Biking Rants

7 Points In Defense Of The Biker

Motorbikes on the Dragon
Image by TeecNosPos via Flickr

Saul K, from the Outlet, has an issue with bikers. Time to bring out the sparring gloves.

Actually, no. We all have to share the roads, and a large portion of bikers wish to do it in the safest manner possible. If you think our roads are currently bad for cars, bear in mind they are ten times worse for bikers. Lanes are narrower, road surfaces are carved into horribly uneven grooves-of-death, or stairs between lanes making lane changing on a bike impossible, and construction debris and dust covers the roads, making stone-catching sore, and making braking unsafe.

So to paraphrase from Saul’s entry, I’d say this is a brief summary of the contention points:

– Bikers are a hypocritical nuisance.

– Lane splitting is evil.

– Bikers never stick to the left hand side of the road like bicycle drivers do.

– Bikers tend to sit in car driver’s blind spots.

– Bikers change lanes too often.

– Bike owners feel the need to speed consistently.

– “when you learn how to drive we’ll stop running you over”.

I feel compelled to react to each of those points individually, and get some biker opinion out there.

1. Bikers are a hypocritical nuisance:

Of course we are, we’re arrogant too, we’ve every right to stamp our authority on the roads and what’s more, we’re cool. 😛

2. Lane splitting is evil:

The Happy Couple
Image by Shaun Dewberry via Flickr

Lane splitting is perfectly legal in South Africa, and let’s face it, you’d be a moron if you sat in the traffic, choking down exhaust fumes, when there’s a perfectly good gap between cars that one can use.

3. Bikers never stick to the left hand side of the road like bicycle drivers do:

Sticking to the left hand side would be silly unless you want to collect the tail-end of a truck, hurdle a random pedestrian or smooch a vehicle exiting from a blind entrance. (Or refurbish the face of one of those, ahem, bicycle drivers[sic]) We’re using engines, not legs, here. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re suggesting the building of dedicated biker lanes, well, hell yeah, absolutely!

4. Bikers tend to sit in car driver’s blind spots:

Unfortunately, yes, this is a symptom of poor mirror design and lane-splitting.  However, all drivers that did their driver’s license test were taught to check their blindspots frequently – do you think they do it? Well, yes, many do and I have absolute respect and always try to thank the driver who sees me and cancels his/her indicator to let me through, or shifts slightly to one side, but so often the driver feels there’s no time to check the mirror before they make a desperate lunge to sit behind traffic from a different point of view in the next lane.

5. Bikers change lanes too often:

See below discussion on speed. If you’re going faster than the traffic around you you’re going to need to change lanes.

6. Bike owners feel the need to speed consistently:

On the speed issue, yes, some bikers do ride at excessive speeds fairly often – most often Sunday mornings on empty roads long before cage-drivers wake up. But to be fair, biker’s speeding is often a symptom of vehicle driver’s speeding. If you ride to live it’s highly recommended you ride at least 20km/h faster than the traffic around you. Any slower and cars will start overtaking you – and not surprisingly being overtaken by a low-flying Ford is one of the scariest experiences on a bike. Yes, surprise! We can’t hear your eco-friendly green hybrid save-the-planet-but-pollute-it-with-lead batterymobile buzzing up behind us – we’ve got, yes, fresh air blasting past our ears (and maybe a nice loud pipe under the seat, too!). And what’s more, we can outbrake you by a country mile. At traffic lights we often live in fear of being rear ended by a ton of metal that just cannot brake fast enough. 160-170km/h is not excessive if the cars are traveling at 130-140km/h, it’s realistic.

7. “when you learn how to drive we’ll stop running you over”.

I doubt it. There will always be bad bikers and there will always, always be terrible drivers. I choose not to see car drivers as the enemy, as I too am a car driver, but I am exceptionally cautious around cars when biking. And by the same measure I’m exceptionally cautious around bikes when driving. We’ve only got so much tarmac to share and there are a lot of idiots out there. I’d like to get to where I’m going (even if it is a bar) in once piece, as I’m sure you would too.

