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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

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Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/9/2005 2:33 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
There are ELEVEN "responses" in this sticky thread. BEFORE you post a question, have a look at the appropriate topic. If the question you ask is covered in these faq's, you'll get THIS as at least one response:
*** hop ***hop ***
NOTE: Due to the increasing numbers of off duty active personnel who are getting seriously injured and killed on motorcycles in the past few years, contact your base/post Safety Officer for requirements as to motorcycle safety before you proceed!
Some bases provide instruction (the MSF Basic Rider's Course), others require you to take the BRC on your own. Each base is a bit different as to required safety gear while riding on base.
*** scool ***scool ***
In the following threads, below, you'll find:
"How Dangerous is it Really?" by DataDan
"Following Distance" by DataDan
"Helmet Fit Guidelines" by Lionlady
"Motorcyling Skills, What Are They?" by Johnny Monsoon
"How to Crash" by Ianisme
"How NOT to Crash" by Ianisme
"First Ride Account" by NiftyPete
"Original Newbie FAQ's" by DeaconBlues
 "How to pick up a Fallen Motorcycle" link
What the heck is that bell on your bike for?  Just ONE version of "The Bell Legend"
IMPACT percentages for full face helmet (IMAGE)
Sportbikes are NOT beginner bikes- Part I (orgininally posted on
Sportbikes are NOT beginner bikes - Part II ( " )
These were copied/condensed from the original 'sticky real estate.' When useful threads were copied/moved, the followup comments did NOT go along.

  ATGATT: Because walking away in disgust, beats riding away in an ambulance.

Post Edited (lionlady) : 9/12/2008 6:48:55 PM GMT

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

Email Address Not AvailablePersonal Homepage Not AvailablePrivate Messaging Not AvailableAIM Not AvailableICQ Not AvailableY! Not AvailableMSN Not Available
Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/10/2005 3:28 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
How Dangerous is it Really? Original Post by DataDan
Recently in another forum, a newbie asked about the statistical risk of motorcycling, apparently hoping to learn that it's not as bad as it might seem. You know: If you don't drink, get trained and licensed, and wear your gear, you'll be OK. I wasn't sure whether he wanted to rationalize his own decision or to reassure someone else.

Statistically, motorcycling isn't pretty. Per mile, a motorcycle is a much more dangerous mode of transportation than a car. That's partly due to the utter lack of protection from the vehicle. While most car crashes don't result in serious injury, any motorcycle impact, even at low speed, is potentially life threatening.

But absence of a protective steel cage is only part of it. Much of the statistical danger attributed to motorcycles is actually due to the people who ride them. They are often risk-seekers, and the motorcycle is just another high-risk pastime. I'm reminded of a rider known for crazy-ass stunts who somehow survived on his motorcycle but died in a street race in his Corvette.

While statistics can help to understand the riding population, they're not very useful in understanding individual risk. For that, a rider must examine his attitudes, which, to a great degree, are already developed by the time he takes up motorcycling. This isn't a comprehensive list, and I would emphasize that I have no professional standing in the field, so don't regard them as the final answer.

  • How much of a risk-taker are you? Everyone who rides enjoys a certain measure of risk, but risk affinity among riders still varies considerably. There's an odd paradox about motorcycling: It attracts risk seekers, but it rewards the more risk averse. Those who take the biggest risks are weeded out early—one way or another—while those who take less risk gradually develop skills and confidence and may continue to ride for many years. If you've always been one of the more daring in your group—the first to try a new skateboard trick or to duplicate a "Jackass" stunt—you're also going to be the one to push the envelope on a motorcycle and the one most likely to crash. But if you possess a healthy sense of your own vulnerability and insist on learning as much as you can and protecting yourself as well as possible, your prospects are good.
  • How cautious are you? If you've had a lot of broken bones and stitches in your life, you might be one of those people who leaps before he looks. Unlike non-motorized accidents, which may hurt but seldom cause serious injury, the norm for a motorcycle accident is an ambulance or helicopter ride and a hospital stay.
  • When you do have an accident, whose fault is it? If you can always find a way to blame someone else, the prospects are not good for a safe riding career. In motorcycling, much of what happens is technically someone else's fault. If a car merges into your lane without seeing you, it's the driver's fault. But knowing that your family will remember you by the epitaph on your tombstone, "It wasn't my f**king fault!" is hardly comforting. Accept 100% of the responsibility for your own survival and take the attitude that, while other motorists should check their mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes, it's ultimately your job to anticipate incursions and not be there when they happen.
  • Do you learn quickly from mistakes? Much of motorcycling is, unfortunately, trial and error. After a close call, acknowledge your own share of responsibility, remember the lesson, and find ways to avoid the same situation next time. A rider who doesn't learn from mistakes is destined to repeat them.
  • Are you a fatalist? Que será será—what will be, will be? Motorcycle crashes are random events, so if I die on a bike, it's because God/Yaweh/Allah/Gaia/Fate/The Cosmic Muffin wills it, and there's nothing I can do about it. That's not a good motorcycling attitude. Riding well requires actively looking for and averting hazards. Embrace the idea that there's a way to avoid every jam and that with training, practice, and awareness, you'll find it. Of course, there are some truly unavoidable crashes. But they are few, and it's impossible to know that a crash was unavoidable until after the fact anyway.
  • Do you focus on the task at hand, or do you let your mind wander, especially in familiar surroundings? Not a good trait for a rider because he must constantly be on guard for potential hazards, projecting paths of travel and planning evasive maneuvers. Maintain focus on your riding and, when you can't, know that it's time to pull over and take a break.
  • How likely are you to go along with your homies, even when the little man inside says, "Don't do it!" On a motorcycle, a rider's failure to heed his own better judgment often leads to trouble. To stay up with the group, he may endanger himself and others by making bad passes. Or he may take chances in traffic that he's uncomfortable with. Know your own abilities and taste for risk and don't exceed either one, even at the risk of being called a wuss. Make your own decisions—and stick by them—in the face of peer pressure, or else avoid group riding.
  • Do you have a healthy fear of crashing? Bart Simpson's hero in the field of death defiance, Captain Lance Murdoch, observed: "Bones heal, chicks dig scars, and the United States of America has the best doctor-to-daredevil ratio in the world." Once again, a poor attitude for a motorcyclist. Some crashes are relatively harmless, resulting in painful but survivable (and manly) injuries while others are deadly. If you're not too worried about crashing because you're young and resilient, think again. A damaged spinal cord doesn't repair itself, severed limbs don't grow back, and a titanium plate to replace a missing bit of skull is no substitute for the real thing.
  • Statistics aside, how dangerous do you think motorcycling is? Another odd paradox is that the less dangerous you perceive something to be, the more dangerous it actually will be. If I approach a blind turn assuming that the exit will be clean, I'm at more risk than if I expect to find it gravel-strewn. When I expect worse, I take precautions to compensate. Similarly, if you think motorcycling will be easy, something any bonehead can do, you're in for a rude surprise. It's not easy at all. In fact, it's dangerous in ways that you don't even know about yet. The epiphanies of new riders discovering old hazards can be found every day in motorcycle forum postings. Edge traps, rolling blind spots, tar snakes, painted arrows, corner cutters, trench plates, etc., etc. You can't memorize all potential hazards, so the best attitude is to expect the unexpected.

2004 BMW R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition #196


Post Edited (lionlady) : 9/24/2005 5:07:44 PM GMT

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

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Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/10/2005 3:31 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.

Following Distance Smarts. Original Post by DataDan

Recently I’ve read about several crashes in which a motorcycle either rear-ends a slowing vehicle ahead or crashes while braking to avoid such a collision. These stories—some in news articles, others first-person accounts in motorcycle forums—have prompted me to compile some suggestions about following distance.

MSF recommends that you follow no closer than two seconds behind the vehicle ahead of you in traffic. As its rear bumper passes a sign or line, count: one one-thousand, two one-thousand. You should finish the two-second count before you arrive at the same point.

However, if you ride in the same kind of traffic I do, you can’t always observe that rule without putting yourself at risk as other traffic scrambles to fill the unfilled space in front of you. So it’s sometimes necessary to maintain tighter spacing as a matter of safety. But that doesn’t mean the rule can be ignored. In the real world, following distance can’t be governed by one simple rule. An experienced rider recognizes conditions that permit a smaller gap and also conditions that demand two-second spacing or more.

In a situation where you must tighten up following distance, extend your forward field of vision beyond the vehicle immediately ahead to spot hazards and anticipate slowdowns. Use the motorcycle’s height and ability to move from side to side within the lane to see as far ahead as possible.

Here are some factors to consider when adjusting following distance:

  • reaction space: It takes time for your brain to react to brake lights ahead and for your hand and foot to begin to apply brakes. If that takes one second, you need to follow at least one second behind the vehicle ahead just to avoid hitting it as you recognize and react to the danger.
  • attention deficit: If you're distracted—worried about traffic behind or to the side, or fiddling with your GPS or MP3 player—you may not notice and react to a hazard that appears suddenly in front of you.
  • braking deficit: Most drivers can brake more effectively than most riders. An ABS-equipped car requires no braking skill at all. Just mash the pedal and you get .8g or better of precisely controlled deceleration without thinking about it. To do the same on a motorcycle takes training and practice. Riders who don't yet have the necessary skill need distance beyond reaction space to prevent a rear-ender.
  • sightline: By following at a distance, you increase the line of sight between yourself and oncoming left-turners and cross traffic. In the worst case—tailgating a large, opaque vehicle—you might not see a car attempting to cross your path until it's too late.
  • traffic transitions: Things happen quickly when approaching a junction or when merging into or out of traffic. Though you may be able to see well ahead, you can't anticipate every incursion that will affect you. A careless merge a hundred yards ahead will start a chain reaction that quickly ripples back to you.
  • unseen debris: If the driver ahead runs over an object for which he doesn't brake, your brain needs time to recognize the hazard when it emerges from under the vehicle, and your bike needs space to swerve around it.
  • crash avoidance space: If you’re riding with a group and the rider ahead crashes, his motorcycle may leave a trail of parts and fluids that constitute an imminent danger that wasn’t present just milliseconds earlier. You need space to react to the suddenly appearing hazard.
  • compensation for a tailgater: When someone is following you too closely, you need extra distance to the car ahead of you so you won't get rear-ended if you need to brake.
  • acceleration space: If you're closely following a slow vehicle on a freeway onramp, you have no flexibility in merging. You can only hope that there's a hole big enough for both of you, or that traffic will accommodate. By backing off, you get to choose your own spot, and you have room to accelerate up to freeway speed as you continue to merge left, out of the slug's lane.
  • acceleration space ahead of a tailgater: Sort of a combination of the previous two. If I'm being tailgated and worried about getting smacked when I slow to make a turn up ahead, I'll lag back at first to increase my following distance, then gas it to increase space behind me before I slow. This gives my tailgater more time to react to my action.

