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Zapata's Avatar
Zapata Zapata is offline
a.k.a Dos Equis
Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Spring
Thoughts From A Novice (Article)
by Zapata 04-28-2005, 03:21 PM

Good article from an old website now defunct...

It's called "Thoughts From A Novice" By Eric Mitchell

AS A NEW RIDER, I thought I'd share my impressions so that others may get an idea of what it's like to start out on a sport-bike, against the advice of other, more educated riders.

My choice for a first motorcycle (Yamaha YZF600) was completely out of line. My actual selection (1995 Honda VFR750) wasn't a whole lot better in retrospect, but has at least been a more "practical" mount, and a bit more comfortable. The VFR has actually been easy to ride. I found that the linear power delivery and predictable handling were a godsend. I still appreciate these qualities today after 5000 miles.

It was a bear at low speeds (parking lots, driveway, etc.). I have committed most of the MSF instruction to memory, and a lot of it's becoming second nature, but I found myself repeating instructions out loud to myself in low speed situations. Of course, any idiot can ride a bike fast, so I practiced a lot and have become better at the lower speed drills. But when you're top heavy on top of a 475-pound bike, it can be a bit disconcerting.

I learned to countersteer quickly on the bike. Consciously! I don't know how anyone who rides a sportbike cannot be intimately familiar with the idea of countersteering, but apparently they're out there.

Forget whatever you learned about brakes in a car. Even the brakes on a 6-year-old VFR stop you right now! I had to learn quickly how to apply the brakes properly and in a progressive manner in order to avoid locking up the front (and rear). I did this in a parking lot with an experienced friend. Do this on the street and you're screwed. Of course, now I love them, and am comfortable with their ability...but be warned.

I typically ride alone. This has kept me away from the temptation of keeping pace with better, faster riders. I have found that riding alone allows me to focus on my abilities, and to concentrate on improving on them and riding within them. When I do ride with others, they are usually of the sport touring or cruiser variety. Speed is not important to them, and we keep the pace down. Canyon carving is fine, until the canyon carves you. Had I been introduced to a group of sport riding squids, who knows where I'd be now.

If I had it to do over again, I'd probably get a smaller bike. It's nice not having to worry about outgrowing my current ride, but I think I would have been comfortable sooner on a smaller bike.

Avoid peaky power plants like the plague. Regardless of what bike you end up with as a first bike, predictable power delivery is a huge learning advantage. The V4 bailed me out a couple of times where a peaky motor would have sent me to the pavement.

Dress for the crash. I wear an armored suit every time out. Doesn't matter where I'm going. Find a comfortable one and wear it every time. You might feel like a dork; you may actually look like a dork. But in the early days of riding, you're going to look and feel like dork anyway as you come to grips with riding on the street. I did not look any cooler on a VFR than I would have on anything else. I a dork.

Don't buy a bike before you attend the MSF course. It saved me from making a really big mistake. You'll learn a lot about what you like and don't like about riding. You may even decide that you don't like it at all.

Get a bike with reasonable maintenance intervals. My V4 is pretty good about this, but I do have to hassle with a chain. The idea is to be riding, not wrenching. My next bike will likely be shaft.

Be meticulous with your bike. Check the fluids. Check the chain lube. Check the signals. Take the time every time to make sure everything in perfect working order. Sport-bikes especially need constant attention to detail. There's just way too much performance to be negligent in any respect. My friend who owns a shaft drive cruiser mocks me for spending so much time preening my bike. If someone objects, offer to tie them to your car bumper and drag them down the street at 70 mph.

Trust no one in a car. Paranoia is your friend. They are out to get you. No, they do not see you. I try not to be neurotic about it, but my point is that you are responsible for staying out of their way, because fault doesn't matter when you careen off a car and into oncoming traffic. And guess what, I have found that riding a sport bike seems to elevate the testosterone level with most punks in hot cars. Avoid them. If you can't avoid them, try to ignore them.

It's been hard to keep my wrist out of the throttle. I was one of those guys that figured "yeah, well I'm different." In reality, it has taken a lot of mental discipline to keep the speed within reason. Fortunately, I'm not a real speed freak; I just enjoy being out there on a bike for the most part. It's a real temptation, and I was surprised at just how strong the urge can be. The faster you go, the more stable the bike gets, and the better it feels. It's like a drug.

Be patient. I have learned a lot, but I have tons more to learn, and I will never stop learning. It's a process. You'll suck the first time you ride. You'll suck a little less the second time you ride, but you'll still suck. But if you can manage to keep thinking and stay focused, you can still be safe and learn. It's hard to be patient on a machine capable of so much performance, but you have to have the mental discipline or you're done. Better yet, get a bike that doesn't tempt.

In the end, I've been fortunate on many levels. I'm content with building confidence at a slow and steady pace, and I have nothing to prove. Yeah, I really dig my VFR. It does lots of things well, and typically does anything I ask. As long as I don't ask it to do anything stupid, I might just be okay.

I'm 31, married, own a home, have a responsible job, and am a semi-upstanding member of my community. And none of that has helped me become a better rider. Time and patience. Rinse, lather, repeat.
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Old 04-28-2005, 05:48 PM   #2
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Re: Thoughts From A Novice (Article)

Rinse, Lather, Repeat.........

Good read.
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits
--Albert Einstein
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