Know Your Bike

It’s been more than a week of daily riding, and I’m finally starting to get comfortable on the bike. I’m still doing a lot of self-critique of my technique, but the bad really is outweighed by the good in terms of getting familiar.

I’m still feeling out turning, though. I guess I still have a lot of truck mentality in my driving. When the sign says, 40 MPH curve, I slow to 40. But for a bike, that’s a lot of overkill. My Sporty hardly recognizes a 40MPH curve as a curve.

Last night, I took a ride up through the mountainous, curvy roads around Lake Wohlford. I’m practicing on curves to see what the bike can do, and what I am comfortable doing with my riding capabilities. it’s really a matter of judging the curve accurately, knowing the speed at which I can safely take it, and learning to “trust the lean”, without fearing that I’m going to low-side at any minute.

The Sporty really is a nimble bike. If you want to go right, press the right handlebar. If that isn’t enough, press harder. Look as far as you can into the turn. The bike will go where you are looking.

So far, the times when I’ve felt I should’ve done a better job taking a curve, it is almost invariably been because I’ve fixated on a spot on the pavement, rather than looking into the turn, and seeing where I want to end up.

I’m still taking it slow, but I’m building confidence in the bike, and in myself.

Letting it Out a Bit

Now that I have more than 500 miles on my Sporty, I’ve started to let the Dogs of War slip out a little bit. I took her over 60MPH for the first time today.

On the way to work, I kept taking her up to 65MPH, then dropping the throttle to back her off to 50, then rolling back on to 65. Then on the upward climb on the hills, roll onto the throttle full on in 5th gear until it winds up a bit, then release, to drop the RPMs back down. Assuming you break in a bike like you do a diesel truck, the point of the exercise is to start training the engine to both pull hard, and to pull a load.

I also took the bike out on the Interstate for the first time. Although tat was really an accident. I missed the turn for the 395 south, so I took the I-15 south for about two miles. I let her get up to 70 in fifth gear, and held it there for a few minutes, until I got to the first exit, then got back on the 395, slowing down to 55-60 MPH.

It was a bit of a windy day this afternoon, so the brief highway portion wasn’t all that fun, what with the gusts blowing me about a little bit. I took a lot of concentration on what I was doing to keep a steady path.

On the up side, though, it doesn’t look like I’ll have any problems with highway speeds. Or with passing. Even in fifth gear, the bike really responds to the throttle. That, by the way, is something I’ll need to keep an eye out for in the future. I don’t know where this bike wants to cruise on the highway yet, but I can tell you it’s somewhere north of 70MPH. I’m looking forward to finding out where that “sweet spot” is.

Unfortunately, I’ll bet the CHP is, too.

What I have noticed is that, after passing 500 miles, the vibration I noted earlier is really settling down. This is a bike that wants to cruise at a good clip, and as the engine breaks in, and smooths out, it seems like finding that cruising speed will be a lot less uncomfortable than I thought it would be.

I still think that a larger bike will have a smoother ride at highway speeds, but my Sporty is really starting to settle down now.

Another nice thing noticed in my 2-minute highway ride is that the drainage grooves didn’t really make the bike wander a lot. For those of you who don’t live in Southern California, our highway engineers decided that the best solution for the light rain drainage needed on Southern California highways would not be crowned roads(i.e. roads significantly higher in the center), but rather to cut drainage grooves about an inch apart in the asphalt, parallel to the direction of travel.

One of the problems this causes for motorcycles is that some tires really want to track along the rain grooves. And, since the rain grooves aren’t actually laid very straight, it makes the front tire tend to wobble. A lot. Fortunately this is mainly a problem with tires that have a single tread line in the middle of the tire. Harley-Davidson, thankfully, breaks up the rain grooves in the tire treads, so that nowhere around the tire is there a continuous groove.

Long story short, there was no rabbit chasing from the front tire on my short little stretch of I-15.

All in all: Good rides today.

Buyer’s Remorse Resolved

I went to the dealership this afternoon after work. I looked at a lot of bikes. And when I did, I realized that, for the money, the 1200C is really all the bike I need. I’m not gonna make highway trips. I’m really only going to use it around town, and to go to work. It’s really all the bike I need, and, for the price, and with the mods I have installed on it, it really can’t be beat.

I guess taking an other look was something I just had to do.