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post #1 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-16-2013, 12:32 PM Thread Starter
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Beginner questions the books don't seem to cover.

Sorry if this seems long-winded. I'm an Engineer and tend to analyse things to death.

As I've mentioned in a few other threads, I'm a brand new rider and my 1st bike is a Vulcan EN500C. I decided to take it to the shop to have the tires done and have it gone over top to bottom. While waiting, I reread Proficient Motorcycling, the MSF book and have been trolling the Internet for everything I can find. Plenty of great information to be found in these sources, but it seems like there are some general practical questions that go unanswered. I have a few about my bike as well. I'll just get to it and list 'em:

Downhill turns: The advice is always, "slow down more so you can accelerate through the turn". In my neck of the woods, there are extended, twisty downhills where this is simply impossible. These are roads where I downshift even my little 4 banger hatchback. What's the best strategy? Engine braking, smooth throttle control and careful front/rear braking?

Uphill turns: Uphill curves are supposed to be easier, but there are some rather steep, hairpin turns not too far from my home. For now I intend to outright avoid them, but I wonder if they're even possible. Think uphill, hairpin switchbacks pick-up trucks have serious problems with on a sunny, dry day.

Road feel: In most cars and even bicycles, one can feel the tires starting to scrub before they let loose. I'm not planning on pushing the envelope, but will a small cruiser like the '500 give clues as it gets close to the limit or is it a case where the tires suddenly telegraph, "I'm done" and arrange an intimate meeting between the rider and pavement?

Mini edge traps: How tall does a curb have to be before it becomes a problem? With the city budget on life support, there are *big*, shallow potholes where a layer of the pavement has disintegrated leaving inch (or so) high "curbs" in the road at weird angles all over the place.

Managing power and braking: I'm *assuming* that because of its weight, wheel base and power, the Vulcan 500 can't lift the front wheel without serious clutch/throttle stupidity and similarly, traction limits will be reached before a stoppie/Endo can occur. Is this correct? I have no desire to discover the answer to this on my own.

Ferries: There are some really great roads across the river and the best, nicest way to get to them is by ferry. Transitioning from steep, gnarly pavement to a moving steel plate (and the reverse) seems a little daunting. Is there any more technique beyond "Cross the deck plate as perpendicular as possible and don't dally there"?

Thanks,

Doug

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post #2 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-16-2013, 02:24 PM
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Have you taken a MSF class? If not I would start there.

For curves of any time just be in the gear and speed you feel comfortable in. Until you get used to it go slower than suggested. I ride in areas that have 10 mph hairpins and a lot of 20-30 s curves. I just brake as I get into them not while in them. If you need to brake in them you came into it too fast.

Most of your question are just a matter of riding experience, since you are new take everything with caution.
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post #3 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-16-2013, 04:26 PM
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I'm a horrible teacher, but I'm going to try to relate how I respond to this instances in a way that doesn't sound completely insane.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Phreon View Post
Downhill turns: The advice is always, "slow down more so you can accelerate through the turn". In my neck of the woods, there are extended, twisty downhills where this is simply impossible. These are roads where I downshift even my little 4 banger hatchback. What's the best strategy? Engine braking, smooth throttle control and careful front/rear braking?
I usually brake in the seconds before I have to lean into the turn. Braking usually necessitates a downshift anyway. It's because I like to pretend I'm racing so, I approach the corner at speed, brake to a safe entry speed, bang down a gear if necessary, lean in and then just as I approach the apex of the turn I accelerate out. I use the whole lane when I make fast turns...approach from the outside line, kiss the inside line at the apex, then back out. It straightens out the corner.

