Monday, June 24, 2019
Here's why motorcycle review videos are so terrible these days
Preface: I watched a ton of terrible motorcycle review videos online and it pissed me off. Enjoy the fruits of my anger via this rant.
It's ironic that in the golden age of information, good information is so hard to find. Case in point: online motorcycle review videos. If you regularly search for and consume online motorcycle content on any sort of a regular basis, you've undoubtedly seen just how bad 90 percent of these half-ass motorcycle revues actually are. Sadly, almost the entire genre comprises a practically bottomless well of ill-informed neophytes with limited vocabularies spewing simplistic opinions about complicated machines they only barely understand. At the moment, the primary digital petri dish culturing this pandemic of online malady is YouTube. Let's deconstruct why there are so many bad motorcycle review videos on the platform, and at what YouTube has done to incentivize the creation of so much low-quality content from clearly unqualified reviewers.
Ad revenue, the 'algorithm', and YouTube as a search engine
If you've been a longtime user of YouTube, you've no doubt noticed how drastically the platform has changed over the past few years. Once considered the reliable voice for independent video makers across countless genres, YouTube has recently been reinventing itself as a mainstream media network and search engine, decidedly and thoroughly abandoning its original business model as an alternative haven for niche interests and closely linked online communities. If you have any doubt about that, just take a look at the YouTube homepage. It is rife with videos from major media networks. You can't find nearly as many true independents anymore. It has all been replaced with Jimmy Kimmel monologues, Saturday Night Live sketches, and news clips from CNN.
With this change, many creators of motorcycle content (which is already niche subject matter in and of itself) realized that as a form of entertainment, they were being rudely shoved out of the way by Youtube's algorithm system, which decides what videos to suggest to viewers based on things like topic, category, and channel type. As a result, channels that used to pull in a decent living for their creators (or a least a nice chunk of side cash) from YouTube advertising revenue via things like motovlogs, lifestyle vids, and riding footage began going broke. This left but one semi-reliable alternative to staying alive: manipulation of YouTube as a search engine. You see, YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world after Google, and as it turns out, one of the most popular searches for motorcycle videos is the bike review. So it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out that many of these vids are being made by people who don't work in the motorcycle industry, have no journalistic experience, and who would otherwise have no academic or professional interest in reviewing bikes. But bike review vids are money makers and can help a channel grow, so therein lies the rub.
Contributing factor: The 'demo' ride
Dealerships, whether wittingly or unwittingly, have helped enable the filming of low-quality motorcycle reviews through the hosting of events such as free demo ride days, where anyone with a motorcycle license can come and test-ride a new bike for a few miles to get an initial impression. These happenings draw motorcycle YouTubers like moths to a flame. They show up eagerly, fully equipped with a helmet-mounted GoPro and an inflated sense of confidence. What usually follows next borders on pathetic, as the would-be review expert proceeds to give a 'comprehensive' rundown of the bike. This is done while poking gently along on a 30-mile-per-hour guided ride around the block while simultaneously trying to figure out where all the controls are located. These content creators should be embarrassed and ashamed of what they're doing. Instead, most seem quite proud of themselves. Maybe it's because they know that with the right video title, thumbnail, and search tags they'll get lots of views and soon find themselves in ad revenue nirvana, regardless of how shitty the video might actually be.
The framework, language, and lexicon of an incompetent review
Visually, inept motorcycle review videos tent to fall along two extremes: either the video is shot entirely with an unnecessarily wide-angle GoPro or similar action cam, or a laughable attempt is made at using cinematic techniques, most of which are incorrectly applied and poorly executed. Both approaches create an annoying distraction from what the viewer actually came to find, which is reliable, in-depth information about the bike. If the video is shot so poorly that the viewer can't even tell what the bike actually looks like, how can he or she be expected to take the rest of the effort seriously. As a side note to the importance of correct visual representation, I should point out that audio quality counts as well. But you get the idea. This rant isn't intended to be a lesson in videography.
