Motorcycle Basics

Announcer: Go behind the wheel and under the hood on everything automotive with High Speed Stuff from

Scott Benjamin: Hi, everyone, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Scott Benjamin, the auto editor here at, and I'm joined by Ben. How you doing, Ben?

Ben Bowlin: I'm doing super. I am Ben Bowlin, a video writer here at the same website, coincidentally.

Scott Benjamin: What do you know?

Ben Bowlin: You know what? I don't know too much, but I do have my finger to the pulse, I could say, of our -

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, you're holding back. You know a lot.

Ben Bowlin: Well, thank you, Scott.

Scott Benjamin: You know a lot about a lot of things.

Ben Bowlin: Oh, man. That's so kind of you.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, thank you.

Ben Bowlin: I really appreciate it. A lot of people say, "That Scott Benjamin, he looks too good to be a nice guy."

Scott Benjamin: That's true.

Ben Bowlin: But you know what I say to them? I say they're wrong. Check out the show.

Scott Benjamin: Who says that?

Ben Bowlin: I can't divulge my sources.

Scott Benjamin: Understood, understood.

Ben Bowlin: So, I've got my finger to the pulse, as we were saying, of our listener mail. Scott, you and I have been dragging our feet for a little bit.

Scott Benjamin: Mostly me. I'll take the heat on it.

Ben Bowlin: No, I can't let you do that. We're going down together on this one.

Scott Benjamin: All right, all right.

Ben Bowlin: You know what we're talking about.

Scott Benjamin: I do know what we're talking about. The motorcycle requests.

Ben Bowlin: So, to the dozens of people who have asked us very kindly and occasionally reminded us that we said we would do this, we're sorry for holding off, but today -

Scott Benjamin: Today's the day.

Ben Bowlin: Today is the day.

Scott Benjamin: Today is the day. We're gonna talk about motorcycles. We're gonna do - we're not gonna go deep into any particular type of motorcycle today. We're not gonn a give you a how to ride a motorcycle explanation. Maybe a little bit, but not much.

Ben Bowlin: No point by point comparison of Kawasaki and Harley Davidson.

Scott Benjamin: No, that's right. This isn't an instructional course, but what we'll do is we'll talk about a few of the interesting aspects of motorcycles because there's some really interesting things going on with motorcycles that I just had no idea about until I was reading about them recently. I have to divulge one thing here.

Ben Bowlin: Divulge.

Scott Benjamin: I'm not a motorcycle rider. I absolutely love motorcycles. I respect them. I think they are awesome. I love to watch them. I love to hear them. I love to just see them on the road, but I'm not a motorcycle rider. I know myself. I know that if I were to get on one of the machines, I would be dangerous because I love -

Ben Bowlin: You're a speed demon, Scott.

Scott Benjamin: I do. I love speed, and I know that the adrenaline would get the best of me, and I would probably do dumb things, so right now I'm holding off on doing anything like that. Maybe at some point in the future, but not right now. How about you? Are you a cycle rider?

Ben Bowlin: I don't own one. I think that for some of the same reasons, I would not be the best person to drive a motorcycle. I would probably feel so live and so full of energy when I was on one that I would very quickly end up injured.

Scott Benjamin: Probably.

Ben Bowlin: I just feel like that's a responsible decision on my part, but you've got to love these things, and a lot of people are - just as evidenced by our listener mail, a lot of people know a lot about this. You can't talk about cars without talking about motorcycles.

Scott Benjamin: I agree. They're part of the landscape on the road every day. We see them around us all the time. Now, listeners have had questions about specific types of motorcycles, like café racers and choppers and sport bikes and cruisers and touring bikes and the list goes on and on - super moto, just all kinds of different types of motorcycles. We're not gonna go into each type right now. We may at some future point go into each individual group or one or the other or whatever, but today we just want to cover the basics. We'll talk about - of course, we like to do this. We like to go back to the history of the motorcycle, so we'll do that. We're also going to - like I said, we're gonna talk about some interesting things that I just really didn't have an idea that all this was going on when you see a motorcycle on the road. In a way, it's challenging to ride, I'm sure.

Ben Bowlin: But take me back, Scott. Let's go back.

