® Motorcycle User Forums

Motorcycle user forums. They were inevitable with the emergence of the Internet. Starting, of course, first as bulletin boards, then user groups, and blossoming finally into the current state of the art, user forums.

Forums. They're good and bad. Good in many cases, as they are a source for information that is often pretty difficult to get via other sources. Quick, too, of course. And clearing houses for unconventional ideas. What one has tried and succeeded at, others want to know. And that is great. Indispensible, in fact.

But bad too. Because motorcycle user forums are like this. Think of a movie where it's a small town and the storyline plays out mostly around the powers, influences, social stuggles and whatnot of the townspeople. Certain powers develop, whether it be landowners or political office holders or perhaps just the first families and their heirs. The powers that be are to be reckoned with. If they are good honest people, that's great. But more often than not what makes the movie compelling is the town's influencers are despots: self-absorbed, grasping, greedy, arrogant...the story is often a kind of Peyton Place, a playing out of the microcosm of humanity itself that a small community tends to be. The movie is largely a telling of its inhabitants' aspirations, their personal struggles with their past, and interactions with the authority figures (both good and bad) and other influencers in their lives.

Motorcycle user forums are very much like this. And it is unfortunate. Certain influencers who have the power of a moderate amount of knowledge or recognition in one area or another, seem to take the reins, usually by dint of their sheer number of posts, with the rest of the forum's subscribers becoming the sheep subject to their whims, edicts and pronouncements, most often completely aside from any real authority, any real basis for their ex-facto leadership.

I live in the industry, and it's a world most forum members know nothing about. Probably a good way to illustrate this fact is, I could post a few dozen names, easily, and these names would be unknown to forum members. And these aren't unknowns, but pivotal, influencial, authoritative people, masters and ultimate achievers in their fields and thus far more believable in their experiences and opinions than even the most qualified forum "expert". Yet no one on forums has ever heard of them. Two things are apparent in this fact. First, that the real powers of the industry do not participate on user forums. Their voices are not in the mix. By their own choices, apparently. Second, it points out the plain fact that user forums constitute a community that is largely foreign to the real world. A different strata, if you will. There is obviously a chasm between the two. If that chasm were to be bridged by the participation of one of the leaders of the industry, what would happen? Hard to say. It happens so very rarely. But I think I know.

Yes, motorcycle user forums are very unique, even peculiar places, even among Internet forums. It's one thing when you Google how to replace the drive belt on your dryer and quickly find a homeowner's forum posting from someone who has gone before you into that (to you at least) uncharted territory. It's completely another thing to log onto a motorcycle user forum and try to do the same thing, that is, find help for maintaining your bike. Heaven help you! With motorcycles being infinitely more complex than that dryer, it's nearly hopeless trying to get qualified help.

I guess gone are the days when you could visit your mechanic and get advice that is really worthwhile. People are too transient, personal relationships too fragile, the ethic of motorcycle shops changing too rapidly, and vintage bikes having so many undocumented issues and newer ones so damn complicated, where do you turn? So while I find user forums guilty of misinformation on a grand scale, to put it mildly, I cannot fault folks for gravitating to them. I only wish for them to participate in them very carefully, not taking too much for granted.


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