First Motorcycle run

Today I piloted a motorcycle for the first time. It was my cousin Paul’s. He started with a 250cc, then last year upgraded to a 600cc, both japanese sport bike types. He’s quite into it, with a lot of money invested, and plans to take the 600 to a track soon.

He’s been trying to get me to try it out for a while now, but I’ve had little confidence in my ability. Even the 250 seems too big and heavy for me to handle from looking at it and feeling it. But today, him and my Uncle Al set up everything for me to ride, so I figured I’d go ahead and give it a try. Paul explained the operation to me in just enough detail. I sat on it and tried the controls and shifting from neutral to first and back.

Then I went right in to trying to drive it. Kicked it into first, released the clutch, it stalled. Not enough gas. So I started up again and tried the same time. This time I gave it way too much gas. I shot forward with my feet still on the ground, kicking off the gravel to ensure balance (though I’m not sure it was necessary). I very quickly was at the end of the driveway, which was to be my first run. With engine braking and the front brakes I was able to easily come to a stop though. The brakes on that bike are very grabby, which I had trouble with many times, one somewhat painful to the groin region.

Next they moved the bike out onto the street. There were occasional cars going by, which they waved by. I then started off, this time much easier on the clutch. I still jerked forward a bit and had a bit of trouble getting my feet up properly, but much better. Once I was going, I was going. At that point it was a little scary just at the 15mph I was going. I just slowly went along for a bit, with cars passing by and Paul following. I eventually sped up somewhat, but stayed in first gear. We went down to the end of the road (the neck of a T) and turned around. My first turn. The turn itself wasn’t bad at all. I had trouble getting back out of neutral though for some reason. I kept kicking but couldn’t get it to shift. After seeing this a couple of times, I think I have to move the bike with my feet to move the gears in the transmission or something like that.

We went back up the road again. This time I went faster and shifted into second. The shift wasn’t smooth: I jerked forward for sure, and may not have depressed the clutch. But I was able to easily go faster. Those high RPMs on those bikes worry me somewhat. I was able to easily engine brake to slow down, shift down and make the turn back into their driveway.

Paul called a friend of his and was about to leave to see her, but then his Dad and himself convinced him to take me out for a longer run. We went back down the same road as before, me going in second gear and probably 30mph or so, then turned at the end. At that point I didn’t know how to do turn signals, but a look at the next turn showed me. I got up to maybe 40mph there. I was starting to feel more comfortable at the faster speeds.

We went to a new housing development with a road like a b that had no traffic and only a few houses. We went around the loop a number of times. I went slowly around the turns. At first I took them at like 15, then would speed up to maybe 30 on the straights. There were some rocks and some of those raised sewer things, like they hadn’t put in the final layer of asphalt for the road yet, that made for obstacles around the turns and lowered my comfort level. But I eventually made it up to 25 or 30 around the cleaner turns. Paul was of course able to take them much faster and was able to breeze right by me.

I had already gotten up into 3rd and 4th gear by the time we were heading home. I followed him and got up to maybe 50. I was worried about the turns (at intersections, the roads were straight), but it was fairly easy to slow down, much more so than on a bicycle. He left when we got to his house.

I had worn Paul’s older helmet, jacket, and gloves. Those definitely made me more comfortable with the speed and prospect of falling. The helmet was quite tough to get on and off though: he must have a smaller head. I wore the visor open the whole time, for talking purposes. I think I got a little bit of dirt on my face, but nothing that I noticed while riding.

The whole thing was really not as hard as I thought it would be. The controls are not too bad once I got used to them, though I still am quite jerky with both the clutch and the brake. Balance is not hard at all. Turns aren’t very hard either. I never really felt like I was going to fall over. I didn’t have to think about lean at all. I didn’t notice the counter-steer, which is apparently noticeable on these bikes, probably because I wasn’t going fast enough. It was somewhat unwieldy at stops, but nothing awful. It was a little scary going by some cars that seemed like they either didn’t really noticed me or were upset I was on their road.

I think with a few more days of that I’d be comfortable enough to ride it around on easy roads with light traffic no problem. It was fun. Maybe I’ll eventually get a motorbike, have some fun and save some gas.