Scott Benjamin: I'm glad you rescued me there because I was getting -

Ben Bowlin: No, no, no, no. No. Let's take me back and take the listeners back to the days of yore, the days before the motorcycle.

Scott Benjamin: Before the motorcycle.

Ben Bowlin: Are there days before the motorcycle?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, there are days. You'd be interested to know that Leonardo da Vinci sketched the first motorcycle and actually rode one through the streets of Italy in the 14 - no, no. No, I'm kidding.

Ben Bowlin: That's part of the - that's what the Dan Brown book is about, everybody who hasn't read that. Leonardo daVinci.

Scott Benjamin: That's the big secret, right?

Ben Bowlin: That's the secret.

Scott Benjamin: He designed the first motorcycle.

Ben Bowlin: Sorry. Also, that book The Secret is about that.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, totally false.

Ben Bowlin: Totally false.

Scott Benjamin: We're just kidding with you.

Ben Bowlin: For serious this time.

Scott Benjamin: Honestly, guess how far back motorcycles go. Can you guess?

Ben Bowlin: Okay, one question. When we say motorcycle, the definition there might trip me up. So, it is a 2-wheeled vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine? Are we tracing that back?

Scott Benjamin: Oh, Ben, you know the answer, don't you?

Ben Bowlin: No, I don't.

Scott Benjamin: Let's say - you're tripping me up, here.

Ben Bowlin: Is it steam powered?

Scott Benjamin: You know what? You're exactly right.

Ben Bowlin: Are you serious?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, you're doing it.

Ben Bowlin: I'm not looking at your notes.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I'm covering up my notes instinctively like in school. No, you're exactly right, Ben. I'm impressed. Steam powered motorcycle in 1869.

Ben Bowlin: 1869. That makes sense in the context of the time period because steam power - for a time, steam power was a technology that designers and inventors were trying to put into everything.

Scott Benjamin: Sure. It was the way for a while. Until the internal combustion engine came along and slowly replaced the steam powered vehicles, yeah, that's the way people got around besides horses and walking. We talk about walking occasionally, but I don't know why people do that.

Ben Bowlin: Lost art form, urban legend.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I think so. Anyways, this guy Sylvester Howard Roper created a steam cycle in 1869, but I guess there's evidence that he actually toured with fairs and circus presentations, I guess - circus shows - as early as 1867 demonstrating this steam powered cycled. It was charcoal fired, had two cylinders. I'm sure it couldn't have been very quick, but you never know. I'm sure it was a rough ride. It didn't have much of a suspension, I'm sure. Anyways, 1869, steam powered motorcycle, if you can imagine that. It wasn't until 1885 that the vehicle that you're probably thinking of as a motorcycle, the first modern looking or the ones that resembles the most the motorcycle that we drive now. That was the Daimler Reitwagen. I'll have to work on the pronunciation on that, but the Daimler Reitwagen. That was the first gas motor driven motorcycle, and again, 1885. Get this. This is kind of interesting. I found this probably the most interesting in the history of the motorcycle.

Ben Bowlin: What's that?

Scott Benjamin: Do you remember we talked about the Great Race?

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: 1908, was it?

Ben Bowlin: Uh huh.

Scott Benjamin: 1908 and that was the epic journey across the United States - well, further than that, really.

Ben Bowlin: The hinterlands of the world.

Scott Benjamin: It went around the world, really. Well, they crossed the United States, remember? That was a big deal in itself. There was another guy that did it in a car in 1903.

Ben Bowlin: So earlier.

Scott Benjamin: Earlier, yeah. Horatio Jackson crossed. He went from San Francisco to Manhattan in 1903 in a car, in a Winton automobile.

Ben Bowlin: Winton, okay.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, and the reason I'm telling you this is because prior to Horatio crossing the United States, a motorcycle cross the United States before an automobile ever did.

Ben Bowlin: I'm skeptical, but go on because this makes sense.

Scott Benjamin: George Wyman. His name is George Wyman, and this comes from the Motorcycle Hall of Fame - the information does - in Pickerington, Ohio, which is right in the middle of Ohio near Columbus. Apparently, the first motorized vehicle to ever cross the United States was a motorcycle. I can't determine - I don't know if it was 1902 or 1903. It must have been 1902, I believe. He was on a 1.25 horsepower motorcycle called a California. The California ceases to exist anymore, but again 1.25 horsepower. He's driving across the United States. You know what the conditions must have been like.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: No roads. I think at the time, they said there something like 100 miles of roads in the United States, and those were mostly within the city. They didn't go anywhere outside of cities.

