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Old 02-24-2008, 08:34 PM   #1
gildco
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Default Newbie: Adventure or Death Wish?

In spite of the censure I expected from age-related friends, I finally did it: I bought a motorcycle. It wasn't impulsive, mind you, but a combination of recent experience as well as rose-colored memories of forty-plus years ago. While in college in the 60s, I had a car and a friend had a 1949 Indian (remember suicide shifters?). He had a girl and I had a vacancy (ah, those good ole' days). So, he occasionally needed a car to become "more expressive" with his girl, and I wanted to take his bike for a spin. Great trade, wouldn't you say?

To this day, I remember the exhilarating feeling of winding through the open and somewhat hilly parts of southern Ohio. No amount of travel in a cage could equal the freedom and sense of excitement I felt while cruising with that powerhouse underneath me. (The Gods were with me; a floating valve kept speed below 60 mph.)

Advance forty-five years. While visiting my daughter and her husband in Rogers, AR, an unexpected miracle happened--not planned or planned for. My son-in-law, a rabid Harley-D owner with whom in several previous visits I had asked many questions about his bike, suddenly asked me if I wanted to take his 1998 Softtail Classic Heritage for a spin. My initial response was to get some ear cleaner and perhaps make an appointment with a hearing-aid specialist. Of course, I mumbled something that sounded like, "What?"

He repeated the offer, and the next thing I knew, deja vous. I had his helmet on, the steed was spurred, and off we were. Instantly, I knew that my fond memories of biking were mingling with the joy of this new, open road experience. After several miles on the backroads, chosen
because I recognized the gap between my current skills and fond-though-superannuated memories, I reined in the mount, stopped in front of their house, and told my wife to get on a helmet and saddle up. We spent about thirty exciting and wonderful minutes trekking the less-traveled
roads, not wanting to return to the routine at the ole homestead.

The next day we were down at the H-D dealership in Bentonville, AR, which just happens to be a model for the new H-D stores--coffee lounge, plasma TV area to kick back and take in the show, and a couple of pool tables in the posh combination waiting/relaxing room. The bug had
bitten, and I went right by the smaller bikes, convinced that my wife and I wanted to tour. Of course, the salesman saw my dilated pupils as I sat on the really-big Hydra-Glides, all decked out for max comfort. But we showed great restraint, not wanting to rush into what I had determined would be my next escape from the mundane world of teaching, grading papers, and consulting.

Back home in the number four state for registered motorcycles (great climate, many roads in moutains as well as along the beaches), I did what most of you have done: read, asked questions, and read more. I must have hit almost every Web site in existence, looking for reviews, suggestions about best bikes for newbies, and trying to decide if I was a newbie or, since I also had once owned and rode a powerful steed--Ducati 125 Mustang--would I be considered an intermediate. After all, the very informative book "Motorcycles for Dummies" used those classifications as a basis for deciding what new bikes to buy.

By the time I was ready to make my bike-purchasing decision, I was firmly convinced that I was a death-wish fool for wanting to return to biking. One little piece of advice really caught my attention: take the attitude that everyone driving out there wants to kill you. Ah, are people who want to bike secretly harboring a wish to die quickly--and soon? In spite of the scattered remarks about how fun and exhilarating motorcycling is, you will sooner or later suffer road rash, disfiguration, great pain, all the while dressed in enough safety garb to make you look like the Michelin man on steroids. Quite intimidating. But life is choices, and I was convinced that I wanted a bike to offer me some adventuresome recompense for the routine course my life had taken.

So I did it. I heeded the advice not to go for the biggest bikes, which require more skill in riding techniques than someone at my level of experience could quickly apply (and live to talk about it). I also decided that I didn't want to get a "beginner's" bike that would be underpowered and which would lose its appeal as my skills improved. A "small bike" also would not accommodate those long weekend trips my wife and I
envisioned in the relatively-close future. Here again, the forums on this Web site and others gave me a good idea of what would meet our needs.

We decided upon the Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT. It had the rave reviews as a cruiser that would meet multiple challenges, such as urban/suburban and highway travel, the capability to handle two up, and the performance to meet the kinds of demands we would put on it. Tough to choose, however, considering motorcyclists have a fondness for their bikes that harbors on fanatacism.

Anxiety and great apprehension did not accompany my choice of bikes and putting a deposit down; it arose mightily as the days clicked off and came closer to the time I was going to pick up my bike and ride it home. Could I do it? Should I wait a week until I had finished the Motorcycle Safety Foundation riding skills course and then pick it up? Sleep was restless, as I went through, over and over, the information in the MSF manual and a dozen other texts about hazards, avoidance techniques, which foot to put on the ground first while stopping, and the life-saving left- and right-hand head swivels to check for traffic. Am I too old? Do I have a will?

The day before I picked up the bike, I took the DMV written test and eye test. While talking to the DMV examiner, I began asking him questions about his own biking, safety clothing, and other things. He stated that your attitude will determine what you do to ensure your safety--solid advice. He then asked me what kind of motorcyclist I envisioned myself as being, and I responded, without thinking much, "Alive." Funny how
my worries kind of crystallized at that moment.

