More surprising facts about motorcycling
Some other facts about riding a motorcycle that will surprise car drivers:
- We tend to avoid using our brakes, especially as we enter corners. Bikes have five or more gears and usually a clutch that offers lots of subtle control and feedback. Engine braking is the effect that occurs when changing down a gear. Whereas the powerful front brake on a bike upsets its balance, subtle engine braking slows it down whilst maintaining balance. Some riders also gently touch the brake lever whenever they slow down, so as to warn following drivers.
- Filtering (moving to the front of a line of traffic) is both legal and encouraged by the police system. Of course it can be dangerous, but like most things in motorcycling, there are a whole set of techniques designed to make it safe.
- The majority of motorcyle accidents are not caused by car drivers (the so called SMIDSY or “sorry mate I didn’t see you”). They happen on corners, and are associated with poor cornering technique and too much speed. Using the visual point system aims to eliminate these dangers.
- Our roads are often covered in a film of spilt diesel. This emenates from poorly maintained or over-filled commercial vehicles. In the wet it can be a major threat to bikes. However, it also causes many car accidents. Car drivers are so isolated from the environment that they have no idea why they suddenly lose control. The majority of car fatalities are now caused by “sudden loss of control”.
- Motorcycles are neither cheap nor environmentally friendly. The average fuel consumption is around 40pmg. Sports bikes are as low as 25mpg. Tyres rarely last longer than 10,000 miles, and cost around £100 each. A full service for my BMW costs over £400. It is serviced every 5000 miles. My riding equipment, with armour, cost around £1000.
- Harley Davidson’s are not cool.
- Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance is nonsense. However Jupiter’s Travels is really great literature.
- Valentino Rossi is a god. Schumacher is a pointless bore.
- The first vehicle to cross the entire American continent on land (except for rivers) was a BMW R100 GS.
- The last vehicle to cross Siberia before global warming makes it impossible will probably be a BMW R1200GS Adventure.
Oh, and of course Ewan McGregor is genuinely hard.
And Charley Boorman? Well he had to put up with a lot.