2004 BMW R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition #196


Post Edited (lionlady) : 9/10/2005 10:38:37 PM GMT

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

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Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/21/2005 6:26 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Guidelines for getting the best fit in a full-face helmet.
There is much to be said about going into a Motorcycle shop and physically trying on the helmet you are considering. Even if you plan on buying online, knowing what size you need will save much time and aggravation. Cheaper is not cheaper if you must exchange by mail repeatedly, or end up with a helmet that doesn't fit well, or worse, is painful to wear after 30 minutes.
I did not devise this fit guide but I put what I was taught to paper to share. I believe it is based on the Arai fit method, but is applicable for all makes. This is what I was taught while working in a MC dealer. I have tweaked the instructions in an effort to make it understandable in print. I have also added details that I have learned through experience in an effort to make it as helpful as possible. 
Do NOT purchase a "previously owned" helmet. No matter how great the helmet looks. No matter how trustworthy the seller is. Hidden damage is just that, HIDDEN. The owner cannot assure the helmet is undamaged, and it is YOUR head that is at risk. It is just not worth saving a few $.
1. Do NOT look at prices first. Fit is most important. If Arai (generally the most expensive) fits, then that will provide the BEST protection, if an HJC (generally a less expensive make) fits, then THAT will provide the best protection. For this ‘fit test’ do not buckle the chin strap. If you wear glasses, or sunglasses while riding, don’t forget to have them with you for the fit test. Note: At a helmet seminar offered by Arai, those in attendance learned that about 60% were wearing helmets too BIG for best protection. Recently, I learned that I've evidently been wearing a helmet TWO sizes too big, while shopping to replace my "crashed in" Arai helmet. For fit-trying helmets, a Sliks helmet liner, or other snug fitting "do-rag" is VERY helpful, especially if you've got multiple ear piercings or thick hair, etc.

2. Choose a size that looks close (you gotta start somewhere). Pull the helmet on over your head by holding the straps. It should go on with a bit of work, but NOT so tough it feels like your ears are being scraped off your skull. If the helmet goes on with little or no effort, try the next size DOWN. Tilting your chin slightly down should ease neck strain in doing this.

3. Flip up the face shield. (If trying a helmet with flip up chin bar, ONLY flip up the face shield.) Now, push  the helmet around on your head. Have someone watch your face or look in a mirror while you do this. Your scalp and eyebrows should move around with the helmet padding.  If it doesn’t, try the next size down OR a different make of helmet and repeat from #2. If your scalp does move, close your eyes and think about how the padding feels around the crown of your head. You should feel snug EVEN pressure all around, like a good firm handshake - no ‘hot points’ at forehead or ears. Some helmets give a sort of "chipmunk cheek"  feeling. Remember, the padding will compress with wear, so snugness is good in a new helmet, rather than a ‘just right’ fit, or it will become too loose with wear. Some helmet manufacturers offer thinner cheek padding if this is your main concern. (If you feel a hot point at forehead, you probably have an ‘oval profile’ head and should try one of the Arai models.)

4. Buckle the chin strap snugly (just enough room to get a finger under), then tilt your chin down to your chest. Take one hand and push UP on the bottom of the back of the helmet. You should NOT be able to push the helmet off, or part way off. If you can, try another model, or size.

5. Once you’ve gotten to this point, wear the helmet around the shop for at LEAST 5 to 10 minutes. This is where using a full service shop is worth it. They should encourage you to wear the helmet for some time before buying. You don’t want to find out after you plunk down $$, that the helmet you thought fit you is agony to wear for more than 30 minutes. If you are indecisive about two different helmets, make sure you WEAR the 'most likely candidate' last, before purchase. If this is it. Buy it. Get the box and packaging for the helmet, if at all possible. THEN, take the new helmet home and wear it while watching TV or 'surfing the net'  for an hour or two... it can be tough to really get used to the fit, when somebody is staring at you (don't think about pink elephants right now), so wearing it while doing something else is probably the best way to make sure the fit is right. If you have any fit "issues" after this last at home test, RETURN the helmet. A reputable shop should have no issues with taking an ill fitting helmet back. Check out the shop's return policy BEFORE you walk out with helmet in hand.
Other NOTES:
A) Motorcycle Helmets should be retired/replaced EVERY five years, or at a maximum of seven years from date of manufacture (month/year usually imprinted on chinstrap or on label inside). When buying a 'clearance' helmet, the low price is often because the helmet is already 2-3 years old. No way to tell  how well or poorly a helmet has been stored. One reason ARAI stopped allowing any online sales of their helmets. Arai still insists that their helmets be FIT to the wearer, but it is now up to the buyer if to be sure of fit if purchasing online.
B) No matter how well taken care of, a helmet that has been dropped should be replaced. A helmet that has been in a crash MUST be replaced, for your safety. Your insurer may cover replacement of your helmet and/or other safety gear.
C) Always make sure you have a clear face shield (visor) available for your helmet. Carry one in your tank bag. If you find yourself out later than planned, or if the weather should change, it is dangerous to ride in low-light conditions with even the lightest tint visor. You won't realize what you are not seeing until it is too late. 
D) NEVERNEVERNEVER use any paper product (paper towels, tissues etc.) to clean your face shield. The tiny wood fibers will create microscratches in your visor over time. Use only cleaners made for plastics to clean your face shield. Products such as Rain-X and Windex contain amonia and will cause the plastic to yellow and become brittle.
Happy riding and stay safe!! LL

  ATGATT: Because walking away in disgust, beats riding away in an ambulance.

Post Edited (lionlady) : 11/24/2008 9:17:39 PM GMT

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

Email Address Not AvailablePersonal Homepage Not AvailablePrivate Messaging Not AvailableAIM Not AvailableICQ Not AvailableY! Not AvailableMSN Not Available
Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/21/2005 6:30 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Motorcyling Skills, what are they? by Johnny Monsoon
I was just reading another post, and it suddenly dawned on me why so many new riders can't differentiate between an appropriate machine to learn on, and one that exceeds the level of skill required to operate safely; I'll explain, and a new rider (or potential rider) should take a gander here as well...
We ride bikes as kids.  Some are small, and they usually start by having more than 2 wheels.  Later, we get a medium sized bike, and eventually work up to a larger '10 speed' style.  Operationally, they're all very much the same, and frankly I wouldn't say one takes any more skill to operate than the other.  The outcome is reasonably predictable in any given situation on any of the bikes, and the impact of a loss of control is generally an acceptable (I daresay low) level; and yes, I do understand that there are some very extreme bicyclists (I'm one).
Having the above be the only idea most new riders have to draw any similar experience from- and coupling that with general road-rules from driving a cage, it would be very easy to see how one could simply not comprehend how different bikes can behave so drastically different.  Truly, a Harley Davidson Electra Glide is very similar in operation to a Suzuki Haybusa.  If one were completely unaware of any performance (or purpose/comfort) difference, the choice would simply be style.
When more experienced riders speak of 'skills' we aren't really referring to the operation of the motorcycle- that's the relatively easy part.  A motorcyclists skills set is comprised of lots of practical physics, learning to read other drivers on the road (most of us can tell what a driver near us is going to do before they do it), how to encourage our machines to do things outside the boundries of parking lot maneuvers and learning to physically train our bodies to react a certain way to a particular situation or need (muscle memory). 
Riding is not like driving a car at all- it requires a lot of physical input from the rider to achieve the desired result.  A lot of people call motorcycling a sport- and on some levels I certainly agree.  A rider has a lot of training that he/she needs to accomplish before they are very good at it.  A rider certainly needs to develop their bodies in certain ways to control their motorcycle effectively.  It would be very easy to think that a rider is just someone who's chosen to take a motorcycle as their primary mode of transport and leave it at that, but there's a great deal more to it than strapping on a helmet and mixing with traffic.
A new rider must make themselves aware of this PRIOR to getting on a higher powered motorcycle.  Cars, can safely travel from 0-60 in the 12 second range (average car).  No real skill is needed other than pushing the gas pedal down and pointing the car in roughly the desired direction.  Remember how fast dad's car seemed the first time you actually DROVE it?  I do.  Consider now, that the average motorcycle can go from 0-100-0 in that same time (and quite a few do it faster yet).  By average motorcycle, I mean everything from an old '78 Goldwing to a Suzuki GSF500.  A fast machine can get you from 0-100 in around 4 seconds, and pull you through the quarter mile in the same time a top-fuel dragstar can; and this performance is available with no modification to the machine at all- straight off the showroom floor.  Think now, back to the first time in dear old dad's car again and how you felt- now think about what it MIGHT be like to do that on a two wheeled vehicle.
A lot can go wrong on a bike, and it IS a dangerous thing to do, really.  I don't want to dissuade anyone from riding- but I do want to ensure that new riders on this forum understand that when we mean you should start smaller to develop your skills, it isn't a dig at your abilities, but instead a means of ensuring you develop them in a manner to best help you survive and get the most enjoyment out of a motorcycle as you progress.  We're just looking out for you, and a lot of us have a lot of experience to share (and a lot of us have made painful mistakes!).

