Archive for February, 2009

A Few Rides Later…

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Today’s number: 17

Here’s my bike:

 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS  In case you haven’t been reading my other motorcycle blogs, it’s a Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS (affectionately referred to as a “Weestrom” in reference to the larger 1000cc version of the same bike). In case you’re wondering, it’s considered a “dual sport” bike, but it’s mostly built for road (as opposed to “dirt”) use. It’s a fuel-injected, chain driven bike with a 2 cylinder 650cc engine. It’s also got ABS brakes which should, hopefully, prevent wheel lockups and “endos” (see video below for definition):

So, I’ve been riding now for about a week and a half or so. I’ve put in about 120 miles during that time. Alot of this has been around my neighborhood, but I’ve also ventured out to work and out to some faster “country lanes” where I could go 45 mph or so. I’ve yet to make it to the highway.

At this point, I feel pretty comfortable dealing with the mechanics of the bike: shifting, braking, turning on (and off) turn indicators. I can take a ride and focus on traffic and crash avoidance instead of the operation of the bike.

I am still working on being “smooth”: shifting well, taking turns with a good “apex”, stopping effectively. I know that I still need to work on slow-speed maneuvering. Last weekend I dropped the bike while trying to perform slow-speed figure eights inside a 20′x40′ rectangle. I know the broken parts cost $50 but I’ve yet to hear what my dealer will want for labor. Although I’m bummed about dropping the bike, I’m glad to have gotten it out of the way as everyone ends up dropping a bike sooner or later.

Tomorrow, I get the rest of my bike’s accessories installed: grip heaters, hand protectors, a centerstand and a touring seat. I’ll give it a couple of weeks and then I’ll order my crash bars and luggage system (maybe a skid plate, too). Finally, somewhere down the line I want to add some electronics (tunes + communications).

I take my safety class this week and hope to have my endorsement next week. This will mostly mean that I can ride at night without breaking any laws and that my insurance company will be happy.

My next challenges are highway driving and taking some longer trips. That and, of course, slow speed figure eights.

First Ride

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

I am now the owner of a Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS motorcycle! The bike shop delivered it today at 3:30 and at 3:45 I was taking my first motorcycle ride.

At first, I just worked on getting a feel for the clutch. I’d let it out until I felt it catching (and the engine slowing down) and then I’d rev the engine and get going until I reached the end of my driveway. Having done that 10 or so times, I got out of my driveway and puttered to the end of my street (a private lane). Finally, having some confidence that I could get into gear and stop successfully, I ventured out on the street.

In retrospect, it was probably not a good idea to be doing this during rush hour traffic. There was a good stream of cars on my avenue and I had to wait a minute or two before I saw a good gap. I took a somewhat wide turn but got myself into traffic, got up to speed and shifted up through third and fourth gear. Honestly, it was somewhat terrifying.

The speed limit by my house is 35 mph, and traveling 34 mph is punishable by death. With cars trailing close behind me, I did find it necessary to pull off the side of the road once to let some cars go by. Mostly, I did this because I hadn’t thought about how far I was going to go and where I was going to turn around. After a minute wait, I merged back into traffic and got up to speed again. At this point, I was so hyper that my visor started to fog up. WIth about 50% visibility, I slowed down, downshifted and turned into a nearby housing development. I opened up my visor and turned myself around.

Again, I got back into traffic and reached the speed limit. As I approached my house, I downshifted, slowed down, turned on my indicators and made it back to my garage without injury. I even remembered to shut off my turn indicator.

There is no question that riding a motorcycle is exhilarating – especially with the visor up! Motorcycles have very responsive engines and you can most definitely feel their power even puttering along at 35 mph. I can see why all the books and motorcycle sales people encourage you to take a safety course, however. Riding a bike, safely, requires good concentration and total awareness of what’s around you. Today, I was so intent on working the controls that I would have surely killed myself if I’d encountered a pothole or someone unexpectedly crossing in front of me. I look forward to taking the safety class next week and to becoming experienced enough that the control of the bike becomes second nature and that my attention is free to focus on keeping my safe.