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10 Lies Motorcyclists Tell Themselves & Why They’re Wrong

10 Lies Motorcyclists Tell Themselves & Why They’re Wrong

As motorcyclists, we need to be a cut above the rest of vehicular traffic. I’ve been saying it for years (see my tweet from 2012), but just because we need to be nearly-perfect, it doesn’t make us perfect. We do make mistakes, and sometimes, we even lie to ourselves. Here are 10 lies that motorcyclists tell themselves, and why no matter confident we want to be, we’re still just plain wrong.

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1) It was the other guy’s fault

Your insurance company will tell you never to admit fault in an accident, and that’s one thing, but what about what you tell your friends, your family, and yourself?

It’s easy to point a finger at the inattentive soccer mom in her minivan, the taxi driver looking for a customer, or the businessman texting and driving, but motorcycle accident statistics tell another story.

If we go back to the Hurt Report, we’ll find that over 50% of motorcycle accidents involved riders who had been riding their motorcycle for less than 5 months. So maybe the other guy (or gal) had some responsibility, but statistically, rider inexperience seems to be a pretty likely culprit as well.

2) I can go a little further on empty

Do you remember that Seinfeld episode where Kramer and the car salesman spend all day driving a car on empty, trying to see just how far they can take the car on “E”? It lasts the entire episode, all day and into the night.

The reality is, just like a college freshman, a lot of cars can go all night on E. Take the Nissan Altima or the Chrysler 200 for example. According to an article on YourMechanic.com, those two sedans can go as high as 108 to 114 miles on Empty, or about 173 to 183 km.

I don’t know about you, but my motorcycle doesn’t go much past 183 km on the entire tank, let alone on empty. So try to remember that your motorcycle might get better mileage than your car, but it’s gas tank is still four times smaller, so riding a motorcycle on empty won’t get you as far as you might think.

Kramer gas tank almost empty

3) It’s just a second motorcycle, no big deal

Speaking of riding on E, a lot of motorcyclists think getting a second motorcycle isn’t a big deal. “I don’t have an addiction, it’s just a second motorcycle. I could quit any time I want!”

Wrong. That’s what they all say. It’s never just a second motorcycle. A second motorcycle is a gateway-drug. In the beginning you tell yourself it’s nothing, but before you know it you’re like me: sneaking off to bathroom stall in the middle of your work day so you can whip out your cell phone, open up the camera you installed in your garage, and making sure your 6 motorcycles are still all there, and that’s how you feel like everything is ok in the world and you’ll make it through the day.

Repeat after me: A second motorcycle is a gateway drug.

4) That tire will get me through the rest of the season

I’ve worked in marketing for Goodyear/Dunlop, and trust me, companies understand that buying tires is a grudge purchase. A grudge purchase is usually a necessary purchase, but one that no one likes to make. As a result, customers drag their feet, and they aren’t happy about having to exchange their money for what it is they’re getting.

It’s hard to find data on motorcycle tire usage and their relationship to accidents, and I don’t want to dig into the Hurt Report again, but consider this: In 2012 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that 50% of motorcycle fatalities were single-vehicle crashes where no other vehicles were involved.

We have to wonder, how many of these riders would have survived, and how many other riders who got into non-fatal accidents would have been better off, if they just had a little more traction from newer and better tires. Your old tires might technically get you through to the end of the season, but if they’re putting you at a higher risk, does that really count?

5) This exhaust pipe will totally add 15% more horsepower

If tires are a grudge purchase, aftermarket exhaust pipes are definitely a pleasure purchase, but do they actually make your motorcycle faster? I’ll try to keep this as concise as possible:

Aftermarket exhaust pipes have less back-pressure to the motor than stock pipes and produce more sound. This gives a more crisp throttle response, though it isn’t necessarily guaranteed to produce more power. However, the crisper response combined with the much louder noise tricks us into believing we’re getting more power delivery across the entire power band, which isn’t necessarily true.

In some cases, aftermarket exhaust pipes can actually reduce your power output, not increase it! That’s because really smart engineers who designed your motorcycle’s engine, designed it to work with the specifications of your stock exhaust pipe. For older bikes, your carburetors are probably also tuned for the exhaust pipes currently on the bike.

