Mythbusters: 2 Motorcycle Myths Busted!

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by Rick G, Apr 7, 2010.

  1. Rick G

    Rick G Ranger Rick Supporter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,532
    Location:
    Euclid, OH
    So, I am a big fan of the Mythbusters cable show and yesterday while out on my Duc, I busted two motorcyle myths.

    First up: Fuel guages and trip computers on a modern motorcycle are accurate.

    The story: I was on my way home from a nice early season ride. About 40 miles from home my low fuel light comes on. I check the trip computer and it tells me I have used up 3.8 gallons of my 5.5 gallon tank. It also tells me I have averaged 50 mpg on this tank. Doing the quick math ( my duc trip computer for some reason stops telling you how much gas or miles you have left once the low fuel light comes on. WTF???), I figure I have plenty of gas left to get me home and to fill it up around the corner from my house before putting her away. Well about 8 miles from my exit on the interstate I start to feel that horrible stumble from the engine room telling me I am now running on fumes. Drat!!! Fortunately I am in the left lane with a 10 foot wide paved berm which I am able to coast onto. I put my 4 way flashers on, hoist her up onto the centerstand, and call a friend who lived nearby to bring me some gas. Myth Busted!!!

    While I waited I busted Myth #2....

    Motorcylclists will always stop to help a fellow motorcyclist in need.

    So while I was waiting for my buddy, I count 8 HD's, 3 Goldwings and a Concourse 14 that zoom by me. Not one even looks in my direction. Correction, one of the Goldwings gave me the wave as I was standing next to the bike, 4 ways flashing away. It was like I was invisible to them. WTF!!!!!! Now granted a few of the bikes were a lane or two over in busy traffic, but several including the waving GW were in the left lane with little traffic making an easy and safe pullover possible. Heck I did it with a stalling engine! If it weren't for the fact that I knew my buddy (Big thanks to Don B) was on his way, I would have gotten pissed. Instead all I got was dissillusioned with my fellow bikers. This Myth is Busted!!!

    For the record, I always stop to help (when safe to do so) a biker on the side of the road, even though I have limited mechanical skill. I figure I always have a cell phone, tire repair kit and basic tools that may help. As I always have panniers on my bikes, I could even run for gas. At the least I could offer company and another set of 4 way flashers till real help arrives.

    So what is up with today's selfish and uncaring motorcylists?

    Rick G
    #1
  2. B.Curvin

    B.Curvin Feral Chia Tamer

    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2004
    Oddometer:
    2,988
    Location:
    Left of the dial. Canton, NC

    Fixified.
    #2
  3. duck

    duck Banned

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2004
    Oddometer:
    10,403
    Location:
    Seattle (Berkeley with rain)
    Sometimes when you're in the left lane you don't see the rider until it's too late. It's happened to me a time or two.

    One time I saw a rider pulled over on the left up ahead so I slowed and pulled onto the shoulder to stop for him. It was a state trooper running a radar gun.:lol3
    #3
  4. Rick G

    Rick G Ranger Rick Supporter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,532
    Location:
    Euclid, OH
    I agree, that sometimes it is hard to see and stop safely on the interstate. But as I mentioned, several of the passing bikes, including the waving Goldwinger, were already in the left lane. The berm I was on was very wide, almost a lanes width. It would have been easy and safe for at least half of those bums.

    BTW, no car stopped to help either. Hundreds of those just zoomed on by!

    Rick G
    #4
  5. DAKEZ

    DAKEZ Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    19,883
    Location:
    Begin Op Zoom
    Helmet on the ground behind the bike. :deal

    This is the sign you "Need Help."
    #5
  6. Uncle Ernie

    Uncle Ernie Long timer

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,964
    Location:
    Asheville NC
    I once had my sidecar rig towed home because I couldn't figure out why it stopped. I totally spaced out the Reserve. Doesn't that bike have Reserve? Couodn't you have layed it over and sloshed enough gas over from the other side of the tank tunnel?


