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Qualify me. 3/31/2006

I posted this in a motorcycle forum I frequent. This was in response to a new rider asking about whether he was “qualified” to ride a large capacity motorcycle, and the type of motorcycle he was considering as a first bike.

Are any of us “qualified” to ride a big bike? Most of us in the forum have a piece of plastic which says we do.

However, as in any piece of machinery used on the road, respect is demanded, and must be given. Riding a motorcycle is more of a state of mind, and attitude, rather than a qualification. If you ride bikes with the wrong attitude, i.e. hot headed, quick tempered, full speed everywhere, then you will become a statistic very quickly.

A 500/600 cc bike, for those of us with many years of experience, represents the best compromise between long distance riding, canyon strafing, and daily commutting. It’s comfortable enough to be ridden long distances. It has enough power to not lag behind too badly during spirited riding, and it’s light enough to be manageable in city traffic.

A serious alternative to consider is a ZZR-250, if you can find one in good condition. This particular bike gives away nothing to larger bikes, except straight line speed, with the caveat that you have to look after it. But then, we always look after our bikes in the forum, don’t we? I have been riding a ZZR-250 for the last 3 weeks, and am well pleased with it. It has surprised me in terms of its performance and capability.

Stay away from anything above 750 cc, until you have a couple of years riding experience, since, as you say, you have no experience riding at all. Enrol in a driving school, in the forum we recommend M——-, his phone number is available upon request.

Modern motorcycles have very scary performance envelopes. They should not be taken lightly. Any sports motorcycle above 500cc sold today has more performance than most riders can handle.

Welcome to to wonderful world of motorcycles.

I’m hoping you’re going to catch the bug, hard.

Some purported words of wisdom, from a supposedly older and wiser rider, i.e. me. For many of my readers, I know that you started in motorcycling much the same way I did. One day, very magically, we became curious about motorcycles. Like when girls (I’m not being sexist, just that 98% of the bikers I know are guys) stopped being whiny, irritating creatures who always wanted to tag along, to being whiny irritating creatures who grew interesting protuberences on their chest and didn’t want to give you the time of day. And somehow, somewhere, we knew someone with a motorcycle, who was willing to let us have a go on it.

And I know I caught the bug, hard.

But am I “qualified” to ride a superbike? Legally, in the eyes of the road transports departments of various countries, I am. I have licenses that allow me to run on various racetracks in various countries. Am I qualified?

My honest answer would be, no. Biking is a constant learning experience for me. The developments in technology for engines, frames, suspension, tyres, and motorcycle accessories like riding gear and helmets mean that I am learning something new every day. I try to stay abreast of things by zipping through various web pages, and magazine articles. But there is no substitute for the real thing.

Unfortunately, most of us will not get the chance to ride every machine released from every major manufacturer every year. Or test and try out every helmet, glove, jacket and boot that is released. That would be close to impossible, unless you’re Alan Cathcart. So we rely on word of mouth, recommendations, magazines and trade articles, and the internet.

This young man is new to motorcycles. He is aware that there are different motorcycles out there, with different degrees of performance. As opposed to various young men who rock into the forum and say that they want to buy a 1300 c.c. Suzuki and slam a turbo on it so that they can do 300 km/h wheelies. This particular young man is approaching the sport that we know and love with a healthy respect. He has an idea of what he wants, what he needs, and what he’s going to do with it. He has parents who are supportive. He is doing is his research.

He could do worse. He could have ended up in a speed freak forum, and gotten influenced the wrong way. Instead, he chose to ask a question, in a particular place, and much to his delight, it got answered. There was a little sarcasm involved though, since I’m the resident noob eater. But all in all, I think we have a new recruit. Who is qualified.

Girl Friday.

Squid. 3/30/2006

My status in the local biking scene is one of “senior rider”.  Many of the younger riders look to me for advice on riding skills, bike tech, engine maintenance, and safety.  Which really doesn’t excuse this.

The picture above appeared in a previous incarnation of this blog, under the title “Riding Squidly.”  On the day, I was bringing a friend’s Ducati 748, in race trim, home, to have a look at the engine.  It was just after the race, and my mate was too tired to ride the bike back.  So he crashed in my truck, while another friend drove, and asked me to ride the bike.  And the only reason I was riding it was because I always carry a helmet in the truck.  I don’t know why I do this.  It’s been a habit of mine from years and year ago, that I would always have a helmet and a pair of gloves stashed away somewhere in my vehicle.
So there I was, with a serious lack of safety gear.  No jacket, no leg protection.  The shoes I was wearing were hiking boots.  Not much use if the bike decided to throw me off.  And we were zooming down the highway at something way over the speed limit.  I blame the truck, because the truck doesn’t like going slow anywhere.  And the Remus pipes on the 748 just begged for the throttle to be opened so that I could hear them howl.

Kids, don’t do this.  I will try not to in the future.

Line-up. 3/29/2006

I was riding late one night, after a drinking session with some buddies.  Yes, I know it’s dangerous to drink and ride, so save the comments.  I wasn’t drunk per se, just a little inebriated.  The drinking session was in a small town south of the city, about 40 or so miles away.  To get back onto the highway, I had to pass through a one street town just before the interchange.