The language used in many of these abortions is both predictable and meaningless. The positive descriptor keywords will be gems like "awesome", "amazing," and "sick" to list a few. "Oh man, this motorcycle is awesome! The power is amaaaaaazing! The handling is absolutely sick!" None of these words tell me anything except that the idiot doing the review is impressed. They are dead words that no longer carry the impacts or meanings which were originally intended. They are used simply because the reviewer doesn't command a wider, more effective vocabulary.
Likewise, technical terms used by the incompetent reviewer will be generic words that don't offer anything substantive. "The handling feels very good." This from someone who probably can't even describe the basics of how motorcycle suspension functions. "The brakes work really well." You don't say? Last time I checked, all new motorcycle brakes worked well. It's kinda the law, after all. Again, none of that language means a thing. I gain no useful knowledge by listening to such nonsense. That said, a good bike review doesn't have to be manifestly technical. In fact, a good review doesn't have to mention numbers at all. But something concrete upon which to build a foundation should always be offered. That usually starts with being a seasoned and experienced motorcyclist and having access to a given bike for more than 15 minutes. If you've only been riding for a year and only had your hands on the bike for a half-hour, your ass probably has no business doing a bike review vid.
Why did I feel strongly enough about this topic to write an article?
The answer to that question is, well, I don't exactly know. Maybe it has to do with what I perceive as a lack of content creator integrity. The questions that come to my mind are always things like, "How bad are you willing to make yourself look for money? How much misinformation are you willing to spread so long as there's a profit to be made?" Or maybe I'm frustrated at how YouTube continually incentivizes poor conduct and bad behavior. Or maybe it's because of the potentially bad influence making videos for all the wrong reasons could have on new riders. I guess the answer might be, "It's complicated."
In the end, this all comes down to intellectual honesty and a certain amount of self awareness. I could've taken the low road to YouTube notoriety long ago, but I intentionally chose not to. Inept motorcycle reviews are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the useless, self-motivated garbage YouTube regularly promotes. Not all attention is good attention, but we've long since abandoned that simple rule in both media and social media. It needs to be retaught before every single person with a social media presence decides that looking like a fool is perfectly fine so long as it makes them popular.
Not crotch rockets, real rockets
Here's a little something different for you to enjoy. I blazed out to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to visit the WSMR Missile Museum and Missile Park. I got a lot of interesting high dynamic range photos and wanted to share them with everyone. Dig it:
Tuesday, May 21, 2019
Lost, then not lost, then Dairy Queen
We go for a motorcycle ride and get lost, then unlost, then we go Dairy Queen for a soda. That's right, the Dairy Queen Saga now has a Part 5. Don't even act like you're surprised it happened.
Monday, April 29, 2019
Incredible Artifact Found In Abandoned Ghost Town!
Look upon my treasures, ye mighty, and weep!
Thursday, April 18, 2019
Touring Texas on a BMW F800GT with my pals
More springtime fun in Texas as we knock out 800 miles in mid-April on a Hill Country tour. Get ready for lots of good times and laughs as I review the F800GT in all its glory.
Friday, March 29, 2019
If only every day could be like this one
Springtime has sprung in West Texas.
Monday, March 18, 2019
Exploring the abandoned nightclub where Lefty Frizzell got his start
This was just plain awesome. Special thanks to the property owner for allowing us to explore.
Wednesday, February 27, 2019
Sometimes you just need to ditch work for an hour or two and ride your motorcycle
And that's exactly what I do in this video:
Thursday, February 14, 2019
Here's what a sampling of motorcyclists think of HB 748, the Texas mandatory helmet bill
WARNING: Copyright ©2019 Tim Kreitz. This article may not be copied, republished, or redistributed without express permission of the author.
It's a pretty safe assertion to say that motorcyclists don't much like being told what to do. We tend to be iconoclasts, rebels and eccentrics of varying degrees. We're thrill seekers. We don't hop onto the back of fast, high-powered, 2-wheeled contraptions to feel safer. In some ways, we do it to experience those very zen moments and feelings that come from accepting and managing higher levels of risk. To paraphrase an old saying, by placing ourselves closer to the edge, greater is our awareness that we are alive.