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Uphill turns: Uphill curves are supposed to be easier, but there are some rather steep, hairpin turns not too far from my home. For now I intend to outright avoid them, but I wonder if they're even possible. Think uphill, hairpin switchbacks pick-up trucks have serious problems with on a sunny, dry day.
Those are the best roads! Same as downhill except you can get away with just engine braking more easily, since you've got gravity working against you. Additional piece of advice: when you ride through the apex be aware of your distance from the center line and make sure all of your bike and your whole body are on your side of the road. I have a nasty habit of putting my head about a foot into the right-of-way of oncoming traffic.

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Road feel: In most cars and even bicycles, one can feel the tires starting to scrub before they let loose. I'm not planning on pushing the envelope, but will a small cruiser like the '500 give clues as it gets close to the limit or is it a case where the tires suddenly telegraph, "I'm done" and arrange an intimate meeting between the rider and pavement?
On a cruiser, even a smaller one like the 500, you'll usually find yourself scraping shiny bits on the pavement long before your tires will lose traction. But that's a good indication you're getting awful close to the motorcycle's cornering limit. The danger would be continuing to push at that point, which is when the back end will step out. Ease off the throttle, drop a shoulder and put out a knee. Don't get brake happy, that's for sure.

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Mini edge traps: How tall does a curb have to be before it becomes a problem? With the city budget on life support, there are *big*, shallow potholes where a layer of the pavement has disintegrated leaving inch (or so) high "curbs" in the road at weird angles all over the place.
an inch high is no problem head-on. I'd say, at a guess 90 degrees to 30-ish degrees in relation to your direction of travel shouldn't be an issue. But the closer a small ridge is to being parallel to your direction of movement, the more it can affect control of the bike. The front tire will rut up and move you around. This isn't the end of the world, just relax and ride it out. But try to avoid it if you can.

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Managing power and braking: I'm *assuming* that because of its weight, wheel base and power, the Vulcan 500 can't lift the front wheel without serious clutch/throttle stupidity and similarly, traction limits will be reached before a stoppie/Endo can occur. Is this correct? I have no desire to discover the answer to this on my own.
I'm not sure a cruiser can be endoed lol. You might be able to lift the nose a hair but I dunno on the 500. But you'll lock the front brake long before you endo the bike, that's for sure.

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Ferries: There are some really great roads across the river and the best, nicest way to get to them is by ferry. Transitioning from steep, gnarly pavement to a moving steel plate (and the reverse) seems a little daunting. Is there any more technique beyond "Cross the deck plate as perpendicular as possible and don't dally there"?
Can't weigh in on the ferries...no bodies of water in Idaho big enough to need one

Hope some of that helps...probably not, but I can say I tried

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post #4 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-16-2013, 04:51 PM Thread Starter
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BTW, I am signed up for the MSF course. Timing was bad however and I couldn't manage a slot until August. I've been puttering around the extended neighborhood and going on short rides with my friend. I'll be honest, there was absolutely *no way* I could leave my new (to me) bike in the garage until the class. Till then, I'm taking it cautiously and soliciting advice.

Thanks
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post #5 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-18-2013, 11:55 AM
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Look on youtube for "Tail of the Dragon" and "The Three Sisters" videos. You will see a lot of "good" and "don't" riding.

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post #6 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-18-2013, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phreon View Post
Downhill turns: The advice is always, "slow down more so you can accelerate through the turn". In my neck of the woods, there are extended, twisty downhills where this is simply impossible. These are roads where I downshift even my little 4 banger hatchback. What's the best strategy? Engine braking, smooth throttle control and careful front/rear braking?
Yes. All of the above! Note that sometimes the advice for best cornering is for 'best performance'. If you were wanting to take those corners at maximum lean angle you'd want to straighten the bike up, brake hard, lean (using counter steering) hard, accelerate hard, repeat. However such techniques are less necessary at lower speeds lazily lumbering around the curves. You'll find your bike will engine brake really well.