2004 BMW R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition #196


Post Edited (lionlady) : 9/24/2005 5:20:02 PM GMT

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

Email Address Not AvailablePersonal Homepage Not AvailablePrivate Messaging Not AvailableAIM Not AvailableICQ Not AvailableY! Not AvailableMSN Not Available
Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/21/2005 6:35 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
"How to Crash" by Ianisme
Now before some of you regulars start waffling on about not crashing in the first place, this thread is designed to help when fate overtakes desire and you end up tasting tarmac. I plan to start another thread with the opposite title.
There are several ways to crash but your reactions to all of them will be pretty much the same. As I see it the types of crash are
1. The Lowside. This is usually the least painful, both to you and to your bike. The cause is a terminal loss of grip, causing the bike to slide away from under you. The most likely reason is a change of grip in the road surface or simply leaning over too far.
When this happens it is vital for you to RELAX. In fact, relaxation is the single most important part of crashing. Lay back and think of something nice; don't worry about the sparks coming from your bike and try not to think about being hurt. The reason for relaxing is that your body slows much quicker when floppy and you can have time to consider your surroundings.
Try and maintain awareness of your surroundings; where is the bike? If it is in front of you then no problem. If behind then it may hit you. After a lowside the bike is usually in front and poses little or no threat to you. If it is behind then you may have to consider trying to push it away from you.
On no account must you try and stand up before sliding to a halt. Many limbs are broken this way as people misjudge their speed. The only exception to this rule is to avoid imminent danger from oncoming traffic. When you finish sliding, take a moment to do a quick check of yourself. If you judge that nothing is badly damaged then you can think about getting up and surveying the damage.
2. The Highside. This is the one that can hurt. The dynamics of this crash are that the rear tyre slides, then suddenly grips again. The result is that the rider is tossed off the top of the bike with great force (dependant on speed and lean angle). To be honest, you will not have much time to think when this happens.
About the only thing you can do to minimise the damage is to RELAX again. It is probably going to hurt as you have the vertical dimensions of the drop to add to the horizontal components of the speed of the crash. If you are lucky you will land fairly flat and on a nice soft verge. If that happens then the rules for the lowside apply. Pay special attention to where the bike might be as it could conceivably be tumbling through the air right towards you. After years of race marshalling I can state quite categorically that most of the worst accidents are highsides followed by the bike hitting the rider.
There's not a lot you can do to protect yourself from a flying bike. Don't crunch up into a ball or foetal position as this places your spine in an excellent position for being broken. Cover your face with your arms, especially if you are crazy enough to ride with no helmet or one of those stupid beanies. Think about minimising the damage; better a broken arm than a broken neck or fractured skull.
3. The Impact This one is also likely to hurt! This is a very common kind of accident often caused by inattention on the part of other road users. Anybody mention cellphones? The bike usually hits the side of the car resulting in unscheduled flying lessons.
There are a few things you can do to minimise the damage here, but they will require split second thinking on your part. Try and ingrain your possible reactions to any type of crash into your conscious and sub-sonscious minds every time you get on the bike. You will not have time to try and remember this stuff when it happens so try and make it instinctive.
If you are heading for the typical impact with the side of a car, try and stand up on the pegs just before impact. The reason for this is that you should sail over your bars and the car and are then looking at a similar situation to the highside above. The one advantage over the highside is that you will be flying in a fairly predictable arc. You will be going in the direction you were heading at the time of impact and generally not tumbling or twisting. If you get really lucky you might land on your feet, run  a few paces then fall flat on your face. That happened to me a long time ago and I escaped totally unhurt.
If you don't stand up before impact then you stand a very good chance of driving your helmet into the side or roof of the vehicle. You also are at serious risk of very bad leg injuries as you hit the bars (fellas should also think what the clocks can do to their "family jewels").
If the vehicle is very tall then standing up and flying over it is not going to work. If the impact is unavoidable then your only option may be to try and initiate a laydown of your bike. This will result in a lowside for which the previous rules apply. If sliding under a truck you will need very sharp awareness to avoid your head ending up underneath the wheels. This does happen. To lay your bike down, stamp hard on the rear brake and lean hard to the side you want to fall. The back wheel should lock and the lean will cause it to slide from under you. As the bike starts to slide then steering hard into the direction of the slide should hasten matters along.
After you have crashed you need to take stock of your situation. If you feel fine then by all means try to move. Check for movement at your extremities before going any further. If in doubt, lay there and don't move. Wait for the medics. They will ask you to remove your own helmet. If you cannot do that then they will do it for you. I hope there are 2 of them because that is really how many you need to do this safely.
I hope this is of some value to you and if anybody wishes to add or dispute these then please feel free to do so. The aim is to come up with a set of ideas worthy of sticky thread status.

2004 BMW R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition #196


Post Edited (lionlady) : 9/24/2005 5:21:45 PM GMT

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

Email Address Not AvailablePersonal Homepage Not AvailablePrivate Messaging Not AvailableAIM Not AvailableICQ Not AvailableY! Not AvailableMSN Not Available
Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/21/2005 6:41 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
"How NOT to Crash" by Ianisme
OK folks, as promised here is the follow up article.
Taking a cue from the first article, we have decided there are basically 3 types of crash. The highside, lowside and impact. The best form of surviving these crashes is to try and avoid them in the first place. These are a few ideas I have but you must consider them to be only notes and not a comprehensive list.
As the main cause of both lowsides and highsides is a lack of traction, then the avoidance of it is fairly straightforward. You need to learn to read the road surface and to know the adhesion limits of your bike. Lets look at a few examples.
A well used road surface suddenly changes into gravel. This is an extreme example but is very common in many parts of the US. I have never seen warning signs that this is about to happen either. If you are on an unknown country road then be aware that this could easily happen. So what do you do if you find yourself riding on gravel? Keep the bike as upright as possible, close the throttle and try and avoid using the front brake. RELAX Keep the bars loosely held as the bike slows down and don't try and fight with the steering. The bike will probably shimmy and weave a fair bit; let it! Keep calm and let the bike slow down at its own pace to a point where you feel back in control. You may need to brake too so try and only use the rear brake. If the rear wheel locks just release a bit of brake pressure. It is no big deal if the rear wheel locks when the bike is upright, but you will slow much faster if the wheel is braked but not locked. Thats why ABS equipped cars stop faster than non-ABS ones.
A well used road surface suddenly changes into brand new asphalt. No big deal in the dry but when wet it is a different story. Asphalt is a by-product of oil and, when wet and new, can release a lot of unamalgamated liquid. The surface then becomes like an ice rink and will require great care. Assuming you have entered it at speed then allow your speed to bleed off similar to the above. You will not be shimmying all over the road but the danger is still there. Try not to use the front brake at all, but if you have to then use sensitivity and be ready to release if you lock up. Front wheel lockups are much scarier than rear wheel lockups, and disaster is much closer, so be vigilant.
Other hazards. Many things may cause you to briefly lose traction. Typical street hazards are manhole covers, railway lines, spilled fluids and potholes. The approach for these is basically the same; avoid them if at all possible (countersteering is a very useful technique here). These hazards also multiply in severity when it is wet. If you find you cannot avoid them, keep the bike upright and try not to grip the bars too tightly as any reaction from you will be transmitted directly to the front wheel. In the vast majority of cases you will simply ride over the obstacle with no ill effects. If you end up riding through a deep pothole be aware that front wheel or tyre damage may occur (often invisible).
Rain will also result in a general lowering of the amount of grip available. If it hasn't rained for some time then all kinds of spilled fluids will leech to the surface resulting in even slicker conditions. Be especially vigilant at places where vehicles stop eg traffic signals, train crossings, STOP signs etc. In rain, SLOW DOWN
Painted road markings offer less grip than asphalt, especially when wet. Try to avoid riding over them if leaned over.
In autumn there is a big increase in the danger level caused by all the falling leaves. Those things do not make for a grippy surface, believe me. It gets even worse as they get wet and start to decompose. The result is a slimey gunge that is more slippery than a greased eel. Be especially cautious when riding through avenues of trees.
Talking of avenues of trees, be wary of riding through them after rain. The open road may have long since dried, but there will still be damp patches under the shade of these trees.
In winter you must be super alert for black ice. For those not familiar with the term, it is when there is ice on the road but it is indistinguishable from the normal road surface.
There are many other hazards associated with poor road surfaces but let's move on to hitting things.
Your best friends when faced with potentially painful bike/car interfacing are Observation, Anticipation and Reaction. To be even more succinct, assume the buggers are out to kill you and ride accordingly.
Observe what other road users are doing. Is there a car up your tailpipe? Is there anybody right next to you in your blind spot? What is the car in front doing? What are the ten cars in front of him doing? Is the car way up ahead braking or signalling? If so then prepare to slow down as the concertina effect happens. Often traffic in front will slow for no apparent reason so you must stay sharp and KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. There really is no excuse for running into the back of somebody as any insurance company can confirm.
This country is very bad for people pulling out from side streets with very little warning. If you see people waiting to pull out then keep a couple of fingers covering the front brake, move as far to the side of your lane away from them as possible and be prepared to countersteer around them. Look at their eyes; if they make eye contact you can be reasonably sure they have seen you. If not you may well be in trouble. The eye contact method is extremely effective and is a terrific way of helping to develop the sixth sense most bikers need to survive.
At traffic signals be wary of the red light jumpers. Again, it is worse here than just about anywhere I have ever been. Do not assume a green light means that all danger has passed.
Do not overtake in stupid places. A typical example might be the approach to a junction, near a factory or school or anywhere where people might turn unexpectedly, approaching a hump backed bridge or anywhere that the road is obscured.
This is such a huge subject that I will leave it for now. There are so many things to add that I'm sure the other board members will suggest. In the meantime, buy this book.