As I was riding through the main street of this town, everything was completely deserted.  Which wasn’t surprising, considering the hour of night that it was.  So I puttered along, with the visor of my helmet open to get some fresh air in to clear my head.  I came up to a pedestrian crossing, which was right in front of the local police station.  The light was red, so I stopped.

And almost died of fright when a dark shadow loomed out of the bushes by the side of the road in front of the police station, and grabbed the keys from my bike.  I was about to shout a “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”, when the words died in my throat.  I noticed that the shadow was wearing a uniform.  Specifically a policeman’s uniform.  A senior policeman’s uniform.  My heart was pounding sixteen to the dozen, because I thought was going to get done for riding under the influence.

I asked the cop what was going on, thinking that this was a routine road block or something, when I noticed that there was no other cop around, and no signboards or warning lights that usually accompany a road block.  The cop looked at me, and asked me to follow him into the station.  I asked what for, and he snapped at me, saying I shouldn’t ask so many questions, and that I had to follow his orders.  I was about to tell him to go to hell, and fish the spare key for the bike out of my wallet, when I realised that he had a gun, and might shoot me for running away or something.

So I pushed the bike into the station, and followed the cop in.  He grunted at me to remove my helmet and gloves, but leave my jacket on, and follow him.  I did as he asked, and wondered what the hell was going on.  He led me further back into the station, to a room which had the word “Interrogation” on a screwed on plate.  He opened the door, and motioned me to go in.  I stood there a moment, wondering what my rights were in a situation like this.  He impatiently gestured at me to go in, and I realised that I had no choice, so I did so.

I walked into the room, and saw that there were 4 other men standing there, all wearing jackets.  I got really curious at this, and by now was really worried as to what was happening.  This was becoming a little surreal.  And then I realised it was a line up.  There was a large mirror in one side of the room, which I knew was a 2 way mirror.  The cop told us all to stand in a line, and wait.

We stood there a few minutes, and then the door opened.  A couple of plain clothes policemen came in, and led one of us out in handcuffs.  I knew this was the suspect.  A couple of the others were also policemen in plain clothes, leaving me and another guy being bystanders to this drama being played out in the wee hours of the morning in a small town.

The cop came to me, and handed me back my key.  He thanked me for my time, and bid me a safe journey.  Out of curiosity, I asked him what the suspect was being held for, and he told me that it was a rape case.

I looked at the cop and asked him if I looked like a rapist.  He narrowed his eyes at me in his best Clint Eastwood impression, and said “everyone’s guilty of something.”

Smashing start. 3/28/2006

Ducati seems to have started the season well, with Troy Bayliss winning the SBK round in Phillip Island on March 5th, and Loris Capirossi standing on the podium last weekend in Jerez.

All in all, a great start to the season.  I’m hoping that Ducati will be able to grab both the SBK and MotoGP crowns this year.

Spanking the monkey. 3/24/2006

James’ blogroll at whybike turned up these gems from Pegmonkey. The first 2 of a multi part series in how to ride a motorcycle.  Pegmonkey dispenses some very sage advice in the 2 parts I’ve read.  The very first paragraph cracked me up laughing.

I’ve encountered many people over the years, notably in the mid 90’s, who wanted to get into biking.  Many of them were middle-aged men, fairly high up the corporate ladder, who had some extra cash to spend, with the kids in varsity or left home, and a wife who preferred to not have a grumpy old man around the house.

So many of them started looking for something to occupy their time.  Maybe trying to capture the vestiges of a lost youth.  Or finally being able to afford something that had eluded them when they were younger and trying to carve a niche for themselves in the Darwinian process we call career building.

Most usually, for men like these, whom we call born-again bikers, they would look for something fairly low to the ground.  Which in effect meant a cruiser.  And since these guys had money, that cruiser of choice would almost invariably be a Harley-Davidson.  don’t get me wrong.  Somewhere in my stable sits a 1994 FLSTF.  I don’t indulge in Harley bashing, because I admire them for creating a brand, instantly identifiable and recognisable, and people buy it.  So what if it don’t go to fast, or doesn’t like to go round corners much.  H-D managed to bring motorcycles to a group of consumers who wouldn’t have considered motorcycles before.  But I digress.

So more than a few of them came over to the bike shop where I used to hang out, and from where we were sitting in the cafe, we could see deals being done by the sales guy in the shop.  And then they would be brought out, and shown their shiny new bike, and left to their own devices.  And almost invariably, after a couple of months, these very expensive machines would become garage queens, seeing the light of day on rare occassions, when the wife wanted to get the spare china out from the boxes in the back of the garage.

Some of these guys caught the biking bug, hard, and surpassed even some of us who had been riding for decades.  More than a few turned out to be exceptional riders.  But a large majority were fair weather riders.   So, perhaps, if they had read the articles by Pegmonkey, we might have a few more of them on the road.

Girl Friday.

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