Quote:
Uphill turns: Uphill curves are supposed to be easier, but there are some rather steep, hairpin turns not too far from my home. For now I intend to outright avoid them, but I wonder if they're even possible. Think uphill, hairpin switchbacks pick-up trucks have serious problems with on a sunny, dry day.
Same idea. The reason you accelerate is to shift weight to the back of the bike. The back tire needs to most traction to prevent the bike from lowsiding, AND, it'll lift your pegs up an inch or so giving you more ground clearance. Just roll on the throttle through the curve. Make SURE you are in the right gear on an uphill curve, don't be afraid to enter a curve like that at 5k RPMs! You have a smaller displacement inline fast revving sportbike engine on that bike. It needs to spin in order to have roll on power!

Also, on curves like that I tend to pretend that the left 1/3 of the lane doesn't exist. In other words divide the area between the yellow line and the white line into thirds and ignore the leftmost third. Means cornering less aggressively, but it also means not meeting up with a pickup truck or distracted sedan straddling the yellow line around a corner. Or a big truck whose GPS thought it found a shortcut but that he can't handle!

Quote:
Road feel: In most cars and even bicycles, one can feel the tires starting to scrub before they let loose. I'm not planning on pushing the envelope, but will a small cruiser like the '500 give clues as it gets close to the limit or is it a case where the tires suddenly telegraph, "I'm done" and arrange an intimate meeting between the rider and pavement?
Yes and yes. Some riders have reported going down without warning. Other times you can feel it. It really comes down to weight. The most common lowside is a person going around a corner who gets scared and uses the rear brake. Well when you DECELERATE around a corner you take a bunch of weight off the rear tire, a rear tire that's already holding the bike in line. Your rear tire really is doing all the work in a curve. Add brakes and suddenly, boom, no traction, you're down (again, that's why they tell you to accelerate through a curve, keep weight on that rear tire always)

Generally it's not an issue of pushing it until you feel it, it's an issue of doing it RIGHT and you'll never have that problem!

Quote:
Mini edge traps: How tall does a curb have to be before it becomes a problem? With the city budget on life support, there are *big*, shallow potholes where a layer of the pavement has disintegrated leaving inch (or so) high "curbs" in the road at weird angles all over the place.
The issue isn't the height it's the edge. If it's a straight edge, like when paving a new lane, it's an issue. My policy is to skip if it at possible and just go on down until I can change lanes easily. Otherwise, slow down, come at a 45 degree angle!

Quote:
Managing power and braking: I'm *assuming* that because of its weight, wheel base and power, the Vulcan 500 can't lift the front wheel without serious clutch/throttle stupidity and similarly, traction limits will be reached before a stoppie/Endo can occur. Is this correct? I have no desire to discover the answer to this on my own.
Yup. It won't do it 'accidentally' like some guys find themselves on big sportbikes. It could probably do it with a lot of work and some modification, but despite it's sportbike engine, it's a fat lazy cruiser in the end!

Quote:
Ferries: There are some really great roads across the river and the best, nicest way to get to them is by ferry. Transitioning from steep, gnarly pavement to a moving steel plate (and the reverse) seems a little daunting. Is there any more technique beyond "Cross the deck plate as perpendicular as possible and don't dally there"?

Thanks,

Doug
Nope. Just make sure to keep moving, and go easy on the brakes. Steel is slippery, especially when wet (like on a ferry!). Same with gravel, just keep moving. Don't stop suddenly, don't brake hard. Give yourself plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you so if they stop hard you can ease into a stop.

Good questions! Good luck, Doug!

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post #7 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-18-2013, 01:59 PM
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Hairpin turns? I'm in. Where do you live, I'm coming to ride BUT like someone said before, experience is the best teacher. Take it slow and incrementally speed it up to where you are comfortable. Also pay attention to every little detail because more than likely your MSF coach will show you where to make improvements.

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post #8 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-18-2013, 04:24 PM
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don't forget to look around your truck and know where the blind spots are, when you are near other cars on your bike.

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post #9 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-18-2013, 04:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phreon View Post
Sorry if this seems long-winded. I'm an Engineer and tend to analyse things to death.


