A blast from the past that's still relevant today.
Did you know that legendary Formula One commentator Murray Walker was apparently a Yamaha man like our own Director Jason? Neither did I, but as you can clearly see in this excellent time capsule of a 1980s motorcycle safety video, Walker’s unmitigated love of his XS Eleven shines through.
In the video, Walker states that he’s a lifelong rider, so he’s had the opportunity to appreciate and continue learning over the course of the decades. He noted that his XS Eleven handled a whole lot better than some older bikes he’d ridden over the years, and expressed pride at how far motorcycles had come. Nearly 40 years have passed since this video was made, and motorcycle technology has only continued to advance.
What’s particularly interesting watching this video now is that, unlike some motorcycle safety videos of yesteryear, Walker’s general rules of thumb are mostly still applicable here. In this short clip, Walker talks about wobble and weave, what causes them, and how you as a rider can affect these two phenomena.
Overall weight, as well as weight distribution, play a critical role. Crouching down over your tank helps stabilize the bike at high speeds, because you’re shifting weight over the front wheel. At the same time, you also offer less wind resistance. A heavier-weight rider, even by just 10 or 15 pounds, may also have a completely different experience of a bike than a lighter-weight rider, even while sitting up in the saddle instead of crouched down.
Tire pressure, tire and wheel condition, wheel bearings, and whether you’re using the proper tires for your bike in the first place can all have significant impacts on your bike and how it handles. As Walker demonstrates in this video, it wasn’t only a problem endemic to Japanese bikes, either. 1970s Nortons and BMWs could just as easily experience scary wobble and weave, simply due to the commonalities among how most conventional motorcycles are constructed. If you only roll with hub-center steering, you’re probably going to have completely different issues than the rest of us.
As with so many other things moto-related, there are inherent risks every time we take a ride. That’s just a fact. Our responsibility as riders is to mitigate that risk. Proper maintenance and being vigilant about things like checking tire pressures, wear, and overall bike condition before we go out for a ride can greatly enhance both safety and fun in riding, no matter which bike or what year it is.