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Home Sharon's Biking Blog

The Trouble With Trouble

Blog date Nov 17

OK I have a question to ask. As you all know I have a Kawasaki Z250SL. The other week Ren and I was waiting en masse to do the M60 Ring of Red. Surrounded by bikers we do what bikers usually do, we talk bikes.

Now a few folks liked my bike saying it was a nice looking bike etc. However during the course of conversation I overheard the following -
"A 250 is OK but it is not enough to get you out of trouble." 
This is not the first time I have heard this. I personally have no idea what kind of trouble I am supposed to be getting into let alone out of. 

You see to me the obvious answer to trouble - especially when riding a motorbike is to do your utmost to avoid it in the first place. If you are not in trouble you won't need to get out of it.

However the trouble with trouble is you might not see it coming. So in this case I could not employ my usual tactic of trying to avoid trouble in the first place. So therefore I ask what kind of trouble would find me in a more dangerous situation on a 250cc than someone with a larger cc bike? 

I can only assume it will be something to do with either acceleration or speed. 

A huge V8 custom built motorcycle
Do I need V8 power to be sure of getting out of trouble?

Now if you are going to answer with overtaking then let me stop you right there.  Junctions and overtaking are where most accidents occur. So we know overtaking is risky, possibly even dangerous in some situations. You may be thinking with extra speed and or acceleration a bigger bike could save you if the overtaking did somehow go wrong. Such as a car approaching faster than anticipated from the opposite direction. Or the vehicle you are overtaking suddenly decides it's a race. So in theory in such a scenario more power would save me...right? 

I say no for this scenario because we all know the capability of our bikes. Or rather we should know them. An overtake is a judgement call. We have to consider our field of vision, the layout of the road ahead, other vehicles etc. From that information we then make the decision to overtake or not. Being on a smaller bike that means I will have less power therefore overtaking opportunities will be less. So less possibilities on a smaller cc bike but no more dangerous. 

Sharon is sat on her 125 smiling in the sunshineFewer overtaking opportunities means fewer risks and more smiles.

One of the reasons an overtake could potentially become dangerous is if I misjudged the overtaking for one of the reasons stated earlier. Then you may say more power would have got me out of trouble right?

Once again I say no. Because as all overtaking is a judgement call if I had been on a bigger bike then the chances are I would have judged my overtake on the power and speed of the bike I was riding and not on the power of a 250cc.

On my 125 cc unless the road is clear for miles and all I am overtaking is a donkey then for the most part I just don't bother trying because it is simply too risky.  It is also highly embarrassing when you suddenly realise you are going uphill and there is no more power and you have to pull in back behind the car you were trying to overtake.  Yes I still carry that shame. 

So anyway it is I who make the judgement. Similarly when on my 250cc I now overtake more often because the extra power in the bike allows for more opportunities. Similarly again if I had an even more powerful bike then once again those opportunities will increase. However although overtaking opportunities are increased by the motorbikes cc size safety is not. 

Why? Because we use our judgement and we will potentially push, if we are that way inclined, which ever bike we are on at the time to the max. We put the CCs of the bike into our judgemental equation. Therefore the risk and the potential for trouble remains the same for every bike. In overtaking it is our own error in judgement that could land us is trouble and that potential will remain constant throughout the cc range.  

On a bigger bike you would on judgement overtake with an oncoming vehicle closer than you would on a smaller cc bike. If you misjudged their speed then due to the smaller gap you will be trouble. Your ccs won't save you because you may have already put them into the equation when you made the judgement for the overtake. You are already maxed out.

So in conclusion if larger ccs only increase the opportunity of overtaking and not the safety of an overtake then the bike least likely to get you into trouble is the good old 125cc. With less opportunity to overtake there will be reduced overtakes actually occurring. As overtaking is one of the places where most accidents occur you have in fact reduced the likelihood of trouble and an accident by riding a smaller bike. 

Proportionally if you overtake more on a larger bike due to more opportunities then the potential for misjudgement or a unexpected occurrence on anyone of those increased overtakes increases. If you are overtaking more frequently you are more often in a potentially troublesome situation. Therefore a bigger cc bike is more likely to get you into trouble in the first place. 

So that's my thinking. Let me know yours.

Finally let me ask again can you think of any situation where a 250 cc would be incapable of getting me out of trouble where a larger bike could have???  