    Left lane, on a freeway. I can't imagine stopping in time. Sorry.
    #6
  7. celticgent

    celticgent Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,050
    Location:
    Upstate NY

    happened to me this morning on the way in to work...

    just got off the onramp and jumped into the passing lane, dodging crazy traffic...get up to about 70-80 and saw a biker on the side....i let up on the gas thinking i might have enough room to slow down, but there was too much traffic....i saw him look up as i passed and i felt like shit....

    this has happened a couple times in the past...and it's always while commuting when traffic is horrid.

    otherwise i do stop and try to at least let them know i can run the to a gas station if need be (i'm the farthest thing from a mechanic)
    #7
  8. XS500RUS

    XS500RUS Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2008
    Oddometer:
    376
    I find that bikes with 'reserve' settings on manually adjusted petcocks are much less imaginative then some whizbang computer thingy (especially an Italian one :lol3 )

    That's too bad about the other riders not stopping, when my buddies and I were on the side of the road with a charging problem an older guy on a Harley (typical 'pirate' that gets made fun of on ADVrider by some folks) not only stopped to see if he could help, he offered to run into town, get his truck, and haul the bike over to a shop for us! We declined and limped the bike over the the shop ourselves, and took care of the problem later (a Yamaha rectifier in a Kawasaki works real good :deal )
    #8
  9. vatrader01

    vatrader01 vatrader01

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,164
    Location:
    Gateway to Skyline Drive, Virginia
    My initial thoughts too....then I remembered that many fuel injected bikes don't have reserve or even a petcock. On many, what appears to be a fuel tank is an ornamental covering. The fuel tank may be under the seat, and due to design, when it tells you it is out of fuel, it is telling you the truth.

    Technology is great. So are not so technical "Plan B's".

    Plan B

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Mounted up under the tail, secured through the cap top ring to the bike with a zip tie. Should be good for about 10 more miles. Under 16 bucks and a sense of security. And now that you know the value of stopping to help a stopped rider, in your mind you will know that you have something to offer besides moral support.

    Motorcycle distress signals are not universally recognized. Some believe a helmet on the ground is a signal. Not many people know this, and fewer look for a helmet on the ground. Furthermore, many MSF course Instructors teach riders to not set helmets on the seat, or tank, or hang off the mirror. It is explained that a fall / drop may render the helmet no longer safe for its intended purpose. They instruct the rider to place the helmet on the ground. Some think a dew rag tied to the handlebars is signal for help. Others believe a bike turned around facing the direction it came from [ against traffic ] is a universal signal of distress. A lot of this lore is regional.

    Regardless of region, I have always reacted to bikes along the road in flames or billowing smoke. Riders running wildly into traffic, waving arms and screaming is always a sign that my assistance may be needed. In all seriousness, the universal distress signal generally recognized by most, motorcyclists or not, is THREE OF ANYTHING. A helmet raised over your head three times is a thought. Firing your concealed weapon three times in the air may not get the response you are seeking.
    #9
  10. rdsmith3

    rdsmith3 Long timer

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,422
    Location:
    NW NJ
    I have stopped on an interstate to help a fellow rider who ran out of gas, but I usually do not see the person in time to stop, or it is not safe to stop.
    #10
  11. bomber60015

    bomber60015 tikkun olam Supporter

    Joined:
    Sep 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    68,046
    Location:
    Chicago-ish
    Without trying to sound negative (grin) . . . .

    I would think a myth would require people who believe in it . . . . you are the first person I've heard of that has any faith in motorcycle fuel gauges . . . .

    I, too, try to stop for folks that seem to need help -- given typical rush hour traffic aruond here, anyway, I'm not sure I'd pull onto the left shoulder either, even if I saw you in time (which, as other's have pointed out, isn't always the case).
    #11
  12. DAKEZ

    DAKEZ Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    19,883
    Location:
    Begin Op Zoom
    If it is 95 deg.+ I will stop and give a bottle of water... I always carry extra when its hot.

    Other than that I do not stop. I would not want to rob the poor schmuck of his adventure. :1drink

    (If out in the sticks/off pavement I stop)
    #12
  13. ragtoplvr

    ragtoplvr Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    10,516
    Location:
    central USA
    Nowadays most assume the rider has a cell phone and can call for help.

    I try to stop, if I can safely, I have been known to take next exit and come back.

    Most of time they see me, and hold up their cell phone and wave me off

    Exception is state line between helmet and non helmet state, better not break down there or I will assume you are one of them.

    Rod
    #13
  14. JBSmith

    JBSmith Ink-stained wretch

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2003
    Oddometer:
    4,783
    Location:
    Southern Oregon coast
    First, no sympathy for having faith in fuel gauges.:D

    Second, you had a cell phone and called for help. That's what most riders do these days, and most other riders know it, so they don't stop.

    Third, you say you pulled onto the berm from the left lane. So there you are, to the left of the hot lane (not a real safe place but you had no choice), and you expect someone else to stop and join you there? I wouldn't do it, although I would have looped back around if possible and stopped on the right shoulder, where it's safe, to find out if you needed help.

