience and allowing them to reside in a safe decibel margin that can be sustained for several hours with no harm. Trust me, you can still hear the cars around you, your own motorcycle engine, and of course emergency vehicles. In fact, because of the frequency filtering that occurs, I feel you can hear external sounds even better. So there’s really no reason for there to be any voodoo around this topic: Use ear plugs!!!

Mysteries of the weather… No motorcycle rider wants to get caught in the rain, and that is especially true for sportbike riders who yearn to find clean dry roads to run at a fun and safe pace. You will become very familiar with weather apps on your phone, and understanding weather forecasts. You’ll learn to read radar images and predict which direction that precipitation is headed next. Often times, you’ll see a ride posted up and 3 or 4 people that had been planning to go will suddenly bail on it that morning because there were clouds out. I would encourage every motorcyclist to spend at least 1 year as an “all-season” rider. It is very educational to ride through the winter in all sorts of conditions and learn just what you and your motorcycle are truly capable of. I did this myself, and while I wouldn’t bother to any longer (because for me riding in the cold and wet is just boring and miserable), I also no longer fear riding on wet roads or getting caught in the rain. Sure I’ll still play weatherman and do my best to plan for rides on nice days, but don’t let a little rain or wind stop you from getting out on your bike.

The biggest and greatest mojo-magnet in motorcycle riding, is in fact the act of riding itself. The physics of motorcycle riding.  As an example: Those not familiar with motorcycles won’t realize that once a motorcycle is above about 15MPH you actually have to steer it backwards, in a manner referred to as “countersteering“.  There are a multitude of books and DVD’s on the topic of motorcycle riding: Twist of The Wrist II DVD , Proficient Motorcycling, Total Control…. There are even riding clinics devoted to practicing and honing these skills: http://vividphase.com/blog/2014/05/03/doc-wong-northwest-riding-clinic/ The trick with riding a motorcycle is this: The motorcycle (once in motion), has a gyroscopic effect and really wants to remain in motion in a straight line, and if unhindered by a rider, it will keep on going until it runs out of forward momentum or hits an obstacle!

So the trick then is in balancing only the needed inputs as a rider, to get the motorcycle through the corner. As you as a rider get more skilled with this it becomes this really rewarding experience of taking in the inputs from all of your senses and translating that into skilful output to your motorcycle controls, allowing you to carve up the corners in a state of true zen!

This one may not be specific to motorcycling, as I expect it is common in all motorsports, but it seems there is a lot of confusion and misinformation regarding motor oil and oil filters. It is obviously an important topic, as it is basically the only thing that keeps our motorcycles from turning into a molten block of aluminum and steel. In most of our motorcycles, it is also the life blood of our wet-clutch plates and allows us to shift smoothly through the gears.  The oil filter traps those little clutch and gear pieces that would otherwise end up circling through the valves and combustion chamber. There’s a ton of information out there regarding motor oils (mineral “dino” oil vs. synthetic, and various oil filter tests and tear downs), but suffice it to say, everybody has an opinion…

funny baby oil

 

  1. Everybody has an opinion: My father was known to say: “Opinions are like assholes: Everybody has one and they all stink”. He had such a way with words… Nowhere is that saying more true, than when people find out you ride a motorcycle. They will come out of the woodwork to give you their opinion about motorcycle riding!

Every. Damn. Time. You. Stop. For. Gas! Someone will feel compelled to comment on you and/or your bike. This ranges from the inane “Nice day for a ride”, to “My brother’s cousin’s second step-son was killed on a motorcycle.” …uh.. I’m sorry for their loss? Honestly, most of the time, people are just being friendly, and if you’re smart and keep your helmet on while you’re refueling you can just do the “helmet-tap-head-shake-shrug”, which is the universal sign for “I can’t hear you, GTFO!”

You will of course be obliged to listen to the abundance of inane stories about how your co-worker’s 4th relative 3 times removed died in a horrible motorcycle accident after drinking and shooting heroin on the border of Mexico. Few of these do-gooders are actually concerned for your safety in any way, they simply feel that deep inner calling to share their opinion with you. After a couple of years, once these friends/family members/co-workers realize that you’re going to keep riding (despite your imminent demise), they’ll eventually lay off the horror stories.

When you show up for group rides, you’ll get to talk with other riders about your motorcycles. Sometimes this can be fun and engaging and even helpful, like another rider telling you about how they went from a 50 series tire to a 55 series tire on that model of bike, and it really improved the turn in and handling. Of course as always, everyone will have their opinion, so be prepared to be educated and informed regardless.

