Debunking widely spread disinformation

Riding can be fun and safe, provided the rider is properly educated on the do's and don'ts. Sometimes, though, it's hard to separate the facts from fiction.

We've delved with motorcycle myths in the past that talked about common misconceptions about operating motorcycles. We're back again with even more myths that should be debunked. Read on to find out why there's no truth to these commonly-held beliefs.

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1. Malapit lang, di kelangan ng helmet

Many riders think there's no need to wear a helmet if they're just going somewhere nearby. They argue that it's just a kilometer or two and no possible accident could happen within that short distance. Unfortunately, it's this kind of foolish thinking that causes a lot of injuries, and in some cases, fatalities. Even riding slowly when without a helmet does not guarantee that one will be safe from an accident. You'll never know what could come around the next corner.

Wearing a helmet is a law, and according to Republic Act 10054: “all motorcycle riders, including drivers and back riders, shall at all times wear standard protective motorcycle helmets while driving, whether long or short drives, in any type of road and highway.”

Granted, there are some Local Government Units (LGUs) that insist that no helmet should be worn in a particular area due to security concerns. Everywhere else, we highly recommend wearing a helmet. Also wear proper closed-toe footwear, not slippers.

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2. Less protective gear = faster

This is practiced by a lot of the illegal drag racers. No doubt we've seen a few of these hooligans strip down to their underwear in order to rid themselves of any excess weight and go as fast as possible.

This is a very reckless thing to do as protective gear can truly prevent injuries and save lives. Human skin was never designed to withstand the force of asphalt or concrete scraping against it in an accident.

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Wearing little to no protective gear only increases your chances of breaking bones or losing limbs when thrown off your bike. Is it really worth it just to be able to accelerate to 100 km/h just 0.01 seconds faster? Your cellphone's stopwatch likely won't be able to tell the difference.

Removing clothes only reduces your weight by a mere couple of hundred grams, which will not even improve the bike's performance. Remember, these machines are designed to handle an adult rider with a full complement of safety gear. Wearing less clothes in the hopes of going faster is just stupid. Furthermore, if you want to go fast, take your bike to the track, not the street.

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3. Don't think about crashing or you will

This likely stems from the idea of looking where you want to go, when it comes to taking on a corner. While looking and thinking about where you want to go can be helpful when it comes to cornering, avoiding thoughts of crashing will only distract you when riding.

You don't have to constantly tell yourself: “Don't crash. Don't crash. Don't crash.” This line of thinking will cause you to tense up, grip the handlebars more tightly, and make it more difficult to properly operate the motorcycle. Any instructor will tell you it's easier to operate the motorcycle when you're relaxed.

What's more important to keep in mind is the road ahead and the vehicles around you. Relax and focus your attention on what's in front of you – not just immediately in front but several car lengths in front or even on the next curve. Focusing on this will help you prepare yourself and your bike for what's coming and react more quickly to any surprises like an errant pedestrian or dog running across the road.

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4. New tires have to be under inflated to remove the top coating

New bikes these days are brought to the showroom floor on trucks and it's likely that your brand new bike or tire will be so new, the surface is shiny and smooth. The smooth surface is what leads many riders to believe there is a fresh protective coat on it that needs to be rubbed off. Some may suggest running your tires under inflated for a few kilometers to remove it.

The truth is, there is no such coating. Tires look smooth because they are made in molds. The weight of the bike itself and the rough surface of the road is enough to quickly rub that smooth surface out and get it looking like a normal tire. It definitely pays to be cautious on the first few kilometers of your new bike or tire, but there's no such protective coating that will cause you to slip on the road. There's especially no need to inflate the tire less than the manufacturer's recommended tire pressure.

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5. Harder banking = better cornering

Blame it on MotoGP. Who wouldn't want to be the next Valentino Rossi, with his bike nearly horizontal, traveling at 160 km/h? Unfortunately, many riders believe that the fastest way around a corner is to lean the bike as hard and as far as possible carrying as much speed as possible.

What most riders fail to understand is that these maneuvers are performed on a closed circuit, in controlled conditions, without traffic. The asphalt used on race tracks is very different from those used on public roads. A racebike is also radically different from a road bike, using much more expensive and dedicated equipment and race tires. These strictly controlled conditions allow these MotoGP riders to push their bikes to the absolute limits safely.

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Public roads, on the other hand, are made of a lower grade of asphalt or concrete, which don't return the same levels of grip as a race track. Street bikes aren't designed to bank as steeply. Street bike tires don't have the same amount of grip either, as they use harder compounds. As such, following these professional racers by attempting to bank your street bike to the same steep angle will more likely result in an accident.

The best way to take a corner on a public road is by following the late / delayed apex technique which we talk about here. The technique teaches riders to select a smarter line around the curve. By employing this method, the rider is banked steeply for a shorter amount of time, leaving him more leeway to bank harder or bring the bike upright to avoid an incident or obstacle.

Steep banking at every corner is not a smart nor safe way to ride. In fact, it should be left to the racetrack as it forces the rider to fully commit to his line. If, for any reason, there is an obstacle on this line, or his line around the corner is wrong, there is little room to turn sharper, slow down, or avoid because of the speed he is carrying, resulting in a crash that may unfortunately involve other riders or cars on the road.

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Ride safe

With these tips in mind, we hope you ride more intelligently and safely. Not everything you hear from other riders is correct. Double check with other riders and sources before taking it as fact.