2004 BMW R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition #196


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   Posted 9/21/2005 6:47 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Lifted from another board, with permission. This illustrates some of the challenges the new rider faces. Some of his difficulties could be connected to the long lag time between taking the MSF and his first ride.
"First Ride Account" by NiftyPete
>>It has been almost a full year since I took my MSF, which is all the saddle time I have ever had. Last month I bought Cmack's Kawasaki 454 LTD. There was much snow on the ground then, and I have been patiently waiting for it to clear.
This morning I took Elanor out to the street, which was harder than I had thought. I keep it in my tiny front yard because my house is fully attached. (That means that I share a wall with a neighbor on each side with my property line going through various bricks.)  
So, I got it off its kickstand and started to roll it backwards so as to make it turn in an L and eventually out a small gate down the side walk, bumping down into the street. Ummmnph -- honey you are heavy!  
She started right up, but when I tried to ease off on the choke after a few minutes, the oil light went on and she sounded pained. I knew I didn't want to foul the spark plugs, but it really wasn't sounding robust.
Then I realized where I was, and where I had to go ,and what I had to do. This was getting pretty intermediate for a first ride. The other side of the street looked awful close to me. Right in front of me was a parked car.  I had to move Elanor up out of the steep kerbside, angle right, make it down to the corner and .... Yes there's a stop sign there.  
Given that I had no idea where the friction zone was yet, and that I didn't know how the brakes felt, I knew that I had my hands full. So, I hit the kill switch, keeping it out of gear. I was going to maneuver it into a less challenging starting position.
I dog walked it without power into position so that it was angled into the right direction. I didn't want to be doing low speed hard right turns until I knew this bike's friction zone.  
OK, start it again. Get it in gear. Let out the clutch -- yikes it is still uphill. A little more gas meant a lot more goose -- that was a thrill -- hearts thumping -- pedestrian appears on sidewalk and why is she staring at me? Stop sign on the corner. Ease the brakes --  where is that foot peg? Ease right hand brake in.
Wham, it stopped short, and over I went. Little pieces of orange turn signal lens were all over the asphalt and I was laying there like a turtle. The pedestrian was trying to run towards me, but I hit the kill switch (I'm smarter than I thought) and waved her off. I got out from under Elanor and lifted. Huhhhng -- nothing. Heavier than I had thought. Hunnnnhhhmmmph! Somehow I righted it on the second try, now that I knew how heavy she really was, and got the kickstand out.  Pitter-patter my little heart.  
Ok, my gloves and red technic jacket were barely challenged. Double kneed carhartt pants were just showing a little dust. The only thing wrong with my helmet was the fog growing inside because I was exhaling a lot of warm wet air.  
Up goes the visor but nada. Oh it is my glasses! note to self: clean with antifog next time! end of note to self because I am in the street. I'm a half block from my house, but feeling very alone.
Meanwhile a car pulls up behind me. I wave him past. No arguements and little curiosity is shown by the driver.  
OK, second time I explore the friction zone and I have to make an immediate right turn.  Wiggle wiggle but I got it going in the right direction. Stop light NOW! Car is stopped at the right and I am going to want to make another right when the light is green.  
Mercifully, I stopped without falling or even killing the engine. I managed the turn in first, but it seemed awfully torquey.  
Big street coming, stop light is mercifully green and I go through. Engine sounds big. Hmmm may I should get into second. OK, my first in motion gear shift. Before I can celebrate I see the stop light coming. Wow it stops fast!  
I had thought to turn right here, but no can do -- one way the wrong way. (I had remembered wrong.) The next block would be a big intersection with a busy street joining three streets from the right including the one I was on.  
Get there and stop sign -- yay that was almost smooth! Prospect park is in front of me. The busy street is mercifully quiet. The street I'd like to get on is way too sharp a turn to my right. I have another stop sign right before traffic so I go another twenty feet and stop again for the second stop sign in the series. This is all so easy in a cage.
Ok start and take a right onto a street that I had figured to be way too busy, Prospect Ave., but it is mercifully clear. One block and I shift into second as a kind of afterthought. Another block and there's another famous Brooklyn stop sign. I'll have to stop there and take a right to get to the street which I had wanted to be on in the first place and then take a left.  
On the other side of the street was the parking lot that I had made my destination this morning, but it was already filling with patrons impatiently waiting for the Key Food to open. I'll pass on that, let me just get home.  
Stop at the stop sign. Nothing coming. Ease off the clutch -- whoa this corner is suddenly waaaaay uphill. Ahhhgh   stall. Flop and over a second time. On the other side. Well, my other lens is intact. She's upright in no time, in spite of the stupid grade. I'm stronger than I thought I was and there's nothing wrong with my adrenal glands.
Start and gun it and away I go another block and a right, then a left. I'm on the street where I live. I am on the block where I live. I am in front of my home. Almost smooth stop. Neutral. Kill switch.  
Now I just have to get it up on that pavement and through that gate and L it around to left in that little slot between my house and that defunct garden.  
Off the bike. Start it while standing on the left. Clutch is in and right hand is squeezing the brake because of the steep grade down into the little gutter in front of my house. Loosen brake and the front tire is up against the kerb. I wonder how much it will take to get it up onto the sidewalk. Reach down with my hand and push it into first. She's alive now and I'm next to it.  
Ease up on the clutch and she's trying to climb. Good, I was afraid of too much power. More clutch and suddenly she's up. Let off and bump the rear tire is touching. Off clutch and that comes up too. Time for the kill switch. I get the kickstand down and notice I am exhausted. What was that? six blocks -- half a mile?
The bike is stable so I open the gate, take off my helmet and unzip my now broken in jacket. I get it off the kickstand, push it up the slight grade from the tree roots pushing up the sidewalk in front of my house, get it into my yard. Push turn pull and few times and I have made it into the L and almost where I had wanted it. Kickstand down again and to hell with it. I bring the jacket and helmet inside, bring out the bike cover, and cover Elanor. Then I walked to the corner and collected the bright orange pieces of the lens.  OK, I'm going to have to replace that.  
I feel strong. I feel humble. Tomorrow's another day, but I won't have time to take her out before work. I know that the big challenge is going to be getting her to the parking lot for that crucial practice. <<

2004 BMW R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition #196


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   Posted 9/21/2005 6:58 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
The Original Deacon Blues'
"Newbie FAQ's"  - Some major questions answered.

1) What Bike should I get?

2) What Gear should I get?

3) What Insurance Company is best for me?

4) What is this MSF course I keep hearing about? What should I bring?
5) Motorcycling is cheaper than driving a a car, right?

Q: I'm thinking of taking up motorcycling, what bike should I get?

A: Tis easier to answer what bike you should NOT get, which is any sportbike over 500cc displacement. These things are very spirited, and require a bit of finesse to pilot safely. In other words, if you should attempt to ride one without the properly developed reflexes of an experienced rider, you could end up in the road or in the ditch, hurting badly, if not killed outright. Sportbikes are for folks who have ridden enough miles to have developed riding skills and reflexes; beginners are just asking for trouble getting on one of these.

That said, there are a LOT of bikes out there that are suitable for new riders.

If you're on the smallish side, and/or don't particularly NEED to ride on freeways, any of the 250cc bikes will do just fine. Some say that these bikes get 'boring' too quickly, but I'm of the opinion that learning to ride a 250cc bike WELL will give you lots and lots of riding fun, and better prepare you for riding something bigger and more powerful.

If you think you'll need something to ride on heavy-traffic roads with (eek!) cars and trucks, then a 500cc to 750cc standard or cruiser will probably work. For taller riders, an up-to-650cc dual-sport bike is also a good choice (because they're durable, light, and look ugly enough that learning-curve 'drops' dont hurt the bike's looks much!). Just remember that these bikes DO have enough power to get you up to freeway speeds... and mistakes made at freeway speeds can hurt. So go easy.

I always recommend that you start out with a used bike. This is why. New bikes are all shiny and sparkly, but, as is the case with most new riders, the bike you get will probably be 'dropped' once or twice. We've all done this... forget to flick the sidestand all the way down, or get off balance, and the bike tips over. This usually results in SOME damage. Brake or clutch levers, signals, mirrors, and fairings have all gotten munched by a tipover. Repairing such things on a new bike can be expen$ive! But with used bikes, you don't fret over such things, because they usually come with their own set of 'battle scars'... and one or two more isn't that big a deal. Also, used bikes are usually less powerful that their new equivalents of the same displacement, thus a bit more forgiving for new riders.

Because bikes (and riding preferences) vary, often the only way to make this decision is to give a few the 'sitting test' which is to actually swing a leg over and see how you feel on the bike. But before you go charging off to the dealer, do this one thing first:
  • Enroll in a motorcycle safety course.

These are often hard to get into, and are usually booked for months. But, what you learn in a beginner rider course will be invaluable when yo're actually riding for the first time on your own bike. Plus, you'll discover A) if you really want to become a rider abd B) what kind of riding you like to do. This will help your decision on what bike to get immensely. So do this FIRST.

If you have a lengthy wait for your course, check out books on riding from your local library. David Hough's books on riding technique are great places to start.

For more information on beginner-appropriate rides, check out or

Also, Jon003 put together a great "Which Bike?" FAQ which can be found at


Q: What kind of gear should I get? It's all so expensive!

A: Well, think about this, would you rather spend the money on gear, or on medical bills?

Seriously, the adage "dress for the crash, not the ride" holds true. Those of us who HAVE gone down have been very thankful that we had protective gear. So, when you're getting that fist bike, set aside a pretty sizeable chunk of cash for the gear. Shrink your bike budget if you have to.

That said, you don't have to go out and get the latest and greatest. Fancy graphics on helmets don't do anything to increase the safety factor. Neither do "replica" race leathers (although if you have the money for a full set of lathers, that's a good thing). What you're looking for are motorcycle-grade jackets, pants, boots, gloves, sunglasses or goggles, and a helmet.