C’mon, Saul, buy a bike!

Bikers, evil? What do you think?

Biking Sports

Time for Something New [Crazy Biker Dept.]

2008 Fireblade alongside 2006 Fireblade

Yep, in that little picture above the bike on the left is my new baby. Beautiful, sexy and powerful she is…
A 2008 Honda Fireblade will put a smile on any biker’s face – so long as they can sit on it. For those who don’t get to ride it, it’s an exercise in jealousy.

The real amazing thing is that everything they say in the magazine reviews of this bike is true. It is more agile, it is lighter, and it probably is faster. And the upside (and downside) is that you feel cheekier, slightly more arrogant, and confident on the bike. I love it.


Buying the Bike

With all my previous hints and tips in place, I will now go through my (at times painful) process of buying my first motorbike.

Variety is certainly king when it comes to bike choice. There’s a lot out there, and it all depends on what you want to do. The first choice is between off-road, on-road, and on-off-road. I figured the on-road was for me, and more specifically something that either is or looks like a superbike. With bike choice you once again have to go with your fancy and instinct. Find the bike that takes your breath away. You’re going to form a bond with this machine, and you don’t want that based on regret.

A number of people suggested a small off-roader to learn how to mess around and fall. Others recommended a small, light on-road bike to develop those skills. Still others suggested top of the range 1000cc beasts.

Now I know you’re saying in your head that going for a 1000 is insane and the bike is uncontrollable etc. The argument put forward here was that you would use the smaller bike for a year or less and then want something bigger and more powerful as soon as possible. i.e. There are financial benefits to getting a bigger bike sooner.

Always bear in mind that bikes (especially new ones) lose value faster than Eskom shares in winter.

I very quickly set my sights on a Honda CBR600RR. It is a beautiful bike, and is the best quality you can find. All the bikes in this class, Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki are incredible pieces of engineering that should never fail you.

Somewhere along the line though I’d developed a preference for Honda. In fact, My first pillion ride, first actual ride and learning were all done on a Honda. (Yes I learned to ride a bike on a Fireblade!) This probably biased me towards them. That, and Brad’s endless preaching about the virtues of Honda.

A curveball hit when I rode a GSX-R750 for the first time. Man, what a comfortable bike! And extremely good looking too.

I roughly ironed out the choices between a CBR600, a GSXR-750 and a wildcard which I called a “good deal”. I honestly had no clue what to get and many hours were spent, whole Friday and Saturday nights, pondering the choice over a good whisky.

With the help of the Tomster (my mentor throughout the process), I started calling around and finding out price, availabilty and more. Intereseting lesson: Bike retail is nothing like the car retail business. Prices vary significantly across dealerships, areas, mileage, demo models, and even time of day. I saw 13000km GSX-R750’s going for close to R100k, I saw CBR600s for just under R75k(demo 800km) and going up to R87k(brand new). That’s twelve grand difference for 800 kilometres worth of riding!!! I saw pretty bikes, sexy bikes, fast bikes, well-used bikes all with very different parameters and pricing.
Autotrader and other websites such as were also invaluable in the hunt.

So my criteria boiled down to this:
– Low mileage (preferably less than 3000km, hopefully less than 6000km).
– A year old at most.
– Sexy as all hell.
– Excellent condition.
– No mods. I believe that a sign of a bike that’s been driven hard is a custom pipe, or indicators that have been removed or any other non-standard deviation.
– Fair price. I was willing to take it to R100k if necessary, and if the bank smiled at me!
– Must have the “instinctive yes” feeling attached.

And yes, despite all the above I did manage to find the perfect bike for me – turns out, lead me to a private sale of a black, 2007 Honda CBR1000 in absolutely spotless condition. So at last, (a month and nineteen days after that first bike ride) I took this pic of my gorgeous Fireblade:

Honda CBR1000R

So I’ve chosen the bike I want, made an offer that was accepted. Next time I’ll tell you about the hell that is financing a private deal…

Technorati Tags: Honda, CBR1000, bike, motorcycle, superbike, choice, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Yamaha