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Is your motorcycle giving you cancer?

by Brian Dunning, Oct 21 2010

Just in case you thought the amount of woo in the world was diminishing, here comes an author to restore your faith. Randall Dale Chipkar has written a self-published new book that explains how your motorcycle is giving you cancer, The Motorcycle Cancer Book (http://www.motorcyclecancer.com).

As you know, a motorcycle's engine incorporates a magneto that generates electricity to power the spark plugs, fuel pump, and other systems needed to run the bike. There is nothing about this unique to motorcycles; the same basic system is used in virtually all internal combustion engines, like those found in cars, boats, lawnmowers, radio controlled airplanes, even the jets found in airliners and cruise missiles. So why the beef about motorcycles? Why, because that engine is right near your groin!

But not to worry. For a mere $109.99, Randall will sell you his RiderSaver™ motorcycle seat accessory, a flexible stick-on barrier that he claims will protect you. This special barrier will protect your groin from the evils of that magneto's proximity, and “put true freedom back into riding motorcycles!”

Randall has, apparently, overturned vast bodies of knowledge with his startling discoveries that these everyday devices have been giving us all cancer for more than a century. He describes the mechanism as ELF EMF (extremely low frequency electromagnetic radiation):

Many motorcycles generate potentially carcinogenic ELF EMFs directly into the rider's groin flooding the entire torso. This increases the risk of developing lymphomas, leukemia or cancers of the prostate, testicle, colon, bladder, kidney, liver, pancreas, stomach, etc. Both the heart and immune system are also at risk for disorder or malfunction. Infertility, sterility, erectile dysfunction, impotence, prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)-prostate enlargement, urinary problems, infections and loss of libido could also be side effects of excessive ELF EMF radiation penetrating the groin.

There are two fundamental problems with Randall’s claim. First, EMF from an engine’s electrical system is not ionizing radiation; not anywhere close to it. This means that it does not have the ability to strip away electrons, thus changing or damaging cells or DNA in your body. In summary, such an electromagnetic field cannot give you cancer.

Second, his product cannot possibly shield you from this. The only way to block electromagnetic radiation is through the use of a Faraday cage, basically a metal screen. And while you certainly could embed such a barrier into a flexible material, that does not appear to be what his RiderSaver™ is (though he declines to give a specific description). Regardless, static and ELF magnetic fields cannot be blocked at all, through any known method. This is basic stuff that you need look no further than Wikipedia to understand.

In short, he has invented a problem that cannot possibly exist, and offers to sell you a solution that could not possibly address the problem he invented.

Whenever someone claims to have overturned basic science and offers a for-profit solution, you should always be skeptical.

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35 Responses to “Is your motorcycle giving you cancer?”

  1. djheru says:

    “Infertility, sterility, erectile dysfunction, impotence … and loss of libido could also be side effects of excessive ELF EMF radiation penetrating the groin.”

    At least this would explain the origins of the stereotypical “asexual biker gang member”. I mean, those guys are renowned for their low sex drives, right?

  2. CW says:

    And I thought sitting on top of my microwave would be a cheap alternative to a vasectomy. I didn’t realize I could buy a motorcycle that would allow me to do the same thing, but also get me to and from work.

  3. Andy says:

    I looked around his site for a rigorous scientific study demonstrating a statistically significant increase in cancer rates amongst Harley riders (since they’re about the only cohort likely to be encountering magneto or double-plug ignition systems), but couldn’t find one.

  4. GoneWithTheWind says:

    What if you are riding a motorcycle, eating a Big Mac, talking on your cell phone and you pumped your own gas? How long will you live? I’m guessing your boggest risk riding a motorcycle is still that little old lady making a left hand turn. Now THAT will hurt your libido.

    • Max says:

      If you are riding a motorcycle while eating a Big Mac and talking on your cell phone, you’re certainly lowering your life expectancy.

      • DeLong says:

        Especially without a brain bucket.

      • GoneWithTheWind says:

        As a long time motorcycle rider (over 200,000 miles) I can tell you that although I wore a helmet almost all the time helmets are actually dangerous. Without a helmet the sensation of speed on a motorcycle increases dramatically as you pass 65 mph. With a helmet most of that sensation of speed is reduced dramatically. Helmets make you go faster.