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Reader's Comments

Latchy said :-
You obviously did not predict outrunning a tidal wave from behind you, therefore a zzr1400 would be suitable he he.


01/12/2017 12:56:48 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Excellent Sharon. I wish more people would think like that.

"More power keeping you out of trouble" falls into the same mythical category as "laying the bike down to avoid a crash" (errrr, that is a crash) and "loud pipes save lives" (no they don't they just irritate people).

Sadly people believe all these things because it's rufty-tufty biker talk.

A similar but slightly different category is calling cars "cages" and their drivers "cagers". They're just other road users and like most riders are doing their best not to either be hurt or to hurt anyone else. Using slightly derogatory terms doesn't achieve anything.

01/12/2017 16:09:15 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Oh Latchy! I'd be more concerned about the forthcoming zombie apocalypse. If the zombies are riding ZZR1400s your little Striple 765 just ain't gonna cut it.

What you really need is a XR 650. That way you can go off road giving the zombies the slip (sic) and ride into the hills avoiding the tidal wave. I think it's best to be prepared for all possibilities.
04/12/2017 07:53:03 UTC
Bob said :-
Since I downsized from an XT660R to a KLX250S I'm still occasionally frustrated that I can't make an overtake that I once could have, but you are correct in that since I got the 250 I've had very few of those "Oh S**t!" moments.
Riding a big bike becomes for me an excercise in overtaking cars, it's inconceivable to stay behind one, now I just flow with the traffic and I actually enjoy the ride much more.
I still do make overtakes on the KLX but I have to be more careful and make sure there is actually room to overtake - you know, like you're supposed to?
04/12/2017 10:49:51 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I quite agree Sharon, and I bet the emergency services do too. I'm fairly sure that statistically, if you ignore SMIDY's, by far the biggest category of biking accidents are due to the rider losing control normally because their chosen steed is too powerful for their abilities.

The mainstream biking press are responsible for the ridiculous attitude that to go further than your local shops, you need at least 100bhp. Just look at the MCN review of Suzuki's GS500 (a 50bhp machine capable of 0 to 60mph in about 5.5 seconds) which is described as a wheezy old commuter, or some such nonsense. The sad thing is that this has encouraged manufacturers to follow the 'power race' which in turn has led to the draconian testing system now in place for motorcycles. This in turn has led to the reduction of new riders and the fewer motorcycles on the road, the less safe it becomes for all the rest of us, as drive awareness decreases.

I've never owned, nor felt the need for anything with more than 50bhp, and in fact in purely functional terms, even this is excessive. My most enjoyable long distance ride of the last ten years or so was when I took my little 125 VanVan from Brum down to Kent. A and B roads all the way, and it only took four hours to do exactly 200 miles. Great fun.....
04/12/2017 13:15:39 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Power is a funny thing. I do enjoy stepping onto the 500 and having that "ooomph" to play with - and the 500 is only(?) 47bhp. The Fazer had 95bhp and apart from the remote road in Scotland I'd say 45 of those horses were wasted. On the occasions I called for all the power it left me concerned for both my licence and my wellbeing. To be honest the 47 horses in the 500 also cause the same concerns.

My 125 is just fine. There are times when it is frustrating when loaded up with camping kit and going uphill in 3rd at max revs and 35mph I do yearn for a little more. I'm thinking Bob and Sharon are about right with 250, enough to always reach the speed limits and keep with the traffic, not enough to encourage stupidity.

I think 400-500 in a soft tune for grunt rather than performance is best if you're two up with kit.
05/12/2017 10:35:56 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
The only bike I've ever had with more than 50 bhp or so was the 955i Tiger with 105. While I loved the effortless way it accelerated (well past the ton if not paying attention) I never actually used anything like the power available in "real life". And of course with the extra power came extra bulk and weight.

I found the power of my Norton Commando at about 50 bhp just right - an easily attainable 80 mph, good acceleration, and a flexible engine only needing 4 speeds. The Guzzi is similar although a bit more "top endy". The Honda 4 had similar power output but far too peaky for me.

