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Mark C. Carroll

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Motorcycle Myths
By Mark C. Carroll   
Not "rated" by the Author.
Last edited: Monday, June 09, 2008
Posted: Friday, December 23, 2005

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Dispell Motorcycle Lies.

Myth One: Anyone can ride a motorcycle if they just (insert line here)


          For example, “anyone can ride a motorcycle if they just get the right training, if the just find the right bike, or practice long enough”. The fact is not everyone is cut out for the sport of motorcycling. That’s right sport. It requires a greater amount of physical skill, mental alertness and emotional discipline to participate regularly in motorcycling. Just like not every one is cut out for playing professional football not everyone can ride a motorcycle. In fact to put this one in perspective, would it be truthful to say “anyone can drive a car” or “Anyone can do anything”. Of course that would not be truthful.

          Here are some examples of people who should be very careful about riding motorcycles or possibly consider not riding them. If you have physical impediments to include wrist or ankle problems, or you simply can not move your hands in opposite directions and with different intensities should reconsider motorcycling, whether it is for a hobby or commute. You must be in command of your body and it’s movements to ride a motorcycle without getting hurt or dying.


MYTH Two: Riding in big groups is easier and safer


          This myth comes from the philosophy that a large group of motorcyclists is more visible to other traffic. Yes that is true , but easier, safer? You decide. If you take 50-100 motorcyclists and pack them into the space 25-60 cars would drive in at speeds varying from the speed limit to something a bit faster, are you safer? Let’s get to the easier, I am driving alone on a highway with some cars around, I am more maneuverable and I can accelerate rapidly. Now I am riding the highway with 5-10 others riders some I may familiar with others I just met they all have varying skill and experience levels, is this situation supposed to be easier?


Myth Three: Riding a motorcycle can be SAFE.


          Look there are a lot of reasons to ride, to save money, get better parking, enjoy the challenge, have fun, and to look oh so cool, but to be safe is not. If it were safe there would be no challenge and no fun. The fact is that it is a very dangerous sport. It may be one of the most popular high-risk activities in America and perhaps the world. Look even if we have a very well maintained motorcycle, wear extensive quality equipment, and ride our with perfect skill we could be involved in an accident; how often are we doing all that.  The problem here is that many people equate the word “safe” to mean the same thing as risk management. They figure well am I wearing a helmet and received training; I am doing every thing I can, so I am safe. Risk management means exactly that managing and controlling risk. Safe means “absence of risk”. If we replace the word safe with its definition we find motorcycle safety then becomes motorcycle absence of risk. If we could ride without risk no one would ever get hurt on a motorcycle.


Myth Four: You bother buying a small bike to start on you will just “outgrow” it.


          When learning to ride a motorcycle it is best to master a small bike first then trade up when you are ready. You hear this one a whole lot at dealerships they want you to buy a larger more expensive bike. The problem is a new rider with a 1000cc sport bike will typically learn to ride slower than a rider who purchased a 250cc drove it for a year or two and then purchased the same bike. In fact, small bikes can be more fun and more forgiving of mistakes, crashes on small bikes are likely not as severe or common as their larger counterparts.


Myth Five: It doesn’t matter what type of gear you buy


          Yes and no. In helmets there are two factors to consider, is it a quality helmet and does it fit properly. Quality would be minimally a DOT approved helmet, other organizations such as SNELL, test helmets and are indicative of a quality helmet. Fit we it turns out you have to try a bunch of helmets on to get a good fit. The same size helmet in different manufacturers or models can vary greatly it depends on the shape and size of your head. Buy a helmet for your head. Other worthwhile gear includes sturdy footwear, gloves and a jacket designed to protect you. On the more expensive side you could buy jackets and suits with armor in them. What is your body particularly your skin worth to you?


Myth Six: Dealers wouldn’t sell you a bike if you couldn’t ride it


          Understanding that some states carry restrictions that a dealer cannot sell you a bike with a permit or license. Many people buy motorcycles with little or no skill. In California all you have to do is take a written test and you can get a permit, and them purchase a motorcycle. Dealers are motivated buy money they want to sell something to every person who stops in. When is the last time you heard a motorcycle dealer turn someone away for any reason other than financial?


Myth Seven: There is large support system of organizations that care about riders.


          I hate to play cynic, but most motorcycle organizations care primarily about the money. Some make money from memberships so they want the most riders in their group as they can regardless of skill. Some make money from motorcycle registrations or financial support directly from the dealers. Conflict of interest?  I am sure there are some quality-riding clubs that truly have good intentions, follow the money and you will typically find the push to make money exceeds common sense and judgment.


Myth Eight: Getting a license means you are a skilled rider


          Everyone who plans to ride long term should get a license at some point. My point is that the important thing is skill, not the license. In California it is easier to get a motorcycle license than a car license. It used to be that regardless of where you learned to ride you had to pass the DMV skills test. Now you have another option if you do not have the minimum skill necessary to pass the DMV test you can simply pay your way out by attending the CHP sponsored motorcycle course. In this course, instructors will make every effort to ensure that you pass the on-bike test so you can get a license without that darn DMV. Formerly I trained riders and licensed them; many riders would fail at the DMV and then pass the course. When I took the course before a rider could get a license for completion I went to the DMV and failed several times, proof that the level of skill was not equal. The DMV only wants to evaluate a Minimum level of skill needed for freeways, night driving, and driving with passengers. It will likely take more skill than that to enjoy riding over a long period of time. The most difficult thing about getting your license through the DMV is they are impartial. They don’t care one bit whether you pass. This has been an effective way to evaluate whether you have the skill to be on the highways at night and with passengers.


Myth Nine: Training will always make you safer     


Training should always make you more skillful. The problem is skilled riders take more risk; they go faster and look for more challenging riding style. Most novice riders are scared to do many things trained riders do, so they don’t try. Trained riders know they can take more risk because they have practice. Being more skillful does not equate to more cautious or safer.


Overall: If you are not willing to accept that motorcycling is dangerous and you could get hurt or die no matter what training or how careful you are, don’t ride. Make an informed decision before you decide to ride.

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