Thursday arrived, my new helmet was at the dealership, and I was ready to roll. As my wife drove me to the place, she kept asking me if I was sure that I wanted to hit the road with my new bike (not literally, of course). I told her that I had thought about paying a delivery service to bring the bike to my doorstep, but discarded that option when I thought more about why I was getting the bike. I couldn't learn by just reading books and watching videos, so I knew that I had to rely on my common sense and drive MY bike home, via the back roads.

At the dealership, I asked the mechanic about my bike, the questions I had written down while reviewing the owner's manual several days beforehand. He was great. He went over all the systems with me, showed me where each of the gauges/fill tanks were, and rewired, right then
and there, my light-bar halogens to be on when the headlight was on low-beam. I sat on the bike for several minutes and familiarized myself with the controls.

When ready to practice before venturing out to the highway, I motored down a dead-end street several times, getting familiar with the clutch's friction point, rolling the throttle, applying both brakes, and tight U-turns. After thirty to forty-five minutes, I felt confident enough to head home. (Now I can imagine what a carrier fighter pilot feels like when his jet is ready to be thrust off the safety and comfort of the carrier deck.)

The trip home was a combination of joy, exhilaration, and anxiety. If X happened ahead, what would/should I do? When should I enter a right-hand-turn lane? My techniques became smoother as my vision cleared and I assumed a more reasonable yet still alert perspective. I pulled into my driveway sweating in my new safety gear, but quite pleased that my bike and I had made it home in original-equipment condition.

I shall continue to learn, practice, and yet enjoy the experience of biking as each day goes by, never becoming complacent, always vigilant, and very happy that I took a wish out of the bucket and can enjoy it now.
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Old 02-24-2008, 09:59 PM   #2
The_AirHawk
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Welcome to Motorcycling, gildco. And to MO. I've been inside Pigtrail H-D several times, it certainly is impressive. (and Rainbow Kawasaki - where I'm betting you bought your Vulcan)

Good choice in motorcycles (buying something less than a 800-lb behemoth), I doubt you'll ever feel it's "underpowered" when used for its intended purpose.

Virtually every road east from Rogers is fantastic motorcycling country (but then, you probably already know this!).

Hope to see you on the road sometime - you'll find me astride a red HawkGT, silver FZ-6, or red Pacific Coast.

Have fun!
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Old 02-25-2008, 05:27 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The_AirHawk View Post
Welcome to Motorcycling, gildco. And to MO. I've been inside Pigtrail H-D several times, it certainly is impressive. (and Rainbow Kawasaki - where I'm betting you bought your Vulcan)

Good choice in motorcycles (buying something less than a 800-lb behemoth), I doubt you'll ever feel it's "underpowered" when used for its intended purpose.

Virtually every road east from Rogers is fantastic motorcycling country (but then, you probably already know this!).

Hope to see you on the road sometime - you'll find me astride a red HawkGT, silver FZ-6, or red Pacific Coast.

Have fun!
I knew you bought a Pacific Coast! Truth will out! BTW - how much beer can it carry?
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Old 02-25-2008, 06:01 AM   #4
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Welcome. You are getting into riding in a very good way!

(And PCs are neat bikes!)
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Old 02-25-2008, 07:23 AM   #5
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Welcome, Gildco!

And don't hate the other drivers, for they know not what they do.
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Old 02-25-2008, 07:51 AM   #6
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It's called life. No one gets out alive. May as well enjoy it as much as possible.
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Old 02-25-2008, 08:00 AM   #7
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Actually, I think of safety first before I do anything. I'm a careful guy!
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:12 AM   #8
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Gildco:
What an a-hole. What were you thinking buying a 900cc cruiser instead of a Ninja 250? You're lucky you made it home alive. Please don't subject your wife to your death-wish; she probably has no idea you're riding down Suicide Road. Drop a line next week after your first crash, if you still can. We'll just see how wonderful you think this death sport is then.


HAHAHAHAHA JUST KIDDIN DUDE! Kirk says we have to behave, which is the best way to get me to act up! Seriously, if you ride as well as you write, you're going to do great. I enjoyed your prose, and look forward to hearing more from you in the future. KM
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Old 02-25-2008, 09:32 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seruzawa View Post
I knew you bought a Pacific Coast! Truth will out! BTW - how much beer can it carry?
D'OH! - Ya' got me!

Well, I don't know how much this particular PC will hold, but I DO know that a friend of mine's held like a case-and-a-half of some cheap-arse cans, plus a couple of bottle-sixes of some Real Beer, and two bags of ice.............

The thing is a rolling couch, with built-in cooler.

It's in Chicago-area, I gotta bus-up & pick it up, and soon: Seller's gonna be in Green Bay refueling a Nukular Reactivator for 4-5wks after this next weekend.

Luckily, I have a friend in Bowling Brook that might be able to fetch it for me and garage it for another week or so.
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Old 02-25-2008, 10:53 AM   #10
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I'm sorry, your tome put me to sleep half way through, please offer an abbreviated version for us ADD types......

At anyrate I assume you bought a bike and are having fun riding?..

Very well, wash, rinse, repeat....
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