Sunday, August 30, 2009

Practice practice practice

Jason has been reminding me every day to practice riding. Work has been slow, so I've had plenty of time during daylight hours to get on the bike and ride. I've been staying in the neighborhood, though, practicing slow turns, counterbalancing, and gunning it to third gear. I only missed one day this week since getting Georgia back from the shop.

We took a ride out to Red Hook, a neighborhood in Brooklyn, a few miles from home. There's one street where there are no traffic lights for about a 3/4-mile. I took advantage of this and accelerated as much as comfortable. Got up to 45 MPH in fifth gear.

We stopped at a bar called Bait and Tackle on Van Brunt Street and played Buck Hunter. I won.

Jason tells me that I lug the engine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My first 3-mile ride

Since Jason went straight to the shop to get Georgia, I went to meet him and ride home with him. But the shop's location is on a busy street, and I wasn't ready to ride a four-lane street. So, Jason took Georgia to Williamsburg, a familiar neighborhood about 3 miles from home. Then he took a car service to the shop to get his bike.

We met up just before the sun went down. I wore a 3/4 helmet with sunglasses. According to Jason and my MSF instructor, I'm a natural. So, he didn't worry about me wearing that helmet on these slower streets.

I made a couple mistakes in turns. One was starting into a turn, the other was taking a turn too fast and going wide. But we made it home safely. It was my first real ride. We took the most quiet streets, avoiding lane changes and rough pavement. I got up to 35 miles per hour in 4th gear.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My first weekend riding with a license

Georgia came back from the motorcycle shop, but the guy forgot to inspect it. So, Jason has to take her back on Monday.

At least I got to ride her a little bit around the neighborhood. I practiced slow turns and rode her down Belgian block streets while Jason walked nearby. (I went slow!) I took her to a quiet two-way street to practice U-turns and shifting. Then, she passed out and wouldn't start. Apparently, the battery is too small and didn't hold enough charge for me to ride in second gear.

Tonight, we're using a trickle charger on the battery so that Jason can take Georgia to the shop tomorrow.

I'm eager to ride again. In the meantime, Jason changed the seat on his bike to a single seat. No more rides on the back of his bike. :(

Monday, August 17, 2009

First weekend with a license :-/

On Thursday, I took my MSF waiver to the New York DMV and got my license. :)

I named the bike Georgia. She's a reddish orange color with black and chrome pipes. Unfortunately, on this first beautiful weekend after getting my license, Georgia was in the shop. :(

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation course

I happened to sign up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's course on the hottest day of the year. Fortunately, the instructor, Bettye Rae Lorenz, is way cool. She did her best to accommodate the class so that we wouldn't be sweating bullets in the peak sun. Yesterday was the first day.

Since my boyfriend rides, I've had the joy of riding "bitch" with him on his bike. But I had never ridden a motorcycle by myself before. At least, I can ride a bicycle and drive a standard transmission automobile.

There were six people signed up for the class. Since this class is during the week, fewer people attend. On weekends, the class size gets up to 24 people. That's nuts. Three students were already riders, two with off-road experience, one with street experience. The rest of us had none, except as a passenger.

The first couple hours of the course was in a classroom where we watched a video on motorcycle safety and read through a booklet with facts that was on the written test, which we took at the end of the hot day. (Air-conditioned classroom, thank God.)

On the course, in a parking lot of the Ulster County Community College in upstate New York, there were six bikes with 300cc engines, or less. The bike I rode was a Kawasaki Eliminator-- 250cc. In fact, we three inexperienced students, who happen to be all women, rode Kawasakis while the experienced ones, guys, rode Honda Shadows.

First day, we sat on the bikes, walked them while sitting on them, then practiced using the wet clutch before being allowed to ride in first gear from cone to cone, about 50 yards apart. At this point, one person, who didn't have experience or know how to drive a stick-shift, was counseled out of the class. So, then we were five in the class. After a break, we learned to press and lean to turn, shift to second gear, turn, shift down, stop short, and shift to third gear. At the end of the day, we took our written test, and all of us left passed. Yay.

Second day, Bettye Rae prepared us for the road test, which consisted of 4 parts: riding between lines in a curve, stopping short, two U-turns in a box the size of 7 parking spaces, and swerving to avoid an accident with a stopped vehicle or other obstacle. We also did a lot of snaking through cones, practiced lane changing, using front and rear brakes (on the test), made lots of right turns and left turns, practiced counterbalancing, and rode over a 2x4 several times. The curve and stop were both timed, and there were points against the tester for riding too slow. For the U-turns, points went against putting a foot down or crossing the boundary of the box. I lost a point taking a curve too slow, and 3 points for crossing the U-turn boundary.

In the end, the five of us that were left got our licenses. Easy, but scary, because I definitely didn't feel ready to ride by myself, even though I did really well in class and felt equipped enough to avoid other vehicles by swerving. It was too easy.

Fact is, riding a motorcycle in the same streets and roads as cars, buses, trucks, and even bicycles, has to be one of the most dangerous things a person can do. And to ride, there's nothing better for a rider than to have a healthy fear of it. So, why would i do it? Well, for one, it's easy to park in the city. Two, motorcycle riding can be more fuel efficient to commute than today's hybrid car. Three, there's nothing like riding. I think I might be getting the bug.