One of the internet motorcycle sites that I regularly check out, Motorcycle-USA.com, is running a multi-part story on the 2011 Ducati Monster 796. Sadly, the premise of the article is nothing short of absurd. Worse, it is offensive, and in our opinion, dangerous. So what is the premise? They are running this machine through the ringer for its performance as a “beginner bike.”
The writer of this series, purportedly a “newbie rider,” is taking on the task of trying out this bike to see if he can handle it. His first task, apparently, is to log “a couple hundred commuter miles” on the bike. The only upside we can figure to this craziness is that their offices are in Oregon, as opposed to, say Los Angeles or San Francisco, where his odds of survival would likely decrease exponentially. But our first question has to be, how does a newbie rider have the experience to compare this bike to any others? If he hasn’t ridden other motorcycles, what possible insights does he have to offer? I’m confused already.
But on to the general notion with which we at Riderz Law take issue: The idea of a 84-hp sport motorcycle as a beginner bike. As a “jaded” motorcycle accident lawyer, I’ve seen far too many avoidable tragedies that are often (at least partially) caused by inexperienced riders on bikes that are far-too powerful for them. To put it in terms that non-riders can understand, describing any crotch rocket (of more than 500cc) as a beginner model is the equivalent to the following scenario:
Let’s say your 16-year old kid–who has never driven before–decides to buy a car. It just so happens that Ferrari is making a high-performance model that your kid can afford. It’s in his price range, so it must be a perfect beginner car, right?? To continue the analogy, once he gets the car, t ake out the airbags and seat belts, and remove the bumpers while you’re at it. Then, make it ten times lighter to increase its acceleration, and take two wheels off so it’s that much harder to drive and keep balanced. Lastly, for the coup de grace, make it virtually invisible to other drivers, so that they pull out in front him and cut him off on a daily basis. A perfect beginner car, no? (I guess it’s ok though, because he’ll be wearing a helmet. Ugh.)
This is how the lawyers at Riderz Law feel about crotch rockets as “beginner bikes.” Just because the engine size is “only” 600 or 800cc, that doesn’t mean the bike is appropriate for a newbie. That 600cc engine can provide faster acceleration than a $100,000 sports car. No kidding.
Now, let me say for the record that I am a big fan of Ducati. When the Monster first came out ten-plus years ago, I was blown away. I loved the bike then, and am still a fan of it today. For the experienced rider, there are few manufacturers who make machines that provide better performance or styling than Ducati. (And if you live in SoCal and you’re in the market, check out Ducati of Newport Beach. It’s a great shop, and we love the people who work there.)
Our love for Ducati aside, we would expect better sense from the editors of Motorcycle-USA. And we certainly don’t wish any ill on the writer of this article. That said, I hope that if, in the unfortunate event that this writer is in a motorcycle accident, that the writer and editors are honest enough to acknowledge the stupidity of putting a newbie on an 84-hp sport bike. We expect this kind of foolishness from people who don’t know any better, e.g., new riders without the wisdom gained from years and too many near-misses — not from the editors of an Motorcycle-USA.
This guy will probably survive his first year on this bike without killing or seriously injuring himself in a motorcycle accident. A lot of riders do. But that does not mean that this is a good idea, or that this bike is appropriate for new riders. Statistics (and common sense!) show us that the most dangerous riding is the first year or two for new motorcyclists. For that reason, we always recommend that new riders spend at least a year or two on a bike that is not “high performance.” It could save your life.
Any bike can be dangerous if a rider is acting foolish, or if a rider does not have appropriate rider training. But it’s up to you, as riders, to chose a machine that performs appropriately for your skill and experience level. Don’t let ego put you in harm’s way: there’s plenty of time to graduate to bigger and faster bikes. Take your time, and learn the right way. Believe me when I say that there is enough danger out there from inattentive drivers. As a motorcycle accident lawyer, I see it every day. Compounding this risk by riding a bike that is too fast, too powerful, or too big for your experience level is a recipe for disaster.
Be safe, and ride smart.