Top Ten Questions to avoid on Bike Forums and Owner Groups

In Motorcycle Maintenance by JulianLeave a Comment

The internet is a wonderful thing – at the tap of just a few keys all the combined knowledge of the world pops up in front of you. From how to change the oil filter on a 1996 Africa Twin to the best ways to survive deep water crossings on a motorcycle. You can buy everything from a 10 amp fuse to a ten ton tank, learn to fly a plane or speak Japanese – it’s all there. And so are the bike forums …

Now don’t get us wrong – we’re a fan of a well run bike owners group or special interest group – they are a great way to access model specific information and share knowledge with fellow enthusiasts. But trying to get through this means you have to endure rafts of inane and circular queries on an almost daily basis – pages and pages of multiple questions and conflicting opinions that leave everyone having learned nothing useful and wasted a lot of time.

Keyboard warriors on Bike Forums
THE SECRET OF LIFE WILL NOT BE FOUND IN A FACEBOOK OWNER GROUP

So to help you avoid contributing to the mountains of ill informed opinion and subjective opinions surfing through hyperspace, we thought we’d catalogue those top ten questions that either don’t need asking or if asked will not bring you any useful conclusions.

WHAT TYRES SHOULD I USE?

Straight in with the big hitter on those Facebook groups. All over the world bike owners with every imaginable brand are seeking the ideal tyre for their bike.  So it stand to reason to ask a bunch of strangers whose only connection is having bought the same bike. Ignore the different riding conditions they ride in, ignore their experience, ignore how they ride, ignore the speed they ride at, ignore the pressures they are running – just get that recommendation – Contis are great!

Don't ask about Tyres on bike forums
THERE IS NO BEST TYRE FOR ALL CONDITIONS – THERE REALLY ISN’T

OK if only the one brand and model came back as a reply with 1000 people liking and agreeing, then your time would have been well spent . Time to go out and buy the tyres – job done.

Except that doesn’t happen. Few riders will have tried lots of different brands  fewer will have tried them on a variety of surfaces from deep mud in Somerset to rocky climbs in Western Australia, even fewer will try brands and throw them away if they are no good and none of them have your bike and ride like you.

So what you have is a long list of tyres and brands others riders have tried, liked and are now evangelical about. This will not help …

 

WHAT GEARING IS EVERYBODY USING?

Number two comes strong with the perennial gearing quesion, again presumably with the assumption that there is somehow a golden combination out there that the manufacturers are not telling us. There isn’t.

Your bike will come as stock with a combination that will deliver the expected combination of acceleration and top speed. If you want more of one and less of the other, then you can do this buy changing the size of the sprockets. A bigger rear or smaller front will deliver better low speed pick up and acceleration at the expense of top speed. A smaller rear or larger front will offer better top speed at the expense of low speed pick up or acceleration.

Gearing questions on bike forums
CHANGING REAR SPROCKETS ALLOWS GENTLE GEARING CHANGES BUT IS MORE EXPENSIVE

A full explanation of gearing ratios is given here, but for now it’s worth pointing out that altering the front by just one tooth gives much bigger changes than at the rear – the way ratios work you’d have to change by nearly four teeth at the back end to achieve the same effect.

What other people are running is not a good indication of what you should run – decide what you want and change the sprockets accordingly ….

WHAT OIL SHOULD I USE?

What Oil to use - don't ask bike forums
THERE’S PLENTY OF OIL TO CHOOSE FROM, AND EVEN MORE OPINIONS

This question seems to float across the internet and drop itself into FB groups with the regularity of a herpes infection. Some KTM forums have this one so regularly it’s hard not to think that people aren’t just posting it as a joke. But it’s not – it’s a genuine question just posted endlessly.

OK so maybe, just maybe, look in your owners manual and see what they recommend. If you don’t have a manual a quick Google search will find one or you could just phone a local dealer.  The only thing that needs to vary is the rating according to ambient temperature – other than that buy a known brand that is likely to have a better research department than an unknown budget brand. It’s as simple as that.

Oh and Rotella is not necessarily the best oil on the planet …

WHAT MILEAGE BETWEEN OIL CHANGES FOLKS?

change bike oil - don't ask the forums
CHANGE YOU OIL WHEN YOU NEED TO, WHICH WILL VARY ACCORDING TO USE

Basing your maintenance routine on the advice of unknown contributors is questionable. They don’t know how hard you’ve been riding, what oil you are currently running, how regularly you’ve changed the filters – none of it.

So are you therefore going to take the ‘Every 6000 miles mate‘ or ‘Change it every time you go out‘ as gospel? Or maybe just use the owners manual recommendation from the people that built the bike? Tough choice.

The only thing you might take from internet advice is that for enduro bikes, the service and oil change intervals tend to be very frequent as the manufacturers are basing their recommendations on the bike being raced. If you are not racing, these intervals may be on the overprotective side ….

Otherwise, ignore all advice from Dave in Melbourne who uses cooking oil an changes it every four years ….

