Unfamiliar Bikes

CrashIt’s fun to ride other people’s bikes. But, beware!

You’re on your way to meet a few friends for a long weekend ride. The weather is terrific for the overnight excursion and your motorcycle is running great. You arrive at the designated meeting spot to find the other riders having their breakfast and engaged in a lively conversation about their respective bikes.

During the conversation, one friend insists that his new motorcycle is worlds better than the older generation bike you own. The owner of the new model wants to prove his position, so you both agree to switch bikes sometime during the ride. Everyone finishes their breakfast and suits up to go.

During a rest stop you and your friend decide that it’s a good time to switch bikes. At first you ride cautiously, not wanting to risk crashing your friend’s motorcycle. But the new motorcycle seems to ask to be ridden harder through the twisty sections of road. You oblige by turning the throttle.

You dart into a blind right-hand corner when you are surprised to see that the turn’s radius decreases significantly toward the exit. You press hard to lean the bike more, but this motorcycle turns quicker and sharper than your bike and you end up in the dirt on the inside of the turn. The next few moments are a blur. Eventually, you notice the new bike laying on its side. You are mostly okay, thanks to your full compliment of riding gear, but you’re horrified at what you’ve done. You jump up to assess the damage while the rest of the riders park their bikes and run over to assist. The damaged motorcycle’s owner looks in disbelief at his now scraped and broken machine.

Statistics suggest that crashes occur more often when an unfamiliar motorcycle is involved, whether a borrowed bike or a newly purchases one. Handling, power and braking characteristics are different between different types of motorcycles and even between two different examples of the same model. One motorcycle may respond differently than another simply because of different tire profile or suspension setup.

When you do chose to test a demo bike or take the offer to ride a different motorcycle owned by a generous fellow rider, take time to get a feel for the differences the unfamiliar bike possesses. And consider declining the offer if you are uncomfortable with the risks.
copyright Ken Condon

Read more: 3 Part Series on Adjusting to Unfamiliar Bikes.

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