According to Motorcyclist Magazine, after your motorcycle engine, your stock exhaust pipe is the second most engineered part of your motorcycle. We can bet that this level of research and development isn’t going into a $200 Amazon exhaust pipe.

Once you start changing things on your motorcycle, all bets are off, and typically, if you can see double-digit horsepower percentage gains, it’s because you didn’t just get a cheap slip on exhaust pipe. Horsepower gains come from doing a full stage 1 kit including air filter and fuel processor mapping (or carburetor tuning for older motorcycles).

6) It won’t rain*

If anyone tells you this, you should slap them because they’re lying to you. The minute someone tells you it won’t rain on your motorcycle ride, you’re doomed, it’s going to rain. Also, the minute you don’t bring your rain gear with you on a day-long or weekend-long ride, it’s going to rain.

I know what you’re thinking. “He’s joking.” Wrong. It’s science. Science has laws, and this one’s called Murphy’s Law. Look it up, bro.

Charity ride? Rain. Poker ride? Rain. Moto camping? Rain. Event organizer says it won’t rain and the rally is still going on as planned? Double-rain.

* Arizona you get a pass on this one, carry on.

7) That cheap helmet is definitely safe

Not to bash on Amazon too much, but that site has a ton of really cheap helmets that probably aren’t safe, and here’s why:

motorcycle helmet x-rayNorth America, and much of the rest of the world tackle motorcycle helmets differently. In North America, we use DOT Certification, in other places, like Europe, they use ECE Certification. For Europe’s ECE testing, a new model of helmet must be tested before the helmet can be sold in Europe. In North America, you can make helmets with cardboard and glue in your basement and never test any of them at all.

North America’s DOT Certification relies on the manufacturer to self-certify their own helmets. The Department of Transportation doesn’t test any of the helmets. When you buy a helmet that’s “DOT Certified”, you’re trusting that an anonymous person, from an anonymous company with no physical address, and sometimes not even a phone number or website, would do the right thing and test the helmets they produced. Unfortunately, the thing about sketchy anonymous businesses is, they very rarely do the right thing.

8) I’m totally sober, it’s fine!

I’ll be the first to admit that not every motorcycle ride I’ve ever taken was completely sober. I was a bartender for six years in my early twenties and all my shifts ended some time after 3:00 AM. Luckily for me, 3 am to 6 am happens to be the second least likely time for a motorcycle fatality. Your chances of a fatal motorcycle accident double just a few hours earlier in the night.

Motorcycle fatalities by time of day

More importantly though, data gathered by the NHSA and shared by the Insurance Information Institute indicates that out of a little over 5,000 fatal motorcycle accidents in 2017, about 1,700 or 33% of all fatal motorcycle accidents involved consuming alcohol.

We don’t have any information on the consumption of marijuana or other drugs which may have impacted other fatal accidents, but it seems like, when it comes to motorcycle riding, many riders (myself included) have been guilty of over-confidence.

9) The chances of hitting a deer are pretty slim

FACT: By some inexplicable form of bad luck for motorcyclists and good luck for deers, deers and motorcycles have a magnetic attraction to each other similar to me and women with daddy issues.

We know from the NHSA that motorcycles (the whole lot of us all added up together) only make up about 1% of all of the kilometers travelled in the United States every year. But guess what? We account for 70% of all deer-strike fatalities.

I couldn’t find clear information on how many motorcycle-deer crashes there are versus car-deer crashes, and they probably wouldn’t be accurate anyway, as not all deer crashes in bigger SUVs and trucks are even worth reporting, but one thing’s for sure: Deer are out there, and they’re taking out more motorcyclists than you might have realized.

10) I don’t need gear if I’m riding close to home

An article on lies motorcyclists tell themselves wouldn’t be complete without something for the ATGATT crowd to get up on their high-horses and rally around in their holier-than-though highlighter yellow jackets.*

Here’s the thing, most of your motorcycle rides, whether short or long, usually end up with you both leaving from, and coming back to, your home. According to this article on the US National Library of Medicine “the median distance between home and the location of injury for car or motorcycle crashes was 4.6 miles.” That’s about 7.5 km away, or “not too far” for people who suck at distance.