        Helmets save lives but you need to understand that state legislators didn’t pass helmet laws to save lives they passed them to punish motorcyclists. I believe the most optimistic statistics indicate that helmets save 1000 lives a year. However if helmets were required in automobiles about 20,000 lives could be saved a year. so do you still think helmet laws were passed because the legislators wanted to save lives?

      • LovleAnjel says:

        I have never ridden a motorcycle, and I don’t know the stats on helmet safety, but I don’t think they should legislate voluntary safety equipment. Riders are adults and they can make their own decision about wearing a helmet.

        I am sure at certain speeds it just becomes a serving dish for brain soup.

      • tmac57 says:

        In most states you can drive a motorcycle at the age of 16.Is that a mature enough age to make the decision to wear a helmet? Wearing a helmet just isn’t cool from a young person’s point of view.

      • GoneWithTheWind says:

        I am an absolute believer in helmets. Arguably I am here today because I was wearing a helmet when I had an accident. But I can tell you that if you drive for 8-10 hours it begins to irritate you and just being able to remove it for 15 minutes really helps. Oddly (or not) when I rode without a helmet I was conciously more careful then the rest of the time. I am in favor of requiring a helmet for children including passengers. If we accept that a child is not capable of making those kinds of decisions (and that is exactly what the laws say), then we should make that decision for them. But to require an adult to wear a helmet seems contrary to our constitutional rights.

      • Carl says:

        Wouldn’t 20,000 lives per year (in the USA) be … almost every traffic death? Are you saying that every traffic death is caused by head injuries, and that all of these are preventable by the use of helmets?

      • runnin'hot says:

        As a paramedic, working in a very busy urban environment, I can attest to the benefit of wearing helmets on a motorcycle (and a leather jacket etc…)- totally anecdotal, confirmation-biased-ridden, unscientific assertion to be sure! But I also agree that being forced to wear such safety equipment is not so much supported in the constitution and it should be considered a right to refuse their use, except for one thing… (and this goes for wearing your seatbelt in your car too!) we paramedics are darned good at our jobs, and modern medical technology and trauma surgery are nothing short of amazing (oh! the stories I could add here…). Chances are very good that you will not die from a motor vehicle accident… but unfortunately you will very likely be badly injured or paralyzed or at worst a vegetable. Now, if you want to take such risks to improve the enjoyment of the ride, ok, hey, it is your life to jeopardize spending in a wheelchair, BUT most people are not insured or wealthy enough to pay for such medical treatment, sustaining care and therapy that the common old taxpayer will in nearly all cases pick up the tab for your mistake. Safety equipment is not really about saving lives, but is about reducing the injury. I’m just sayin’

  5. MadScientist says:

    A hollow iron sphere will deal with the magnetism part as well as the static field. So long as you’re in the iron sphere, any charge on the sphere has a net zero effect on anything inside.

    As for any radio-frequency radiation from the bike’s magneto – let’s say the bike was revving at 12,000rpm and 2 cylinders are fired per rev (an unlikely scenario unless you’re a race rider – or very silly and don’t change gears). That will give a fundamental frequency of 24KHz, which is a very long radio wavelength. It won’t even be effectively transmitted past the fuel tank and bike frame and to the groin. Due to the nature of firing a sparkplug, there will also be an awful lot of higher harmonics and another fundamental frequency (much higher than 24KHz) which is dependent on the current v. time profile of the sparkplug firing. These are all easily measurable into the MHz range, but still far too long a wavelength to be effectively transmitted past the bike frame and to the crotch. However, if you have trouble with the tiny amount of radio noise from the bike, what you should really be terrified of are those large radio and TV transmitters as well as all those CB radios.

  6. Lorne says:

    Maybe this Randell guy has something that help us road bicyclists. After all the saddles we use definitely cause all sorts of issues in the nether regions without any radiation exposure. After all he must be an expert in this area given all the red coloured type on his web page. Of course he missed the simple solution to reduce the risk of cancer from riding a motorcycle is to just not buy one.

  7. LovleAnjel says:

    “Infertility, sterility, erectile dysfunction, impotence, prostatitis, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)-prostate enlargement, urinary problems, infections and loss of libido could also be side effects of excessive ELF EMF radiation penetrating the groin.”

