Monday, April 12, 2010

Motorcycles

It is springtime in most of the Northern Hemisphere, and that means two things; people show more skin, and guys want to get motorcycles.

I am on my third week of riding full time again. I have probably mentioned that I was in a wreck about two years ago. An Embark van ran a red light causing the car next to me to swerve, causing me to go down and total my Vulcan 900. I did not get hurt badly. I roughed up my right hip, had a concussion, and my right leg was kind of gimpy for almost a year. Here is an image of my hip a few weeks after the accident:



Now, obviously I am the last person who is going to tell people not to ride. I love motorcycles, and would not own a car if I did not have to (to keep the peace amongst my family), but I will tell you without reservation that they are dangerous. This weekend, a guy who works on my site (whom I did not really know) was killed on a motorcycle he owned less than a week.

I hate to hear about guys and gals getting killed on bikes, but I have to tell you, from what little I know, he was breaking two of my basic rules.
  1. He had too much bike. I did not get a good look, but he was riding either a Honda 1300cc or 1800cc cruiser. The 1300 is not a huge engine, though bigger than anything I have ever had. It is a V-Twin (two cylinder) and generates a lot of torque.
  2. He was an unskilled rider. The first day he rode the bike away, I was in the parking lot getting my gear on, and he waved at me, all "happy motorcyclist." The bike lurched wildly and he had to grab for the handlebars.
If you are looking to get a bike, or if you ride already, do me a favor and be smart about it. Here are some tips.
  1. Take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course. Learning to ride from your Dad, your brother, or your buddy is a fine start, but the MSF is essential. Your buddy may be a great rider, but he is not an instructor. MSF instructors are a) skilled riders, and b) instructors. They know what you need to know to be a good rider, and tell you. They don't leave things out. Also, you get a chance to make mistakes on a bike that is not your own. You drop their Ninja 250, and you don't care. These bikes are there to be dropped. Also, they make you make mistakes, after a fashion. They want you to experience a fast/skidding stop. It is important. Doing it in an empty parking lot is a hell of a lot better than on the road, and you will, someday, have to do it. Best to get the pucker factor under control in a safer environment.
  2. Wear proper gear. I don't just mean DOT approved gear. Wear a full helmet. If you go down, it is likely to be face first. It happens too quickly to guard yourself. There are plenty of warm weather riding pants, and their armor will prevent you from taking the kind of damage you saw above.
  3. Drivers are out to get you. It may not be malicious, but they are. Some drivers hate motorcyclists. Some are on their cell phone. Some are tending to the baby in the back seat. Bottom line is, they are danger number one. When I ride, I am always on the lookout for other bikes, and often do not see them until the last moment. Think of how invisible you are to those who are not looking for you?
  4. Don't listen to anybody about what bike you need to ride. I hear guys all the time who think they need a Suzuki Hayabusa (1300cc four cylinder) because they are a "big guy." This is utter bullshit. I am close to 250lbs, and I ride a Ninja 500-R (500cc two cylinder). I have done 100mph on it. It will haul me and my wife around quite nicely. A Ninja 250-R (250cc two cylinder) will also do 100mph with a standard size rider. 1300cc is 1.3 litres. That is comparable to most compact cars, and at probably 1/6th of the weight (if not less). Guys who tell you you have to have a big bike are a bunch of assholes who you should ignore. I love my Ninja 500-R, and while I have had bigger bikes, do not plan to upsize. It is not important.
Okey. That is the end of my rant. I am sure we have all heard about guys getting killed on bikes, or hurt on bikes. Motorcycles don't kill people, bad motorcyclists kill people. Even when a car driver is at fault, you are ultimately responsible for your safety. By riding a motorcycle you are taking a risk. For me it is a risk worth taking, but you have to know that there is a danger every time you get on your bike. I hope I am not discouraging any would-be riders, but I don't want to hear about any of you getting hurt in a way that can be prevented.

9 comments:

Wings said...

First, OUCH!

Second, you are right, to each their own, as long as you aren't hurting anybody else!

Third, OUCH!!!

chunky B said...

Good advise on the motor cycle course, I think a lot of people think they can just pick up these things and go like a bicycle.

I used to race motocross and had two 125's run up my back, plus I have had my share of spills caused by others so I feel you pain on that one.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Wings - it hurt for a while, and none of my pants fit. It was swollen out a couple inches.

@Chunky B - Man, motorcross is a whole 'nother animal. I had a friend who at 40-ish wanted to get back into motorcross. He had to go to the 400+ class to get away from the 12 year-olds, 'cause those kids are without fear. They heal faster too. :-) He had a KX500 which is a beast.

Lockwood said...

Art of Noise- Close to the Edit
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sFK0-lcjGU

Can't leave comments on Tumblr.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Lockwood - excellent catch! I knew I knew the band, but could not think of it. Yum-Yum likes to keep us all guessing. :-)

Jayson said...

Your third piece of advice goes for cyclists too. I can't tell you how many times vehicles have had total disregard for me as I'm pedaling along on my Specialized.

Darius Whiteplume said...

@Jayson - very true. Also scooters/mopeds. Being careful is a must when you are not in a cage.

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

You have done a great service today with your rant. I wish more people had as much respect for motorcycles as you do.

When I was 13 I got on a friend's dirtbike and let him and my cousin teach me everything they didn't know.

I didn't see the dirt mound but it saw me and only due to some gaurdian angel I woke up in the tall grass with a cracked face sheild and some serious rug burns but no other damage.

I walked away from my motorcycle adventure since then figuring I had been given my one chance and was grateful for the lesson.

They are not for me - too many variables I can't control and I am okay with that.

But I would totally rock an adult sized Big Wheel.

Darius Whiteplume said...

I don't know why they don't make adult sized Big Wheels. They would sell like crazy.

I have never had luck on dirtbikes. Being two-stroke, they are all power. It's like a giant chainsaw engine (Husqvarna was famous for their bikes before their chainsaws, and they still make some dirtbikes, IIRC).

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