Motorcycle.com

We were all new motorcyclists at one time. So, we should be gentle when making fun of them. Still, when the same questions keep making the rounds for generations, we have to poke a little fun. Newbie motorcyclists have a unique combination of ignorance and earnestness that is frequently compounded by the lack of funds often associated with the aftermath of buying a first bike. While it is often hard to resist being glib and spinning some yarn that plays into that youthful cluelessness, keep in mind that a misleading response could lead to dire consequences. Therefore, give the correct response – followed by some gentle ribbing. After all, they deserve it for asking such a dumb question.

The carburetor vent hose has been confounding newbies since the earliest days of carburetor vents. However, just because most currently manufactured motorcycles don’t have carburetors doesn’t mean this question has gone the way of the dodo. No, it’s grown to accommodate battery and gas tank vent tubes or airbox drains. If you’re a neophyte who fell for this, take heart. At least, you were looking closely at your motorcycle.

This question is also in the realm of well-intentioned-but-foolish questions. The correct answer is that the line is the seam from the tire mold and not a cut in the tire. Your tire is fine. Again, kudos for looking closely at your motorcycle. That’s how you learn.

This newbie-ism makes more sense when rewritten as: “I just spent all my money on this used bike, and now it needs a new chain. Do I really have to cough up the money for a sprocket, too?” As frequently happens when you are older and have more experience, you’ll need to deliver some bad news. Or, you could just be an a-hole and say: “No, you only have to replace your sprocket with every other chain.”

Often the questioner already knows the answer to this question but tries to cover it by saying that he wouldn’t ride in the rain, so the grooves aren’t that important. After all, don’t race tires forego the siping? Your answer should reference tire profile and its effects on handling in addition to explaining that most tire failures occur on the last 10th of tread.

Yes, mock, ridicule, deride, sneer, scorn, scoff, tease, taunt, goad, heckle, and generally humiliate anyone who asks this question. The person asking this question either has mush-for-brains or is (more likely) thinking with his testicles (which, despite their relative smallness and tremendous sensitivity, are responsible for the vast majority of foolish young male decisions). Since this question comes up most frequently in the context of sportbikes, take your friend to a local club race or – better yet a national – to see what those little 600s are capable of doing. If that’s not a possibility, perhaps some online videos will do the trick. Then remind your pal that the 1000s can wait, and by the time that he’s ready to ride one, they’ll be even faster than they are now.

Here’s a little bit of truth for you: One afternoon, as I waited for the parts guy to pull the parts I’d requested for my EX500 race bike, I wandered amongst the bikes for sale at my local Kawasaki dealership. The salesman was talking with a sixteen-ish kid and looking at the new and used 1000cc sportbikes in the showroom when the kid asked which of the bikes was fastest in the quarter mile. Without missing a beat, the salesman looked at the kid and said, “Neither with you on it. You’d loop it off the line.” The kid just stood there in stunned silence, blinking, as if searching for oxygen. After a moment, the salesman steered the newly humbled customer towards a 600.

This is the product of “facts” touted by riders who are looking to defend their desire to ride helmetless. I’ll stay out of the helmet law debate (for now), but I’m happy to go on the record as saying that only a fool would ride without a helmet. Unfortunately, those fools are looking for alternative facts to justify their desire to ride without a helmet. They are doing motorcycling a disservice by taking this short-sighted stance. Inform your friend that helmets are an important part of a rider’s safety tools. Point him/her to this MSF article (What You Should Know About Motorcycle Helmets).

Also, be a good example by wearing a well cared for, legal helmet every time you ride.

Enlighten your ignorant friend with the old adage: “The louder the pipe, the smaller the penis.”

Just let that statement hang there in the air for a while. Maybe they’ll understand. Maybe they won’t. Then tell him – and in this case, it’s usually a guy – that volume doesn’t directly equate with horsepower.

Thankfully, this question has almost been exorcised from the motorcycle lexicon. The MSF’s tireless work on this subject should be acknowledged. However, no vaccination is 100% perfect, and this falsehood still occasionally rears its ugly head. Handle this question gently – no teasing here. Explain the mechanics of brakes. Spend some time on the forward shift of the motorcycle’s weight and how that affects traction. Carry the discussion over to ABS, if it’s applicable. You’re having a potentially life-or-death conversation. Treat it with that level of respect.

Start by telling the neophyte that, once they’ve laid it down, they’ve successfully crashed and ceded any control they might have to keep a bad situation from getting worse. Remind your friend that once sliding on their butt, the laws of physics will take over and repeat that any control they once had is lost. And let them know that a motorcycle bleeds off speed and energy much more rapidly with brakes than by the friction of metal and leather or jeans against pavement. Then, guide the discussion to braking techniques, how and when to swerve, and then recommend a motorcycle safety class where other accident avoidance techniques are taught.