Some sportbike riders judge other rider’s skill by their “chicken strips”. The idea here is that the size of the unused edge on the tires indicate how scared the rider is of leaning their motorcycle to its limit. Of course this is ridiculous, as so many factors play into tire wear, like tire pressures, and tire profiles. and even techniques like body positioning off the bike. However, it’s still a thing, and the only riders that care anything about it likely have little riding experience themselves.

rear chicken strips

Be prepared for stares from women (or even more commonly what you’ll notice is women purposely not looking at you, however, they will be adjusting their blouse, or flipping their hair or otherwise “preening”), so feel free to give them a little wave or salute.  But also be prepared for glares and scoffing from men. There’s this sense of “injustice” that some men feel towards other men when one of them has something that the other doesn’t… they think it’s not fair, and instantly start to think that other guy doesn’t deserve it. But don’t sweat it, just know that… haters gonna hate

 

  1. Motorcycle Culture: There’s a whole culture and language, and set of rules in the motorcycle community, and it varies depending on what groups you associate with. However, there are some generalities that apply to the motorcycling community overall:

First is the motorcycle wave… You as a car driver, may have seen motorcyclists randomly signaling with their hands, but never actually changing lanes or turning left. Well be perplexed no more!

At the start of the season a motorcycle rider will happily wave to another motorcyclist “Oh hey, alright! Another rider out on this beautiful day!”. . .but by the end of the Fall that same motorcycle rider will reluctantly remove their hand from the bar or simply nod “Yeah I see you… get on with your bad self…<yawn>”.

  • Of course if you ride a cruiser, your unspoken rule is to never wave to a sportbike rider!
  • If you ride a full touring bike, you mustn’t totally remove your hand from the bar to acknowledge another rider, simply lift a pinky and offer a slight tip of the helmet.
  • If you ride a dualsport, then you should feel compelled to wave judiciously to everyone in the most emphatic manner possible, so that we can all see the perfect craftsmanship of your new shorty gloves!
  • If you ride a scooter, then any waves you get will be completely on accident, and the other rider is truly embarrassed they made such a grievous mistake…

There’s a whole language in the motorcycling community, and below is just a sampling of some motorcycling terms:

  • ATGATT: Acronym for All The Gear All The Time.
  • “Gear Nazi”: Those that insist on wearing all their protective gear all the time, and insist those around them do as well.
  • “Squid”: Those that refuse to wear the appropriate protective gear are called “Squids”, because they have no protection on their bodies. (Has grown to include any sort of asshatery in regards to stupid riders).
  • “Cagers”: This is how the “born free” motorcyclists refer to all the sheep driving around in their steel machines of oppression, allowing the man to keep them caged up!
  • Signal “Helmet Tap”: This is a signal from one rider to another that there are police to watch out for.
  • “KSU”: Means Kick Stands Up, which refers to the time when a group ride will leave a meeting place.
  • “WFO”: Wide Fucking Open! This refers to opening the throttle all the way, and riding super-duper fast!

There are a lot of acronyms and slang terms used in motorcycling, and if you’re interested this is a fairly comprehensive dictionary: http://www.totalmotorcycle.com/dictionary/motorcycle-dictionary-index.htm

There are a variety of reasons people get into motorcycling, but there are certain generalities that are always made based on the brand of motorcycle they choose…

  • Triumph, Norton, BSA: These are often older riders who enjoy the vintage of the British motorcycles. They’ll be the ones with the leather helmets and goggles puttering down the backroads with a full toolbox strapped to the back just in case…
  • Ducati, Aprilia, MV Agusta: These riders have the money to buy the expensive bikes, and want to be sure everyone knows it. You can find them hanging out at Starbucks in their equally expensive Dainese gear.
  • Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki: Like Japanese cars, these are the solid, well built and cheaper options for owning a motorcycle. These riders will probably end up modifying the hell out of their bikes, with new lights, and tails, and luggage, and exhausts, and power commanders…only to end up crashing and totaling their bike, raising insurance rates for all the other riders.
  • Harley: There’s an exclusive club that you can’t get in with your metric cruisers, and that is the “badass harley riders”. They’re so tough they have fringe on everything like a schoolgirl’s tricycle does, and they don’t need protective gear, which the assless chaps most surely prove!
  • Scooters: Let’s face it, either they couldn’t be bothered to learn how to use a clutch on a real motorcycle, or get a motorcycle endorsement on their license,  or they’re a hipster/hippie trying to combine looking svelte and saving the environment into a single mode of transportation!

 

Regardless of what you ride, why you ride, or how you came to be a motorcycle rider… I think we can all see aspects of truth here, in that motorcycle riding isn’t nearly as glamorous as it may look from the outside, and there are most definitely cultural divides (even if I’ve exaggerated some here in jest). However even if there were 20 things they didn’t tell you about motorcycle riding, we still find ourselves “Living The Dream” each time we throw a leg over our bikes and head out on the open road.

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