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It's Not the Same

On the children's show Captain Kangaroo, they used to sing, "One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesn't belong." The object was to look at four objects and identify the one that was different. They might be fruit, shapes, numbers or letters, but three were similar and one was always unique.

The same can be said about our motorcycles, "One of these things is not like the other." Motorcycles are alike in many ways regardless of their brand of manufacture or whether they are built for street, off-road or dual purpose riding. They are all two-wheeled, single track vehicles with handlebars, brakes, clutch, throttle, gear shift and suspension.

Yet every motorcycle is different from the rest. Even though bikes of the same brand and model look identical, they each have their own idiosyncrasies. Clutch wear and adjustment, tire pressure and mileage, brake pad and rotor condition, suspension settings and size of the rider, along with many other things make each bike unique. This uniqueness causes each motorcycle to handle and respond a little differently.

As a rider you know the importance of having and using the appropriate mental and physical skills to control your motorcycle regardless of the challenges you might face as you motor down the road. While these skills are very important, responsible riders must also know the bike they are astride and be totally aware of the environment in which they are riding. This is where the individuality of each motorcycle comes into play.

It's not enough to know how to ride a motorcycle; you must intimately know your bike. Even if the one you are riding isn't yours, you must learn the bike because it is not the same as all others. It may be a similar make or model, but it can still handle differently. The throttle response may not match what you were just riding. The bike might be more or less responsive to steering inputs. The brakes may be firmer than you're used to or require more pressure.

Most crashes happen, even for experienced riders, on new bikes; ones they've been riding for less than six months. This could be a bike they just purchased or it might be a bike they're trying out. Regardless of whether the bike is showroom fresh or simply borrowed, it's new to that rider and it likely has distinctive handling characteristics that the rider hasn't learned yet.

These differences don't always show up in normal riding but often do at the worst possible time, when the rider is faced with an impending crash situation. The rider reacts in the way their body and muscles are used to doing, but the bike is different and doesn't' work the same way. The handlebars over or under respond to the steering input and the bike either swerves too far or not far enough. The brakes either don't slow the bike fast enough to avoid the crash or they lock up the wheels.

There's more to riding a motorcycle than just having the necessary mental and physical skills. You've got to learn the bike you're riding. You need to realign your reactions to the characteristics of the bike you're on because "One of these things is not like the other."

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!