With that philosophy in mind, I conducted an online poll of motorcyclists from my 3,000-ish Facebook friends to see how they felt concerning a new bill recently introduced here in Texas (HB 748) which would close a twenty year-old loophole allowing most of the Star State's motorcyclists to ride without helmets. I prefaced the poll and thread with this message:
"Point of Curiosity: I'm interested to know what my motorcycling friends think of HB 748, which would make helmet usage mandatory in Texas. I'd like to get my thumb on the pulse of this issue among riders because I might write a piece on the subject. Also, if you don't ride, what is your perception of motorcyclists who ride helmetless?"
The results of the poll after less than 24 hours of responses, as well as some of the associated comments, were thought-provoking. As of the writing of this article, over 140 people had answered the poll, with about 35 percent in favor of compulsory helmet requirements. NOTE: The polling software is a Facebook feature and should in no way be considered empirical. Anyone could've taken the poll, motorcyclist or not. Still, the results were interesting to me, even if the sampled demographic happens to be wider than intended.
HOW THE LAW CURRENTLY WORKS
For those of you who are not aware, Texas allows riders over 21 years of age who have completed a motorcycle safety course and carry adequate health insurance to be exempted from the state's otherwise compulsory helmet requirement. The catch is that a police officer may not contact a motorcyclist for the sole purpose of determining the existence of those conditions. Therefore, virtually everyone can ride helmetless without fear of being cited. The loophole effectively negates the law.
HOW THE LAW WOULD CHANGE
HB 748 would, in a very direct way, remove the loophole while adding very little new language. Here is the text of the bill:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS: SECTION 1. Sections 661.003(c), (c-1), (c-2), and (i), Transportation Code, are repealed. SECTION 2. The change in law made by this Act applies only to an offense committed on or after the effective date of this Act. An offense committed before the effective date of this Act is covered by the law in effect when the offense was committed, and the former law is continued in effect for that purpose. For purposes of this section, an offense was committed before the effective date of this Act if any element of the offense occurred before that date. SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2019.
The parts to be repealed are contained within this section of the Texas Transportation Code:
Sec. 661.003. OFFENSES RELATING TO NOT WEARING PROTECTIVE HEADGEAR. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(1) operates or rides as a passenger on a motorcycle on a public street or highway; and
(2) is not wearing protective headgear that meets safety standards adopted by the department.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person carries on a motorcycle on a public street or highway a passenger who is not wearing protective headgear that meets safety standards adopted by the department.
(c) It is an exception to the application of Subsection (a) or (b) that at the time the offense was committed, the person required to wear protective headgear was at least 21 years old and had successfully completed a motorcycle operator training and safety course under Chapter 662 or was covered by a health insurance plan providing the person with medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of an accident while operating or riding on a motorcycle. A peace officer may not arrest a person or issue a citation to a person for a violation of Subsection (a) or (b) if the person required to wear protective headgear is at least 21 years of age and presents evidence sufficient to show that the person required to wear protective headgear has successfully completed a motorcycle operator training and safety course or is covered by a health insurance plan as described by this subsection.
(c-1) A peace officer may not stop or detain a person who is the operator of or a passenger on a motorcycle for the sole purpose of determining whether the person has successfully completed the motorcycle operator training and safety course or is covered by a health insurance plan.
(c-2) The Texas Department of Insurance shall prescribe a standard proof of health insurance for issuance to persons who are at least 21 years of age and covered by a health insurance plan described by Subsection (c).
(d) Repealed by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1391, Sec. 12, eff. September 1, 2009.
(e) Repealed by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1391, Sec. 12, eff. September 1, 2009.
(f) Repealed by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1391, Sec. 12, eff. September 1, 2009.
(g) Repealed by Acts 2009, 81st Leg., R.S., Ch. 1391, Sec. 12, eff. September 1, 2009.
(h) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $10 or more than $50.
(i) In this section, "health insurance plan" means an individual, group, blanket, or franchise insurance policy, insurance agreement, evidence of coverage, group hospital services contract, health maintenance organization membership, or employee benefit plan that provides benefits for health care services or for medical or surgical expenses incurred as a result of an accident.