Ben Bowlin: We're talking about - he was probably going through fields, going through maybe natural deer paths, things like that.

Scott Benjamin: He used a lot of train tracks to get across the country, as a matter of fact.

Ben Bowlin: That's probably the smartest.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Can you imagine riding on the rails? Not the rails, but the ties in the between.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, the railroad ties.

Scott Benjamin: The bumpy ride that must have been for him for most of that way? And I know that in other times, he was forging his own way, I guess. Of course, replacement parts, he had to wait days and days for replacement parts if he broke down.

Ben Bowlin: So, this took a while. This was more of an endurance race.

Scott Benjamin: 50 days. 50 days is what it took. He was on the road from May 16 until July 6, and it was 3,800 miles. That's the distance he traveled. I don't know. Unbelievable. It wasn't until after that Horatio made his drive across the United States in a car, which was also an epic journey, very difficult. Then much later, they had the Great Race.

Ben Bowlin: So, there you go. For our listeners, the next time you guys are at a cocktail party or you're at the mechanics, or you're around somebody who's giving you a hard time about your motorcycle, just go ahead and drop that fact.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, just drop that little nugget of information on there.

Ben Bowlin: Little factoid for him.

Scott Benjamin: Yep. But the cool thing about motorcycles - and they've evolved ever since that point, and there's a lot of different steps that have come along the way, but mostly, they've looked like bicycles for a long, long time. The idea was kind of just to put a motor on a bicycle early on, and that was what a motorcycle really was. They became faster and better with time, of course, as did the designs of bicycles, but the idea is just a very simple way to get from A to B. It was very efficient. Even these early motorcycles, they're getting near 100 miles per gallon. Not that that was really a big deal at the time; the mileage wasn't really a factor, but it was really an economical way to get around. As we know, the taxes were much less on motorcycles and [inaudible] cars.

Ben Bowlin: And let me just interject here to say, yes, very simple idea to put a motor on a bike and see what happens, right?

Scott Benjamin: Um-hum.

Ben Bowlin: But I will argue that the invention of the motorcycle is brilliant, really. Can we talk about the basics? You want to talk about the basics?

Scott Benjamin: Of course, I'd love to talk about the basics. You want to lead me in here, or you got something in mind?

Ben Bowlin: I do think that we should emphasize again, as we've said in earlier episodes, that one of the reasons the motorcycle, from a design standpoint, is so efficient and so well done is that it cuts the weight to power ratio by a tremendous degree, which is why - I believe you said earlier, Scott, in a different podcast, you said that regardless of the car and the motorcycle racing, the odds are that if they go from a stop at a red light that the motorcycle will pick up faster.

Scott Benjamin: I've got a little update to that. I recently watched - it was just a YouTube video or something. This is this afternoon, actually.

Ben Bowlin: Okay, breaking news.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, breaking news. I'm sure it's an old video anyways, but some Viper - you can find this online. I don't know what I searched, but you can find a Viper racing a motorcycle. I don't remember what type of motorcycle it was, but they did a rolling start - terribly illegal. They're on the highway. They've got a camera in the car. They're going 60, I believe, or 70 to begin with, and the run is from a 70 mile per hour rolling start with the two of them side by side on the highway up to 175 miles per hour. It takes just seconds to get there. It's not very long at all. They're side by side. They both hit it at the exact same time. In the view that you have through the windshield, you see the motorcycle just fly past the Viper, and the Viper is somewhere in the neighborhood of - I think it was 731 horsepower, and the bike had something like 164 horsepower.

Ben Bowlin: There's just so much less for the bike to move.

