Motorcycle Mythology

Motorcycle mythology

More motorcycles means more mythology.
Long-held traditions, cherished beliefs and urban legends abound in the motorcycle world.
Many of these are harmless, even funny. Some, however, have the potential to cost money, time and, in some sad cases, lives.
The thing that can make some of these myths so pervasive is that they are often held by some of the most experienced bikers. Those grizzled old veterans of more miles than I have time left to ride, make statements that the rest of us take as gospel. One example is the old saw: “Loud pipes save lives.” This is simply an untrue statement, yet the weight of study, statistics and critical analysis fails to make much of an impact against the assertions of longtime riders. I’m amazed every time I see some guy tooling down the road wearing a doo rag instead of a helmet, feeling quite secure because his pipes are drowning out jet aircraft.
But myths can have a less deadly effect also. I’ve been doing a lot of research on engines. There are several time-honored modifications bikers use to increase the power of their motors. As a newbie simply doing research, I’m certainly not about to go out on a limb and tell some of these guys they’re wrong. Being gifted with 5 left thumbs on each hand, I feel reluctant to tell some longtime wrencher a procedure, long honored in his community, actually doesn’t improve performance.
But that doesn’t mean I have to buy into the myth. When I read articles by people with good credentials and supported by data in conflict with the conventional wisdom, I’m reminded that until the mid- to late ’70s, counter steering was flatly denied by most riders. Turn left to go right is simply to counterintuitive. In 1973, Dr Harry Hurt and a group of Honda enthusiasts produced enough technical data in a conference on motorcycle safety to get instructors to take a close look. New riders coming to biking were introduced to the concept, and it is now accepted by most riders. But I’m sure the old hands from the ’70s went to their graves insisting that turning left into a righthand bend will put you in the ditch.
The old vets have a lot to teach us newer riders. But a well-reasoned voice of dissent deserves an audience. In the final analysis, physics don’t care about your street cred.

— Guy Wheatley

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