May 21, 2018

Weirdest Myth Yet

clip_image001I had a furnace maintenance this week and the young man who did the work turned out to be “bikecurious.” After talking about what he was thinking of buying, we took a look at my motorcycles. He was particularly interested in the WR250X, but said he’d been planning on saving up for a down payment on a Harley of some sort. I asked why someone under 60 would be looking at a Harley and his answer was, “I heard it was safer.” His uncle, apparently a pirate of some sort, had told him “90% of all crashes happen when you are riding alone” and the easiest way to find a group of people to ride with is to own a Harley.

I had to admit, that solo crashing thing has mostly been true for me; because I almost always ride alone. However, I also told him that I’d seen one group of Harley pirates crash in mass when they plowed into a bunch of bees. Every group ride I’ve ever been on has had at least one pretty serious crash, but that’s a poor sample because I’ve only been on a half-dozen or so group rides in my last million motorcycle miles. I wonder if racing is “group riding,” because I’ve sure seen a pile of motorcycles go down together in the first turn.

motorcycle-hand-signals-chart-1The whole idea that group riding is in some way safe, amazes me. On every level, the concept seems insane to me. When I taught the MSF classes, I got a constant taste of how true David Roth’s “Law of Crowd IQ” is more true than not (It’s math: the smartest guy in the crowd’s IQ divided by the number of people in the crowd.). People get stupid in crowds, just look at a Trump rally: the bigger his crowds got, the dumber they became. Hillary never had to worry about that because her crowds were always tiny. Motorcyclists are not only no different, we are naturally inclined to be hooligans and not that bright on our good days. So, put us in groups and it’s hard for the group IQ to beat 1.0. Probably the best illustration of this was when a Minnesota motorcycle instructor was on a group ride and dropped her bike trying to exit a light at an intersection and was killed when the nitwits following her ran over her repeatedly. If that event wasn’t a highlighted moment illuminating exactly how stupid groups of motorcyclists  are, we’re just too stupid as a nation to get irony.

Where do myths like this come from? How does shit like this get said out loud without being laughed into hiding from embarrassment?


Unknown said...

That is an odd one. I've never sought out a group ride but had a friend back in the day (Harley guy) that always wanted to ride somewhere near one another. Why? Now I have one other thing to divide my attention?!

Andy Mckenzie said...

I have a theory about this myth. It is supported only by opinion and cynicism, with maybe a hint of logic just for flavoring. Here it is:

The original claim was more like "90% of all fatal crashes happen while you're alone", and was based on the fact that the sooner you get medical attention, the more likely you are to survive. Motorcyclists not being any better at passing on information than anyone else, and no better at logic than anyone else, it eventually got corrupted.

The other option I see is a variation of the "loud pipes save lives" nonsense: If you don't have the skill to avoid an accident, your best bet is to make sure people see you and run away. Being in the middle of a giant pack of leather-clad middle-agers with broken exhaust systems is a really good way to be visible, so it must reduce the change of being in an accident.

Either way it sounds pretty stupid to me, and I'd want a citation for the reference, but there are less-than-totally-stupid ways it could have come to exist.

T.W. Day said...

Obviously, I respect any opinion that is "supported only by opinion and cynicism." I bow to your superior opinion and cynicism. ;-)

Frostbike said...

Maybe you should get a scooter. I’ve been on dozens of group rides with the local scooter club (Heck’s Angels), and I’ve only seen one crash. Last year’s big ride during the Land of 10k Scoots had about 200 participants. I heard there were three crashes (I only saw the one) and none were fatal. Did I see some sketchy riding? Sure. But hooliganism maybe pairs better with fewer CCs.

Paul Y said...

I've heard some of the most convoluted logic from harley folks (although never from the serious riders). I had one tell me he rode a harley because they were safer in an accident since they were heavier than regular bikes. He didn't want to believe me when I explained that all that weight made it more likely you would get into an accident rather than being able to avoid it.

Andy Mckenzie said...

I don't know about "superior"... I'd say just differently formed. 8-)