Scott Benjamin: It is. It's just a body and the weight of the cycle itself, and oftentimes that's around maybe 500 pounds. That may even be high. It may be a lot less than that, so you're talking about ridiculous horsepower to weight ratio, which is exactly what they're doing. That's why some of these modern bikes are getting so fast that they're - I read something recently where they said that the 600 cc bikes, which are - well, it's like 0.6 of a liter - are doing much better now - are much faster and quicker than the 1-liter bikes from 10 years ago. That's because of weight reduction and gearing and just the advancement of the materials that are used. Don't be fooled by getting something that maybe is a little older, but has a bigger engine. You might be better off to get a newer bike with a smaller engine, and you might be even that much quicker. There's a lot of factors to look at when you're buying a bike, but that's a completely different podcast.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, which maybe will come up soon?

Scott Benjamin: So, yeah, it's just the bike has just an incredible advantage over cars from the start. It must be quite an adrenaline rush to ride one, I've got to say. I know my brother does it, and he loves it. I've had - well, my dad use d to ride one. I've had uncles that have ridden one. I'm sure you know family members or friends that have had them.

Ben Bowlin: And our co-worker, Tyler, who helps produce some of this stuff, he's a fanatic. Not a fanatic, a fan.

Scott Benjamin: A fan, yeah.

Ben Bowlin: But not a fanatic.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. I've had very limited experience on a motorcycle, but it's a lot of fun. It's a good time. And I've - the Honda Spree or whatever those were, the small scooters you can ride around town.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, mini bikes and stuff.

Scott Benjamin: But one interesting thing that I definitely want to get to here is this issue about counter steering. Did you read anything about counter steering in your research here? To me, that is absolutely fascinating.

Ben Bowlin: Let's go into it.

Scott Benjamin: It's the gyroscopic effect of a 2-wheeled vehicle on the road, I guess. That may be a confused way to say that, but anything with two wheels on the road beyond a certain speed has this gyroscopic effect of wanting to stand upright. The wheel wants to remain upright. It's difficult to understand this, and I had to watch a video again to understand it, and that's where I got the motorcycle racing a viper video. This is kind of nuts. At speed or above a certain speed, and I believe the speed is roughly 10 miles per hour, the steering is exactly opposite of what you would think it would be. To go - let me get this straight because I want to make sure that it's right.

Ben Bowlin: So, to turn left, for instance.

Scott Benjamin: To turn left. Okay, if you're headed down the road and you're going above 10 miles per hour, to turn left, you would push on the left hand side of the handlebars or you'd pull on the right. It sounds exactly opposite of what you'd think. And it's counterintuitive, right?

Ben Bowlin: Yes.

Scott Benjamin: The gyroscopic forces, or I think it's called precession, causes the bike to move to the left when you push on the left handlebar. It's really odd, but you can watch it in action if you watch these videos. There's another kind of cool thing that demonstrates this, and it's a simple thing. This is for kids. I'll tell you where I heard this. I read this on the Tech Stuff blog. Chris Pollette, one of the bloggers here and another podcaster on Tech Stuff, he wrote a blog entry recently about a product that came from a company called Gyrobike, and Gyrobike has a product - the company is called Gyrobike. The product is called the Gyrowheel, and the Gyrowheel replaces training wheels on kids' bikes.

Ben Bowlin: Weird.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, it's weird.

Ben Bowlin: It's so cool.

Scott Benjamin: It is cool, yeah. What's really cool about this is it's a wheel spinning within the wheel, and it creates a gyroscope in the kid's bicycle. It's a 12-inch wheel, and the wheel - I don't know which direction it spins. Forgive me. I don't know if it goes backwards or forwards.

Ben Bowlin: You are forgiven.

Scott Benjamin: Thank you. It's spinning at all times, and it's got three speeds. There's maximum stability, then kind of an intermediate setting, and then the least, and it's for training kind of a developmental thing. You start out with the most stable setting. It's a 12-inch wheel for a kid's bike. They've shown this bike where they just kind of give it a little shove forward, and the bike stands upright the whole time because of this gyroscopic force. They can even kind of bump the seat, bump the handlebars. It doesn't tip over. Eventually, it will slowly tip over, but it will not tip over.

Ben Bowlin: That's really cool.

Scott Benjamin: It is really cool, and they can even take the wheel off of the bike and just roll the wheel. They can kick it. They can nudge it around. No problem. They can push it forward. It'll roll forward and stand upright. The same thing is happening with both wheels on a motorcycle. You're trying to get your input into that spinning wheel in the front with the handlebars, and this gyroscopic precession is what causes it to want to remain upright, and that's why you have to counter steer in order to get around obstacles. It's got to be very difficult to get to the hang of and then to think below a certain speed, I've got to remember that it goes the correct way.