    Fourth, I didn't read where you indicated to the passing riders that you were in distress. I've stopped several times and been told, "Oh, no, I'm just changing gloves" or something similar.

    One time I saw a guy on a Harley standing by the side of the road. As I got closer he mimed breaking something with his hands. (Imagine holding a ruler out flat in front of you, and then breaking it in half.) I knew right away he meant "Broken!" and I stopped.

    Get yourself one of those folding plastic triangles and keep it in the saddlebag or tank bag. You park that behind your bike and the meaning is crystal clear.
    #14
  15. Dave in Wi

    Dave in Wi Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Oddometer:
    2,511
    Location:
    Madison WI (40 Square Miles Surrounded By Reality)
    I've heard that a helmet on the ground is a sign of distress, but... I just about always set my helmet on the ground when leaving it by the bike. I've found out through experience that the ground is about the ONLY thing my helmet will not fall off of.
    #15
  16. Rick G

    Rick G Ranger Rick Supporter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,532
    Location:
    Euclid, OH
    OP here. Let me try to address some of the issues that have been brought up.

    First as for me believing in the fuel guage and trip computer, I really do not put much faith in those, whether on my Duc, Beemer or Scooter. I usally fuel up long before I need to bring out my worry beads. This particular time, I just pushed it too far. I had already passed all of the exits with an easy off and on gas stop. I did look at the trip computer and did make the computation but also took into consideration past experience with miles ridden vs gallons filled and thought I had enough, but new it would be close. My ST3 does have fuel injection so no reserve. After my light drop a year or so ago chronicled in faceplant, I am not letting that bodywork anywhere near the ground! lol So I wasn't about to start tipping the bike over to find some drops of fuel which still might not have been enough. I do have to admit that in the back of my mind I might have been wondering just how far I could go with that yellow light blazing, kind of like Kramer in that Sienfeld episode where he was on a test drive for Jerry.

    As for the particualr stretch of highway I was stranded on, it is a very wide an open highway. Both sides of the highway have a paved berm of at least a lanes width. On my side there was an addtional 10-15' strip of grass before the guard rail that seperated me from the Express Lanes which had another strip of grass and another paved berm the width of a lane. Like I said, very open with plenty of space to pull over in relative safety. My buddy had no problem pulling over. Eventually a local cop stopped to check on me and stayed behind me offering me a barrier, but honestly, I wasn't feeling threatened by the traffic at all. I did not include in the bike count any of the bikes that passed while the "man" was present. I did find it quite amusing how the bikes when they passed (before the man) did not even look at me. They seemed to be trying hard not to look, except for the lonely guy on the GW who gave me the wave. It just seemed counter to what we all seem to believe is the "biker community" and how we look after and help our own. It won't stop me from stopping to help someone in the future.

    You are alll correct though, I was prepared to be able to take care of myself. I had my cell and knew someone to call. If he wasn't available, I had another friend in mind, and if that failed I would have just called the wife. If I was out of town, I belong to 2 different roadside assistance programs. If it was a flat, I always carry a tire repair kit and small pump, and yes I know how to use the kit.

    Rick G
    #16
  17. griffo1962

    griffo1962 Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,897
    Location:
    Carrara, Qld, Australia
    I NEVER put my helmet on the ground. Who knows what will crawl into it....:eek1
    #17
  18. V-rock

    V-rock Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2006
    Oddometer:
    141
    Location:
    East TN
    My gauge starts blinking around 200 miles. When the light starts blinking, I know in theory that I'll have about 40 miles left. Never attempted to prove it wrong.

    Light blinks, I get gas.
    #18
  19. Rick G

    Rick G Ranger Rick Supporter

    Joined:
    May 19, 2004
    Oddometer:
    4,532
    Location:
    Euclid, OH
    Great advice and one that I will now follow religiously!

    Rick G
    #19
  20. Duckworth

    Duckworth Taking the high road

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    7,521
    Location:
    Northeast
    The guage on my Concours used to read E when there was still half a tank left. I learned that if you take a 220 ohm resistor and stuff it into the fuel guage sensor plug, it accurizes it. Now the needle hits the "red zone" just when the tank needs to be switched to reserve.:clap This may work for other bikes.

    The Ural has no guage, but it does have a 5 liter jerry can bolted to the hack, which has come in handy a couple of times.

    With both bikes, I mainly rely on the trip odo in spite of the other precautions.
    #20