Why I hate motorcycles

FAO - James & Richard

If you are extremely poor, then I can see why a small motorcycle makes sense. It sips fuel like a vicar sips his tea and at night, you can remove the engine and use it to pump water into your house from a muddy puddle in the road.

But James May and Richard Hammond are not extremely poor and they both live in England – albeit only just in Hammond’s case – where water is available from a tap. So they have no excuse.

An motorcycle

An motorcycle

And yet May seems to own about a hundred of the damn things, and Hammond has several thousand, none of which ever work.

I flew with them last week from London to Chicago and on the eight-hour flight, I watched the new Star Trek movie, I read some of my new Jack Reacher book, I had some lunch, I prepared for the forthcoming Grand Tour show in Nashville and I got 40 winks.

They did none of those things. What they did was spend the entire flight reading two extremely boring magazines about motorcycles. In fact, they spend well over half their lives reading bike mags and I just can’t understand it at all. Because how on earth can anyone fill a whole magazine with stories about bikes? And even more amazingly, how can they do it again a month later?

I suspect it’s a bit like horse racing on the television. They tell you it’s the 3.20 from Ascot but how do you know? All the courses look the same and so do all the horses? You could be watching a race from 1976.

I suspect that’s what’s going on with bike magazines. It’s just the same stuff printed over and over again and no-one’s noticed. It must be, because what is there to say?

Saying you like one bike more than another is like saying you have a favourite milk bottle. The only styling is to be found on the petrol tank, so when you hear two bikers arguing about which one has the better looking bike, that’s what they’re bickering about: who has the most attractive petrol tank?

Can you honestly think of a more boring discussion?

Exactly the same

Exactly the same

Somehow, they find other things to argue about as well. With Hammond and May this involves communicating using almost nothing but letters and numbers “ZZRGT” “Nah 650RR” “ZPT1000” The ZR is better”. “Not as good as the “T400ZZ”. And so it goes on, and on, until the next edition of Old Man’s Bike is published and they can rush off to read the same stories they read last month about petrol tank styling.

Sometimes, they put down their bike magazines and stop talking in letters and numbers and go for a ride. And I really don’t see the point of that because it’s very very dangerous.

Exactly the same

Exactly the same

What’s more, they don’t actually go anywhere. They just whizz off with their motorcycling men friends, have a bitter lemon in a pub, and then whizz back again.

I do find that odd. Because think about it. It’s a weekend. There’s tons of fun stuff to do but a biker will slip into a pair of leather trousers and spend the morning staring at another man’s leather clad bottom so he can stand about at a pub called the Donated Spleen, drinking Britvics and arguing with strangers on other bikes about petrol tank styling. And which musical they like best.

Exactly the same

Exactly the same

When I raise these points with motorcycling friends, I am invariably told that bikes are extremely exciting because they are so fast. But the truth is. They’re not.

On the roads round where I live in the Cotswolds, the damn things are always in my way as they crawl round the corners. It’s even worse when I get off my tractor and into a car.

A machine that comes with something you don’t get on a motorbike. The most important thing. An ashtray.

Join In

Comments (887)

  • If I didn't know Clarkson's voice and mannerisms of inflection and dialect, these articles wouldn't be half as funny. :)

      4 years ago
  • Jeromy, I have said this before and I'll say it again. You are as talented as you are idiotic. The reason you don't like motorbikes is that YOU are the size and shape of the front half of a pantomime Giraffe. No motorcycle ever made will EVER fit your frame. So YOU are indeed correct that they are going to be dangerous to ride as the thing will be so top heavy and unwieldy as to be totally unstable.

    Avoid them....as you are doing. But remember, it's YOUR fault. Not the bikes. Ya Knock kneed lemon 😄

      4 years ago
    • It’s all bullshit. He was having the time of his life when they rode the scooters through Vietnam.

        1 year ago
    • I disagree arch motorcycles in the US custom build their motorcycles to the riders dimentions and comfort. What he doesnt get is that bikes are no different to cars in their styling differences, power delivery, engine configuration, bhp...

      Read more
        1 year ago
  • Easy for Jeremy to say with his salary. Not all of us can afford a Ferrari, black series Mercedes, or Ford GT. The only affordable thing for the rest of us that offers a similar experience where we can do track days and go 0 to 60 in under 4 seconds is a bike. I bought a 2005 GSXR 1000 back in 2k5 off the showroom floor brand new for under $12,000 and have had a blast with it. Unfortunately had to sell last year because I can't afford to keep 2 bikes and wife can't ride on the back of that so I kept the Goldwing. After 10 years of fun I still got $5k for the bike so that averages to $700 per year, it never broke down and would power wheelie at 120mph after 10 years. You can't get that kind of value, performance, reliability and smiles from anything on 4 wheels for that kind of money. When finances improve will get another sports bike to continue my journey. Unfortunately people like Jeremy just don't get it. I say that as unfortunately for him. For the rest of us we'll continue to enjoy talking about fuel tanks and numbers. We'll meet at pubs, diners, and cafe's. We'll socialize about our common ground and enjoy life without hiding in a box and letting it pass us by😁 I would like to add I appreciate Jeremy, James, Richard and the rest of the GT staff for keeping my smiles going when I can't be on my motorcycle. The salaries are well deserved because laughter is priceless, keep it up guys👍👍👍👍👍👍

      4 years ago
  • My $6000 crotch rocket will out accelerate most quarter million dollar cars. And keep ahead for a good bit until the speeds are deep into law breaking territory. In cars you are just along for the ride as it propels you from side to side, on a bike you are very much apart of how it behaves. Its just a more involving process.

      4 years ago
    • It is also a "more involving process" for the fire, police and ambulance crews when they're peeling motorcyclists off the roadside.

        2 years ago
  • To be a true petrol head you need to love all things with engines, motorcycles included :)

      3 years ago