  • Jackets: should be armored, and if you get leather, make sure it's THICK. Those fashion leather jackets you get in the mall will shred themselves sliding on asphalt, and then the asphalt will shred you. You want something that's thick and tough, and will stand up to a slide. Cordura or kevlar jackets are also available, and are usually cheaper than leather. That's abrasion protection. The armor is for impact protection; without it you'll probably get bruises or broken bones. You need both.
  • Pants: same as jackets. Chaps will do in a pinch, but they can come off, or won't protect you all the way around (especially across the buttocks, which are usually left unprotected by chaps.) If the pants you get don't have armor pads, consider getting some; most motorcycle pants have internal pockets for the pads to fit into. Denim (unless it's kevlar reinforced like Draggin' JeansTM products) will shred in about 4 feet of being dragged across asphalt. Considering that you will probably slide a lot further than that in a get-off, you'll see why denim jeans aren't recommended riding gear.
  • Boots: There are differing opinions about these, but most agree that you need over-the-ankle protection from rocks and hot exhaust pipes, and thick oil-resistant soles with a good tread pattern, so you won't slip when putting your feet down. If you wear boots with laces, make sure they're tucked in so as to NOT catch on footpegs or shifters. You do want SOME fastener method, because stovepipe boots (cowboy boots, engineer boots) can come off in a crash and leave your tootsies completely at the mercy of the road or whatever else you end up falling into or onto. If you insist on stovepipe-style boots, wear pants that zip closed over them, or have a strap/buckle arrangement that runs around under the sole at the instep and thus fastens the boot in place.
  • Gloves: Again, gardening or work gloves won't really be enough protection. They'll help keep your hands from getting abraded (for as long as they survive) but impact protection is also needed. Plus, gloves need to protect your hands from the wind, as numb stiff hands are a liability when riding (how can you operate the brake or clutch levers when your fingers are too cold to move?). SO, consider motorcycling gloves. Again, you don't have to go overboard with some of the middle-ages looking gauntlets on the market, but get some with good protection for both your palms and your knuckles. The fingerless half-gloves are, of course, a bad idea... unless you don't mind not having fingers left after a get-off!
  • Sunglasses/Goggles: Stay AWAY from glass lenses or plastic frames if you can. If these shatter, you now have to deal with lots of sharp poky bits RIGHT next to your eyes. Polycarbonate lenses and metal frames are better. They're still breakable, but pose a lot less of a hazard. If your helmet (see comments below) is the half or three-quarter type, insist on goggles. You want something that provides a nice seal against stuff flying into your eyes from above, below, or the sides. Again, you don't need big huge aviator or ski goggles. The 'glacier glasses' style is enough, as long as there's padding around the eyecups so as to protect your eyes from stuff you'd rather not get into them (like dust, dirt, or bugs). Most motorcycle shops have a wide selection of sunglasses and goggles that are appropriate for riding. UV protection is always good, and amber lens "driving" or "shooting" glasses work great for foggy or overcast conditions, as they improve contrast perception. If you wear prescription glasses, ask your optometrist about getting prescription sunglasses or goggles for riding; most will be able to do this for you (and yes, they WILL cost $$$, but your medical/eye insurance may cover all or at least part of the cost.)
  • Helmets: This is by far the MOST important equipment you'll need. Without it, your brain is completely unprotected from impact, and can mean the difference between living and dying in a crash. Most states legislate that riders must wear a helmet (causing all sorts of debates on the subject) but it's really a common sense thing. You want to protect your head, regardless of what the state says. That said, what helmet to get? First off, look for a DOT label (not just a sticker) inside the rear of the helmet. This label tells you that the helmet design has been tested by the US Dept. of Transportation to protect against a certain amount of impact. A SNELL rating is even better, as the Snell Foundation has more stringent requirements, and also tests impact from the sides and below, not just the crown. Beware of helmets with just a DOT sticker on the back. These are often 'novelty' helmets that are made overseas, and have not been tested. Regardless of what you get, RESIST the temptation to peel any DOT/SNELL stickers off! Some states treat un-stickered helmets as novelty helmets, and you could earn a ticket if you get pulled over and the cop doesn't see the sticker (Texas is one state where this happens). You'd then need to show a judge the label on the inside to get out of the ticket, which is a hassle. So leave the sticker on.

OK, in the unfortunate even that you DO get in a crash, what to do with the gear?

Toss it. Most motocycle gear is designed to withstand ONE major crash. The protective foam inner core of helmets will only compress once, and after that won't spread the impact out like it was designed. It may look OK, but only a test by the manufacturer will tell the tale, and often it's more of a hassle to get the helmet tested than it is to get a new one. Jackets and pants are more easily determined to be 'ok' or not... but most folks hang the old gear up as a trophy and get new gear after they've gone down. Besides, you just

saved yourself a major fortune in medical costs! So get new gear. (Some motorcycle insurance policies will help you with the cost of replacing your gear - talk to your insurance agent to make sure.)


Q: Who carries the best insurance?

A: This is not a question to be answered here. Because insurance quotes vary with the agency, the age, gender and riding/driving experience of the policy holder, and the BIKE that is being insured, rates vary widely. The best way to get a good rate is to call around to many agencies and get quotes.

For new riders, expect high rates (because new riders are the ones MOST likely to get into accidents and/or have claims for damage to their bikes). Sportbike riders also get high rates (again due to high claim rates).

You CAN (usually) get the rates reduced if you pass a safety class or attend track school, keep your driving record clean of tickets, claims, and/or accidents, and join motorcycle rider clubs such as ABATE, AMA, MRF, or manufacturer-sponsored groups such as HOG (Harley Owners Group), RAT (Riders Association of Triumph) or Honda Riders Club. Again, talk to the insurance agent to get all the details.

Oh, don't even THINK about riding without insurance. If you get into an accident, you'll have nothing to cover damages, and because liability insurance is mandatory in most states, getting pulled over w/o insurance will result in additional fines, suspension of your drivers license, and so forth. Plus it's bad karma and generally a silly idea.


Q: What's this MSF course I keep hearing about? What do I need to take it?

A: The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is a nonprofit group that has put together "rider training" curriculum for both new and experienced street riders as well as dirt riders. Their courses (with some adaptations) are used the world over, both by states and civic agencies and by motorcycle manufacturers such as Harley Davidson. So when you hear the words "MSF Course" keep in mind it could be called something else, but is probably similar in scope. (This does NOT count track schools - those fall into another category.)

The MSF "Basic Rider Course" (BRC) is a two-day class, with two classroom sessions and two 'range' sessions. The classroom sessions cover all the book learning (theory, rules of the road, etc) where the 'range' sessions are times to actually do things on real bikes, starting with the proper way to prep and start the bike all the way through to complex evasive maneuvers and such. They're geared so each exercise is built on the previous one, so you can start out at "never touched a bike" to the point where at a "cerebral" level you know how to ride. The last classroom session is a written test, and the last range session has a skill test. Pass both, and you can usually waive the "skill" test when getting your motorcycle endorsement at the DMV. However, keep in mind that NO ONE can learn to ride in two days - treat the MSF as a primer to get you started, and practice what they teach you until you don't have to think about riding, you just do it.

Most (but not all) MSF-type BRC courses supply the bikes and the helmets. You will need to bring durable long pants, boots, long-sleeve shirt, sunglasses, gloves, water, and raingear. Full-fledged riding gear is NOT usually required, as you hardly ever get above 20mph on the range anyway. Some vendors/states may require a motorcycle learner permit; others may not, or only for certain age groups. Check with the course vendor for their requirements when you sign up.

These courses are VERY popular (in some states they may be required for riders under age 21) so expect to get on a waiting list. Prices vary by state and by vendor (usually in the $100- $200 range, but may be higher or lower depending on how old you are and/or where you live). Visit for more information, or to locate course vendors in your area.


Q: WOW, there's a lot of expensive stuff to pay for when you're riding! I thought this was a cheap way to get around! What's the deal?

A: Unfortunately riding is a bit expensive in a lot of ways. You do save in gas costs, and as you gain experience the insurance rates do get lower, but for the most part you do have to have deep pockets to own and ride a bike. However, most of us ride anyway, mainly because we get so much fun out of riding that the costs are well worth it!

2004 BMW R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition #196


Post Edited (lionlady) : 9/22/2005 2:50:39 PM GMT

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

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   Posted 9/24/2005 10:07 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
How to Pick Up a Fallen Motorcycle
link originated by Lil Red
This is a nice video and instructions on how to pick up your bike.  Just in case no one is there to help you. 
Now this Beemer does have some luggage on the side and it may not be as far over as some bikes, but it is worth watching.  "Skert" ride a K1200RS.  My husband has one.  And it isn't lite or little.  She weighs 118 and is by no means a big woman.  She has been all over the country on that bike.  Another inspiration to us woman bikers!!smilewinkgrin
The video sound can get a VERY 'chatty,' which is annoying to some. 

2004 BMW R1150R Rockster, Limited Edition #196


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   Posted 8/19/2006 5:04 PM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.

The Legend of the 'Bike Bell'  Also known as the Spirit Bell or Gremlin Bell.

Have you noticed that small bell on some people's bikes and wondered why it was there?

It's more than just decoration - It has a specific function.

As we all know, life has many mysteries that have no apparent solutions. One of these is Evil Road Spirits. They are the little gremlins that live on your bike. They love to ride. They're also responsible for most of your bike's problems. Sometimes your turn signals refuse to work, or the battery goes dead, the clutch needs adjustment, or any of several hundred other things go wrong. These problems are caused by Evil Road Spirits.

Road Spirits can't live in the presence of a bell. They get trapped in the hollow of the bell. Among other things, their hearing is supersensitive. the constant ringing of the bell and the confined space drives them insane. They lose their grip and eventually fall to the roadway. (Have you ever wondered how potholes are formed?) The bell has served its purpose.

If you have picked up a bell of your own, the magic will work. But if your bell was given to you, the power has been doubled, and you know that somewhere you have a special friend helping to look after you.

So, if you have a friend that doesn't have a bell, why not give them one? It's a nice feeling for the recipient to know you personally cared. The bell, plus a good preventive maintenance program by the bike's owner, will help eliminate the Evil Road Spirits.


  Youth and talent are no match for age and treachery. 

