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post #1 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-23-2012, 10:11 PM Thread Starter
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To New Riders from a New Rider

So, I have just put the first 113 miles on myself and my bike. I would like to share with you some things that I have learned thusfar. Some things I will probably be corrected on, some will probably be added on.

1) And this is something I can't stress enough, and have seen it time and again in these forums, take the MSF course. Here in IL, the course is FREE! You put a $20 deposit down, which you can get back, if you so desire. (I donated mine. Worth every penny and then some.) FURTHERMORE, if you can't get the exact class you want, start 'trolling' classes. I was informed that over 1/3 of the people taking the MSF course in IL are 'walk-ins'. I started going to booked classes, told them I was a walk in, and I got into a class. 3rd try. Just completed it Sunday. That course cleaned up basics I was trying to learn on my own.

2) Below 50 degrees, get real motorcycle gear. I say this from a weather protection POV. (Motorcycle gear has safety equipment that should be used, anyway. There is a world of difference between items made for riding and those that aren't, weather-wise) 2 pairs of jeans just doesn't cut it. I have had some success with some insulated coveralls that I happen to have from when I used to work for a living (Now I jockey a desk). And if you don't think your legs will get that cold, you are wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. (It took me an hour to get feeling back in my calves.)

3) Getting a new bike is a bad idea. There are several reasons. Some will tell you that if you lay down a new bike you could be very, very sad. This has not happened to me (knock wood). However, I have been told that there are only 2 kinds of riders: Those that have been down, and those that will go down. The biggest complaint that I have with a new bike (Which I love so dearly) is the 1000 mile break in. My 900 Custom manual wants me shifting at 10, 20, 30, 40, and not exceed 55mph for the first 500miles and allows me 15,25,35,45 and max 65 until 1000 miles. Yeah, toodling around trying to learn to ride or trying to practice with these limitations really kind of sucks. Now, I am afraid of over-revving the engine (Which would be revving to levels within normal on 'broken in' bike) and creating problems for myself down the road. (Fortuantely, it sounds like my 900 VNC is pretty forgiving in many, many ways)

4) Shifting while turning SUCKS! I am doing this from a start (so I am still accelerating usually). Now, this may be more from me being over protective of my rev limit, but 1st is kind of a 'granny gear', IMO.

5) Finding time to practice, safely, is kind of a pain. Not that I am unsafe, but I am probably not practicing in the safest of manners. (alone, in the dark, wandering miles from home... Like my drinking. But that isn't a bad thing, is it?)

6) As a near complete conflict to 5, the only way to get better is practice. I am realizing, quickly, that everything (EVERY GD THING) on a bike is muscle memory. Nothing is in the same place as a car. Hell, the rear brake is where the gas pedal is in a car. Bad start for a noob (especially one trying to duck his 40th B-day this September) I am starting to get good about canceling my turn signal... Sort of... (Is it on right now...?)

7) The most amazing thing on a bike is riding someplace with few lights on a clear night. My 900 engine at about 45-50mph with a full face helmet is running at a pace and growling in a way that I could fall asleep to. Gorgeous starry sky above, I get the feeling of being a starship captain, like when I was a kid. Yeah... Not regretting getting into the whole bike thing at all.

So, I invite one and all to come share:
1) Experience lessons from when you first started riding. Amount of riding time is irrelevant. We all learned things from when we first started riding. For some the lesson was "Don't do that." (Like 2 prs of jeans in 45 degrees. Don't do that.)
2) Some of the things that you love the most about riding. (Yeah, chilly tonight, froze my legs off, but man that night sky...)

I will probably keep adding to this as I learn things. Some of it will be redundant to what others may put in here, but whatever.

-Otis
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post #2 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-23-2012, 11:06 PM
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I'm a newby as well so I'm certainly not in a position to give you many tips, other than what I know for a fact, such as I don't really think it's a good idea to shift in a corner. As for riding when it's cold out, I've been trying to get as much riding time in as possible. I'm in Ontario Canada and woke up this morning and we had 7cm (3in) of snow on the ground but I rode this afternoon once the snow was gone. So I do know something about riding in the cold. I wear chaps to block the wind on my legs, t shirt, light sweater, armoured leather jacket, good gloves, insulated winter riding boots, and a scarf around my face. don't feel comfortable in a full face helmet. I'm sure more experianced others will be along to help on the bother stuff. good luck and ride safe.
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post #3 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-24-2012, 01:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by otisjf
take the MSF course.
Yes, and go back for the intermediate and advanced courses too. You'll use those skills every single time you ride.

