Common Tread

Five lies we tell about motorcycling

Mar 02, 2015

Here's one truth I think the entire ZLA Army can agree on: motorcycles are fun.

Sometimes, though, in the pursuit of our passion, we say things we know (or should know) aren’t true, whether to further a personal motorcycling agenda or protect our egos from unpleasant truths. The list could go on and on, and feel free to add your own examples in the comments section, but here is my list of the top five lies we tell about motorcycling.

“But Honey, think of all the money I’ll save!”

This one worked better when a gallon of petrol cost north of $4, but it’s an old standby for anyone who needs to justify a motorcycle purchase to a significant other. Superficially, it sounds plausible. But usually, it’s a lie.

Bangkok and U.S. riders
One of these people is saving money by riding a motorcycle. One is not. Left: Photo by Jon Ng. Right: Honda photo.

Can you save money by buying a motorcycle? Of course you can, if you ride like a typical motorcyclist in India, Indonesia, or other places where motorcycles are popular as budget transportation. Get a small bike that returns 70 mpg, costs little to insure and rolls on tires that cost $100 for a pair, use it to replace your car, and count the savings. That’s not typically the American way, however.

Instead, we buy a sportbike that burns through a set of expensive tires every 5,000 miles and costs more to insure than that Indonesian rider’s annual income. Or we spend $15,000 on a he-manly adventure-tourer or 850-pound cruiser that will impress the guys at the local Bike Night, especially after we spend an extra grand on aluminum panniers (adventure-tourer) or chrome and paint (cruiser). And of course we keep the car, so we’ve just added expenses, not reduced them.

But hey, if you don’t think about it too deeply, the old “I’ll save money on gas” line sounds pretty good.

“I outgrew the 600, so I had to step up to the thou.”

Is your name Hayden Gillim? Because he won the AMA Pro SuperSport title last year on his GSX-R600, which makes a pretty good case that he’s capable getting everything possible out of a 600 cc sport bike. If you’re not as fast as Gillim (and you’re not — just watch the video), then it’s not the bike that’s holding you back.

“I got the loud pipes to be safe.”

Actually, Sean already covered this one.

"$1,500 in extras."

Lots of would-be sellers have learned the hard way that spending $1,500 on farkles to make the bike perfect in their eyes does not translate into a selling price that's $1,500 higher. Or even $500 higher. While occasionally you may get lucky and find a buyer who wants to outfit the bike exactly as you have, the harsh truth for farkle hounds is that nine times out of 10 your best bet is to sell the bike in near-stock condition. The good news is you can recoup some of your money by selling the parts separately — usually for about half what you paid for them new.

“I had to lay it down to avoid a crash.”

If you laid it down, you did crash.

Let me be clear. If you’re riding on pavement, you are never — never — better off sliding down the road on your ass, your motorcycle ahead of you shedding expensive parts, gouging the pavement with the footpeg, throwing up sparks and spinning out of control, instead of being upright on your tires, braking hard, with at least a hope of steering your way out of trouble.

“I had to lay it down” is the excuse we make up afterwards, because it sounds better than the truth: “I locked up the brakes and crashed.”

Here’s how to prove my point. The next time someone says, “I had to lay it down,” say this: “I wish I knew how to do that. How exactly do you lay down a motorcycle?” I’ll bet the crasher won’t be able to explain how to do it, even though he supposedly executed that maneuver intentionally and expertly in a split second in an emergency situation.

Unless he or she is a professional stunt rider and “had to lay it down” because the movie director ordered it. Then the rider will be able to explain how to do it. Then I’ll believe.

Not that you’d ever tell one, of course… but what’s your favorite lie about motorcycling?