Maybe more importantly though, is even a silly 15 mph (25 km/hr, or “parking lot speed”) motorcycle accident does just as much damage whether you’re on home turf or you’re visiting the away team, so maybe all those guys named Steve with their yellow highlighter gear have a point.

As it turns out, maybe as motorcyclists, we aren’t as perfect as we’d like to think we are, or maybe you already knew all of this. You tell me!

COMMENTS: Did you learn something new? Did you already know everything? Please leave a comment to let me know.

My name is Adrian from YouMotorcycle, thank you for reading!

About Adrian from YouMotorcycle

I started riding motorcycles in 2007, founded YouMotorcycle in 2009, and was working in the motorcycle industry by 2011. I've worked for some of the biggest companies in motorcycling, before going full-time self-employed in the motorcycle business in 2019. I love sharing his knowledge and passion of motorcycling with other riders to help you as best I can.


  1. As proof of Lie #9, my Road Glide and I have had two violent encounters with deer within a year’s time and as per Lie #1 they weren’t my fault. Fortunately I stayed vertical through both events. One deer survived. One didn’t. I am considering renting my motorcycle to hunters to use as deer bait.

    The easy way to deal with Lie #6 is to put onall of your rain gear. Then it definitely won’t rain.

  2. God has assigned motorcyclists 2 guardian angels instead of the usual 1 and we still manage to kill ourselves. Go figure.

  3. You are in good hands then, William

  4. OK. I didn’t learn much. But, I loved the table of time of day/week and numbers of accidents. I do not ride in the dark, or after any amount of alcohol. I wish the whole world could see the part about tuning, if they’d believe it. Oh, yeah! Definitely did not know about the DOT certification. When I look at the requirements a car goes through, it amazes me that our bikes are allowed to exist.

  5. Worth Cadenhead

    I’ve victimized myself with #2 and #4 to an embarrassing extent. As for #6, I read something long ago, right after I first started riding. It basically said that carrying a rainsuit won’t prevent rain, but how deeply buried it is in the saddlebag will surely affect how quickly the rain comes on.

    • Lol! And I like the way you worded that first sentence.

    • Steven Pomerantz

      Always carry in right rear compartment NEVER left side!!! I have seen riders doing the pull over my helmet dance right into a lane of traffic in a hurry to get their gear on. Stand on the right side of your bike except in Europe.

  6. Coming to this one late (again!) but as a driving instructor, I’m very pleased to ser it! I was lucky enough to be taught some basically sound motorcycle riding skills on a voluntary course I took many moons ago (1980!) run on a Sunday morning by a team of Police motorcycle riders. Most accidents DO occur close to home, largely because your guard is down. You think you know those roads. You are only going to the shop/your mate’s house/a takeaway or such like. You are not as focussed on your riding as you would normally be. The worst time for this however, is when you are on your way back home! Now your guard has really dropped! (Lawrence of Arabia was killed less than a mile from his home on his way back from the Post Office).

    If you ever have an accident or even a near miss, BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF! Try using this formula: AELA. Assimilate, Evaluate Learn and Apply! What REALLY happened? Was there anything I could have done that might have lessened or even prevented it? Did I REALLY do all I could/should have? Then LEARN from your own little accident investigation and above all, APPLY that learning next time!

    As to tyres and hemets: DON’T skimp on either of these! What value do you place your own life at? My Harley wears A MATCHED PAIR of Michelin Commander boots at ALL times and my hemet is never below the British Standard for competition use (Racing, basically). My very first ever helmet was a cheapo polycarbonate, minimum standard one, which my consultant surgeon went to great pains to point out to me after a van driver hit me back in ’79, had been one of the chief reasons I’d come off so badly in the crash! Given that helmet’s design and construction, I was very lucky it hadn’t broken my neck! It had “only” fractured my skull!

    As to rain: i”ve just spent over two hours washing and polishing my Harley. Expect a monsoon when I go out for a ride!

    Ride safe!

    • Hey Mitch! Never too late! Glad to hear from you. That Lawrence of Arabia anecdote is really interesting, thanks for sharing that, I didn’t know it, but it really illustrates your point well. I might have to borrow that some time.

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