Aug 01 2008

Reality Bites

Category: GeneralDave @ 20:40

The title of this article wasn’t my idea. I wrote a letter, late one evening in a fit of pique, to the BMF (British Motorcycling Federation) magazine, “Rider”. Much to my amazement, they published it virtually unchanged. It was a long letter & took up about 2/3 of a page. I didn’t think they’d publish it as it is just a bit contentious… many motorcyclists think they have a god-given right to do exactly as they please on the roads and to hell with everybody else. Anyway, the title was their’s and I use it here because it fits. Slightly modified, this is it:


I’ve recently seen a lot of letters in the motorcycling press about how “green” motorcycling is. However, a lot of the credibility of such arguments disappears when you don’t get your facts straight. The major ones I’d take issue with are fuel consumption and noise.

Let’s start with the easier one: fuel consumption. Small scooters and low capacity bikes do indeed manage excellent consumption figures. 100 mpg is not unusual. However, once you get to bigger engines, the picture changes dramatically. My old NTV 600 managed 45 mpg easily, 50 – 55 on a run. But my current ride – a VFR 800 – does 44 on a good day and 30 – 35 around town.

For comparison, my brother-in-law has a small diesel-powered people mover which can carry 5 people and a fair bit of luggage and regularly returns 50 to the gallon; My sister has a petrol-powered Punto; she’s never reset the MPG on the computer so it’s showing the average consumption over the four years she’s had the car: 50 mpg!

My point is that bigger bikes are no better – and in many cases worse – than a small/medium car.

Now for noise. OK, so loud pipe save lives, the mantra goes. However, that doesn’t give anyone the right to drive through urban streets disturbing thousands (yes, thousands) of people of an evening. Just think about it: riding from, say the centre of London to Croydon and using the bike the way some (many?) people do, the noise of your bike will be heard by several thousand people, including those living behind double-glazed windows, and will annoy a fair proportion of them (and no, I don’t know the figure).

The problem is that it’s not just your bike: it’s a lot of them, going past over a period of a couple of hours. It can be bloody annoying – I know it annoys me sometimes and I ride a bike which can be fairly noisy. As a rule, I will deliberately keep the noise down in urban areas, certainly in the evenings. My view is this: if you want to ride, you have to accept the dangers; you can’t minimise them at any cost to the rest of the community. It’s your choice: if you can’t stand the risk, don’t ride.

While I’m switching hobby-horses, here’s another one: Visibility.

Who the hell thought camouflage-patterned protective clothing for bikes etc was a good idea? So you’re riding along on your bike (which has a patchwork of colours all over it ‘cos it’s a race replica) and you’re wearing a bike suit which has a camouflage pattern in shades of grey all over it. Some idiot doesn’t see you & knocks you off & comes out with the immortal line “Sorry mate, didn’t see you”.

WTF did you expect? HULLO! YOU’RE WEARING CAMOUFLAGE!”.

Guess what camouflage patterns are meant to do: HIDE YOU!!

The twat who thought this one up should be charged with the murder of all those bikers killed as a direct result. Yes, the buyer has responsibility as well – they bought it – but I can’t imagine the manufacturer didn’t realise what they were doing.

But it doesn’t stop there: Black trousers and a black jacket actually aren’t too bad during the day because it’s a nice big block of solid colour (or absence of colour 🙂 that’s more visible than something broken up into random patches. At night it’s a bloody stealth suit and wearing it ‘cos it matches your black bike… again your choice: look cool or make sure other road users can see you. They mostly don’t go together. It’s not impossible, just not to everyone’s taste.

Just to make it clear: ergonomically a bike which is as far as possible one solid colour will be more noticeable to other road users than one which has, effectively, random patches of colour all over it.

I use my bikes for work: visiting clients. I rarely get the chance to do anything else with them. Nevertheless, I’ll admit it: I love speed, I love being on the bike and enjoy the more “interesting” moments when I can. But there has to be a balance. The days when you can go out & do almost what you want on a sports bike are pretty much over and will soon be gone completely.

Today’s sports bikes are dinosaurs which I suspect will be extinct within 50 or 60 years. Biofuel? Forget it – the case for biofuel is looking shakier every week. Whilst a hydrogen-powered car is a possibility, a hydrogen-powered bike isn’t! Battery technology is improving all the time & there may come a time when a rechargeable electric sports bike becomes a reality.

And then again, there may not.

Enjoy biking whilst you can but respecting the rest of society, not abusing it.

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