Martin Hackworth

Martin Hackworth

I look both ways before crossing a one way street. That’s how much faith I have left in humanity — Tom Hardy

The Dunning—Kruger effect refers to a state of mind in which people of low ability maintain the illusion of superiority simply because their inexperience renders them unable to accurately assess their levels of skill or knowledge. In essence one is too ignorant to understand the depths of their own ignorance.

There’s no end to the frustration of dealing with the D-K effect. Imaging trying to explain advanced mathematics to someone who uses their fingers to count and is convinced that’s the best way. Because of the self-unaware nature of those under the thrall of D-K it never slows anyone down when it comes to throwing down — especially on the Interwebs.

D-K existed before the worldwide web, but the Interwebs have sure made it easier to see just how depressingly entrenched it is in the human condition. And nowhere is this more evident than on high-gloss, low veracity websites like fieldmag.com. Fifteen minutes there will give you a whopper of a migrane - especially when they venture beyond their happy place, “style and the outdoors,” and into more quantifiable endeavors such as the green future of motorcycles.

From a recent product review in fieldmag’s own words. “Now, we think motorcycles are great. But not everyone agrees, largely because they’re dirty, loud, and polluting. Not to mention the underlying classism and political implications involved in owning a motorcycle in 2019.”

Say what? You guys have got to be freaking green socialist hipsters. Nothing else explains this.

I’ll concede loud just because there is, in fact, a segment of motorcycle world which believes that overly loud pipes are actually a safety feature. I kid you not. This happens to be a pretty small number of knuckleheads in a vast pool of socially responsible riders but their influence exceeds their numbers just because they are so annoying. One point for the hipsters.

Dirty? I don’t even know what that means in the given context. I think that it means polluting, but they mentioned that exclusively at the end of their list of demerits. Most street bike riders of my acquaintance are obsessive to the point of distraction about keeping their bikes shining like a diamond in a goat’s bum-bum. Dirt bikes can get pretty dirty, but cleaning them is key in warding off expensive premature maintenance. It’s a matter of self-interest.

“Polluting” was mentioned specifically to set up a false contrast between traditional motorcycles and a pair of electric motorcycles - the CAKE KALK (offroad) and KALK& (street legal).

From fieldmag, “KALK and KALK& address pretty much every level of this situation with fresh designs, zero emissions, and serious performance—arguably tackling even the more touchy subjects, making a motorbike that appeals to even the most design-minded, peace-loving tree huggers (looks in mirror).”

Oh jeeze, what fresh hell is this?

First, and I offer this purely in the spirit of reaching out in friendship to the young writers at fieldmag, you are supposed to do something other than copy and paste product information from the website of the product you are reviewing in a review. One reason for doing this is that it prevents you from passing along bad information — like the KALKs being “zero emissions.” Unless they run on luminiferous Ether instead of electricity, zero emission they are not.

There is no such thing as a “zero-emissions” vehicle. Some vehicles emit pollution far away from where they are being used (which doesn’t sound either particularly green or very egalitarian to me) but they all emit pollution. The electricity in the battery in any electric vehicle came from somewhere and fossil fuels almost certain played a role in it’s generation.

The batteries and controllers in electric vehicles also contain materials that are not “green” in terms of either extraction or disposal. Some electric vehicles use exotic materials that are pretty high on any social misery index as well.

Right now manufacturers of electric vehicles are sinking like lead balloons on Jupiter. As I write this two manufacturers of e-motorcycles have recently gone defunct. Tesla’s stock is plunging.

The reason for this is technical but predictable — the current state of battery storage technology is simply insufficient to compete with the energy density of fossil fuel. This results in poor range for electric vehicles when compared to traditional vehicles. So far hardly anyone want’s to spend, say, $13K on an electric motorcycle that goes 50 miles, max, in tortoise mode.

Electric vehicles do have some fleet efficiency advantages over conventional vehicles but it’s going to take a serious evolution in battery technology to fully realize this. Until then anyone who goes too far out on a limb to get on the e-vehicle bandwagon is likely to watch their investment go down the tubes.

Of course there’s an upside to this — plenty of time to surf the Interwebs for more sites like fieldmag.com to point you straight at the next new thing.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club award-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, consultant and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time happily raising three children, llama farming and riding mountain bikes and motorcycles.