Thursday, I went over cousin Paul’s house, as I had a day off. The intention was to go sailing if the weather was nice, or perhaps go motorcycling if it was too bad for sailing, but not awful, or we’d find something else otherwise. Though there was a 30% chance of rain, the sky was sunny and the forecast looked good, even for sailing. So Paul suggested we ride the motorcycles down to the dock so we could get both desired activities in.
I was quite leary, as I had only been on one rather short ride thus far, with no traffic, a few weeks before. It seemed dangerous going the 20 mile journey to the dock, especially with the probability that, after sailing, I’d have to ride home in the dark. Now that I’ve got my temps, it isn’t illegal to ride, but I’m not supposed to ride in the dark. But he convinced me I’d be fine, so I went.
I’m surprised he didn’t want to turn around and take a car in the initial bit of the ride. I stalled clutching from a stop several times early on. I moved slowly for sure. I was revving the engine very high at times, and something started smoking from the engine (he said probably just oil). When I had to ask how to change out of first gear, I thought for sure he’d see I wasn’t ready for such a trip. But he simply reminded me one down, two up, and we continued on.
I had trouble with the speed, and many car drivers were undoubtedly angry being stuck behind me. I was also slow at starting, stalling out plenty of times. I was slow at stopping, as I hadn’t really made much use of the brakes before, using mostly engine braking, and made sure to keep a wide distance open ahead of me.
I made it there and back again in one piece, no real problems. The ride was definitely a learning experience and I became much more comfortable with controlling the bike and using its various controls while paying attention to the road ahead.
- Braking: I hadn’t used the rear brakes at all, nor the front very much, before this ride. I did not feel comfortable using the brakes and wasn’t sure how quickly I could stop. I used a lot of engine braking, especially early in the ride. I kept my fingers on the brake lever most of the time, but this caused hand fatigue. I eventually left them off unless I felt I might need to stop soon, but my fear made this still be a lot of the time. After trying the rear brake in a safe place, I started using them more. I found them to be quite powerful, yet they didn’t try to lock on me at all. I am much more comfortable with them now. I’ll have to do some practice quick stops to be fully comfortable.
- Turn signals: Paul told me early on to not worry about the signals; he’d be signaling anyway, and I was having trouble paying attention to the little slider while also coming to a stop. I didn’t use them at all for a while, but eventually became comfortable with them, especially after I stopped leaving my hand on the clutch lever the whole time. I started using them for every turn, and eventually was able to turn them off soon after the turn as well.
- Speed: Had lots of trouble with this. It took me a while to get up to 40 mph. Around 40, the wind seemed fairly strong, and worried me. I did go up to 50 some, but not much more, and not that often. The speed limit was 50 or higher in some parts, making this tough for me, especially since cars always want to go faster than the limit by 5 to 10 mph. It seemed they had it so much easier, with their large steel enclosures. My legs felt very bare when going above 40 with just khaki pants on. I can easily see why riding pants’d be nice. The helmet and jacket and gloves I was borrowing from Paul felt quite safe though. Once I got used to braking and shifting, the higher speeds seemed less scary.
- Shifting: I had lots of trouble starting from a stop early on. Getting the throttle to the right position while releasing the clutch was tough for me. I’d often give it too much or too little power, leading to a jerk forward or stall. I had to go through this somewhat when learning stickshift car, and the change in controls seemed to negate most of my skill from that. Shifting up to second and beyond was no problem. Shifting down was somewhat though. Once I got used to using the brakes, I often’d just hold the clutch in and kick down through the gears while braking only with the brakes. I was worried I’d have to start going at some point from something other than a dead stop and kick into the wrong gear, but I never had a problem with this, helped by the extremely high rpm range of motorcycles. Being used to shifting on my car, I didn’t go nearly as high in RPM as I should’ve. I cruised at around 7k and shifted around 10k, though the redline was way up somewhere above 14k.
- Throttle: The hand throttle is tough to get used to. The throttle and the brake being on one hand was a little difficult to control at first, and was also fatiguing of that hand. Just holding the throttle to the same position constantly was tiring, and I’d often let go to adjust my hand, leading to a quick slowdown via engine braking followed by a sudden jerk forward again. I’m becoming more comfortable with this, but it’s still fatiguing.
- Helmet: Paul’s helmet is quite difficult for me to get on. I have to take my hair down and then push hard to get it on, while holding the straps so they don’t slide up in with my head. I feel somewhat separate from the outside world with this thing on (moreso than usual): my vision is limited, I can’t hear much, I feel like I’m in an orb. While riding, the vision problem was a definite problem. I lost most of my peripheral vision. Turning my head as far as was comfortable gave me no vision of the vehicles behind me, and probably not enough to even see the blind spot normally hidden from the mirrors. Hopefully a better fitting helmet will have better vision as well. I also had problems with a fogging up visor. At one stoplight, it really fogged up, and I was worried it’d stay that way. I could hardly see. Luckily, when we started going, the air moving through cleared it up. I only came back a little bit occasionally while riding. I ride with the visor up for a little while. I felt much more a part of the world and could easily hear what was going on, especially what Paul was doing. I could also see somewhat clearer. For the most part little flew in at my eyes, but I did get a little bit of dirt.
- Mirrors: I adjust the mirrors when I first got on to what I thought would be good. I was way wrong, and really had to tilt my head and move my shoulders to see behind me. It was quite impossible for me to adjust them while riding (couldn’t remove the right hand at all and had trouble using the left) so they stayed that way for quite some time. At a stop light, I adjusted them, but they got even worse, and I couldn’t see a thing behind me at all, couldn’t even turn and look because of the helmet. At another light, I finally got them to decent positioning. I still found I had to move my shoulder to see directly behind though.