Mother Doesn’t Freak Out

Well, I rode up to my Mom’s house in Menifee, and surprisingly, she didn’t freak out about the bike. Oh, she wasn’t happy, to be sure, but I guess she figures she can’t really do anything about it. Which she can’t. So there’s no need to have a cow.

I also went to Biggs Harley-Davidson this morning before I took the two-hour ride up there, and picked up a mesh jacket. I’ve been wearing denim shirts and stuff for the last week, but I decided that I should get some real riding gear for my top half. The jacket was 160 bucks, but it has pretty good body armor in the elbows and shoulders. And it was a lot more comfortable riding through the desert than I thought it would be. The mesh really does breathe, and you can feel the air slipping through the mesh and keeping you cool. It was much cooler than a denim shirt, or the German Army camouflage top I’ve been wearing.

The trip up there and back took up about four hours of riding, and after that, I am a bit surprised that my butt isn’t more sore. That Sundowner bucket seat was apparently worth the money, since it was nice to ride all day on it.

I’ve put 500 miles on the bike since I got it. That puts me about halfway through the break-in period. I’ve started opening her up to 60 miles per hour in 5th gear. As I get closer to 1,000 miles, I’ll start putting a little more load on the engine to get it used to it.

I’d really like to see what she can do at highway speeds.

I’m Street-Legal

I must say, the MSF people are really on the ball. Today, I got my completion certificate in the mail. After work, I went over to the DMV, and got the full M1 endorsement to my driver’s license. I may now ride at any time, on any public road, and carry a passanger.

Although, I’m not sure I want to do the latter, yet.

I had a bit of a scary drive into work this morning. I was about halfway to work when I drove into a fog so thick I could only see 100 feet in front of my bike. I was worried that a car would just come straight up my back end without seeing me.

Fortunately, the fog only covered a short bit of the road, and I got out of it in five minutes or so.

Tomorrow’s the Big Day

I get to take my first daily commute ride tomorrow. Since I got the bike on Monday, I’ve been on it for about 4 hours, and gone through one tank of gas. Yesterday, I met up with a friend from work, and we drove off to Temecula for, of all things, an ice cream. His girlfriend was along for the ride as well, and had her camera with her.

Just take a look at my face. That’s the face of a happy guy. I can’t tell you how much I love this bike.

Tomorrow, I get to ride it into work for the first time. Of course, since I work on a military installation, that means I’ll have to wear the gay reflective vest as the DoD requires. But, that’s a minor inconvenience. After all, I don’t have toslip it on until just before I get to the gate. And in the afternoon, when it’s really hot, I can slip it off right after I leave.

The real inconvenience will not having XM to listen to Opie and Anthony on the drive in. I still haven’t quite figured out how to do that. I guess I can pull the car rig out, and run some earphones, but I don’t know how the reception will be, because I’m not sure where to put the antenna.

Oh, and I forgot to buy a thermos to fill with coffee in the morning. My little sippy cup won’t work too well for the bike. But, that’ll give me an excuse to take the long way home to pick one up from target tomorrow.

First Impressions

I love it.

It was way different from the little Eliminators and rebels at the MSF course. It moves. When I first got on it, I rolled on the throttle just a little too much coming out of the stop at the entrance to the parking lot at the dealership. It started to roar right across the road, instead of turning as I intended. I headed straight for a sedan parked on the other side of the road.

I instantly hit the clutch, pulled both brakes, got her under control, then made the turn. it was a lot wider than I had intended, but I made it. That was a scary half-second or so. Definite loss of cool points.

Fortunately, the dealership is tucked away in an industrial park with very little traffic. So, I spent a half hour riding up and down the road, stopping, starting, making turns, and generally getting used to the brakes, clutch, and throttle response.

After the rides I wrote about below, I went out for one last ride before dark. In California, the learner’s permit doesn’t allow you to drive at night, but the last, 40-minute ride in the cool sunset was refreshing, and was ready–if not eager–to start on my homework for my MBA course. Actually, I’m not sure I want to do too much night riding, but I would’ve tonight. Oh well, in two weeks I get my certificate from the MSF course in the mail, and I can walk into the DMV and get my full M1 endorsement.

I see a lot of complaints on the forums about the sound of the stock Sportster. It sounds fine to me. It has a very nice bass rumble. It’s not loud enough to rattle the windows on all the neighborhood houses, but that’s OK. I’m not sure I want to ride something that loud. After all, I’m sitting right on top of all that sound, and too much would be a bit wearing.