Quote:
Originally Posted by otisjf
Below 50 degrees, get real motorcycle gear.
Proper gear helps at all temperatures. Try riding with the wrong jacket when it's 95 degrees outside, and you'll see.

It's also worth noting that gear only protects you when you actually wear it. Never skip the gear because you're "just going around the block". This is the most likely time to crash, and even a 20 MPH crash can be fatal if your head hits the pavement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by otisjf
2 pairs of jeans just doesn't cut it.
For cold weather riding, consider adding a crash bar and some Desert Dawgs or other crash bar covers. These really help keep the wind and rain off your legs. Other than that, the secret is layering your clothing, just like your Mom always told you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by otisjf
I have been told that there are only 2 kinds of riders: Those that have been down, and those that will go down.
Some people say that like it was written in the Bible or something, but I'm not sure I agree with it. To me, it just sounds like an excuse, or a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think if you believe you're going to crash and there's nothing you can do about it, you haven't done enough training or practice.

Quote:
Originally Posted by otisjf
toodling around trying to learn to ride or trying to practice with these limitations really kind of sucks.
As a new rider, your main objective is to make it through your first year without getting injured or killed. You'll have plenty of time for winding that engine up and carving the corners later on.

Any fool can ride fast in a straight line. It's the slow speed manuevers that seperate the real riders from the posers. Concentrate on that, and the other stuff will fall into place on its own.

Quote:
Originally Posted by otisjf
the only way to get better is practice. I am realizing, quickly, that everything (EVERY GD THING) on a bike is muscle memory.
Absolutely correct. You must be able to steer, shift, and brake without having to think your way through the actions. This allows you to keep your focus on the road ahead, rather than what your hands and feet are doing. This may not seem important when leisurely cruising down the road, but it could be a matter of life and death the first time an oncoming car turns left in front of you. If you don't fully understand countersteering, work on that ASAP. It's crucial.

Quote:
Originally Posted by otisjf
Gorgeous starry sky above, I get the feeling of being a starship captain, like when I was a kid.
If you're riding at night, and you aren't constantly scanning both sides of the road ahead looking for animals, you're asking for trouble.

Quote:
Originally Posted by otisjf
Experience lessons from when you first started riding.
I think the best thing I learned was "ride your own ride". Never let others persuade you to ride beyond your ability. You'll know when you're pushing yourself too hard. Don't ignore that little voice in your head.

Another thing I learned was the importance of staying hydrated. Even when it's cold outside, the exposure to the wind and sun dries you out quickly. Always carry a bottle of water with you, and stop to have a drink every now and then.
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post #4 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-24-2012, 07:08 AM
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Some of the things I learned since I took my MSF course in November, and started riding in December:

1) Clutch control is essential. Especially in a quick response situation. I learned this the hard way on my MSF course and instead of clutching to re-gain control of the bike, I did the grip of death and met face to face with the pavement and then the grass. My souvenir from this learning experience was a broken finger, but I still managed to finish the course and get my license!

2) This goes with #1. Take an MSF course!!!! Like others have said, any idiot can ride fast in a straight line, and according to the MSF course, 35% of riders are unlicensed/untrained.

3) Proper gear is essential, and don't skimp just because it's too hot. Get the proper gear for the occassion.

4) Your legs will get cold. Deal with it or get riding pants/chaps. Dress in layers (thanks mom!) Refer to #3.

5) Read and listen to your MoM (Motorcycle Owners Manual). Get familiar with the location of the controls and parts of your bike, since every bike is different.

6) Find and join a great support community like these forums. I can't count the number of things I've learned in the last few months just from reading these forums! Thanks to these forums, I learned where the idle adjuster is and some possible solutions to fix decel popping. Thank you everyone on these forums!

7) Ride within your limits. If you are going out with other riders who are more experienced than you, make sure they understand your limits and are willing to stay at your level until you are more experienced and comfortable.

8) Practice, practice, practice! This goes hand in hand with #1 and #2. Find an empty parking lot and work on your low speed manouvers and emergency braking. Once these are committed to muscle memory, when you need them your body will act instinctively, and I know there are others on these forums who can vouch for this!

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post #5 of 46 (permalink) Old 04-24-2012, 08:08 AM
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I wouldn't worry AS MUCH as you are about practicing. Every time you get on your ride, you're practicing. It's an ongoing experience. If you're going to practice anything, practice HEAD and EYES. Where ever your head is turning and your eyes are looking, that's exactly where the ride is going to go. So yes, if you're fixated on the oncoming car or the far curb, you're going to hit something. Always keep your head and eyes UP and looking in the direction you want to go. You'd be surprised at how much EASIER turning from a stop becomes when you turn your HEAD and EYES in the direction of the turn, everything else just happens.