Ben Bowlin: Right.

Scott Benjamin: At lower speeds, like in a parking lot or something, you would turn the handlebars the normal way like you would on a bicycle.

Ben Bowlin: It's something you intuitively grasp through experience.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, I would think so. That's why it's very important that motorcycle riders go to a training course and learn the skills necessary and don't just try to go out and ride one because you may make a critical mistake.

Ben Bowlin: You know, I think you've made a really good explanation here because people who don't ride motorcycles or people who would never think of riding one, usually the first thing they say is, "It's common sense not to want to ride it. It's on two wheels. How do you keep your balance?" or something like that, and so I think that's an excellent illustration. It's something a lot of people don't know.

Scott Benjamin: Well, if you think about it, though, like when you're on a bicycle - I don't know if you've ever done this, but if you're riding your bike and you're going above a certain speed, it's pretty easy to let your hands off the handlebars.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Scott Benjamin: It's not really all that difficult, and you can even lean around turns, and it seems to be - it looked like a great trick when you were a kid, but honestly, there's not much to it because those wheels are holding you upright above a certain speed. When you slow down, that's when you have difficultly staying upright, and it's the same thing with a motorcycle. The gyroscopic force is keeping you upright, or it's aiding in keeping you upright. Of course, you have to be alert and on top of things at all times, but it really does help a lot. I've got a friend that rides one, and he said honestly, at speed, you take the handlebars and give them a quick smack either way if you want to. He doesn't recommend it, but the wheel will wobble real quick, then it'll go right back into position straight ahead.

Ben Bowlin: And COA, just for the sake of COA, we're not recommending that.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, no, no, no. He just told me that it was possible, and it kind of blew my mind. I thought you had to be hands on the wheels and concentrate. Well, you do have to, but I had no idea that you could do that and it would right itself that quickly.

Ben Bowlin: So, we've dispelled one prejudice that people have against motorcycles. Are there any other parts of riding or driving or the design that may surprise you?

Scott Benjamin: There's a lot to it, really. You've got to use both feet, both hands to ride a motorcycle, and it's got to be confused because it's not like a car where you're just steering with your hands. You're controlling motion with your feet, mostly - I mean your hand, I guess if you're shifting, but it's a little different in that the left hand controls the clutch, typically. The left foot is the shifter, so you've got that going on. Then, you've got the right hand, which is the throttle and the front brake, because there's front and rear brakes, and you've got to balance the two of those as well, so there's a lot going on. The right foot is using the rear brake. I bet it takes an awful lot of trial and error, I suppose, which is not something I'd really looking forward to, I think, right at first because they're awful heavy, and I wouldn't want it to fall over my legs, I don't think. It seems like a lot to think of at all times.

Ben Bowlin: But eventually, you get it down.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Maybe it's a lot easier than I think.

Ben Bowlin: Well, you can drive a manual, right?

Scott Benjamin: Sure, and I don't even think about it at this point, but when I first started, I had to think about every movement just briefly, but it was there. Now, I really don't think about it at all. It's just automatic. You just naturally do that.

Ben Bowlin: Now, you don't even dread having to go to a stop uphill at a red light.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, that's right. I could drive a manual transmission through San Francisco, and it wouldn't bug me.

Ben Bowlin: Not even a little?

Scott Benjamin: Not even a little.

Ben Bowlin: Hour two of traffic?

Scott Benjamin: Maybe that would bug me. Hour two would bug me a little bit.

Ben Bowlin: We're only human.

