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Old 11-18-2012, 05:49 PM   #1
Cheesefood
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Default Highways - getting used to the wind

So yeah, I'm new and riding on the highway is a bit scary. Any suggestions? Those semis really create a lot of pressure when they pass. Changing lanes is tricky because I'm not too comfortable moving my head to look far over my shoulder.

Any tips or sanity checks to get used to highway rides?
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Old 11-18-2012, 06:05 PM   #2
ragincajun
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Any open areas you can get up near hwy speeds with low traffic? I have a bridge near me that gets some good wind gusts that I would ride across. Something like that may help.

Be safe.
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Old 11-18-2012, 06:27 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheesefood View Post
So yeah, I'm new and riding on the highway is a bit scary. Any suggestions? Those semis really create a lot of pressure when they pass. Changing lanes is tricky because I'm not too comfortable moving my head to look far over my shoulder.

Any tips or sanity checks to get used to highway rides?
Glad to hear you are back on two wheels; and back on here looking for ways to improve.

I am guessing you are on a two lane hwy and the simi is going the other direction. The only thing you can do on a light bike like the 900 is move to the far side of the lane.
The 900 is a great bike to learn and build confidence on; because it is easy to move around and it is easy to make it change directions.
But, light and nimble is a two side coin.
When I first got my 900; riding in the wind really took a lot of attention. After a couple thousand miles, the wind had to really be blasting to cause much concern.

Winter gear can make it difficult to get your head turned to check for a clear lane to move into.
Anytime I want to really crank my head and eyes around and get a good look behind me; I loosen my grip on the bars, almost letting go.
The gyroscopic effects of the front wheel makes the bike want to go straight.
A VERY loose grip will ensure you are not making steering adjustments when your head is turned; but still allow you to get feedback from your front tire such as road imperfections.
Try it a couple of times at slower speeds before you put it to use on the highway though.

The most important thing about highway riding is learning to read what the cars around you might do.
And how that relates to where you want to be and how fast you want to go.

Scott



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Old 11-18-2012, 06:54 PM   #4
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Thanks Scott, great advice. I figured that confidence comes with experience but I wanted some best practices to make sure I'm not a statistic. I rode home on an interstate and still had to work hard to stay relaxed and have fun and not be white-knuckled. I kept telling myself "The bike WANTS to stay up". I thought back to some "chicken strip" videos I've seen to remind myself how hard Id need to to lean to fall down.
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Old 11-18-2012, 07:07 PM   #5
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I try to always be aware of traffic behind me, checking my mirrors 2-3 times a mile, thats every 20-30 seconds at highway speeds. If I notice someone coming up quick behind me, I'll check my mirros every few seconds. when I need to change lanes, I check the mirror on the side I intend to move to as I turn my head to see if it is clear directly behind me in that lane. As I'm turning my head forward again, I check that mirror again. As far as wind goes, I try to stay near the center of the lane till I see if there turbulence is going to push me away or try to pull me in. Be ready to make small adjustments as needed.
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Old 11-18-2012, 08:16 PM   #6
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Scott makes some excellent points.

Do you have a windshield? The windshield will help keep some of the wind effects off of YOU, which, in my opinion, really helps you handle the wind on the highway.

I've ridden the 900 for 20,000 miles now, many of those miles on interstate highways, more than once for several hundred miles at a time on the super slab! I'm not going to sit here and tell you it was the best machine for the job. But I'm also not going to sit here and tell you that when I got off it I thought "Gee, wish I had another bike". You get used to the wind after a while.

Cheesefood, how well do you understand countersteering? Everyone countersteers, but a lot of people aren't aware they are doing it. Making a habit of being conciously aware of your countersteering 100% of the time (not just heaving the bike) will REALLY help in the wind. You'll learn to get a 'feel' for applying grip pressure when the wind hits you or the Semi blows by. Eventually you'll get good enough that you can instinctively press on the grips just right and pretend like nothing ever happened!

I'll also second the advice to find a secondary highway. There is a 60mph divided state highway, with periods of very low traffic, near me. That's where I first opened it up to highway speeds, same with my wife. It's easy to do 65 or even 70 on those roads without attracting any unwanted attention, but it's without all the traffic. You get used to the speed, THEN you can start jousting the half-asleep zombie drivers on the interstate.

Don't give up on it though or let anyone tell you that your bike can't handle it. One day I'll have a bigger bike, because what I like to do is travel and do long distance riding and the bigger touring cruisers are built for just that. But, the 900 has been MORE than adequate for two-up loaded-down highway trips in heavy wind and thunderstorms, and I'm not in any hurry to make that jump. It absolutely can do it, and so can you, just give it some practice!

