Motorcycle Classics

Murphy's Law for Motorcycles

Reader Contribution by Alison Green

Murphy’s Law #3,475: The clear mountain pass you crossed all summer in your car will be covered in snow when you cross it on your Norton.

I’m certain that there are many lists of motorcycle related pitfalls, humorous and painful, but these are all lessons that I have learned in person. Sometimes I have even had more than one lesson on the same topic! – Alison

Details! My mother used to be fond of saying “the devil is in the details.” As a child, I didn’t have a clue what she meant. Maybe the devil isn’t as popular these days, as I haven’t heard that expression for years. But now that I am supposed to be all grown-up, and especially since I choose to ride a motorcycle, I have finally figured out what she meant. Guess what? She was right!

Some of the items that follow aren’t really “details” in the traditional sense; just everyday things that can foul up the best of plans in the most inventive ways. If you are on a motorcycle you had better pay attention to the details, or else! Ignoring them invites embarrassing and sometimes painful reminders that the small stuff does matter – and how. Consider this an extended list of lessons learned – thankfully not all on the same ride:

An open-ended “Murphy’s Law for Motorcycles”• The bike will go precisely 0.4 km with the fuel petcock in the “off” position.
• “Level” ground is sometimes anything but!  This is usually discovered after pulling into a parking spot with a fully loaded touring bike. Without a reverse gear, backing a bike up even the gentlest of grades is hard work and cannot be done with any degree of dignity.
• You put your bike key safely in your hip pocket – before you donned your raingear and helmet and gloves and plugged in your headset.
• Pushing a bike, any bike, because you have run out of fuel is maddening, and very hard work. You will be precisely midway between available gas stations when the bike quits, uphill from where you stopped or a long way from nowhere, (in which case pushing is futile.)
• The bike will not start with the kill-switch in the off position. You never forget it when you are alone, only when others are observing.
• “Hard” gravel is an oxymoron. Sooner or later, you will choose the wrong spot to deploy the sidestand and will have to pick up the bike. There will always be other bikers watching.
• It will already be raining, and raining very hard, by the time you decide to stop to don your wet-weather gear. The sun will come out five minutes later.
• A helmet which is placed on the seat of the bike will fall to the ground and get scratched, even on a perfectly calm day. This mostly happens to new helmets.
• Your favourite jeans are in the wash, so you wear the newer pair – the ones that are a wee bit snug. Well, lets just say that after 30 kilometers you are certain that the day is not going to be fun! This applies equally to men and women. Squirming while riding does not help. Also, undergarments cannot successfully be adjusted while astride a motorcycle.
• Trying to wipe a big bug splatter off your face shield with your glove will result in a greater mess. If you only hit one bug, it will be in your line of vision.
• The time required to get geared up and rolling rises geometrically with the number of people and bikes involved. Any quick five-minute stop for one bike/rider, takes at least 10 minutes if there are two bikes, and multiples of 10 if there are more.
• The straight sections of road where overtaking would be easy will be empty of traffic. The anticipated curvy sections of the road, complete with a double yellow line,  will be clogged with slow-moving trucks and holiday traffic.

I have barely scratched the surface of the potential list of motorcycle-related Murphy’s laws and I am still discovering previously unrecorded and interesting new ones …  I just wish that the learning curve didn’t involve quite so many embarrassing moments! – Alison Green

  • Published on Sep 8, 2008
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