I much prefer a slightly larger engine with flexibility to a highly tuned smaller one.
05/12/2017 10:51:41 UTC
Sharon said :-
I wonder if we will ever manage to have a culture where we are applauded by our mates for our safety rather than our speed or stunts. The pressure to be fast is still enormous. Bigger and faster bikes are always coming out and are usually very popular. Many people are advised on passing their test not to get anything smaller than a 600cc. As in this post they are told they are not as safe as bigger bikes or they will bore you. I was given this advice myself. Lucky for me I am old enough and small enough to choose what suited me not anyone else. I am still not bored but I think boredom has more to with the person themselves.

As Epicurus said - Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little.
05/12/2017 18:13:36 UTC
Ross said :-
Sharon said...

“Because we use our judgement and we will potentially push, if we are that way inclined, which ever bike we are on at the time to the max. “

Whilst I agree with where you're coming from on this, I feel you've possibly over-simplified it a bit. I don't think many people max-out modern litre plus sportsbikes on the road (but I'm sure a tiny minority do, and lots more claim they do!) because they are just so bloody fast! A big, powerful bike can give you more margin for error if you make a misjudgement or the situation unexpectedly changes...and most people wouldn't take the possibly more prudent approach of backing off and pulling back in behind the vehicle they are overtaking because of ego or over-confidence in their own abilities, but with plenty in hand you 'can' still make the pass!

Ian Soady said...

“... the same mythical category as "laying the bike down to avoid a crash" (errrr, that is a crash)...”

I've usually heard it referred to as “laying the bike down to avoid a bigger/more serious crash” which possibly makes more sense in some circumstances. For example, an accident on a motorway near me a year or so ago involving a motorcyclist “laying his bike down” to avoid a lorry that was busy having an accident with a bridge. Apparently his choice was be decapitated by the trailer or “lay the bike down” and slide clear of the worst of it (he didn't get away unharmed...broken ribs, punctured lung, broken ankle and lots of abrasions!).

It's all very well bullshitting in front of your mates at the local biker cafe, but I do wonder how many would have the presence of mind to get off their bike like that in a crash situation...ride defensive and hope not to put it to the test, eh!

Just a few of my thoughts on the subject, I hope I haven't misquoted or misrepresented anything anybody has said, keep up the good work Sharon and Ren, and the regular contributors to the site, it's always an interesting and thought provoking read here! :)

06/12/2017 10:40:13 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Hi Ross.

It would be interesting to know the circumstances. Lorries hitting bridges don't do so out of the blue. There is almost always some warning - it's weaving about, crossing white lines, whatever - although I accept I don't know the detail of this specific case.

There are of course unpredictable events - the aircraft falling out of the sky when involved in an air show is one such, Ren's collision with another bike another. But most signal themselves.

One thing I always do on motorways is to ensure I'm not part of a "three abreast" (or even four where we now have 4 lane running) scenario, and make sure that I minimise the time I'm beside another vehicle as that's the time of greatest risk.

I'm not trying to be holier than thou and I have made (and continue to make) mistakes and exhibit poor judgment. But fortunately in my 50+ years of riding and driving I have never had a car crash of any description or a serious bike crash.

I totally agree that you need to be defensive but it goes further than that - just think about where the risks are, and consider what actions you can take to minimise them. I hate to say it but often that comes down to slowing down a bit......

The problem with having "a bit in hand" with the misjudged overtake is that if you've still misjudged it the resulting crash is far worse than it otherwise would be (although a head-on with another vehicle at open road speeds will inevitably end badly).
06/12/2017 12:12:55 UTC
Rod said :-
Changing from bigger bikes to a 250 I do find that I ride more defensive than before. I think that it is the fact that when you are at full traffic speed you only have one option (to brake) rather than two options (brake or accelerate). So if a vehicle is joining the motorway at 70mph and you are doing 70mph and you are about to occupy the same piece of tarmac then on a 250 you have to brake, but on a 1000 you can brake or accelerate.
Just one scenario where more power may get you out of trouble!!
You are travelling at about 60mph and come up behind a boy racer with the big bore pipe ect. You wait for a piece of road where it is safe to overtake and go for the overtake. When you move out to overtake the boy racer decides to give you a race and puts his foot down. On a bigger bike you would not even notice that they had put their foot down, you would have gone, but on a 250 you have a potential problem.
Generally I agree that in practice you ride to your, and the bikes capabilities.
06/12/2017 15:46:26 UTC
Ross said :-
Hi Ian

"It would be interesting to know the circumstances. Lorries hitting bridges don't do so out of the blue..."

