They’re on our phones, our laptops and our personal computers. There’s no escaping them, so we check them daily, hourly and sometimes minute-ly. They keep us entertained, informed and in touch with friends, relatives and people we’ve never met. They’re social media platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and they’re how a growing number of us take in the news, form opinions and ‘learn’ new things. But are second opinions gleaned from the armchair experts on social media worth anything? Should we take heed of their well-reasoned but ill-researched theories and ideas? Or should we play it safe where our motorcycles are concerned, and seek professional advice for any technical issues we may or may not be encountering?
The reason I’m bringing this up is because I’ve seen a rise in instances of people turning to the world of social media for technical advice about their bikes. The latest one was posted to a Facebook group for motorcyclists which I’m ashamed to say I’m part of. The post was a request from a young lady for some advice about engine oil. She’d been told by the mechanic that was about to service her bike that he was going to use premium 10w-40 oil, and that it would cost approximately £50. However, even though she’d seen 10w-40 engine oil in Halfords for £25, the mechanic didn’t want to use it. So why is the mechanic trying to rip her off?
Intrigued, I found myself scrolling through the comments. And although there were quite a lot of comments (there always is when a girl asks for advice), few of them had but a modicum of sense. The majority of them were saying things like “take it somewhere else, he’s ripping you off” or “bring it round to mine and I’ll service it for you [with your £25 Halfords oil]”.
I’d say less than 5% of the comments made any suggestion that good quality oil is a lot better for your engine than the cheapest stuff you can find. The problem was (and the problem is with social media) is that she was asking for advice from people that, for the most part, haven’t got a clue what they are talking about. I couldn’t believe some of the idiotic responses, suggesting any old oil will do; one person even said you don’t need to change your oil, just change the oil filter every couple of years and save yourself a packet; what an idiot!
I almost felt sorry for the young lady. She doesn’t know about engine oil. I doubt she’ll have ever heard of vapour phase inhibitors or friction modifying polymers. Does she know the difference between relative density and kinematic viscosity? Does she fuck. But that’s not her fault. And as it happens, very few of the people in her Facebook group know about them either.
But that’s why she took her bike to a professional to get serviced. If you’re not capable of, don’t know how to or simply can’t be arsed to service your own bike, that’s fine, pay a professional to do it. And if you don’t like the way a certain professional does it, that’s fine too. Ask for a second opinion. Ask for a third. But try and ask professionals, rather than the empty-heads on Facebook that obviously don’t know their arses from their elbows.
There are some occasions when the opinion of the great unwashed counts for something. But it’s exactly that; it’s when you’re after opinions, not facts or technical advice. ‘Should I get a green crash helmet to match my bike, or a red one to match my leathers?’, or ‘Who thinks these plastic stick-on winglets look classy?’ It’s good for that kind of thing, and that kind of thing only.
But if you don’t know what oil you should be putting in your bike or whether your mechanic’s ripping you off, your Facebook friends probably don’t know either. So get a second opinion, but get one that counts. One from a professional.