Wednesday, June 22

Big Cousins

Parking Lot Drills Work for Motorcycles as Well as Bikes
For many years, I've been interested in motorcycles. Many years ago, before I got married and had kids going to college, my future wife and I rode a small trail motorcycle around Ocean Park, Washington. Let me tell you, pushing THAT a mile or more to get back home in pre-cell-phone-days was a LOT more work than walking a couple of miles home rather than fixing a flat bicycle tire in the outside heat. More recently, I've paid a lot of attention to motorcycle safety and how the mythology surrounding motorcycles is both similar to and different than that surrounding bicycles.

Jon Grinder uses both kinds of two-wheeled conveyance. If I went out in the country more, I'd probably have talked myself into a motorcycle by now, but I haven't really identified many situations locally where riding a motorcycle would be my preference over cycling. Let's face it, the term "fair weather cyclist" is getting less realistic every day, and would I really ride a motorcycle in an electrical storm? What's more, while cycling is fun and safe, motorcycling is fun, but a lot less safe. Why? Well, on a bicycle, you rarely have the opportunity to scream along at really fast speeds. What that means is if you crash on a motorcycle, there's a good chance the impact energy is an order of magnitude higher than on a bike. It's simply em vee squared. This, despite a commendable contrasting emphasis (compared to bikes) by motorcycle manufacturers on safety.

Still, I probably will at least take a formal motorcycle safety course some time. I saw one in action as I returned home recently. I could not resist the temptation to slalom through the cones on my bike. They sure put those cones for motorcycle students a LONG way apart!


Chuck Davis said...

I don't think a valid comparision can be made re motorcycles and bicycles

I commuted to a construction job in Tulsa on my BSA in the late 70s and did an OK - Maine back/forth 4 times

Exciting for sure, also a bit scary

Janice in GA said...

I've been thinking about us ditching one of the cars and getting a scooter of some sort. Faster (and easier on the legs) than a bike, but not necessarily as fast as a full-size motorcycle. Which can be good AND bad. Would need to stay on quieter local roads, but that's mainly where I go anyway.

Khal said...

I put over 100,000 miles on moderate size bikes, a Honda 450 and a Honda CX500. Never owned a superbike, but rode my friend's Honda 750, which was very fast for its day.

Comparing bikes to motorbikes involves as many differences as similarities. One is a lot more visible on a moto with a headlight, one is not constantly being overtaken, one is not riding in the door zone or shoulder, etc. Turning is similar between the two, i.e., countersteering and leaning. Center of mass very differrent.

Of course, when you hit Mr. Pavement on a motorcycle, you have a lot more energy to dissipate, as Steve alluded. Been there, done that. I was lucky. Some of my riding buddies were not.

A Motorcycle Safety Foundation course is a very good idea for new or returning riders. I won't go into a full discussion of my own Motorcycle Learning School of Hard Knocks, but suffice to say I went through some turn signals, a couple pairs of jeans, and some scar tissue during my first couple years as a 20 yr. old on a fast motorcycle.

Be careful out there.

But in contrast to the comments here, my near death experiences have been on bicycles and in cars.

Steve A said...

Certainly the differences are many and hence they are no more than cousins - not full siblings. My opinion (and we shall see how it changes should I take the plunge) is that the principles of how to stay safe are identical. I, for one, prefer not to believe that Khal rides in door zones. On the other hand, the speed and controls and difference in rider-versus-machine mass are very different. Still, riding to be visible and predictable are the same and I have taught motorcyclists how to trigger traffic signals.

Khal said...

I agree--the principles of how to stay safe are pretty close to identical if not so. Understanding the differences in the physics is a good start to applying those. I went from bicycles to motorcycles and back to bicycles, pretty seamlessly. My main problem with motorcycles was not the bike, but that I took up motorcycling when I was twenty years old and too full of shit to ride safely.

cafiend said...

I was going to buy my friend's old BMW back in 1996. She is a bicyclist and motorcyclist. She said, "Yeah, you've probably been riding a bicycle long enough not to get killed riding a motorcycle." She meant that I had developed defensive driving reflexes based on two-wheeled travel without armor plating.

As I considered the purchase I decided the motorcycle represented the worst of both worlds: You're as vulnerable and nearly as invisible as a bicyclist, but you cannot as easily step aside out of the flow of traffic on a motor bike. You're stuck smack in the middle of the rushing herd of motor buffalo.

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