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The 1962 Honda Motorcycle Manual Myth Must Be True, I Read It On The Internet

by Mike Savidge

We've all had a friend say to us, “Hey, look at this article I found online”. You then read something so outrageous that you know it isn't true and you say so. Their eyes widen as they exclaim, “Well they couldn't put it on there if it wasn't true and it's posted in a lot of other places too.”

Right or wrong, there is not much of a policing presence on the world wide web or the multitude of social media sites attached to it. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others have given a public platform to millions of people. These are the modern public soapboxes allowing a relatively unfiltered exchange of information. And there is a lot of information out there. Too much to measure and it's growing by the minute. How much of it is true and honest? Some of that depends on the type of website or organization associated with the information. Your challenge is to sift truth from fiction when it comes to what's posted and shared and shared and shared. The ability to continually share the incorrect data is more of an issue than the original posting. Like a wildfire, once it starts spreading, it can be hard to contain.

Here's a good example of this phenomenon. If you do an online search for the phrase, “1962 Honda motorcycle instruction book”, you'll get dozens of web links displaying this paragraph:

 Taken from a 1962 Honda Motor Cycle Owner's Manual.
Translated by Honda for the American Motorcycle Rider.

  1. At the rise of the hand by Policeman, stop rapidly. Do not pass him by or otherwise disrespect him.
  2. When a passenger of the foot hooves in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet melodiously at first. If he still obstacles your passage, tootle him with vigor and express by word of mouth, warning Hi, Hi.
  3. Beware of the wandering horse that he shall not take fright as you pass him. Do not explode the exhaust box at him. Go soothingly by.
  4. Give big space to the festive dog that makes sport in roadway. Avoid entanglement of dog with wheel spokes.
  5. Go soothingly on the grease mud, as there lurks the skid demon! Press the brake foot as you roll around the corners and save the collapse and tie up.

 This is precisely the kind of entertaining and old fashioned biker trivia that we love to share with others. And it's been shared online through websites and forums for more than fifteen years. It's dated at a time when the Japanese bikes were just starting to make a name for themselves in the United States which will help many believe it's legit. Plus, it's funny. We love to share funny stuff. And for some reason, language translations have a high probability of being funny.

Funny, yes. Factual, no. There are several signs that this isn't what it claims to be. Although this posting can be found on dozens of websites, not a single posting shows the actual page from the supposed motorcycle manual this was taken from. Most just repeat the text or show it printed on a plain piece of paper. Doesn't a single copy of this mysterious source manual exist anywhere? It was only 1962. Also,the language is from an earlier era, not the 1960's. It sounds much more early 20th Century, say 1920's. Fact is, this same text shows up in several magazines of that era, including the May 1924 issue of Popular Mechanics.

But it appears the true origination of this posting goes back to the World War I period in Great Britain and a magazine called “The Motor”. This was a weekly car and motorcycle magazine that was founded in 1903. In the January 28, 1953 issue there was an article titled “The Impact of the First World War” and how the magazine helped to promote private auto ownership for Britons during the war. The article also described an incident in September of 1918 when the magazine was late to go to press and still had a gap on one of the pages. Staff writer B.A. Hunt produced the pidgin English version of “Japanese Rules of the Road”. From there the feature has been shared thousands of times in print publications and continues to flourish in the digital world. Funny, but not factual.