    I would blame squashing and vibrating your junk for hours at a time before I’d blame EMF radiation.

    • MadScientist says:

      If you’re squashing and vibrating your junk, you have serious issues with your riding skills.

  8. Madam Lash says:

    Just the thing for the man who has everything … a Tin Foil Hat for his bollocks :)

  9. Wolf Martinus says:

    I think that the BMW F650′s design can give you eye cancer. Apart from that most motorcyclists I know are too much into technical stuff to fall for that.

  10. Jester700 says:

    And here I thought I’d get cancer from the pollution. Though cycles use less fuel, they are held to much less stringent emmissions standards than autos, and most models output more harmful stuff from their tailpipes than a Hummer. Yes, the BIG Hummer.

    And thanks for using a nice Beemer as a pic instead of the ubiquitous cruiser!

    • MadScientist says:

      Many engines remain very simple and do not have the electronic fuel injection and computerized fuel-air mixture control or the post-combustion catalytic converter (though the converter is required in some countries) – those are the primary reasons why the bike engine isn’t as nice as the car engine. Also, with the small battery you can’t have electrical preheaters and so on, so starting with a cold engine is always an unpleasant experience. If you want very high revs and pretty high torque at low speeds, you’d also use a 2-stroke engine rather than a 4-stroke and the 2-strokes have their own limitations (including a filthy exhaust). There are quite a few tradeoffs to make if you want a compact but powerful and inexpensive motor. With current technology though, I think 4-strokes can be fitted with fuel injectors and air-fuel mixture control without sacrificing anything (well, you can’t push-start them on a low battery but how often does that happen).

    • GoneWithTheWind says:

      I don’t disagree with the finer point that motorcycles (of necessity) have less effective pollution controls then automobiles. I do disagree that a motorcycle puts out more harmful stuff then a Hummer. I think that you are ignoring efficiency, that is if we put a gallon of gas in the Hummer and a gallon in a motorcycle that per mile a motorcycle would be less polluting then a Hummer. But additionally I suspect you are buying into the belief that everything coming out of a well tuned internal combustion engine is “bad” and that pollution controls turn it all into something “good”. Having said that I admit I could be blind and still know when I was following a pre 1964 automobile. Pollution controls have made a difference.

      • Jester700 says:

        It’s true that it isn’t cut & dried. Cycles put out more NOX and Carbon monoxide, but less CO2 than an SUV. And “cycles” is misleading, as MadScientist says – my ’04 is carburated with no catalytic convertor, while my ’06 is EFI and has the catalytic convertor (partially why I chose it). But on average, and for the time being, I think the point is valid. AND when I’m behind a big ol’ straight piped Harley it STINKS more than the SUV. I’m assuming it’s not the rider… ;-)

      • GoneWithTheWind says:

        The problem is that early attempts at pollution control allowed them to reduce 90% (more or less) of the pollution at a cost of 5-10% decrease in fuel efficiency. Since about the mid 80′s they have been trying to get that last 10% and it is costing them too much in fuel efficiency and it is creating an expensive and complicated system that often fails. When it fails either the owner/driver just keeps driving putting out even more pollution or they bring it into the shop and pay between $400-$3000 to get it fixed.
        A better choice would be to instal some of the simpler pollution control and then put the rest of the effort into fuel efficiency. That is attain 90% reduction in pollution and 40% increase in MPG. The end result would be less pollution per mile then today’s expensive, complicated failure prone system gives us.

  11. I notice that the inventor is a Canadian, while the patent was issued in the UK. I wonder if he had difficulty obtaining a patent on this side of the water.

    Certainly, when it comes to scams, you have to admit – this guy has balls.

  12. BillC says:

    Perpetrators of woo can’t be bothered by the distinctions between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation – they are certain that you won’t know the difference either; they are parasites that feed on fear and ignorance.