Scott Benjamin: I'd be worn out.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, we're only human. So, I guess the point is motorcycles do involve all parts of your body because it's not just your limbs. When you're turning or steering, a lot of people do the lean.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, sure. There's leaning involved, and how much of that involves the speed that you're traveling. There's really an awful lot involved in riding a motorcycle. It's not something you can just quickly pick up and get immediately. You do have to practice. You'd have to practice. There's a lot more to it than what we're covering here. There's the engine. We can talk about the engines at some other point, but different types of engines. There's different types of transmissions, even, as a matter of fact, anywhere from 4 to 6 speeds. There's no reverse, of course, because you just use your feet to back up. I'm trying to think of what else, here. There's chain drives. There's shaft drives. There's belt drives. Just a lot of variety right now in motorcycles, but I don't know. Basically, the design is relatively unchanged since I think it's about 1914 when the motorcycle kind of took its form that you see right now, really. So, it's been the same motorcycle for a long, long time. I know that there are some radical new designs out there. I think I read recently that Dan Gurney has got a new design. He's a racer from a while back.

Ben Bowlin: You know what? I feel like I've heard of that, but I have not seen anything. I literally may have just seen a headline or something.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, he's got some new design where you sit very low on the motorcycle, and your arms are kind of up almost like on a chopper with the real high handlebars, kind of. But it has an extremely low center of gravity. I don't know a lot of details about this thing, but what they're saying is it's really a radical new design that people are really gravitating to right now, and it's gonna be big.

Ben Bowlin: Two questions before we wrap up.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah.

Ben Bowlin: First question. I think we probably should address this. Motorcycle safety, which doesn't just apply to the cyclist themselves!

Scott Benjamin: Yeah. Nope, it's more than that. If we wanted to run down a quick list of what -

Ben Bowlin: Yeah.

Scott Benjamin: Okay, I looked up just a quick list on, and they had - just to run down their points here. You've got to take it seriously at all times. You can't be goofing around on a motorcycle. I see a lot of people riding wheelies and just looking back over their shoulder and talking to other people while they're riding, and I think that's what they're saying. Just take it seriously. Look straight ahead. Do what you should be doing out there to keep safe.

Ben Bowlin: Remember that you are on something that goes as fast as a car.

Scott Benjamin: Faster.

Ben Bowlin: Will not protect you.

Scott Benjamin: Faster, yeah, with nothing around you. That's the dangerous part. The other thing that they say is practice evasive or emergency movements. Practice even though you don't need them because if you get out of touch with what you need to do in an emergency, you may not be ready at all times, so it's a good idea just to be ready at all times, so it's that preparedness idea. The next thing they say is to wear physical protection, of course, the right clothing - helmet, body armor, whatever you need. Also, another thing is you've got to keep the bike in good condition. This goes to what you were saying. It doesn't just involve the rider. It's the bike itself too.

Ben Bowlin: Sure.

Scott Benjamin: You've got to make sure that everything is operating correctly and it's safe for you and everybody around you. You don't want pieces flying off. You don't want to carry things that are gonna fall off. Just make sure it's in good shape. And maybe - and I'm gonna say this may be the most important thing.

Ben Bowlin: What's that?

Scott Benjamin: I don't know if you can do that or not, but buy the right bike for your ability.

Ben Bowlin: You know what? It needed to be said.

Scott Benjamin: Yep. Know your skill level. Buy the right bike. If you need to upgrade later, that's okay. You can do that. But for the moment, buy the right bike. I think that's a -

Ben Bowlin: That's a really good point.

Scott Benjamin: I think that is too, and that one stood out on the list to me as being probably the top of the list here.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah, because a lot of people might always have wanted to ride a motorcycle, and then they might save up money and jump right into something that honestly could be dangerous at their skill.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, sure.

Ben Bowlin: Like a crotch rocket of some sort.

Scott Benjamin: Sure. If they're gonna jump onto some kind of super moto bike that is capable of 200 miles per hour or something, and this is their first bike.

Ben Bowlin: And you can't start off fast and furious. You have to start off maybe -

Scott Benjamin: Baby steps.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah. Swift and irritated.

Scott Benjamin: No, to each his own, I guess, but if you know your skill level, you know your ability, choose wisely.

Ben Bowlin: Yeah. One other one I'll add in on the safety, although I agree with you that that's one of the most important. If you are driving another kind of vehicle, a truck for instance, or a sedan or something, and you're around motorcyclists, do exercise caution. Sometimes, motorcyclists can get a bad rap on the highway or something, but that really, really doesn't matter unless it affects your opinion as the person driving another vehicle beside the motorcycle. Be careful because you can't - if you are tailgating someone who's in a Land Rover or something, and you bump them, then the odds are, depending on how fast you're going, both of you will probably have relatively minor injuries. But you can bump someb ody on a motorcycle, and it can be a completely different ballgame.