Friction zone and rear controlling brake, learn to use them at LOW speeds. Until I fully understood this concept, I BARELY passed the box portion of my state's MSC. Now I'm pulling U-turns in under 20ft easily just by dragging the rear brake a little while in the friction zone and applying a little power to the wheel.

There's nothing more you can do to dramatically improve your riding skills early on than to focus on HEAD and EYES, Friction Zone, and how and when to use the REAR Controlling brake. As it was already stated, anyone can go out and ride a fast straight line, but it's the low speed/parking lot maneuvers that get everyone.

Other than these things, the one thing that helped me more than anything, was to just trust my ride. Assuming I was doing everything I could do that I was taught to do, trust my ride to do the rest. Trust her, do what you've been taught and constantly learn, and she'll do exactly what she was meant to do and what you want her to do.

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post #6 of 46 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 06:17 AM
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When I was an MSF instructor I used to emphasize to my students that prevention is far better than reaction. Try very hard to minimize the times you have to react to a situation because you didn't diagnose the situation soon enough. It's very easy to become so focused on managing the controls, particularly for new riders, that they forget to scan ahead and anticipate. My wife swears that when we're riding versus driving my defensive driving skills and situation awareness go up another level.

Remember that the MSF course taught you the basics and the techniques. It's up to you to take those skills and improve. For instance, stopping from 20 mph during the course teaches you the technique. Have you practiced emergency stopping from 70mph? You get the point.

Ride safe - have fun.
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post #7 of 46 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 06:45 AM
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You've gotten very good advice here.

I bought a used Honda 750 last August and put thousands of miles on it. April 14 I was in place I did not belong. Going the wrong way on a exit ramp. I pulled to the side and stopped to plan a way out of my dilemma. I saw a gap to the correct exit and at 5mph, turned my head to the right to see if way was clear in a split second I was down.

I figure that front tire hit gravel I did not notice. It did a number on my bike and my shoulder.

This is how fast bad can happen and it happened when I was confident in my riding skills.

I was shocked! The bottom is line is that you should never lose focus regardless of the situation you find yourself in or how confident you feel about riding.
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post #8 of 46 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 11:04 AM
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Sound advice!

+1 on the gear all the time. If you're going to wear it, wear it always. That's why I push carbolex and textile gear so much, because it's not hot so you'll actually wear it, gear doesn't do anything in your closet! A guy was killed over in IL a year or so ago at a stoplight. Foot slipped on oil (one reason why boots are a MUST, IMO, when riding, even if you don't wear gear), hit his head on the car he was stopped next to, and that was it. Helmet would have easily saved his life. I mean, you've got a right to do whatever you want protection wise, but if you have decided you want to wear gear, don't get caught up in "I need heavy leather gear because it protects the best", you'll end up miserable and uncomfortable and find yourself leaving that gear at home.... It doesn't do anything then! As others have said, the average motorcycle accident occurs at 21 miles per hour within a mile of the home. Don't think because you're on slow roads or close to home you don't need it.


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You've gotten very good advice here.

I bought a used Honda 750 last August and put thousands of miles on it. April 14 I was in place I did not belong. Going the wrong way on a exit ramp. I pulled to the side and stopped to plan a way out of my dilemma. I saw a gap to the correct exit and at 5mph, turned my head to the right to see if way was clear in a split second I was down.

I figure that front tire hit gravel I did not notice. It did a number on my bike and my shoulder.

This is how fast bad can happen and it happened when I was confident in my riding skills.

I was shocked! The bottom is line is that you should never lose focus regardless of the situation you find yourself in or how confident you feel about riding.

Absolutely, you WILL go where you look.

A fairly common motorcycle accident occurs when a rider is going around a corner and a motor vehicle violates their lane (we've all seen it, people coming around a corner straddling the center line). The motorcycle has enough room to squeeze and unless they are already dragging hard parts (one reason I try not to on purpose, I want a little left 'just in case', though I do sometimes for practice and confidence) they can make it just fine. BUT, they start looking at that car, and drive STRAIGHT into it. In fact, if you've seen or seen videos of this happen, it's like they stop turning, it appears as if they would have wrecked if the car WASN'T there. They drive STRAIGHT into it! If that happens to you, look at the white line, and you're bike will follow it!

