Walter takes in the View from his motorcycle
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10 Motorcycle Myths

10 Motorcycle Myths

By Walter F. Kern

Click for an updated version of 10 Motorcycle Myths.

1. Any group of riders is part of the Hell's Angels.

People on the street seeing bikes go by and not familiar with the world of motorcycling, can sometimes be heard to say, "There goes a bunch of Hell's Angels." I've heard this many times.

We offer no disrespect to the members of the Hell's Angels by reporting this. Perhaps, in some small way, we don't mind being compared with the Hell's Angels. We may have a rebellious spirit. We may like the freedom of riding and the camaraderie of other riders. But most of us either ride alone or with small clubs of like-minded individuals. We have no innate desire to separate ourselves into a lifestyle that may ultimately bring us face-to-face with a disrespect for our own society.

The group shown here is a group of Polar Bear Grand Tour riders just about to arrive at the destination point and sign-in for one of their weekly winter runs, Lewes, DE. I happen to be a member of this organization of 500+ riders.

The terms "rider," "biker," and "motorcyclist" are thrown around a lot these days. The media almost always uses the term "biker." I prefer "motorcyclist." If in doubt, use "rider" as I did in the title to this section.

2. It's better to lay a motorcycle down if you see an impending crash.

More than 30 years ago, before I even had an interest in motorcycling, I remember hearing talk among co-workers about what they would do if they were riding their bikes and saw an impending crash coming. They all agreed that the best thing to do was to deliberately lay their motorcycles down on the ground and avoid the crash. Some had even practiced doing this.

I didn't know anything about bikes except that I had always wanted to ride since I was a kid but never did. I thought that this seemed like a strange way to avoid a crash by becoming a crash yourself.

Perhaps this was in the days when tires weren't so sticky and brakes were drum only. I do know that the helmets weren't all that great and that many states didn't have helmet laws. So, it seems even more dangerous now as I think about it than it seemed then when I knew nothing about riding.

Today, the bikes stop faster, some even have ABS brakes to stop in a straight line on any surface.

The helmets are better, the apparel is better. The training is better and people aren't afraid to use their front brakes to stop faster.

So, be prepared with MSF training. Practice good braking techniques. Learn to avoid or swerve around problems and anticipate situations that may force you to react to save your life. Stay on your bike in an upright position. Don't lay your bike down and hope that it will slow you down. It may just flip you into traffic and make things much worse.

Be safe. Read 10 Ways to Be Safe on a Motorcycle.

3. Bikers wear black leather because they want to look cool.

When you observe motorcyclists in groups, you'll soon become aware that black is the most prominent color: Black leather jackets, black gloves, black boots, black pants, black chaps, even a lot of black motorcycles.

Sure, black leather looks cool. There have even been a few fashion trends recently that featured black everything -- that motorcycle look. However, no rider wears black leather to look cool. Well, maybe a few do but we call them wannabes or poseurs.

Leather is the best protective covering for a rider. It usually comes in black. When you're riding at 65 mph just inches above the ground, you want something on that will keep the pavement away from your skin should you happen to become separated from the machine and hit the ground.

These days, other materials than leather are also being used such as synthetic jackets and pants. These have built-in armor in elbows, shoulders, and back. They are lighter and cool better in hot weather. There are more color choices now but black is still the most prominent color.

Black is not a cool color to be wearing after dark. You can't see it! The newer synthetic jackets are now coming with multiple reflective patches that make you highly visible at night.

This picture is of my wife and me at one of our first rallies. I'm not wearing much leather these days but I am still wearing lots of black.

4. You will eventually get hurt or killed on a motorcycle.

If you don't come from a motorcycle family and decide that you want to learn to ride a motorcycle, usually you get lots of advice from your family. They will tell you, "Motorcycles are dangerous." They'll call them murder-cycles or donor-cycles. They'll remind you that, "Uncle Ed got killed on a motorcycle. You stay away from motorcycles. You'll get killed too."

Now a certain amount of caution is OK so long as it's constructive. They fail to mention that there are many old riders on the road who have been riding 35-60 years and are still alive.

They don't know about all the advances in safety in the last 20 years. Bikes now have disc brakes. Some even have ABS brakes. Most riders are getting trained to ride safely through the programs of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).

There are support groups for riders such as the five motorcycle forums here on this site.

If you come from a motorcycle family, you're still not home free. They will encourage you to ride but they may give you bad advice or worse yet, try to teach you to ride. Don't ever let a loved one teach you to ride. Worst of all is learning totally on your own.

Take my advice. Level the odds by learning all you can about the proper way to ride a motorcycle. Let the MSF teach you. Then get an experienced trusted friend who is also MSF trained to go out with you as you practice. Wear protective apparel and a helmet. You CAN learn to be a safe rider and manage the risks of riding.

=> Page 2: 3 more motorcycle myths

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