It's Always Okay to Ask

The minute someone claims to be an expert, the minute I stop listening.

There are a lot of armchair experts in the motorcycle world and, especially when starting out, it can feel very intimidating. It’s easy to feel flooded with information, which can lead to making any decisions impossible.

Will you like cruisers... sport bikes (for the love of god please quit saying crotch rockets)... adventure bikes... vintage bikes? Will you prefer street riding only... dirt only... dual sport riding? And that’s just trying to decide your riding style. When it comes to gear there’s a whole other realm of decisions. Leather gear... textile gear... no gear (please don’t)... full face helmet... 3/4 helmet... modular helmet... you get the picture.

All of this can be very overwhelming to both beginners and seasoned veterans alike. Which is why...

IT’S ALWAYS OKAY TO ASK.


The most challenging part of this is knowing who to ask. It is no secret that the motorcycle world is like one big extended family and each member of that family has a bias toward their preferred style of riding.

When looking for advice, always be aware of the typical rider biases. Here are a few to look out for.



The die hard

This person owns only one brand of bike or one style of bike and refuses to believe any other bike could be as great. They are often heard uttering definitive statements like, “Fuel injected bikes are too complicated and unreliable, when the electronics fail you can’t fix it yourself.”

I once knew a die hard that believed anything liquid cooled would overheat and leave you on the side of the road because, “It’s just more stuff that can go wrong.” Obviously both of these viewpoints are shockingly false and I pity anyone that found themselves taking their advice.

(I should add here that yes, there have been models known for certain gremlins but they are normally the exception and not the rule.)

The bargain hunter / brand namer

I have a confession, I have become a smidge of a brand namer. In my defense, there are a few brands that really know their market and are just so good at what they do. I’ll expand on that in future articles.

Your typical brand namer might scoff at a helmet that costs less than $500. They will most likely be geared up head to toe in the latest tech suit from Europe. In reality there is a ton of really great gear that you don't have to go into debt to own. The brand namer will also heavily lean on what brand name of bike they ride and will probably think you cannot find a good bike for less than $10,000.

My Vespa and I, circa 2003
On the flip side of this is the bargain hunter. They might tell you that the best riding gear they ever owned was a pair of old work boots and a dry rotted leather jacket. They may think you are crazy for investing anything over $100 on your gear.

The bargain hunter is often spotted in group rides as the person you’ve been waiting on for the 3rd time today because their sub $1,000 bike just broke down... again. They may also be heard complaining about the price of anything new.

*Note: I want to pause here to say that if you sound like the bargain hunter but are under the age of 25, this is not you. You are just broke and we have all been there. My first Vespa broke down every time I rode it… in my punk rock leather jacket. Please stick with this hobby, it DOES get better.

The expert

There is no such thing as a motorcycle expert. This hobby / sport / obsession is so vast that there is not one person that can know everything about it. If you are ever talking to someone about motorcycles and they don’t once say, “I don’t know the answer to that” beware.

One of the most important lessons I learned being a mechanic is that it’s much better to admit you don’t know something than to just do what you think is right, potentially messing up someones most prized possession. I have a deep disdain for experts because I’ve seen a lot of really bad advice spewed from supposed experts to their unsuspecting victims.



So what now? Who should you learn from?


Everyone. Ask everyone every question. If you are talking to a true enthusiast, they will be overjoyed to talk to someone eager to learn. Keep an eye out for biases and come to your own conclusions.

Never let someone push you into something you are not comfortable with. I know a lot of female riders in particular that have given up the sport because their boyfriends/husbands pushed them into a larger bike before they were ready. If you are comfortable on a 250cc bike, ride the shit out of it and don’t let anyone tell you something bigger would be more fun. If you are riding to impress someone else, you are in it for the wrong reason.

There are also few mainstream publications that will give you an honest unbiased opinion. I read several motorcycle magazines and there are a few really great ones (Traction eRag), but many other mainstream magazines are being paid for reviews and will make you question the greatness of your bike. Read them, but just remember they are being paid.

And finally...

Don’t be an ask-hole

An ask-hole is someone that asks advice and then doesn’t take it and just does what they wanted to do in the first place. If you want to learn about something like vintage bikes, it takes time. Please don’t talk to one person then deem yourself an expert. We all know how I feel about experts.

If you go into motorcycling with an open mind, you will have the rest of your life to explore its many facets. Meet everyone you can and ask them questions because motorcyclists really are the best people.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few. ”

Comments

  1. I love that this community will share information with anyone who asks. Great article.

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