If you’ve been motorcycling long enough, you’ve heard a lot of so-called truths about motorcycling and motorcyclists.
Here are 12 “facts” that, well, aren’t.
1. “It was only ridden on the weekends.” Sellers love to use this line. The truth is, well, many bikes are ridden only on weekends, and many of those are ridden at the racetrack. And few street bikes are ridden as hard as any race machine. Judge a used bike by condition, the apparent trustworthiness of the owner, the year and mileage. The time of week that mileage was accrued is irrelevant.
2. More airflow means more power. You've likely been told that you should drill holes in your air box, or even remove it completely, for a quick and easy horsepower gain. Unfortunately, your motorcycle is a far more sensitive machine than that. In a perfect world, your air/fuel ratio would always be 14.7:1. Anything more than that is too lean. Anything less than that is too rich. Hacking chunks out of your air box won't necessarily get you any closer to that 14.7:1. It might even rob power.
3. “Wilderness is wilderness.” We're talking about federally designated Wilderness with a capital “W.” That is protected land that “generally appears to have been affected primarily by the force of nature, with the imprint of man’s work substantially unnoticed.'” But in most cases today, new designations of Wilderness don’t fit this description. However, this designation is still being used to unfairly lock the responsible riding public out of public land.
4. Never jump-start a motorcycle. This is partly true. If you jump start a bike off another battery, or off a car or motorcycle that isn't running, you should be OK. However, in rare instances a running car motor can cause trouble.
5. A battery on a concrete floor will go dead more quickly. Not necessarily true. All batteries are going dead all the time. If the battery is not in a vehicle (and instead sitting on the floor of your garage), that usually means it's been a while since it was charged. Sure, the battery not being constantly charged will go dead faster, but that doesn't have anything to do with the material of the surface it's sitting on.
6. Batteries are less powerful in the cold. Nope. A colder motor will require more power to start than a warm one, making the battery appear weaker. In fact, a hot battery, overheating its electrolyte and exhausting gas through the battery breather, will lose power more quickly than a cold one.
7. At the racetrack, qualifying tires are identifiable by their shiny black surface. Nope. Some tire molds leave a shiny surface, some don't. So the sheen on the tire doesn't tell you anything.
8. Don't brake leaned over. Modern motorcycles, and particularly sport bikes, are usually designed to work fine with mild braking through a corner. The technique is called “trail-braking.” The key is to reduce braking force the more you're leaned over. This is one you don't want to try at home, however. It's an advanced technique that's best learned in rider schools.
9. You can win the race in the first corner. You can't win a race until the checkered flag, but you certainly can lose the race in the first corner if you crash.
10. You can get three track days out of a tire. This was first pronounced as gospel, and then spectacularly disproved, by an AMA staffer who will remain nameless. Suffice it to say that you should let usage and wear guide you when it comes to replacing a tire, on the street or track. And do yourself a favor: Err on the side of caution.
11. Steve McQueen jumped a BMW in “The Great Escape.” Nope, on two counts. First, it wasn't Steve McQueen who did that iconic jump over barbed wire at the Swiss border, but AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer and stuntman Bud Ekins. Second, it was a Triumph, painted to look like the other German BMWs used in the movie.
12. Marlon Brando rode a Harley-Davidson in “The Wild One.” Not true. Marlon rode a Triumph. It was Lee Marvin's “Chino” character whose gang rode Harleys.