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   Posted 10/1/2006 7:14 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Here's the diagram with percentage of pavement contact for a full face helmet (courtesy of GeoffG, unsure of source):
The diagrams above show the impact areas on crash-involved motorcycle helmets.
(Source: Dietmar Otte, Hannover Medical University, Dept. of Traffic Accident Research, Germany.)
Note that 35% of all crashes showed major impact on the chin-bar area. This means that if you ride with an open-face helmet, you are accepting only 65% of the protection that could be available to your head.

If you ride with a shorty or half helmet, you are accepting only 39% of the protection you could obtain. You are literally throwing away 61% of the protection you would have had had you chosen a full-face helmet.

And, of course, if you ride wearing a “novelty” helmet or no helmet at all then you have none of the protection you could have chosen.


  Youth and talent are no match for age and treachery. 

Post Edited (lionlady) : 2/25/2007 8:04:12 PM GMT

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   Posted 1/23/2007 7:06 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
You've seen Superman fly, right?

Stand up, extend your arms as you pretend you're flying around the room.

When you push your right hand forward/down you'll start flying to the right. Push your left hand, fly left. That's basically it.

After flying around the house for awhile, get on your bike & give it a try smilewinkgrin
>>The best explanation I've seen. From

  Youth and talent are no match for age and treachery. 

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

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Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 12/26/2007 7:12 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
"Where should I carry my motorcycle registration and insurance card?"
>A lot of folks just tuck it in a zip-seal bag and tape it under the seat, or put it someplace else semi-permanent on the bike. One good way to make sure you ALWAYS have it with you when you ride.
BUT rolleyes  Consider this: If your bike is stolen, the thief has most of what is needed to be able to sell YOUR motorcycle out from under you. redface
It may be a hassle to remember, but you're probably better off keeping your registration in your wallet or in your jacket pocket. A small, waterproof document pouch (they come in all sizes) is simple and can be tucked in the chest pocket of your jacket.

  ATGATT: Because walking away in disgust, beats riding away in an ambulance.

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

Email Address Not AvailablePersonal Homepage Not AvailablePrivate Messaging Not AvailableAIM Not AvailableICQ Not AvailableY! Not AvailableMSN Not Available
Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/12/2008 11:39 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Form Equals Function: Sportbikes are Not Beginner Bikes by Matt Pickering


Well, another riding season is upon us and as it always happens, we get lots of inquiries from potential new riders on how to get into the sport, what's a good first ride, where to take safety classes and so on. One particular type of inquiry that pops up with almost clockwork frequency is from a small number of new riders who wish to buy 600cc and up sportbikes as their first ride.

For the past year and a half, I, along with lots of other BB forum members, have entertained this question of 600cc sportbikes for a first ride with patience and lots and lots of repetition. It seems this small group of newbies keep coming back with the same arguments and questions over and over again. As a result, I am going to take the time in this column to try and put into words, answers that get repeated over and over on the BB forums.

Allow me to state first and foremost that I am a sport rider. My first bike was a Ninja 250R and I put nearly 7000 miles on it in two seasons before selling it. I am presently shopping for my next ride and it will almost certainly be a sportbike or sport tourer in the 600-1000cc range. I am also building a track bike in my garage which I hope to complete this season (a Yamaha FZR600). Although I am not an expert rider by any stretch, I have tinkered enough and done enough research along with talking with other riders to be able to speak with some degree of knowledge on the subject.

This column is split into two parts. First, I would like to address the common arguments we see here as to why a 600cc sportbike simply must be a first ride along with rebuttals. Second, I want to cover the rationale behind why the BB community-at-large steers new riders away from these machines.

False Logic

On about a three month interval, a whole slew of questions pop up on the BB forum from potential riders trying to convince the community that a 600cc sportbike is a suitable first ride and then proceed to explain to us why they are the exception. I can almost set my clock to this pattern of behavior since it is almost swarm-like. I guess the newbies figure by swamping the forum with the same questions in lots of places we might trip up and endorse such a machine. Hasn't happened yet but they keep on trying.

For those of you that come to Beginner Bikes trying to convince us to endorse a 600cc sportbike, I offer you the following responses to your arguments.

#1: I can only afford to get one bike so it might as be the one that I want.


#2: I don't want to go through the hassle of buying and selling a used bike to learn on.

These two lines of reasoning pop up as one of the more common arguments. I am going to offer first a piece of wisdom which is stated with great regularity on the forums:

This is your first bike, not your last.

Motorcycle riders are reputed to change bikes, on average, once every two to three years. If this is the case (and it appears to be based on my observations), the bike you learn to ride on will not be in your garage in a few years time anyway whether you buy it new or used. You're going to sell it regardless to get something different, newer, more powerful, more comfortable, etc.

Yes, buying a bike involves effort and a financial outlay. Most of us simply cannot afford to drop thousands of dollars on a whim every time we want to try something new. Getting into riding is a serious commitment in time and money and we want the best value out it as much as possible.

However, if you can afford to buy outright or finance a 600cc or up sportbike that costs $7000 on average, you can probably afford to spend $2000 or so on a used bike to learn on. Most of the beginner sportbikes we recommend here (Ninja 250/500, Buell Blast, GS500) can all be found used for between $1500-$3000.

Done properly, buying and selling that first bike is a fairly painless process. Buying a used bike is no harder than buying new. I would argue it is a bit easier. No different than buying a used car from a private seller. If you've done that at least once, you'll know what to do in buying a used bike.

Selling a beginner bike is even easier. You want to know why? Because beginner bikes are constantly in demand (especially Ninja 250s). These bikes spend their lives migrating from one new rider to the next to act as a teaching vehicle. It is not uncommon for a beginner bike to see four or five different owners before it is wrecked or junked. There are a lot of people out there looking for inexpensive, reliable bikes and all of our beginner recommendations fit into that category.

If you buy a used Ninja 250R for $1500, ride it for a season or two, you can be almost guaranteed that you will be able to resell that bike for $1300 or so when you are done with it provided you take care of it. And on a bike like the Ninja 250R, the average turnaround on such a sale is two to three days. No joke. I had five offers on my Ninja 250R within FOUR HOURS of my ad going up on Cycle Trader. I put the bike on hold the same day and sold it four days later to a fellow who drove 500 miles to pick it up. My bike never made it into the print edition. Believe me, the demand is there.

And look at it this way: For those one or two seasons of riding using the above example, excluding maintenance costs which you have no matter what, you will have paid a net cost of $200 to ride that Ninja. That is extremely cheap for what is basically a bike rental for a year or two. Considering it can cost $300 or more just to rent a 600cc sportbike for a weekend (not including the $1500-$2000 security deposit), that is economic value that you simply cannot argue with.

Vanity Arguments

#1: The beginner bikes you recommend are dated and ugly looking.

#2: I want something that's modern and stylish.

#3: I want a bike that looks good and that I look good on.

I call these the vanity arguments. These are probably the worst reasons you can have for wanting a particular bike.

I will not disagree that aesthetics plays a huge part in the bikes that appeal to us. Motorcycles are the ultimate expression in personal taste in vehicles. Far more than cars. Bikes are more personal and the connection between rider and machine is far more intimate on a bike than a car. On a bike, you are part of the machine, not just a passive passenger.

However, as entry into world of riding and with the temporarily status that most beginner bikes have in our garages, looks should be the least of your concerns. As long as the bike is in good repair and mechanically sound, that is usually enough for most new riders to be happy. Most riders are happy to ride and they will ride anything given the choice between riding or not riding.

If you are looking at bike mainly because of how it looks and/or how you will look it and how others will perceive you on it, take a good, long, honest look as to why you want to ride. There are lots of people out there who buy things strictly because of how it makes them appear in the eyes of others. It's shallow and vain but it is a fact of life. It shouldn't be a factor in choosing that first ride but it is. I won't deny that.

The difference is: a BMW or Mercedes generally won't be leaving you hanging on for dear life if you stomp on the accelerator or throw you into the road if you slam on the brakes a little hard. Virtually ever sportbike made in the past 10-15 years will do both of those things given a chance to do so (for reasons that will be explained later in this column).

The population at large may think you're cool and look great on that brand new sportbike and ohh-and-ahh at you. The ohhs can quickly turn to screams of horror should, in your efforts to impress the masses, you wind up dumping your bike and surfing the asphalt. Will you still look cool with thousands of dollars in damage to that once-beautiful sportbike and with the signatures and well-wishes of your friends on the various casts you'll be wearing months afterwards?

You Be The Judge

#1 I'm a big rider so I need a bigger bike to get me around.

#2 I'm a tall rider and all of those beginner bikes just don't fit me the way the sportbike does.

#3 I'll look huge and foolish riding on such a small bike.

#4 My friends will laugh at me for riding something so small.

These arguments are almost as bad as the vanity arguments. The difference being is they simply show a lack of motorcycle knowledge for the most part.

Unless you are over 6'3" tall or are extremely overweight (meaning well over 300lbs), even the smallest 250cc motorcycle will be able to accommodate you without difficultly. To provide an example, the Ninja 250R has a load limit of 348 pounds. That is more than sufficient to accommodate a heavier rider in full gear and still leave plenty of space for cargo in tank, tail and saddle bags. Or enough to allow two-up riding between two average weight individuals.

The idea that bigger riders need bigger bikes is almost laughable. It's like saying small drivers need Honda Civics but bigger drivers only 100 pounds heavier need to drive Hummers to get around. Or Corvettes with plenty of power to pull their ample frames, as the analogy goes. It is only because of the small physical size of bikes compared to their users that this train of thought even exists. It simply doesn't hold up to scrutiny. A look at any motorcycle owner's manual will confirm that for you.

Tall riders suffer more from fit issues than weight issues. On this, they do have a point. I'm a taller rider (6'1"). I do fold up quite comfortably on the Ninja 250 which is considered a small bike. I found it perfect for my frame. Others haven't. Then again, my knees hit the bars on bikes like the Rebel 250 and Buell Blast. Just different ergonomics that didn't fit me.