HOW COMMENTING RIDERS FELT ABOUT HB 748
The biggest number of those in the poll's comment thread who opposed HB 748 most often cited freedom of choice, government overreach, and the "bigger fish" that endanger motorcyclists (such as distracted or non-attentive drivers) as reasons for opposition. The biggest number of those in favor of HB 748 cited burdens to the healthcare system and the higher death rate among helmetless riders as reasons to support the bill. Let's take a look at all these contentions and see how they flesh out when compared to reliable data.
PREFACE: The sources I trust most when it comes to motorcycle crash data are the NTSB and NHTSA, because regardless of what opinions they may render, they will always supply the total raw numbers for scrutiny. Organizations such as the IIHS cannot be trusted in my opinion. The IIHS is a lobby organization for the insurance industry and has historically manipulated stats and data in such a way as to benefit insurers. Let's not forget that these are the people who tried twice over a span of three decades to get sportbikes banned, presumably to increase insurer profits.
THE HELMETLESS RIDER DEATH RATE AND BURDENS TO HEALTHCARE ARGUMENTS
The assertion that un-helmeted riders add unnecessary strain to the healthcare system is compelling on its surface and seems to make sense. But just how much effect does riding without a helmet actually have on things like total medical cost, cost shifting, and insurance rate increases? The following numbers vary from year to year, but according to the NTSB, about 4,000 motorcyclists per year are killed in accidents, while about 85,000 are injured. Of all those accidents (both fatal and nonfatal), helmetless riders are involved at a rate of about 33 percent. This means that about 1,400 un-helmeted riders die in the US every year, and about 28,000 helmetless riders are injured or otherwise involved in accidents, for a total of around 30,000. The NTSB's average medical cost per un-helmeted rider is a little over $250,000. So using simple multiplication, un-helmeted riders cost the system an estimated total of about $7.5 billion per year.
That number is definitely significant and certainly sounds like a lot. That is, until it is compared to the things that actually place the most burden onto the healthcare system; namely obesity and heart disease. According to the CDC, the annual medical cost of obesity in the US hovers somewhere around $150 billion. The annual medical cost of heart disease comes in at about $800 billion. Yes, that's almost a trillion dollars.
The reason I invoke obesity and heart disease over other health problems in this comparison is because, much like riding without a helmet, they are highly preventable. This begs the obvious question: If the relatively small burden placed onto the system by helmetless riders justifies legislation to make helmet usage compulsory, why do we not have laws criminalizing fat people? It would seem to me that anyone concerned with the medical cost of caring for un-helmeted motorcyclists is barking up the wrong tree.
THE FREEDOM OF CHOICE AND 'BIGGER FISH' ARGUMENTS
According to the NHTSA, the most common cause of motorcycle accidents is the failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic. Motorcycles are small and hard to see. Combine that fact with distracted driving, poor driving skill, or aggressive behavior on the part of a motorist, and it's no wonder. Almost 40 years after the Hurt Report, left-turning drivers continue to be one of the greatest dangers faced by motorcyclists.
These realities form the basis for a good argument; motorcyclists wouldn't die as often if motorists cared more about driving with excellence. But everyday life shows that they apparently don't care much at all. Texting and driving is a pandemic, as is impaired driving. In fact, impaired driving on someone's part continues to be a contributing factor in over 50 percent of all motorcycle accidents, according to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
Many of those who oppose helmet laws say the government should be cracking down on bad driving instead of picking on bikers (who are relatively few compared to motorists) and leave them to make their own choices on helmet usage. But isn't that very line of logic also an effective argument for wearing a helmet to begin with? In a collision with a car or truck, it doesn't matter who was right or wrong, who has the logical or moral high ground, etc., because the motorcyclist is always the one who will lose. If we as motorcyclists expect a high level of responsibility from motorists, should we not also expect the same of ourselves?