Downhill turns: The advice is always, "slow down more so you can accelerate through the turn". In my neck of the woods, there are extended, twisty downhills where this is simply impossible. These are roads where I downshift even my little 4 banger hatchback. What's the best strategy? Engine braking, smooth throttle control and careful front/rear braking?

Uphill turns: Uphill curves are supposed to be easier, but there are some rather steep, hairpin turns not too far from my home. For now I intend to outright avoid them, but I wonder if they're even possible. Think uphill, hairpin switchbacks pick-up trucks have serious problems with on a sunny, dry day.

Road feel: In most cars and even bicycles, one can feel the tires starting to scrub before they let loose. I'm not planning on pushing the envelope, but will a small cruiser like the '500 give clues as it gets close to the limit or is it a case where the tires suddenly telegraph, "I'm done" and arrange an intimate meeting between the rider and pavement?

Managing power and braking: I'm *assuming* that because of its weight, wheel base and power, the Vulcan 500 can't lift the front wheel without serious clutch/throttle stupidity and similarly, traction limits will be reached before a stoppie/Endo can occur. Is this correct? I have no desire to discover the answer to this on my own.

Thanks,

Doug
Most curves have a posted speed limit thru the curve,That is a safe speed for loaded tanker trucks.
You don't want to be shifting down or braking hard in the curve, that has to all be done before the bike tires start to turn thru the curve.

Maybe use those the first couple of rides generally obeying the posted curve speed limit til you are sure of your ability to handle more? I can generally go about 20 over the posted now, but it wasn't always like that.
We all have to figure out what works, and slower will get you home in 1 piece til you get good at it.
And those rails on the outside of the curve don't have much flexibility

Hair pins? There is no way I'm avoiding those,
more like run thru it, then do a U turn for another pass.

Where I got good at figuring out curves was taking a couple laps around those "4 corner on-off ramps"..."cloverleafs" I think..
do it a couple times and you'll get the feel for the handle bars and front tire in the curves

Hitting the front brake hard enough to lock the front tire, will not lift the back tire.
Don't ask why I know that, but in the last 20 yrs... locked it twice in a couple of OH $HIT stops

You also will not ever lift the front tire with really trying...Ie Rev up the Rpm's and dump the clutch
Just gently twist the grip and release the clutch simultaneously... to get moving.

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Last edited by Lkdelta; 07-18-2013 at 05:06 PM.
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post #10 of 28 (permalink) Old 07-18-2013, 07:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thats for the advice, please keep it coming! I got my bike back the other day and am trying to take as many trips as possible. Need to pick up a prescription? To the bike! On a side note, I learned how much it can screw you up when the shop changes brake and clutch adjustments w/o realizing it at first. My shifts were HORRIBLE until I adjusted the clutch lever. Next time I'll check them before leaving. Live and learn.

As for the hairpin, this isn't what I'd consider ordinary. It's a sharp, unbanked, ascending right hand turn. In my little car, I'm very near the lock going around that thing. It's at least an 80% grade; any mistake and the bike is going down. On my bike, it has to be a first gear kind of hill.

http://goo.gl/maps/6u0fq The gmaps image belies how danged steep that thing is. But yes, there's some *great* training ground just west of me (such as the area where that bend is) on my side of the river and over in Kentucky.

Finally, regarding the downhill bends where throttle isn't really an option; steep and narrow. Here's the flattest section of the road I'm thinking of; not anything I'd avoid driving, but it's an "on the brakes" kind of road.

http://goo.gl/maps/vHi9J

I live on the west side of Cincinnati. Around the river valley and nearby creeks, there are some real "hollers" an old time lunatic traffic engineer decided to stuff roads into. Lots of vertical change and pretty good twisties. From my house to the river is about a 400 foot elevation drop.

Doug

Last edited by Phreon; 07-18-2013 at 08:15 PM.
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