Ten Motorcycling Myths that Refuse to Die

There is no shortage of myths when it comes to motorcycling—they can range from harmless misinformation to ones that are life-threatening. These myths cover everything: the type of bike you ride, riding gear, motorcycle equipment and accessories, motorcycle technology, riding techniques, and even where you are planning to ride to.

Image credit: www.obekti.bg


1. Car engine oils are okay for motorcycles

It was okay way back when motorcycles and cars were first invented, because oil was just oil.

But lubricants have evolved into specialised applications these days. Modern lubricants for car engines include “friction modifiers”, and it is not shared with the transmission and clutch, unlike in motorcycle engines.


2. Use your body weight to steer the bike

Without having to go deeper into the mechanics of steering a bike, every rider should learn and apply countersteering. As the term applies, you need to push on the right side of the handlebar to turn right, and push on the left handlebar to go left, instead of turning the handlebar into the direction of the turn. How quickly the bike initiates the turn depends on how abruptly and the amount of force applied.

Countersteering – image credit: motorcycletraining.com

So why does the bike turn when you lean with your body? When you lean your body into the turn, your arm is actually pushing on the handlebar, countersteering the bike into the turn.

Learning and practicing countersteering is useful to turn your bike accurately and quickly.


3. Getting a knee down means a fast rider

Baloney. The objectives of the kneedown are using the knee to gauge the lean angle, and keeping the bike from leaning too much, among others. Yes, yes, going faster around a corner means leaning over more, but that doesn’t mean getting a knee down is the ultimate gauge of corner speeds. For example, a rider could hang off radically on his bike to achieve that feat while the guy behind him hangs off less, but makes the corner at the same speed. Besides that, being dead set on getting the knees down on the streets could well mean you are riding too fast. Kneedown looks pretty cool, though, we admit.

Kneedown – image credit: motowind.net


4. Use the front brake only

We understand where this advice comes from. Racers do not usually employ the rear brake because the rear lifts off the road sometimes during eyeball-popping hard braking. But do we brake like that on the road? Using the rear brake keeps the rear of the bike stable, regardless if it helps to shorten the stopping distance or otherwise. Applying the rear gently in a corner also helps the bike maintain your chosen line.

Hard braking in MotoGP – Image credit: motogp.com


5. Race tyres let you go faster

No. Not on the streets. Racing compound tyres operate well only in a certain range of temperature. But that is not all. It also means you have to maintain the tyres at those temperatures. Sure, Malaysia has mean temperatures of 30° to 36° Celcius, but just as an indication, tyre warmers used in racing heat the tyres to at least 90°C. That is before they leave the starting grid, and the riders need to heat them up further and maintain a certain pace to introduce stresses into the tyres to keep them working at optimum temperatures.

Choosing tyres – Image credit: www.tyrepress.com

On the streets, we have to deal with low average speeds. You may be able to hit a high speed at a certain stretch of road but you have to slow down again. Race tyres are made to dissipate heat quickly so they don’t “cook” (overheat) and you’re back to square one without useful grip. We have not mentioned a rainy day, yet.

Just stick to good road-oriented supersport tyres or sport-touring tyres. The latter have improved so much that they provide more grip in all conditions compared to DOT-approved race tyres of just a few years ago. They are also cheaper and last longer.


6. Traction control means you won’t crash

So why does Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo still crash spectacularly? Their bikes are equipped with the most sophisticated traction management, after all. Electronic rider aid is there as a guard against sloppy riding or mistakes, but a motorcycle remains a motorcycle and the principles of controlling one still apply. For example, the traction control programme reduces power when the rear tyre slides, but the rider must know the next course of action to maintain control. Then there are times when the wrong ride mode is selected for the wrong riding condition i.e. SLICK mode in the rain. That is why advanced rider training is important.

Rider aid settings on R1 – Image credit: Yamaha


7. ABS means you won’t crash

Motorcycle ABS systems have evolved exponentially since they were first fitted to motorcycles.

ABS is great when you have to brake hard on slippery surfaces. It’s also useful when you need to hit the brakes and avoid the car which pulled out in front of you. As the wheel or wheels are still allowed to rotate, you could control the bike, as opposed to the wheels locking up and throw you onto the road.

Motorcycle brakes with ABS

However, due to lack of training or experience, there are riders who panic when the levers pulse and instead of maintaining brake pressure, they let them go. You know what happens next. There are also some who fixate on that car and slam straight into it, although they could have steered out of the way.

Our advice is find an empty piece of road and practice braking to get a feel of how the bike behaves when ABS triggers.


8. Track riders are crazy on the road

Yes, we admit there are a small number who carry those track speeds onto the roads, but they are a minority. Track-riding provides a controlled and safe environment for riders to push the limits of their bikes and skills, and to blow off some steam, too. But having controlled their bikes at elevated speeds on the track means they would have better control when riding at a slower pace on the streets afterwards.

Track day – Image credit: www.mondellopark.ie


9. Off-road riding is boring

Whoever said this has probably never done it and has the impression that off-road riding is slow (hence boring), besides being dangerous, and of course dirty.

Off-roading – Image credit: amaclubs.co.au

Riding off-road is far more entertaining and rewarding in many ways. You do not need heaps of speed, so falling off usually means you don’t destroy yourself and the bike. There are much more interesting things to see in the countryside – highways have bypassed everything. Getting all dirty should make you proud that you have ridden through tough conditions and survived.

Off-road riding also pays a great dividend towards road-riding, as you have better control of your bike when conditions get tricky.


10. Increasing the suspension’s preload hardens it

The suspension’s preload adjustment adjusts “sag.” Adding preload makes that end of the bike ride higher, and lower when preload is reduced, conversely. That is all it does, nothing more, nothing less.

Rear preload adjuster – Image credit: kawasaki.com

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