For taller riders, a much better beginner fit is a dual-sport machine rather than a sport machine. They offer the high seat heights that make them comfortable rides and their power is well within acceptable limits. We have a small but vocal dual-sport community here and they will tell you, quite rightly, that a dual-sport is just as capable on twisty roads as a sportbike. The same properties that give sportbikes their cornering ability is also possessed by dual sports (high center of gravity).

As to peer pressure, I admit to taking more than my fair share of ribbing from my 600cc riding friends. Some of it good natured, some of it not. In the end, this argument falls into the vanity arena. Which is more important: Your safety and comfort on a bike or what your friends think?

The ways to deal with friends giving you a hard time about a smaller ride is very simple. Tell them to ride their rides and you'll ride yours. It's your ride, after all. Most true riders will accept other riders, no matter what they are on. Only posers and losers care that your ride doesn't measure up to their "standards". And if so, do you really want to be riding with them anyway? It's more fun to stand out than to be a member of a flock anyway. And if they don't buy that line of reasoning, try this one: "Well if you don't like my ride, why don't you go buy me something that you will like?". THAT will shut them up REALLY fast. It works too. Unless their name is on the payment book or the title, it shouldn't be their concern.

If your friends can't deal with your decisions, you're probably better off looking for new friends. And if you can't deal with the peer pressure, then you are putting your own safety at risk solely because of what others think. Revisit the vanity arguments above and think about why you want to ride.

Decision Justification Arguments

#1: I'll take it easy and grow into the bike.

#2: I'm a careful driver so I'll be a careful rider and not get into trouble.

#3: I drive a fast car so I'll be able to handle a fast bike.

#4: Other people have started on a 600cc sportbike and didn't get hurt. So why can't I?

These arguments are the most common ones put forth and the ones that are hardest to deal with. These are the arguments that start flame wars. Because it is on these arguments that you have to convince someone the idea of what a beginner bike is over their preconceived notions.

The arguments also often surface in what I call the "decision justification arguments". Many new riders have their heart set on a specific bike and often come to BB to ask about it not to get real advice but to get confirmation that their decision is right. In cruisers, standards, scooters and dual-sports, more often than not these "pre-decisions" are generally good ones. In sportbikes, more than 3/4 of the posters are trying to get the community to approve their choice of a 600cc machine as a first ride. Their shock is quite real when they are barraged with answers that don't meet their expectations and that is when a flurry of oft-repeated discussion ensues.

Let's take each argument in turn since these are the ones that turn up with regularity.

I'll take it easy and grow into the bike.

The purpose of a first bike is to allow you to master basic riding skills, build confidence and develop street survival strategies. You don't grow into a bike. You develop your skills on it. As your skills develop, so does your confidence and with it, your willingness to explore what the bike is capable of.

But you are also entering in a contract with the bike. It is two-way. You are going to expect the bike to act on your inputs and the bike in turn is going to respond. The problem is, your skills are still developing but the bike doesn't know that. It does what it is told. You want a partner in a contract to treat you fairly. On a bike, you don't want it fighting you every step of the way. And like most contracts, the problems don't start until there is a breakdown in communication or a misunderstanding.

In sportbikes, the disparity between a new rider's fledgling skills and the responsiveness of the machine are very far apart. That is a wide gulf to bridge when you are still trying to figure out what the best inputs and actions on the bike should be. Ideally, you want your bike to do what you tell it and do it nicely. You never want the bike to argue with you. Modern sportbikes, despite their exquisite handling will often argue violently right at the moment a new rider doesn't need them to.

Remember, riding is a LEARNED skill. It does not come naturally to the majority of us (save those like the Hayden brothers who were raised on dirt bikes from the moment they could walk). It must be practiced and refined. Riding is counter-intuitive to most new riders. It doesn't happen the way you expect. For example, at speeds over 25mph, to get a bike to go right, you actually turn the bars to the left. It's called counter-steering and it eventually comes naturally as breathing once you've been in the saddle for a while. But for new riders, this kind of thing is utterly baffling.

You want your skills to grow in a measurable and predictable fashion. You have enough to be fearful of riding in traffic. The last thing you need is to be fearful of what your bike might do when you aren't ready for it. It's never a good situation.

It is interesting to point out that only one manufacturer, Suzuki, explicitly states in their promotional material that their GSX-R family of sportbikes are intended for experienced riders. This also applies to several of their larger, more powerful machines (such as a GSX-1300R Hayabusa). If Suzuki issues such a warning for its top-flight sport machines, it is reasonable to say that the same warning would apply equally to similar machines from other manufacturers.

  ATGATT: Because walking away in disgust, beats riding away in an ambulance.

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-----Mistress of Novices. -Total miles: 85,000+

Email Address Not AvailablePersonal Homepage Not AvailablePrivate Messaging Not AvailableAIM Not AvailableICQ Not AvailableY! Not AvailableMSN Not Available
Date Joined Sep 2003
Total Posts : 2759
   Posted 9/12/2008 11:46 AM (GMT -7)    Quote This PostAlert An Admin About This Post.
Form Equals Function: Part Two by Matt Pickering - (originally posted on

In Part One of this article, we covered a lot of the excuses that new riders give for wanting to start on a 600cc sportbike. This second half finishes off our discussion of this reasoning and discusses why high-powered sport machines are not the ideal beginner machine.

False Logic Completed

Last month, we covered many of the reasons new riders give to justify why they want or should get a 600cc sportbike. Now we finish with the last and most common excuses given.

"I'm a careful driver so I'll be a careful rider and not get into trouble."

This is what I call the "I'm responsible and mature" argument. This one is a general excuse and does not apply to sportbikes in particular.

Recent studies have shown that 90% of all drivers feel that they have average to above-driving abilities compared to other drivers on the road. These drivers also said that they think 60% of those on the road are less skilled than they are. It's an interesting perception as it indicates a mentality that everyone else is sub-par, not you. Obviously someone has to be wrong because the percentages just don't add up.

A proper attitude towards driving as well as riding is essential. But these same drivers who see themselves as superior also engage in dangerous driving habits (aggressive weaving, illegal passing, bad merges, following too close, lack of attention to traffic/road conditions, etc). Very few drivers are truly honest with themselves and their ability to handle a vehicle.

The problem is, on a bike, the perception that you are responsible is not enough. On a bike, you must be. You either learn to be or you are going to be in trouble really quick. In talking with other riders I have found that they tend to be much more defensive and thoughtful drivers behind the wheel because riding raises their perception of their surroundings.

Ultimately, responsible and mature does not equate to riding skill. It has nothing to do with it except how you will approach riding in general. You want to know the sign of a responsible rider? Look at their gear. Are they in full safety gear? Watch them ride. If you are seeing them turn their heads to clear their blind spots, making careful and smooth maneuvers, leaving a nice, safe amount space around them and working to maximize your chance of seeing and knowing what they are doing, then you are looking at a responsible rider.

Now do the same exercise and watch the drivers around you. How many turn their heads to check their blind spots, signal lane changes, leaving several car lengths of space in front of them, weave in and out of traffic or dash to the end of a ramp and then attempt to force themselves onto the highway rather than yield like they are supposed to? I'm willing to bet it's not going to be a pretty significant percentage. Now imagine these same individuals on a bike. I'm sure you'll be able to spot more than a few of these types on bikes to (just look for the T-shirts and flip-flops as they blast by you at 100mph on the Interstate on the right).

How you approach the task of driving is how you will approach riding. Attention to the task of riding is the number one way you avoid trouble by not getting into it in the first place. Study your own driving habits. Good habits will definitely keep your chances of getting into trouble but they have little to do with controlling a motorcycle. Any motorcycle. Many lax drivers often become much better drivers as the result of riding a motorcycle. It is far less common for it to go in the other direction.

"I drive a fast car so I'll be able to handle a fast bike."

Of all the excuses and justifications, this one is my personal favorite. It is in the top three most common excuses given and it shows a complete and utter lack of motorcycle knowledge. It is a statement made out of naivety rather than ignorance.

Most of the folks who make this statement own fast cars (Corvette, Mustang, Acura, modified Civic, etc) or think they do. The belief is that if you can drive fast in a car you can handle a bike that can go fast. I would argue unless these folks race cars on weekends, driving a car that can go fast does not make them a experienced high-speed driver. And for those that do understand how to handle a car at high speed, it gives you knowledge of braking and traction but even that knowledge is useless for one simple reason:

Bikes are not cars.

Braking, traction control, acceleration and handling are totally different on a motorcycle. Cars do not lean. Bikes do. When bikes lean, it changes the part of the tire contacting the ground (the contact patch/ring) and changes the stability and dynamics of the bike from moment to moment. The physics of motorcycle control are in a league of their own. Even the ability to race cars will not give you instant godhood on a motorcycle.

Are you aware that a racing motorcycle (any 600cc supersport made today basically) when it is turning is touching the ground with an amount of rubber equal to a couple of postage stamps? The same applies to any street bike at deep lean angles except they don't have the advantage of a smooth surface to hold on to or sticky race tires. Now imagine having to control the power and the amount of traction you are getting in that space.

Like being responsible, the ability to handle a car at high speed has nothing to do with handling a fast motorcycle. You are missing two wheels, a cage and a seatbelt on a bike. Turning at 70mph becomes a whole different world on a motorcycle compared to car. Braking is a different experience too. It is fairly hard to stand a car on its front fender if you stomp on the brakes. It can be done with two fingers, a good amount of speed and a moment of panic on a sportbike. The only cars that have brakes equal or better than that of a sportbike built in the last 10 years is a Formula One race car.

The skills to handle the potent combination of acceleration, instant-on power and brakes are best learned on a smaller machine so when you finally get on that ultimate sportbike, you have an idea of what to do and how to handle the machine. Driving a car won't give you that. Only time in the saddle, the more, the better.

"Other people have started on a 600cc sportbike and didn't get hurt. So why can't I?"

This is probably the number one reason that pops up. However, it isn't so much a reason as an observation. And it is a true one. Every year, lots of new riders go to their local dealerships or scour their local ads and bring home a brand new or used 600cc sportbike. And many of those riders do successfully manage to get through their learning process on these machines.