I can attest to that. A while back a box truck decided to pull out of a driveway then head towards me head on. I dunno if it was practice, or the MSF, or what, but my eyes became PLANTED on that white line, locked the brakes up, and rode that white line almost perfect (I must've spent 10 minutes admiring the skid marks that had blacked out the white line almost perfect) This was a road with no shoulder so beyond the white line was a ditch and a barbed wire fence (but I was prepared for that too... better than a truck head on). Managed to get out of it with nothing more than a damaged saddlebag (yeah, he was THAT far into my lane that he still hit me while I was on the white line).

One piece of advice I've heard and always use is to plan escape routes. Anytime you see another car, doesn't matter where (coming towards you, sitting at an intersection, etc.) plan escape routes. Lets say you're on a state highway, and a car is coming towards you. In your head, it should just be a habit, that you have already recognized the places they could turn in front of you between you (driveways, other roads), and you're calculating the best course of action (brake, swerve, right, left) in your head the whole time. It becomes second nature. Then you just do it all the time, and when push comes to shove, you already have a plan (and you're not trying to come up with one 3 seconds from impact). Same goes for cars stopped at an intersection waiting to pull out. 'Okay, no oncoming traffic, lots of visibility, if they pull out I'll go to the left and brake'. Oh, and by the way, in 99.999999999% of situations, it's best to brake than accelerate. Unless someone is barreling up behind you about to run you over, brake. Don't try and avoid a car by accelerating around it or squeezing in between it. Brake, slow down, it will increase your reaction time and allow you to maneuver everything where you need it.

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post #9 of 46 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 11:31 AM
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plan escape routes.
+1

So often we do not know how we will respond until we are in the situation. This means we need to consciously create scenarios in our minds and consider how we will react.

If you spend enough time on your bike, a scenario will eventually present itself and you will be forced to act or react.

A knee-jerk response could save your life or be a big mistake. We often hear about people rolling their SUV's because they jerked the steering wheel for whatever reason and the right response may have been to plow ahead.
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post #10 of 46 (permalink) Old 05-09-2012, 04:03 PM
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Rule #1: You are invisible and no one can see you.

Rule # 2: see Rule # 1.


Seriously though- here are some random things I learned as time went by getting back into riding after 35 years, in no particular order:

1) When riding on a 2 lane road, stay closer to the center line. If a car behind you is being passed by someone, they may think the space ahead of that car is unoccupied and may not realize it until they have to pull back into their lane, pushing you off the road. This happened to a friend of mine years ago because he was riding in the center of the lane. Also riding the center line gives you more time to react if a critter jumps out in front of you on the right side of the road.

2) If you are on a trip and you start to feel drowzy while riding, your body is not trying to tell you it needs caffeine. It's telling you it needs sleep. Find a place- a park, behind a store or gas station, anywhere you can- to park the bike, get off and sleep for ten or 15 minutes. It can make all the difference in the world, certainly the difference between life and death. I do this every time I feel tired and have been able to live to talk about it.

3) As was already mentioned, gear is valuable only if you use it. And whatever you do, don't skip it because you're only running down to the store or riding around town. This is where the vast majority of accidents occur. I've never dumped my bike, and never been in an accident. But I've had numerous close calls, and every one of them was in town, either on a side street with unmarked intersections, or cars changing lanes without seeing me, or in parking lots with cars backing out of parking spaces, or people running red lights. A friend of mine was rear ended two years ago at an intersection by a guy not looking. Even though it was a low impact accident, it still threw him over the bars and into the back of the car in front of him. Thankfully he was wearing his gear and was unhurt. I've only had one close call on the open road in 50,000 miles.

4. Change your tires every 10-13k miles at most. Tires are what separates you from the pavement. If they start getting worn or scalloped, get new ones. They aren't that expensive compared to your life.

5) Learn how to ride in the rain and get geared up for it. Sooner or later, you'll be caught in a rain storm where pulling over and waiting it out won't be an option.

6) If you live in or are riding in deer country, park it at dusk if at all possible. This is when deer start moving around a lot.

7) Stay hydrated! Riding a motorcycle wicks a lot of moisture out of your body without you even being aware of it. I try to drink a bottle of water or tea every time I stop.

8) Check your air pressure in your tires often, at least every other time you ride. Proper tire inflation makes for a better ride.

9) If you are riding out west on a long trip, carry an extra gallon or two of gas and some water with you. I discovered that a lot of those little towns in central Oregon, Montana, Wyoming and Nevada aren't really towns at all but are boarded up ghost towns and it might be 160 miles between gas stations. When you're riding into a headwind, this means you're running out of gas sooner than you'd like to. Guess how I found this out!

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