May 4, 2020

Anger Issues

In a post on a Facebook motorcycle group (Yamaha WR250X & WR250R), a new owner’s asked what sorts of farkles and upgrades he should buy for his new bike and someone suggested, “If you add an exhaust, power commander, air filter, sprocket, and tires it's a whole new bike.”

And I agreed, “Yep, way louder and worth at least $1,000 less” and referred the original poster to my “Seat of the Pants Performance Comparisons” essay. Oddly, several of the wannabes and hooligans from the group commented that I must have some “anger issues,” apparently based on either the content of that Geezer article or the fact that doing all of that expensive crap to a decent motorcycle makes it worth less and that bit of reality pissed them off. 

And I’m confused. The whole point of putting a loud pipe on a motorcycle is to piss off as many people as possible, it is also obviously evidence of “anger issues.” While those noisy bikes are a cute expression of a passive aggressive personality disorder, it’s entertaining to hear the accusation of my anger issues when I point out their anger issues (an example of “gaslighting” if there ever was one) Psychology Today has some good stuff about identifying gaslighting and putting in its proper place; for example, “11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.” These days, we’re so used to hearing that kind of irrational argument on the nightly news that it almost sounds “normal.” Those comments did, however, start me to thinking about the many reasons motorcycling in the United States is becoming a vanishing act. 

It’s pretty obvious from the riding posts and comments these guys put up on this Facebook page, being a good rider, especially a racer, isn’t in the cards for them; regardless of their age. Their claim to riding fame is repeatedly straight line wheelies, usually in completely inappropriate places. I grant you the fact that doing a wheelie is a cool trick, but it’s even cooler (and harder) on a bicycle than a motorcycle and just as pointless a “skill,” unless you are getting that front wheel light in order to get over an obstacle. Mostly, though, street wheelies are a hooligan act of juvenile rebellion. Anger, in other words. 

And, if I sucked that bad I’d be pissed off, too. 

Years ago, I belonged to a sport bike group that, occasionally, rented a closed course and provided racing training. The guys who taught the classes were all intermediate-to-Expert local racers and some had serious skills. The “trainers” were all on liter bikes and when a retired pro racer from Wisconsin showed up with his bone stock 1980’s Honda 250 two-stroke race biker a bunch of the instructors decided to turn a few laps unencumbered by students, rookies, and novices. The 250 owner went out with them.
 
All of the liter bike guys had “exhaust, power commander, air filter, sprocket, and tires” and some had even spent dyno money trying to make all of that aftermarket crap work together. Regardless, they got their asses handed to them by the old pro. They could make lots of noise in the straights, but when they puttered (by his standards) through the many curves in the track he ate them alive. Often passing 4-5 bikes in a single tight corner. After lapping the whole pack one or two times, he came in followed by some of his victims. 

Before packing up and heading back home, he was generous enough to let a couple of the faster guys ride his 250 and they were foolish enough to loan him their liter bikes. Then he tore them up on the corners and the straights, lapping everyone on the track in less than three laps. With modern big horsepower and sticky tires under him, he spent most of the course sideways, playing with traction and front wheel levitation. At least one of the guys who’d loaned out his bike borrowed a friend’s pickup to haul his bike home because his street tires were melted down to the belts. 

There is a lesson here. The overwhelming bulk of characters wasting money on “exhaust, power commander, air filter, sprocket, and tires are people who would be better served signing up for a few dozen track days. When you watch those YouTube packs of street hooligans, you see a lot of no-talent nitwits flaunting the law, expressing their teenage anger issues. Mostly, the aftermarket industry is catering to suckers who hope some add-on part will be the magic bullet that will hide their inabilities. The problem is that it’s not the bike that slows you down, it is your skills. It’s not the bike that makes you fast. It’s being fast that makes you fast.