It’s been mostly very smooth at the speeds I can drive it during the break-in period. They used to tell people not to drive over 50 miles per hour during the break-in. Now, they say don’t let it get over 4500 RPM on the engine. So, you can go about 60 MPH or so, as long as you’ve got it shifted to fifth. So, I’m shifting early for every gear.

When you do that, the engine just chugs deeply, as if it’s complaining at being held back.

When I rode up and back from Fallbrook, I kept it below 60. I did notice though, that, at above 50 MPH, some vibration definitely set in. Part of it was bumpy road on the 395, I suppose, and part was a lot of wind buffeting, since it was a fairly windy day. But, I expected it to be a little smoother. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad, but it does jump around a lot more than a heavier touring bike.

On the other hand, a touring bike doesn’t have this kind of acceleration. I haven’t gotten to use it much, and I won’t for a while, obviously, but you can tell. It’s there. Waiting.

I also had two…well…I don’t think you can call them close calls, because they weren’t dangerous or anything. But there were two times when the bike didn’t go exactly where I wanted it to in turns. Once was turning left from a stoplight, where I went into the right lane at the end of the turn, instead of the left lane. I was looking at the pavement, instead of looking into the turn, and I cut it wide. No big deal, but I should’ve been able to cut that turn a lot shorter than I did.

Another time was on the road to Fallbrook. Again, I started to turn wide. I didn’t like where I was going in that turn, and I think I entered with just a skoche too much speed. So I straightened her out, gave her a little brake, then pushed the left handlebar down, converting the turn into a better line. I should’ve just done a better job of entering that curve, and riding through it more smoothly. It wasn’t even a tight curve or anything. I just wasn’t comfortable with what I was doing.

The MSF course taught me that, and it worked great. I’m glad I finished the course before getting the bike. It was really good for laying down the basic technique, and giving you a basis for self-critique. And of course, for helping to ensure that, when you do make a slight misjudgment, or you don’t like what you’re doing at a given moment, you have the basic skills to correct it without much effort.

It was also great for teaching you what to watch for all the time while you’re riding, and keeping your riding within your limits. That’s vitally important, because if you’re cutting down your risk by staying within your limits, your mistakes are salvageable ones. It’s when you start going outside your skill envelope that mistakes can cost you more than cool points.

You see that kind of behavior all the time on guys that ride sport bikes. I was driving home on the I-15 a few months ago, and I saw this guy on a sport bike lift the front wheel and do a wheelie down the Interstate. Stupid.

I guess I’m really into self-critique right now. And, from talking to some senior riders, it seems like the best of them are always critiquing themselves. I think that’s a good habit. I also noticed when driving my truck today that I’m driving differently with it, too. Better different. I’m thinking about what I’m doing a lot more.

Counter-steering the Sporty is pretty much effortless at speed. You push down on the handlebar, and the bike just goes into this stately lean that feels really great. I’d kinda like to run through some of the MSF exercises like slaloming with this bike, to see how it responds. it seems like a very nimble bike for its weight.

Overall, my first impression with this bike is very positive. Its a fairly easy bike to ride, once you get used to the control interactions. I think it’ll be great for commuting, especially on the low-traffic roads I ride on. And, of course, at my age, I no longer have much interest in trying to break 120 MPH, do wheelies, or any of that other sort of stuff. I’m content to poke along at the posted speed limit, enjoying the freedom of the ride. I think I’m gonna get a lot of that.

Oh yeah, I got waves from other bikers, today, too. I’m sure that after a while, all that waving will be annoying. But for now, it’s kinda cool.

Happy Harleyday! For Real This Time!

Finally, it happened! We got to the dealership today and everything went perfectly. I finally got it.

Here it is. This was my first look at the finished bike. It looks even better now than it did as a basic model sitting on the showroom.

This is the sales guy officially handing the keys over to me. I’m glad Chris was there with her camera to record this historic moment. Of course, now that I have it…I have to ride it.

Here I am taking it out from the parking lot on the first ride.

I ran it in and out of the parking lot, and up and down the little industrial park street to get used to it.