Scott Benjamin: Oh, yeah. It's dramatically different. And the thing with motorcycles is that they have faster acceleration. They can turn quicker than a car can. They're more nimble, so they can get in and out of traffic a little easier, and you may not expect them to appear where they do appear because they've got the speed. But the other thing is that they can decelerate a lot faster than you, and that can be shocking as well because I've been behind a motorcycle before. I do try to give them extra room, but the thing is that there are times when I've seen a motorcycle slow down so quickly that I feel like I get just maybe a little too close. I didn't want to, but it's because they're such a quick rapid deceleration. My car took a little bit longer. I was quick on the brake as well, but I still felt a little nervous at that point. Here I am closing in on this motorcycle. I didn't intend to, it's just that he had that much more ability to - he pushed it a little further and decelerated faster. You've got to watch out for it in all aspects - the acceleration, the deceleration, the in and out of traffic. You've just got to be mindful of what's around you.

Ben Bowlin: Nimble is the perfect word.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, they're very nimble.

Ben Bowlin: I think that motorcycles are one of - here in a city, I think in a survival situation, motorcycles are head and shoulders above using a car to try to get out of the city. The only thing better would probably be a regular bicycle, non-powered, because you don't have to put fuel in it. I have one last question.

Scott Benjamin: Sure.

Ben Bowlin: What ever happened to sidecars, Scott?

Scott Benjamin: Sidecars are still around.

Ben Bowlin: Are they?

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, they are. They're still around.

Ben Bowlin: I don't see them.

Scott Benjamin: You don't see them around, but there's a company, and I wish I knew the name of it right now.

Ben Bowlin: If I hadn't put you on the spot.

Scott Benjamin: That's okay. There's a motorcycle now that looks like the old bikes that you would see in World War II, usually painted olive drab green.

Ben Bowlin: Chasing Indiana Jones?

Scott Benjamin: Exactly, exactly. There's a company that makes bikes that look almost exactly like that. They're not olive drab green. I think you can get that color. You can get all different colors, but that's basically an unchanged motorcycle that's still available. And this is really cool.

Ben Bowlin: What's that?

Scott Benjamin: Sidecar racing.

Ben Bowlin: They don't have sidecar - do they?

Scott Benjamin: There's awesome sidecar racing. I don't know if you've ever seen it or not, but it's crazy fast, and they don't - they look like streamliners, and the guy that's in the sidecar does this just wild thing where he gets on - at one point, he's on the back of the motorcycle leaning out one way. At another point, he's hanging off the side, where his whole body is laid out against it.

Ben Bowlin: Distributing his weight.

Scott Benjamin

Exactly, against the pavement. It's unbelievable to watch the guy that's in the sidecar climbing around on this motorcycle during the race, but it's really cool. We'll -

Ben Bowlin: I would feel safer riding a motorcycle than riding in a sidecar.

Scott Benjamin: Yeah, yeah. Well, the person in the sidecar - I've seen a few spills where they end up rolling out and just kind of have to watch the rest of the race from the sideline. But it's really an exciting sport. It's like new or modern motorcycle sidecar racing.

Ben Bowlin: I should check that out.

Scott Benjamin: It's cool, yeah. Maybe we'll do a podcast on that soon.

Ben Bowlin: Maybe we will. Now, to our listeners here, guys, sorry it took us a little while to get to this. We hope you enjoyed the basics of motorcycles, starting with some history, going through the chief advantages which are, in some way, disadvantages. I don't know. Have we got anything else on this, Scott?

Scott Benjamin: There's more. Sure, there's a lot more.

Ben Bowlin: There's a ton more.

Scott Benjamin: But we're not gonna do it, not right now. We'll go into a lot of this stuff later. I don't know what we're at. An hour? I think we've been talking for an hour.

Ben Bowlin: We've had some excitement.

Scott Benjamin: So, we're gonna break it up into some other topics, and we'll do engines later and other types of bikes. I think we've got it covered for today.

Ben Bowlin: And the only way you'll know what else we have to say about motorcycles is to tune in next time or send us an e-mail at

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