13 comments:

  1. You've nailed it Thomas! The only non-standard item I'm happy to spend serious money on is good suspension. Safer, less effort, better tyre life and faster if that's what turns you on. Oh, and better tyre life too. Why attract attention with a noisy can? Little dick syndrome 😁

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    1. On most motorcycles, you can never go wrong upgrading suspension and tires. I should have said that, too. Thanks for the assist.

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  2. did this racer training take place at DCTC?

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  3. Just a brief note to say how much I've enjoyed your columns from the MMM days through the sorry RV tale to today's psychology story. I sincerely hope I never piss you off!
    I'm especially interest in your stories of aging and motorcycling. You have a couple of years on me and stopped riding. Was it the eyesight mostly, reflexes, loss of confidence, aches & pains, impatience with bad drivers and riders, all/none/some of these? When will we know when it's our turn to stop?

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    1. Surprisingly, I'm hard to really piss off, but I play someone who is trigger-fingered in the movies. Eyesight was everything in my decision to stop riding. You wouldn't believe how limiting, distracting, and disabling double-vision is. Sometimes, just grabbing something from a hardware shelf is difficult. In retrospect, I'm really proud of having made the decision on how to cut myself off several years ago. If I couldn't do the BRC test perfectly, I would call it quits. No chance I could do that today. I don't see well enough to score the damn thing.

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  4. I've been seriously tempted, the last few days, to put a sign in my yard that reads "Loud Pipes Piss Off Your Neighbors," but I'm afraid of the response. We've had a couple of beautiful days in a row, and all the guys on Harleys are out, making me want to close my windows. (In fairness, there are also a bunch of people on moderately sized, reasonably quiet bikes... it's just the loud ones get noticed more).

    Sadly, I've got a sprained wrist and horrible allergies, and riding any distance is off the menu for a while. Sneezing in a full-face helmet isn't a great idea.

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    1. Sneezing is practically a convulsion, so it does not go well with motorcycling and really doesn't decorate a helmet with any style. The cops are terrified of these rural terrorists, so you probably should be too. It's a sign of our country's general lawlessness and white entitlement that almost nobody appears to have the courage to enforce noise ordinances.

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  5. @Genforce3. Some time back, I had a series of conversations with David Hough about this very topic (I'm 72). You might be interested in the summaries on my blog: http://geoffjames.blogspot.com/2011/02/whats-age-got-to-do-with-it.html and https://geoffjames.blogspot.com/2011/02/ageing-motorcyclists-follow-up.html. My approach to safely extend my riding career was to take up high level training used by the UK and NZ police: https://geoffjames.blogspot.com/2011/11/raising-my-riding-skills-some.html . Hope all that makes sense. Thomas, apologies for the additional stuff about ageing but it's close to my heart!

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    1. Geoff, thanks for the link. I should have followed you page years ago. I wrote this one in 2017, to remind myself of when I honestly believe I am no longer competent to ride: https://geezerwithagrudge.blogspot.com/2017/06/148-creating-baseline.html. The previous year I took both the Advanced and Expert MSF courses from a police trainer and I think I did fairly well, but I also felt like some of it was too little, too late. Meaning that I could have used that training when I was in my physical prime and when it came it amounted to not much more than confirmation that I was in decline.

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    2. I lucked into being on a boat with David in Duluth during one of Aerostich's Boring Rally's. I had the impression he was quitting back then, 2013, because he'd taken a hard spill on a borrowed bike at a rally and had been injured for the first time in his long riding career. I wrote this piece as an offshoot of our conversation: https://geezerwithagrudge.blogspot.com/2018/10/whats-wrong-with-motorcycle-safety.html. He's a good guy and exceptionally honest about his skills and willingness to accept risk.

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    3. Those are great posts and right on the money Thomas. Funnily enough, I had an email from David yesterday. He's building a classy rowing boat whilst lockdown is on! I gave him the link to your blog as I thought he's really enjoy it.

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    4. Ah man, everybody is doing cooler stuff than me. I'm just working on finishing off a basement bathroom that has been one walled since 1947.

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