I always think of riding a motorcycle on a long trip as like camping. I COULD stay in a motel and be in a warm bed with cable TV, but I have that at home the rest of the year. I ENJOY getting out in the elements and pitching a tent and roughing it a little. In the same way I could sit in the leather seat of my 4 door sedan, turn up the 8 speaker stereo and crank the A/C or heat or whatever I need. But that's how I get to work (in the winter) the rest of the time. I enjoy roughing it a little, getting a little wet, feeling a little wind, even getting blown around a little or being a little stiff in the rear-end when I'm done. IMO, dealing with wind and rain and all that junk is well worth it to be out there on the open road on two wheels!

-John
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Old 11-18-2012, 08:49 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rick View Post
I try to always be aware of traffic behind me, checking my mirrors 2-3 times a mile, thats every 20-30 seconds at highway speeds. If I notice someone coming up quick behind me, I'll check my mirros every few seconds. when I need to change lanes, I check the mirror on the side I intend to move to as I turn my head to see if it is clear directly behind me in that lane. As I'm turning my head forward again, I check that mirror again. As far as wind goes, I try to stay near the center of the lane till I see if there turbulence is going to push me away or try to pull me in. Be ready to make small adjustments as needed.
I am not sure if this is GOOD advice or not; but it worked for me.

After I got a little more comfortable on the slab, I would try to go about 2-3 mph faster than most cars. Passing maybe 15 to 20 cars for every one car that passed me.
That way, I could study drivers before I got near them; while keeping my eyes forward.
After many many miles you start to recognize "pinch" zones before they ever happen.
It is not something you want to do on day 1 though.

I also challenged myself with a sort of game.
When one of the speed demons passed me; I wanted to at least know the color and type of vehicle (car, truck, van ect.) before it got beside me.
This got me in the habit of identifying threats from behind and processing info using my mirriors.

Learning how the machine handles will help in curves, parking lots, stopping on hills and such.
The only real skill to develop on the highway is how to interact with other traffic.

On my Voyager, I can see better. And I can tell that I am more visible to other traffic, so I don't really use that strategy any more.
Also, for some reason, cars give me a little more room on the highway.
I don't understand it. I guess the little 900 doesn't matter, while they think the VV is big enough to be a threat to them.

Scott
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Old 11-18-2012, 08:58 PM   #8
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I guess the little 900 doesn't matter, while they think the VV is big enough to be a threat to them.
I want to make sure that isn't taken as a jab at the 900.
I LOVED mine. If I could have kept two; I would still have it.

Scott
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Old 11-19-2012, 10:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheesefood View Post
So yeah, I'm new and riding on the highway is a bit scary. Any suggestions? Those semis really create a lot of pressure when they pass. Changing lanes is tricky because I'm not too comfortable moving my head to look far over my shoulder.

Any tips or sanity checks to get used to highway rides?
Cheesefood (What a Name....???)
Just curious. Anyway, I would have to say one of the things that has been very helpful to me is to remember To LOOK where you Want to GO. Look through the curves, not at the car you are meeting or the side of the road or the center line....LOOK down the road or around the curve to where you Want to GO. Also remember "If you LOOK Down you are going to GO DOWN". Also, when meeting bigger vehicles such as semis, remember to tilt your head down somewhat so as not to get your helmet or head ripped off by the blast of wind.
You think it is scary to get blown around a little by semis on the 900 Vulcan, You ought to try riding on interstate on a 250cc Honda Helix Scooter....Now THAT is scary. That was my first bike and at the time I really thought that was big enough and would do me just fine. But of course as my husband already Knew....It was NOT. I then went to a 650cc Suzuki Burgman Executive scooter, then the Vulcan 900cc Classic LT and now I also have and enjoy riding a 96ci(almost 1600cc) Harley Heritage Softtail Classic. I LOVE ALL my Bikes, the only one I got rid of was the Honda Helix. How Funny is that??
Enough about me....You will do just FINE....Just keep riding....Be aware of your surroundings at all times....And ENJOY every bit of it.

Be Safe and ENJOY.
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Old 11-20-2012, 07:02 AM   #10
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A lot of good advice here and great info from Scott.

I agree with a lot of the guidance he is providing. I similarly make a "game" out of identifying threats before they get close to me (color, model, closing speed, sex of driver, etc.). I work diligently to ensure that I am not surprised when a car shows up at my floorboard.

The other thing to always remember and Scott mentioned it also in regards to pinch points. Never put yourself in a position where you have no out. I hear from a lot of people that they just found themselves in such a position and though that does happen I firmly believe we control the vast majority of these. In other words pass others or let others pass you to keep you in a safe bubble where you are comfortable; if you start driving in an uncomfortable manner you start making very bad decisions.

Also, if fairly new to riding, try to find a riding buddy that will do some interstate rides with you. It is good to have some additional experience along to talk things over with.

Good luck, practice and soak in the experience already listed above.
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