Once I had gotten used to it a bit, and felt comfortable, it was off to the house. I still don’t have my full M1 permit, so instead of going up the I-15, we drove home via Pomerado Road. It was a great drive. Not too many lights, light traffic. Other bikers waving as they passed. It was great. Then, when Pomerado Road ended, we took off through Bandy Canyon and the San Pasqual Valley. It was just a great ride, and perfect, with even a few mild twisties to get used to the bike on.

Once we got her home, though, I had to get into the truck to drive to the Camp Pendleton Motorcycle Training office, to get the little yellow card that allows me to ride a motorcycle on base. Once I did that, I raced back home. I had a little less than an hour to make the 45-minute ride up to the Naval Weapons Station in Fallbrook to register the bike. I made it to the pass & ID office with less than five minutes to spare.

But the bike got registered, so i can drive it to work on Thursday. I did, I admit, go by my office to let the guys look at it. Then it was a 45-minute ride back to the house.

I hated to put the bike up, but, unfortunately, I have other things I have to do. So, I’ll have to be satisfied with 2 1/2 hours on the bike today.

Still, today was a good day.

I Passed

It was a long, hot day on the MSF riding range today. Officially, the air temperature was 95. On the asphalt pad, it must’ve been significantly hotter.

We did lots of turning, cornering, and swerving, then we took the skills test. They docked me three points on my emergency stop, but overall, my rider evaluation score was 97, which was the second highest in the class.

But I was happy with the score, and happy to get my MSF card.

Now, I just gotta get my certificate, and I’m good to go.

Fortunately, both of my instructors work on Camp Pendleton, so after I pick up my bike tomorrow morning, I’ll drive my truck to Pendleton, and I can pick up my certificate.

Hopefully.

If all goes well.

Good Lord willin’.

Creek don’t rise.

OK, So It Isn’t Happy Harleyday

I am getting really, really irked at San Diego Harley. My bike wasn’t ready today. it was supposed to be. I was told it was ready on Friday. But when I got there today, it wasn’t.

We got to the dealership at 9:00am exactly. I walked into the sales desk and picked up my registration. Then I went to the service desk to get my bike, only to be told that it wasn’t finished. But, they assured me, it would be done by 11.

Moreover, when I looked at the work order, the one module to turn the turn signals into running He He’d even written down the labor estimate for it. He told me he was sending a driver down to the downtown store to pick it up, since they were the only store that had one.

But it never made it onto the work order. Why would it? Why?

Once again, I started making everyone uncomfortable. At one point, I had the parts guy, the other chrome consultant, and the service guy all together, while I said, “Gentlemen, this is the third trip down to this dealership. It’s the third time I have asked for this part to be placed on my work order. Why am I having this same conversation three times? What seems to be the problem that causes this work order never to be completed?”

No one had any answers, of course. Nor do they seem very conmfortable when a customer gets angry at their non-performance.

And now, all the stores are out of stock on this part, so it’ll be a while before I can get it on my bike.

Running down this problem–again–took an hour.

Now, my plan was to pick up the bike at nine, then spend twenty minutes or so on the walkthrough, then a half-hour getting used to it in stops, starts, and turns. i figured I’d be out of there by 10:30 at the latest, then I could make it to the MSF course range by 1:00. So, at 10;30, I asked how close we were to getting the bike.

Service boy goes back and asks the tech how it’s going, then comes back and says, “He says he should have it ready by noon.

By noon.

“But don’t worry, it’ll be ready in time to get you where you need to go.”

“Really? I need it right now. Is it ready right now?”

“No.”

Then it won’t be ready in time to get me where I need to go, will it?”

Silence, shuffling of some suddenly important paperwork.

So, I give my registration back to the sales manager, and tell him I’ll try and pick up the bike tomorrow.

On our way out, the service guy said, “I’ll give you a call as soon as your bike is ready.”

Did he call, you ask? Of course not. Why would he? Why?

No, I called the dealership at about 4:30 and asked if it was ready. “Oh, yeah,” the guy said, like it was the silliest question in the world, “That bike’s ready.”

Thanks.

I guess I’m learning why Harley dealers have such a bad rep with Harley owners.

Anybody got any ideas about how I can get my three hours back that the Harley stealership took from me this morning?

Happy Harleyday!

It’s time to hit the sack for the evening. But it’s just rolled past midnight, which means that today is the day I pick up my Harley from the dealership! The wait is almost over. Just a few hours of sleep, and it’ll be time to drive down and get my bike.