The purpose of a first ride more than any other is to get the risk of riding for the first year or two as low as possible. You want your margin of forgiveness in the bike to be as wide as possible. A 600cc sportbike gives you very little of that. Yes, a 600cc down low is a tame if sensitive machine. However, it takes very little twist on the throttle to induce a large jump in rpm's. A brief bump on a pothole with a death grip on the throttle can introduce a 4000rpm jump in the blink of an eye (speaking from personal experience). In an experienced rider's hands, this is alarming but recoverable. A gentle rolloff or a little clutch feathering manages the surge nicely. In the hands of a newbie trying to figure out the best reaction to such a scare, a rapid closeoff or a panic brake is often the result and can get you into trouble very, very quickly.

Yes, a new rider can start on a 600cc sportbike. It is NOT RECOMMENDED! The reason this line of reasoning pops up so often is because everyone feels they are the exception rather than just another new rider. It makes sense. It's hard to think of oneself as just another face in the crowd. As a rider, I know I am just another average rider. Although I have track aspirations, I have no doubt as to where my skill level is and it is definitely not in (or ever was) in the "start on a 600cc exceptional group".

In the end, to deal with this line of reasoning is going to involve the new rider, not the one giving the advice. No one can stop that person from going out and buying a 600cc sportbike as a first ride. And maybe they will succeed and crow about all the bad advice they received on starting small. Great! They were the exception.

What you don't hear about are the non-exceptional people. Very, very few new riders who start on 600s come back to talk about their experiences if they aren't in the "I've had no problems." group. On the forums recently, there have been a couple folks who admitted they got 600cc sportbikes to start on and indicated that it had been a less-than-ideal choice. This type of honesty is refreshing and it is very, very rare. I am grateful these riders stepped up.

Most of the time, we never learn the fate of those riders who start on 600s. Some make it and simply never bother to tell their tales except to friends. Some wind up scaring themselves so badly (by getting out of control or by actually dumping the bike and injuring themselves) that they sell off and never ride again. These types can be found. Just troll the ads for new supersports with one owner and low miles. The worst of this class of riders are the ones who become "born again safety advocates". These riders who scare themselves out of riding occasionally become preachers that tell anyone who will listen that "motorcycles are dangerous and should be banned". What they don't tell those they are preaching to is how they got that way. It's bad enough having to deal with the general public (who are at least honestly unaware of what riding is about) but a lot worse to be sabotaged from within by someone who did it to themselves and got in over their head.

Then there is the last group of these "started on a 600cc sportbike" riders that never tell us their tales. They never do because they can't. Instead, they enjoying peaceful surroundings and occasional visits by bereaved family and friends. They made that one mistake, that one error that compounded into a tragedy of inexperience. They can never tell us what that error was so we can learn from it and maybe also tell us that they should have started on something smaller. They were successful right until the point their skills and luck ran out. This can happen to any of us on any bike. But, in the end, new riders on a powerful sportbike can be a recipe for disaster.

Be honest with yourself. Very honest. Take the advice and wisdom of others more experienced than you and consider what they are saying. They may have a point. But if you opt for that 600cc sportbike, be assured you will still be accepted as a rider and still encouraged to act as safely as possible at all times.

The Final Equation

We've covered the reasons why people justify or want to get a 600cc sportbike. But we have one more thing to answer and it is simple: What makes these bad bikes to start on?

Sportbikes are built as racing machines, pure and simple. They are built in response to guidelines laid down by racing bodies for a particular class and made to win races in that class. Ducati, for example, spends most of their existence building bikes to win races. Since 1950, Ducati was always a racing bike manufacturer first and their products reflected that philosophy. A by-product of winning races is the fact that people see those winning machines and want to ride them (if you're going to ride, you might as well ride the best as it goes). It didn't take the motorcycle manufacturers long to figure out that there was a market demand for these machines and reacted accordingly.

Sportbikes represent a technological arms race. This has really become apparent in the past 5-10 years where new models eclipse last years models with better performance and capability with each passing year. To compare a 1989 Honda CBR600F Hurricane (the original CBR) to a 2003 CBR600RR is pointless. There is no comparison except in the model designation showing a distant family relation. The new CBR is lighter by at least 50 pounds and packs 30 percent more power, handling and braking ability that makes the original CBR look like a ponderous dinosaur. But just because that original CBR dinosaur has been eclipsed doesn't make it any more tamable. If anything, older sportbikes are far more temperamental than the descendants.

Consider the fact that this year a privateer (independent racer) bought a Yamaha YZF-R1 off the showroom floor, took off the lights and mirrors, added a race belly pan, exhaust and tires and placed in the top ten at the AMA Superbike race at Daytona. The bike was two weeks off the floor and basically stock (the modifications with the exception of the pipe are required). Since factory sponsored teams tend to take the top slots, any privateer that can break in the top ten is doing well by anyone's definition.

Because sportbikes (and especially 600s since they compete in the most populous racing class out there) are designed first as racing machines, they are built with handling, acceleration and speed in mind. Not just one quality at the expense of others but all of them in abundance! Centralizing the mass of the bike at the center of gravity (CoG) gives the bike neutral stability. The high riding position and the perching of the rider over the CoG gives the bike the ability to flick over rapidly.

The steering geometry and short wheelbase of these bikes is designed to provide short and rapid directional changes. Combined with the higher CoG and mass centralization, the steering setup is what gives sportbikes their amazing turning ability.

Engine designs vary but have settled on V-twins and inline fours as the preferred choices. The sportbike V-twins are liquid-cooled, high-rpm engines designed to generate massive torque (hence acceleration) and power in the mid-range of their design limits. Witness the success of Nicky Hayden and Miquel Duhamel on the Honda RC51 in AMA Superbike as testament to the massive grunt these engines put out. So potent in fact that the AMA changed the rules for the following season to even the odds between the V-twins and inline fours. The inline four equipped bikes simply couldn't outpower the twins on curvy portions of the race circuit.

The inline four is by far the most common engine layout in sportbikes including all 600cc sport designs (the Ducati 620SS has a V-twin but is air-cooled and the bike is not a racing machine). All of the sportbikes that new riders lust after are equipped with this engine design. High-rpm capability (redlines vary between 11K and 16K rpm), liquid cooled and designed to produce peak power at very high rpms. The inline four delivers smooth and increasing power as the throttle is opened. Power tends to build to the peak point, at which power the engine will tend to surge to peak power and fall off as the peak point is crossed. Although nowhere near as bad as a race-tuned two-stroke (which literally double their horsepower as the engine transitions to peak power), the engine displays its roots as a racing thoroughbred.

A 1mm or 1/16 of an inch twist of the throttle can easily result in a 2000-4000rpm jump.
You can be cruising along at a sedate 4000rpm, hit a pothole and suddenly find the bike surging forward with the front end getting light at 7000rpm. Definitely unnerving the first time you experience it.

And then there are the brakes. Braking technology has gotten progressively more potent over the past ten years. Even older sportbikes sport twin disc setups with two or four piston calipers designed to get these bikes down from 150mph to 60mph as quickly as possible. Current generation bikes are unreal. These brakes have grown to six piston calipers with massive discs whose sole job is to slow a 180mph missile down to corner speed in the shortest distance possible. If you ever watch racers, notice that they tend to only use two fingers to brake. They don't need anymore than that. The brakes are almost too powerful. And accidents happen on the track a lot due to bad or late braking.

All of these qualities produce an exquisite riding machine. The problem is, all of these qualities are designed to operate at extremes since it is under extreme conditions that these bikes are intended to operate. For the street, these capabilities are overkill. A hard squeeze of the front brake on the street can easily get a sportbike to lock its front wheel. Same applies to an over-aggressive stomp on the rear brake. No matter which way you slice it, highsides hurt.

The powerful engine can literally get you from 0 to 45mph in the blink of an eye in first gear.
Come up one gear and you can be at 70mph with the slightest drop of your wrist. Add in one bump at speed without knowing what the throttle is going to do and suddenly you aren't at 70mph anymore. You're at 90+ mph and the bike is tickling its "sweet spot". At this speed, you better not panic. If you botch the slowdown from this error (either by a rapid rolloff or a shift), you can find yourself in serious trouble.

The handling capabilities of sportbikes actually make them wonderful machines to ride once you are used to thinking where you want to go. This actually gives them great beginner qualities (if on the extreme end). The downside is this perfect handling is slaved to amazing power on tap and the brakes that can back it off just as quickly.

In the final equation, a 600cc sportbike is little more than a racing machine with street parts bolted on. They aren't designed for street use; they are adapted to it. But no compromises are made in that transition. The same R6, GSX-R600, ZX-6RR or CBR600RR you can buy off the showroom floor can be converted in an afternoon, be at the track the next day and wind up winning races. And the sportbikes from 10 years ago were the R6s, Gixxers, Ninjas and CBRs of their day. They possessed the same qualities that their modern descendants do just not with the same maximums. Even today on the street, a 15 year old sportbike is little different than its 2003 cousin. The 2003 might accelerate quicker, stop shorter and lean farther but at the speeds us mortals ride at, there will be little difference.

Sportbike technology has gone an amazing distance in twenty years. Performance and ability has almost doubled in that time. But rider ability has not and a new rider from 20 years ago would still have the same challenges then as a new rider would today on an R6. Sportbike form evolved to meets its function: to win races. Always has, always will. And riders will lust after these technological marvels for that reason. Can you start out on one? Yes. But you can also pretend to be a GP racer on a smaller sportbike that gives up nothing to its bigger brothers where most of us spend our riding days. It is always more satisfying to smoke a 600cc or 1000cc sportbike in the twisties on a Ninja 250 or GS500 than a bigger bike.

But when you are ready to answer the call of the Supersport, they will be waiting for you and you'll be better off having honed your skills on the smaller sportbike. Supersports are not beginner bikes. But they make great second and third bikes.

The choice is yours.

  ATGATT: Because walking away in disgust, beats riding away in an ambulance.

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