If I Remember correctly, an excavator on the back of the HGV hadn't been stowed correctly and the boom was too high. He'd passed under a few road bridges with 'just' enough clearance but a pedestrian bridge with a design that was lower at the sides of the road than the centre was his undoing...some of the bridge came down too!

"There are of course unpredictable events - the aircraft falling out of the sky when involved in an air show is one such"

Shoreham? That wasn't far from me either! :-/

"I'm not trying to be holier than thou and I have made (and continue to make) mistakes and exhibit poor judgment."

Absolutely, we all do...When I have an 'oh, shit!' moment, whether in the car or on the bike, I always try and review it to try and work out what I could or should have done to not be in that situation, even if it wasn't my 'fault'. Usually the answer is I should have been going slower or given the other vehicle more space!

(PS are we going to see any more of your bikes in Real Classic magazine again soon?)
07/12/2017 09:43:48 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Rod said: "So if a vehicle is joining the motorway at 70mph and you are doing 70mph and you are about to occupy the same piece of tarmac then on a 250 you have to brake, but on a 1000 you can brake or accelerate."

But what is wrong with slowing down? You lose a couple of seconds perhaps. If you're the vehicle already on the motorway and you accelerate there may be someone overtaking you planning to use the space in front of you and you've taken that away from them. If you're the joining vehicle then (especially if what's already in the inside lane is large) there may again be someone you can't see intending to go into the space which you will suddenly occupy.

It's very rare that the slip road isn't long enough and with enough visibility to match speeds even if it does require easing off slightly.
07/12/2017 10:25:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Interesting point Rod - with low power you typically have one choice - the brake, with high power you have 2, accelerate or brake.

I daresay we'd all agree the first thing is to avoid situations where you're forced to make a choice in the first place. But of course we all make mistakes.

Ross you're near Shoreham? My dad lives in Ferring and you have Wemoto nearby :)
07/12/2017 10:29:30 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Hi Ross.

My latest "restoration" (more of a tidy up really) was the Ariel Arrow which some here have been very rude about. I'm a sensitive soul so it will probably not appear in RC...... The link below gives an impression of it.

WRT the excavator on the back of the lorry, you mention that there had been several near misses. An observant rider would have seen these and taken the first opportunity to pass where the road was clear. Unless of course he'd arrived at 90 mph in which case would probably not have had the chance to do much.

I agree entirely with the general conclusions you come to!
www.iansoady.org.uk/Arrow/ ...
07/12/2017 10:31:23 UTC
Keith m said :-
Sorry to crash the post, but that motorway bridge that came down was something to behold.
A lorry carrying and excavator was traveling on the hard shoulder hit a concrete pedestrian bridge with such force it took it off its mounting. It wasn't a small piece but a span covering three lanes of motorway. It landed on the back of, and crushed,an artic lorry that was passing the low loader. As the whole lot was crashing to the carriage way a motorcyclist decided his best option was to get off and slide underneath. As the bridge had landed on the back of an articulated trailer there was just enough room to slide through. Lucky escape and how nobody else got hurt is pure chance.
Motorway was shut for the weekend as the powers that be decided how to shift several hundred tons of concrete off the carriageway.
07/12/2017 14:13:53 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
I guess I should have modified my initial comment to "it's almost always a crash"........

I still think there must have been some warning signs however.
07/12/2017 16:13:28 UTC
Ross said :-
Hi Ian & Keith

I'm liking the Ariel, I started my biking life on 2 strokes (Yamaha FS1E, Suzuki GT185 & GT250, Yamaha DT175) so have a soft spot for them, despite what the BAT Controller thinks of them! I've hopefully attached a pic' of an oddity that appears regularly at local bike shows and most people walk past without realising what is 'wrong' with it.

"WRT the excavator on the back of the lorry, you mention that there had been several near misses. An observant rider would have seen these and taken the first opportunity to pass where the road was clear."

I don't know how long he was behind the lorry for, but if the lorry was doing 50/60mph and he was at 70/80mph he would not necessarily have seen it pass under another bridge...and I'm not sure many people would have spotted how close the load was to hitting a bridge in the cut and thrust of motorway driving?

Keith, thanks for the extra info' on the incident, I hadn't realised/remembered that the lorry was travelling on the hard shoulder!