DOES THIS SOUND RIGHT?

questions to avoid on bike forums
WHY DOESN’T MY BIKE SOUND LIKE THIS ONE?

We always love a good video with a plea for instant diagnosis. It’s normally accompanied by a comment along the lines of ‘ Just bought this 2005 CRF450 real cheap from a friend of a friend but it doesn’t sound right and stalls when you let the clutch out – what’s the problem?’

Believe us – just as diagnosing a medical problem cannot be successfully achieved from a Google search, you won’t find a solution to your bike’s problem by posting a thirty second video with your phone held the wrong way round.

Take it to a trusted friend that actually owns bikes and knows about engines or failing that – a motorcycle mechanic that has been recommended to you. As for posting videos, keep them to fat cats falling off things or dogs leaning out of car windows …

 

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ANYONE ELSE HAD THIS?

Now maybe this type of question is an example of people trying to make themselves feel better about catastrophic engine failures, but it’s not entirely clear how it can help. While it my be mildly interesting to see a mangled engine component and something similar might have happened to a proportion of the group, getting that virtual group hug is not going to get the bike back on the road.

questions to avoid on bike forums
YEP – THAT’S PROPER F*CKED

The only possible help this type of post can be is if the person asking the question can identify why the problem has occurred and help others to avoid the issue. If you are prepared to post a picture of a melted piston and say – ‘This is what happens when you try to run at 100:1‘ or   ‘Don’t hold it on the rev limiter just after starting‘ then all good –  but maybe not rocket science …

WHAT TYRE PRESSURES ARE BEST?

Another perennial query that can have normally sane motorcyclists screaming with frustration. Manufacturers recommend tyre pressures for the tyres they fit to their bikes and unsurprisingly, it’s a good idea to stick to them. If you swap brands, there is likely to be a recommended pressure available for that tyre – relying on that is likely to be better than the advice of a random, if well meaning, stranger on Facebook.

questions to avoid on bike forums
BUY ONE AND USE IT – JUST STOP TALKING ABOUT IT

For off-road action, there is slightly more scope for adjusting either side of manufacturers recommendations. However, as tyre technology has moved on, the flexibility of the tyre is now far more varied so that tyres are specifically designed to work best at an optimum pressure – changing this will not improve grip despite the possibility it used to work back in the seventies.

Running super-low pressures  in mud will not necessarily work as the tyre spreads out and spin up, whereas a recommended pressures will allow it to cut through the muck and reach the harder ground underneath.

Rely on the technology, not the talk.

SHOULD I RUN A STEERING DAMPER

There are plenty of options for steering dampers out there and plenty of people run them. However this is not the same as there being plenty of people that actually need to run them.

If you ask this question in a forum, all the people who have them will swear blind that they are the best thing ever, thereby justifying their purchase and giving themselves a pat on the back for their savvy buying and bike knowledge. The others who don’t run them will rubbish the idea, say they are not needed, and point out that top riders rarely use them. This makes them feel good for both saving unnecessary expenditure and for being more knowledgeable than those that have fitted them.

Steering damper - questions to avoid on bike forums
LOVELY BLING – WHETHER YOU NEED IT IS ANOTHER THING

Our advice – if you feel it’s going to improve your bike and it’s not going to throw you into horrendous debt then crack on. OK – it might be worth seeing if just tightening up the top nut might do the same thing, but whatever – if you fancy a bit of steering bling then it’s your cash – hit the plastic.

WHAT INSURANCE COMPANY ARE YOU WITH?

questions to avoid on bike forums
MEREKATS – ABOUT AS GOOD AT INSURANCE AS ASKING FB GROUPS

OK so with all these questions, the answer you get back will garner nothing but a long list of different insurance companies, all of which you probably know of. Of course if you ask a group that has worldwide members, you’ll also get a fair number of companies that don’t operate in your country so are completely useless, and for every recommendation then there will be an equal amount of  posts telling you that same firm is a bunch of useless, money-grabbing charlatans that don’t know a thing about bikes.

Again – if there was one company that was best, we’d all be using them. There isn’t and a policy that works for one bike and one owner will not necessarily be the best for a different bike. Phone around or go online to genuine bike insurance companies and pick the one with the best price and inclusions. Go for the cheapest on a comparison site and if you need to claim you may very well regret it – the same as taking advice on a forum really!

HOW OFTEN ARE YOU GUYS CHANGING THE PLUG?

Spark Plug - questions to avoid on bike forums
SOME PLUGS RELAXING YESTERDAY

This question quite literally popped up as we were writing this blog. OK we know that we all have to learn somewhere but come on guys – have you even the slightest idea about how the machine you are riding works?

To clear up any confusion here is the definitive answer is here.

All plugs should be changed on the fourth Sunday after Easter or after 8913 km or 5538 miles, which ever comes sooner. In leap years, the change should take place on the Monday , ideally before 12.00 GMT.

Did we miss any? Let us know

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