Perception vs. Reality

2009 Suzuki M90

Perception:  Muscle Cruiser.

Reality:  A Cruiser that can corner.

In the battle between perception and reality, perception usually wins.  So what’s the difference between perception and reality anyway?  Knowledge, right?  Well not exactly.  Once a perception has taken hold, it actually becomes the person’s reality and it’s not easy to change. 

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with motorcycles anyway?  It has a lot to do with motorcycles, especially when it comes to selecting a motorcycle to buy!  Read on and I’ll explain.

Last year when my local Kawasaki dealer had a test ride of some of the new Kawasaki motorcycles, I signed up to ride the 2008 Kawasaki Ninja 650R.  Now the 650R shares the same engine package as the Kawasaki Versys, but the chassis and looks are completely different between the two bikes.  On the day of the test ride my wife, who isn’t a big fan of riding motorcycles, decides to come with me.  Of course she asked which motorcycle I’m going to ride and was not happy when I showed her the little Ninja.  I asked her if she would be happier if I were to ride the Versys, which I showed her, and she said she would.  I tried to explain that the Versys and the Ninja had the same engine, but in her mind anything with the word “Ninja” on it was fast and dangerous no matter what was powering it.  Perception vs. Reality and perception wins.

Here’s another example.  A few weeks ago a friend commented on my Facebook page photo where I was riding a 2008 Harley Davidson Fat Boy in Hawaii.  He commented that he would love to ride a Harley, but was a bit intimidated by the power that the bike produced.  So I asked him how much power he thought the Fat Boy had and without hesitation he said about 120hp.  When I told him the stock bike produced just under 70hp he was shocked!  Because of the sound and size of the motorcycle he assumed it was more powerful then it truly was.  Again perception wins.

Now to how this applies to selecting a motorcycle.  First, the difference between perception and reality is not just knowledge, but knowledge combined with experience so keep this in mind.

Here are a few more examples of perception vs. reality to think about when choosing a motorcycle.

Perception:  Repli-racers, like a Suzuki GSX-750, are the best motorcycles for performing on tight corners and on city streets.

Reality:  In a straight line or on the track the repli-racer is in its element, but because the repli-racer doesn’t start to produce torque or horsepower in great numbers under 10,000 rpm and the suspension isn’t set up for rough road conditions, a “street fighter” or “naked” bike, like a Buell Lightening, is a better choice for twisting roads and city streets.

Perception:  Horsepower is the best indicator of performance.

Reality:  It depends on the riding conditions.  For open roads and high speeds, horsepower is an advantage, but for corners and stop and start riding conditions, torque may be more important.  For cruising, having torque and horsepower available at lower rpm’s and over a broad rpm range is an advantage.  In short, you need to know the conditions you will be riding under the most and choose accordingly.

Perception:  The bigger the engine displacement, the more horsepower the motorcycle produces.

Reality:  Many smaller engines produce more horsepower then most of the larger displacement twins that are found in cruisers and some touring motorcycles.  A study of torque and horsepower can explain this, but that’s for a different entry.  Before making any purchase, know the engine performance specs of the motorcycles you are considering so you won’t be disappointed after you make your purchase.

Perception:  Sales associates know what they’re selling.

Reality:  Some do and some don’t.  Do your own homework before you talk to a sales associate and come prepared with questions.  You will know by their answers if the associate knows their product or if they’re hoping you don’t

Perception:  You can choose the right motorcycle by reading reviews and asking questions only.

Reality:  All the “book smarts” and questions won’t replace a test ride.  Attend manufacture test rides, convince the sales associate to let you take a bike out for a spin or rent a motorcycle for the day.  In other words try a few out to see what you want before buying.  Have fun on the test ride and don’t be too critical.  If you’re smiling at the end of test ride, it’s a good motorcycle regardless of what the reviews say.

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