(Lack of) Speed Kills

You know, it’s the slow stuff that’s dangerous. Making a turn from a standing start at a stoplight, that kind of stuff.

On a bike, the faster you’re moving–within reason, of course–the easier it is to throw the bike around. A bike moving at speed doesn’t want to fall. relatively small steering inputs move the bike in the desired direction.

But when you’re moving slowly, all sorts of bad things can happen. You accidentally crank the throttle a bit too much, and the bike gets away from you, going from 5 to 20 miles per hour in an eyeblink. Or you’re moving so slowly, the bike just wants to fall down in the direction your wheel is turned, because the steering inputs have to be so large.

Most of the time, you’re moving slowly enough so that a fall would be more embarrassing than dangerous. But those slow speeds are when the bike is at its most unsteady, and when you have to be the most careful.

Obviously, on the other end, excessive speed is a killer, too, especially in turns. But at least there, you’re inviting the risk, because you’re traveling too fast for the conditions.

But it’s when I’m moving slowly, and making those standing turns that I’m most scared of dropping the bike. it’s something that I require a lot more practice at before I’m truly going to be comfortable on the bike.

I Want a Big Twin

Someday, in the not-too-distant future, this will be the Ex-1200C Sportster blog. because I am getting a big twin. In fact, I’m getting a Road King. I don’t know when, exactly, but I’m getting one.

I have a cunning plan.

Actually, it’s a blindingly obvious plan. I’m going to throw every spare penny I have towards paying off my Sportster. I can do e-payments through my bank, and I just put $300 on it yesterday, even though the first payment isn’t due until next month. Next payday, I’m going to throw everything I have left from this payday on it. And I’m gonna do that every payday until the bike is paid off. Every quarter, when I receive my profit sharing bonus, I’m throwing that on the bike.

If I can pay the bike off in a year, I can sell it for about 8-9k. Then, I’m gonna take that 9K, and drop it as a down payment on a Road King.

If I’m very diligent at this, I figure I can have a new Road king by next summer.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Sporty. But there’s something about the Road King that just calls to me.

So, I’m gonna try to answer that call.

Oh, OK, I may get an Electra Glide instead.

How Fast is My Sportster? Well…

Today was a (almost) a bad day, and a good day.

First, the (almost) bad. I almost dumped the bike today. It happened at the worst place possible: the parking lot of the Harley dealership. I went down to San Diego Harley because my luggage bag broke one of the buckles on the straps that hold it down. As I was turning to pull into a parking space, a woman stepped right in front of me, from behind a truck. I hit the brakes and stopped with no problem, since I was probably only going a couple of miles an hour.

But, because I was turning sharply into the space, when the bike stopped, she started to fall over in the direction the front wheel was turned. I got both feet on the ground and caught her, but the bike hung at a 45° angle. I didn’t let it fall, but, straddling it as I was, I couldn’t pick it up either.

Fortunately, the woman stepped over, grabbed the luggage rack, and gave it enough of a lift that I was able to right the bike.

That 580 pounds was pretty heavy, though.

Fortunately, she didn’t drop, so no harm was done.

I’m convinced though, especially from talking to other bikers, that sudden stops at slow speed are the most likely circumstances where a bike gets dropped. The slower you go, the more inherently unstable a motorcycle is. Throw in an unplanned stop, and you’ve got an excellent chance of dropping your bike.

On the way home though, I had a moment of naughtiness.

Just as certain motorcyclists (*cough*sport bike owners*cough*) tend to be ass-like, so are the drivers of certain makes of automobiles. Among those models are Porsches.

On the way home from the dealer, I took Pomerado Road, instead of the I-15. the 15 has hellish traffic in the afternoons, especially on Fridays between 5 and 6 pm. Pomerado Road, however, has very little traffic. For some reason, I guess most commuters haven’t discovered it yet.

At one point, while I was stopped at a light, a guy in a Porsche 944 pulled up to me. I casually looked over at him, and when I did, he started racing his engine. “Oh. Really?” I thought. The light turned green, and we were off.

From 0 to 65, a Porshe 944 can not beat a 1200C Sportster. At 65MPH, I slowed down–the speed limit was 55–but I had a big smile on my face. The Porsche driver was not amused.

Especially when I did it again at the next light.

After that, we started getting back into traffic, and he got slowed up behind cars in the right lane. I looked over and gave him a big smile as I went past him.

Sport Bikes

What is it about people who ride sport bikes? Why all the showboating? Am I supposed to be impressed? As I was riding to work this morning on the 395, doing about 60–the speed limit is 55–a guy on a sport bike just zips past me doing God only knows how fast, in a no-passing section of a curve, no less. Whe he got passed me, he held out his hand in a little wave.

Now, I know biking is supposed to be this big happy family, and we’re all supposed to wave at each other, and have friendly conversations at stoplights, and whatnot. But, honestly, when I saw his little wave, all I could think was, “Die. Just die.”

And this isn’t an isolated incident. I see stuff like this all the time. If the sport bike guys aren’t popping wheelies, they’re zipping in and out of traffic, or some other similarly stupid stuff.

The thing is, no matter how good you are on a bike–or how good you think you are–you can’t just roll the dice like that continuously and expect to walk away from it every time. How do any of them ever live to 40?

And, come to think of it, why should they?

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.

Buyer’s Remorse

I love my sporty, but when I went into the dealership today for a quick trip, I took another look at the Dynas. Man, the more I think about it, the more I wish I’d bought one. Or, more precisely, wish I could’ve bought one. I had enough money to buy a nice Sportster, but buying a Dyna with all the same mods would’ve been more than I can afford right now. If hadn’t bought a new Ram 2500 a few months ago, I could afford it, but, well, I did, and that’s that.

They sure do look nice, though, and they feel nice when you sit on ’em.

For some reason, they feel less top-heavy than the Sportster, even though they weigh considerably more.

They also have a six-speed tranny, which seems like it would be nice for highway driving.

Well, maybe next time…

Road King Irks Me

So, I’m driving through Temecula, CA, today, going to my mom’s house to celebrate my grandmother’s 89th birthday.

Since I got the bike on Monday, I’ve put about 450 miles on it, so I’m about halfway through the break-in period.

I stop at a light, and a guy in a Road King pulls up next to me. We exchange a few pleasant words. The the light changes, I pull away from him handily at the light, initially, but, I have to start shifting early, keeping the RPMs down, and backing off the throttle. “Zoom!” goes Road King Boy right past me and down the road.

I hate the break-in period.

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.