motorcycle posts

Second motorbike ride

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.

Selected notes:

  • 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.

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.