WHERE I STAND ON THE ISSUE
As I said in the poll discussion, I always wear a helmet. In fact, I love wearing a helmet. I feel safer and it makes the ride more comfortable. That said, I'm always torn when presented with the possibility of giving the government more power over my life and activities. Helmets definitely save lives, but so would outlawing motorcycles altogether. Helmets reduce burdens on the healthcare system, but so would outlawing obesity. It's a very tricky subject. I think I'm against HB 748, but I can't say that with absolute conviction. Like one of the poll commenters said, I'll accept a mandatory Texas helmet policy if you'll give me lane-splitting in return. I mean come on Texas, if you were really interested in keeping me safer on the road as a motorcyclist, you would've legalized splitting and filtering a long, long time ago.
HB 748 is filed and awaiting its first reading. I'll post updates as info becomes available.
UPDATE: I recently appeared on The Vann Cave Podcast to discuss the subject in more detail. Here is the video feed of that episode:
Monday, February 04, 2019
Triumph Bonneville long-term review after five years
This is one of the top 10 motorcycles I've ever owned, and it's high on that list. It's fun to ride and this is the first review I've done since it was brand new. Problems with the bike and things I dislike about it are included.
Sunday, January 20, 2019
Masculinity is not Toxic, Despite Gillette's Claims
Every so often, I make an episode that has nothing to do with motorcycles. This is one of them. Matt and I head to the ranch for a few days of hunting and hiking; just a couple of men doing man things. This vid was made by popular demand for all my Instagram friends who requested it. Long live masculinity.
Tuesday, January 08, 2019
Stoned Guy In Ghost Town Won't Go Away!
Our first motorcycle day ride of 2019 goes off the rails when a very inebriated individual stumbles upon our parked bikes in a ghost town while we're exploring an abandoned building. The frustration and awkwardness of the situation intensifies as we slowly begin to realize that he has no intention of moving on and leaving us alone.
Saturday, December 22, 2018
Here's Why 2018 Was Terrible
2018 was one of the roughest years I've had in a while. I talk about my father's sudden onset of blindness, related health problems, and my role as his caretaker. I also discuss the heartbreaking return of Matt's cancer, as well as the sad loss of my trusty dog Scout. On the bright side, I count my many blessings and share some of my favorite moments from Tim Kreitz Adventures this year. Fingers crossed that 2019 will be better. I'll definitely see you there. Cheers.
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
How the West Texas oil boom and wild weather made motorcycling a challenge in 2018
As 2018 draws to a close, I find myself looking back in a heavier than expected retrospect on just how strange this year's motorcycle riding actually was, here in the wilds of West Texas. Not only that, but I'm also mindful of how much less I rode for pleasure over all. Unusual swings in weather, combined with a dangerous contingent of oilfield traffic on the Permian Basin's frighteningly overcrowded roads, kept me closer to home in 2018 compared to recent years past. There was less day riding, less road tripping, and less rurex/urbex. Here's a breakdown of the dynamics:
The early drought of 2018
I dedicated a full episode of Tim Kreitz Adventures to the severity of drought we were dealing with as 2018 began. High-level warnings and lots of small brush fires had us frightened. It all harkened back to the West Texas wildfires of 2011 and the destruction they caused. Thankfully, it never got as bad as seven years ago, and was certainly much less severe than the utter obliteration caused by the California fires, but conditions were certainly prime by early March for West Texas to burn. Luckily, we dodged a bullet:
Crazy winds and dust storms through late springtime
By early June, high winds accompanied by just enough rain to keep everything from igniting had arrived. We fought it on every ride we took. It was miserable at times, and while it did get slightly better as the year progressed, it never really reduced to normal levels. This made filming more difficult in particular, especially with regard to getting clean audio and UAV footage. The high winds are apparent in this episode I made with Britt, and I even make mention of it on-camera:
Effects of the West Texas oil boom and the dangers it has created for motorcyclists
