The other day I left the Bay and headed up to Tahoe. Only here very briefly, but I had begged and pleaded with John to let me try out his motorcycle, and eventually he agreed. Yes, I’ve ridden a motorcycle before, in the safety class… but you never get out of third gear, and you are limited to a few hundred feet run at the max. I’ve really wanted to give a real bike a try, more specifically, ride on real roads for more than a few minutes at a time. So, today I got my chance.
His bike is an 800cc, which is a lot more powerful than the 250cc’rs we rode in class. That is no big deal, as being up in altitude some power is lost. The biggest difference I noticed was how much heavier the bike was. The safety class bike could really be thrown around from side to side quickly, John’s took a bit more work. It is not a major deal, but being new to bikes and all, it was one of the first things I noticed.
I started out my ride just going through a small area of the local residential roads, getting a hang of the bike. I wanted to get a feel for things before I wandered off too far, especially if I was unsure of myself. The only thing I have to say, windy, hilly roads are not the easiest places to learn how to ride on. The one thing I should have practiced a bit before I “ventured off” onto real roads, was stops and starts. Again, the heavier bike was a bit slower to stop (can’t do a “Flintstones stop” like you can the 250cc). More importantly, his clutch is very loose and rather touchy (fully disengaged at 4.5, fully engaged at 5). The first time I came to a stop sign was on a hill, which made for a tricky launch. I’ve driven manuals enough to do it, but I rev’d the engine a lot more than I needed to do.
I spent a good amount of time (at least 30 minutes) wandering about residential roads. For a good portion of it, I was practicing the basics and things I had learned. Luckily, it was a very quiet day so there weren’t a lot of cars on the roads. This was very nice because the first few times cars drove past me, I flinched away from them. I’ve never been scared of driving before, but a car gives you “immunity”. On a bike, knowing that it is just you, and two wheels protecting you from other idiots gives the world a very different view. I did make sure to practice swerves a good bit. Also, I spent a good deal of time doing “cones” down the road because A) It is damn fun and B) It is damn fun. Oh, and it gave me a better feel for getting the bike from one side to another for turns.
After much piddling around, I ventured onto the local highway. Luckily for me traffic was light my direction, so for most of my jaunt, there was no one behind or in front of me. This was much more pleasant as I was busy worrying about what I was doing and the last thing I needed was idiots tailgating me to add to my ordeal. Of course in the last few minutes of the trip “up” someone did start tailgating me… Fantastic. I got to the top of the hill, turned around and came back down. In the end it really was no big deal. I returned back to HQ no worse for wear.
The one thing I do have to mention is that my riding instructor at the safety class told us numerous times:
If you aren’t scraping the pegs, you can lean more
Well, to be honest, in my “cone” swerves, I did scrape one peg. I was EXTREMELY surprised. I didn’t think I was leaning that much. Hell, when the instructor told me that I thought “I’ll never do that”. Ha, first ride and that is already out the window. Additionally, I scraped the OTHER peg making a U-Turn in a Cul-De-Sac. Since that was done a little slower, and it was the second time, it was less startling. The one thing that I do like is knowing that I’m getting the hang of making the really tight turns without the urge to put my foot down. Then again, there was a lot less pressure this time around.
So am I getting a bike? Maybe. It is still a toy for me, one that I would like to have, but one that I really can’t afford right now. Ok, I could afford it, but that would cut into my electronic toy fund.