    Their cynicism is exposed by their own false premises. The first clue that this product is phony is the mention of radiation (oh, woo) from the magneto. No street motorcycle manufactured after 1970 uses a magneto* (a DC generator) they use an alternator (an AC generator like that in your automobile whose power is more easily regulated). There are no radiating fields from either device. The design of any efficient generator constrains the electromagnetic (EM) fields to the stator and the rotor and it is invariably enclosed within a metal cover to protect it from dirt and physical damage. In the presence of any EM radiation this cover would act as a Faraday Cage. The only source of EM radiation (from car or motorcycle) is the high tension lead from the coil to the spark plug. This lead is kept very short in length and is usually shielded so as not to produce interference (from EM radiation) in nearby communication receivers. Receivers for Amplitude Modulated (AM) signals are particularly prone to this kind of interference.

    *A web search yields 1969 for Harley and 1970 for BMW as the last uses of magnetos on these makes. Magnetos are still available for niche markets such as racing and high performance modifications – an example would be the Joe Hunt line for Harleys.

  13. My bike gave me a sore arse. Well, technically the loose gravel on the cornering road did…but I’ll be blaming the bike if I get colon cancer.

    I wonder what you’d catch from this fine piece of work…

    http://www.mademan.com/working-street-legal-tron-bike

  14. BreadNCircus says:

    I can’t speak to motorcycle EMF dangers, but there are several studies that show EMF from cellphones will “FRY” your nuts and sperm. Such as “Pathophysiology of cell phone radiation: oxidative stress and carcinogenesis with focus on male reproductive system”
    Source: http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1477-7827-7-114.pdf )

    Conclusion: “…Hence, RF-EMW from commercially available cell phones might affect the fertilizing potential of spermatozoa.

  15. Mike says:

    I an doomed. I am 44 and have been riding bikes since I was 10. Riding a lot, as well.
    I must have cancer. I wonder where it is?

  16. longride says:

    All I can say is that it took me a while to feel “right” again after riding a KLR650 across the country and through many a national park last summer. Somehow I’m doubting it was the EMF that was the problem and more likely the seat cushion!

    Incredibly, he has the patents. What does this say about patent law?

    http://v3.espacenet.com/searchResults?bookmarkedResults=true&submitted=true&DB=EPODOC&locale=en_gb&sf=a&FIRST=1&CY=gb&LG=en&&TI=&AB=&PN=&AP=&PR=&PD=&PA=&IN=Chipkar&EC=&IC=

  17. mike says:

    if we consider which of the millions of things we use daily might in some way be the reasons for a wart a bump or a pimple should we stop walking? or in this case should we stop riding?
    Should we keep ranting about the conspiracies of the bike companies with the pharmaceuticals to promote the new designer drag ‘bikeafix’:)
    and the way they fouled us?
    or should we just launch and deal with more important things in this existence?
    just asking

  18. Dash says:

    The author clearly does not know what a magneto is.

    In the future, Id suggest researching the difference between DC and AC generating technology and where they are used in modern engine systems.

  19. Adam says:

    A word on microwaves and other electromagnetic radiation.

    It infuriates me to see that so many “doctors” and others claim the “dangers” of microwaves come from cancer-causing radiation! My mother’s fiance (average citizen) believes that our microwave in the house is a “carcinogen” because his mother taught him that when he was a child.

    Being a college student studying Chemistry, Biology, etc., I learned that ionizing (cancer-causing) radiation and non-ionizing radiation are on completely opposite sides of the visible light spectrum! It’s the most basic part: just observing the electromagnetic spectrum!

    General Chemistry and Biology are General Education courses, and they both must have some sort of teachings on electromagnetic radiation as to learn about photosynthesis (biology) and about photons (chemistry).

  20. JP says:

    MadScientist,

    you stated earlier that a fuel injected motorcycle cannot be push started when the battery dies. It has nothing to do with being carbeurated or fuel injected. You simply put the bike in 2nd or 3rd gear, get a push and pop the clutch. It’s vehicles with automatic transmissions that you cannot do this with.

  21. Eric says:

    WHAT A CROCK of S(*&!

    I can’t believe the CRAP some people would fall for with some CRACKPOTS claiming this garbage from a motorcycle!

    What a SCAM! I feel more sorry for all the IDIOTS who buy into this CRAP and their so called protection of thi RiderSaver. I guess people in the patent office don’t bother to look at the garbage brought across their desks to give a patent to!