Ren, I'm in Kent, so not 'that' close to Shoreham, but not that far 'as the Suzuki Inazuma flies!' If the BAT Team is ever in Kent or nearby I'd like the opportunity to buy them a brew if you have the time! :)

BSA Bantam?
07/12/2017 16:14:30 UTC
CrazyFrog said :-
I'm with Ian on the deliberate laying down of a bike. I've been riding for over 35 years, and I've been lucky enough (or careful enough) to only have had one accident (other than the silly dropping bikes at walking pace etc we all do from time to time).

I could claim that I deliberately laid my bike down to avoid an inevitable collision as someone pulled out from the side of the road to do a 'U' turn about 40 feet in front of me. The truth (and I expect this is the case for most people unless they have spent an awfully long time practicing collision avoidance) however is that in the less than 2 seconds I had to react, I squeezed the front brake lever so hard it's a wonder it didn't snap in half. The front brake locked (no ABS) and off I came, thus hitting the road instead of the car.

I'm sure that if you have time to think 'Oh my, I've got a choice between hitting that car or falling off in a controlled manner' you've got time to brake safely.

just my opinion of course, YMMV.....
07/12/2017 16:50:36 UTC
Sharon said :-
Some great comments and views on this post so thanks everyone for your input so far.
Ross - Thanks for the invite. Team Bat would be happy to take up your offer if we find ourselves in Kent.
Rod - As Ren said interesting point about having two options to either accelerate or slow down on a bigger bike. Although I agree this would be the case on a 125cc I disagree for 70mph on a modern 250cc. Well mine at least.
It has no problem finding more oomph to accelerate at 70mph, it does so easily without even the need to downshift. I know each bike is different but the Kawasaki Z250SL is a torquey bike and one of the reasons I love it so much.
Maybe some of the views held about 250cc motorbikes are based on older bikes and not their modern counterparts.
07/12/2017 17:14:31 UTC
Keith m said :-
As already said everyone has their own opinion on this. But basically if you have more power you will use more power. Perhaps some people feel they need to have a bigger bike with more power to make them feel safer, a little more in hand, so to speak. Small bikes have often been classed as commuter or beginner bikes. They don't know what they are missing. You pay your money and take your choice.

07/12/2017 23:15:54 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Hi Ross.

In danger of thread divergence, that's a very neat Bantam / Arrow hybrid. Quite a lot of people did similar things, and there are several 4-cylinder Arrows - some in line across the frame, others in a square configuration. I'm not sure how many of them were successful......
08/12/2017 10:21:24 UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Sharon said: "Maybe some of the views held about 250cc motorbikes are based on older bikes and not their modern counterparts."

Quite possible. In fact, I think it's much more useful to categorise bikes by weight / power output - in which case my Guzzi would be much closer to your 250 than it would to Ren's 500. And the Arrow would equate to something like a moped........
08/12/2017 13:23:16 UTC
Rod said :-
Ian Soady said :-
Rod said: "So if a vehicle is joining the motorway at 70mph and you are doing 70mph and you are about to occupy the same piece of tarmac then on a 250 you have to brake, but on a 1000 you can brake or accelerate."

But what is wrong with slowing down? You lose a couple of seconds perhaps. If you're the vehicle already on the motorway and you accelerate there may be someone overtaking you planning to use the space in front of you and you've taken that away from them. If you're the joining vehicle then (especially if what's already in the inside lane is large) there may again be someone you can't see intending to go into the space which you will suddenly occupy.

I agree Ian, there is nothing wrong with slowing down. I was just trying to point out that you do have more options on a bigger bike.

09/12/2017 11:22:22 UTC
Rod said :-
Sharon said: "Maybe some of the views held about 250cc motorbikes are based on older bikes and not their modern counterparts."

Hi Sharon, Your 250SL has more power than my Inazuma, I think the Kawasaki has 28bhp and the Suzuki 24bhp, and if you were to ride them back to back you would probably notice the difference. However if you were to ride any of these 250s after riding a 100bhp+ bike your would think that both were running out of steam at motorway speeds. Just saying that it is all relative.
Like the Kawasaki Z250SL by the way, its a good choice of bike if you do not want to take a pillion on a regular basis.
09/12/2017 11:32:36 UTC
 

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