It is difficult to articulate just how bad the roads and traffic are in West Texas at the moment. Truck traffic to and from the oilfields has made the risks associated with motorcycling possibly higher than they have ever been in this area. This video from the Texas Department of Transportation, though itself little more than a state propaganda piece aimed at making itself look less incompetent, does a good job of visually illustrating the magnitude of the congestion and the dangerousness of the roads in general. Pay particular attention to the data on serious injury and death count:
Make no mistake, riding motorcycles out here requires more concentration and street-skills application than ever before to stay safe. We felt these very effects while attempting to safely traverse the roads in and near Kermit Texas in this episode of TKA:
Then came the rains
I'm not kidding when I tell you that drought conditions disappeared as if by magic. To get an idea of how quickly the drought ended toward the end of the year as torrential rains – driven by El Nino and bolstered by Hurricane Willa – doused the entirety of the LoneStar State, take a look at these images generated by the US Drought Monitor. They are only months apart, yet drastically different:
By the time November had arrived, we'd gone from a firebox filled with late winter kindling to a lush landscape featuring full lakes, waterfalls, and rapid rivers. Last month, we visited one of the areas in West Texas that had been most significantly effected:
Now it's just plain cold outside
2018 was a cooler than usual year in general out here. But since the middle of autumn, it has been generally cold and windy, with only a handful of truly nice riding days. Long-range forecasting has been all over the board and largely wrong to this point. Even the NOAA has made drastic revisions to its Winter 2018-2019 prediction models. What does all this mean as of December 2019 for riders? Apparently, nobody knows. But suffice it to say that I'm hoping things warm back up before long, so I can get back to motorcycling and filming on a regular basis.
That said, the worst of Winter 2018-2019 is unarguably yet to come for the entirety of North America, and that presents a potentially worrisome scenario for everyone in the deep south and desert southwest who enjoys the usual pleasures associated with riding motorcycles year-round. The first freezing precipitation since the last cold season is forecast for this weekend here in West Texas. That's early. But if snow and ice are indeed on the way, fingers crossed that we get it all over with early in hopes of a pleasant, dry remainder to winter.
In any event, I will do my best to keep the motorcycle-related content coming. I'm planning on doing long-term reviews of the Bonneville and FZ-07, along with searching out more ghost towns, so stay tuned. Cheers and thanks until next time.
Wednesday, November 14, 2018
Are YouTubers mentally ill? The psychology of fame-seeking
Most westerners are lonelier and more isolated than ever, all while a large percentage are obsessing over how to become famous at any cost, mainly via social media. What is the psychology behind seeking fame when we don't even know our neighbors?
Wednesday, October 31, 2018
How Hurricane Willa effectively ended the West Texas drought
Here in West Texas, 2018 began with wildfire warnings and extreme drought. It ends with full lakes, waterfalls, and rapid rivers. Come join the ride as we explore.
Tuesday, October 02, 2018
Dinosaur tracks : We find real fossilized footprints!
Clif and I discover legit dinosaur tracks on a Sunday ride.
Monday, September 10, 2018
The Rain Brought With it Changes
Life often throws us curveballs. It's not what comes our way so much as how we deal with it that can define the moment.
Thursday, September 06, 2018
Exploring South Dakota's Black Hills & Badlands
Whether you are planning a trip to South Dakota or just enjoy learning about American landmarks and the remnants of the Old West, you need to watch this film.
Sunday, July 29, 2018
The Top Five Biker Movies of All Time
Discover biker movies that reflected the attitudes and counter culture of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.
Sunday, July 15, 2018
Harley rider demands to know what this is all a boat! Let's explore strange stuff!
You find some weird stuff in the desert.
Sunday, July 08, 2018
The Kawasaki Z900RS is a retro disappointment
Published on Jul 8, 2018 I finally take a few minutes to explain why I didn't buy the Z900RS after seeing it in person and test riding it. I know several viewers were looking forward to a full post-purchase ride and review. But that didn't happen because I backed out once I discovered that I didn't like the bike nearly enough to pay the exorbitant MSRP.
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Harley-Davidson Crashes Hard Into the Trump Tariffs
Enjoy the first ever Tim Kreitz Adventures podcast. In this episode, tariffs always produce unintended consequences and a mixed bag of results.