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I was rooting around in some old photo albums recently, and came across this picture, which is me on my very first motorcycle ride…
The picture was taken around 1970, most likely on a family trip to the Sandy Hook boardwalk (the same one that was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy last fall.) As far as I can tell, this was my first experience riding a motorcycle. The haircut is unfortunate (a DIY bowl cut courtesy of my mom). The sweater isn’t the most stylin’ one out there, but it was lovingly hand-knitted by my nonna, who was ALWAYS knitting.
I was fascinated with motorcycles from the beginning. I remember gazing out the window of my grade school in third grade and seeing a rider go by on a Honda CB 750. I remember thinking, “When I’m a grownup, that’ll be me.”
Several years later my father bought me a mini bike with a Tecumseh pull-start engine. I had a blast running that thing through the woods behind my house. That was my first real experience on a two-wheeled machine with a real engine.
My next ride was a Puch Magnum moped that I bought from a classmate in high school for $300. That machine gave me my freedom. I rode it all over northern New Jersey, visiting friends who lived in towns like Teaneck and Nutley, I found a way to the Willowbrook Mall from my home in Clifton without using any highways. I logged thousands of miles on it.
Until the day that a 1980’s version of a soccer mom made a left turn in front of me on Grove Street in Montclair. I smashed into the front right quarterpanel of her car, went face first into her windshield, flew through the air somersault-style and landed on my back in the grass beside the road. I immediately jumped up and shouted, “MY MOPED!!!” and tried to run over to it until some others who were on the scene convinced me to lie back down. The rest was a blur. My guardian angel must have been watching over me that day, because my only injuries were a gash on my shin where my leg hit the kickstand, and a popped zit on my forehead right at the point of impact between my forehead and the windshield. No joke. I walked out of the hospital that night, was sore for a few days, and generally got back to life without incident. But also without my moped.
It would be almost 30 years before my next bike, when at age 42 I got a divorce, my M-class license, and a 2008 Triumph America.
Since that time, riding has been my passion.I can’t imagine life without motorcycles and I can’t remember how I went from age 16 to age 42 without one in my life. I’m currently struggling to get through a cold winter with motorcycles wintering in my foyer. But March is just a few weeks away, and I know very soon on a warmish Saturday next month I’ll be pushing them back outside and firing them up. Hope to see you on the road then!
How to properly winterize your motorbike is an ongoing question for first time riders. I know for me, the first winter I put my bike away for the year, I didn’t even think there were things I had to do. I just stopped riding it and parked it on the front porch. Boy was I surprised when I went to ride it a few weeks later on an unseasonably warm day and it wouldn’t start.
So when I got the offer of a guest blog post from Bobby Cleveland, the Gold Eagle Engine Answerman and spokesman for the STA-BIL® folks, I jumped at the opportunity to publish it as a service to my readers.
After getting my bike running again that first year when I didn’t winterize, my mechanic suggested I use STA-BIL® in my fuel tank during the winter to preserve the gasoline and make sure the bike started in the spring. I’ve been using it ever since; it’s good stuff that works. I’ve seen some debate whether it’s really necessary but for a couple of bucks, it’s well worth the investment.
And here are Bobby’s suggestions for proper winter storage.
Five Steps to Proper Winter Storage of Your Motorcycle
By Bobby Cleveland, Gold Eagle Engine Answerman
With winter rapidly approaching, most of us are bidding farewell to our joyous motorcycle rides in the warm summer breeze and getting them ready to store for the colder months ahead.
But, what most aren’t looking forward to is the process of getting this completed. In fact, a national survey conducted by Gold Eagle® Co., an industry pioneer of aftermarket fluids and additives, found that 97 percent of consumers know that properly storing their motorcycles in the offseason will actually help them run at optimal performance come springtime. However, almost 75 percent of people encounter issues when taking their motorcycles out of storage—which means they likely missed some important steps when storing them in the first place.
To help prepare for winter storage, Gold Eagle Engine Answerman®, Bobby Cleveland, has some helpful time-and money-saving tips to help ensure you properly prep your motorcycles for storage, so they are ready to rev up come springtime.
Step One: Block off a few hours in your schedule to ensure you have time to complete the process. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, and it’s well worth the time, as you’ll be helping protect your motorcycle from corrosion, rust and other damaging elements and avoid repair costs in the spring.
Step Two: Clean your bike thoroughly to remove all residue and dirt from surfaces, so it doesn’t sit all winter long. Using a cleaner like 303® Fabric & Vinyl Cleaner to remove residue that could cause stains if it sat through the cold winter months. Also, using a protectant like 303® Aerospace Protectant will help keep vinyl and leather from cracking in lower temperatures.
Step Three: Clean beyond the surface, taking care to clean the INSIDES of your bike too. Fuel problems are a top issue that motorcycle owners run into during storage and it’s important that you complete this step properly, or you’ll face consequences come spring. With this in mind, when winterizing your bike, leave your gas tank full of fuel and add STA-BIL®Fuel Stabilizer. If you’re fuel is fresh, you do not need to drain it, but if you’ve had it more than a month, you should drain it completely and refill with fresh fuel.
Once you’ve filled your tank and added a stabilizer (use 2 oz to every 5 gallons of gasoline for storage), you should run your engine for a few minutes to make sure the fuel stabilizer gets into the carburetor and injectors. By filling the tank with fuel and stabilizer, you clean the carburetors and fuel injectors and ensure there is less air in the tank to prevent corrosion. If you leave air in the tank, it creates condensation, which can cause corrosion, so the more you eliminate water in your tank the better.
Here’s a video explaining why this is an important step in the winterizing process:
It is also a good idea to use a fogger to coat the inside of the engine when it is stored. You can use STA-BIL® Fogging Oil that you spray into your carburetor to coat the inner lining and prevent corrosion.
Step Four: Make sure your battery is properly charged, so you don’t end up with a dead battery come spring. You’ll want to make sure it has at least a trickle charge. Check your engine manual to make sure you are doing this correctly.
Step Five: Cover the bike properly and store it in a cool, dry place. This will help to keep any eroding elements away from the surface and keep it in the best shape until you are ready to take it out next spring.
Written by Bobby Cleveland – Bobby Cleveland shares his engine knowledge as Gold Eagle’s Engine Answerman. As a former technician, he shares his experience and advice with consumers on how they can obtain greater performance out of all things motor—from power sport vehicles and classic cars to household power equipment such as string trimmers and lawnmowers. Learn more from Bobby at his blog – On the Road with the Engine Answerman.
One of my motorcycling new years resolutions was to get additional training this year. I fulfilled this resolution a few weeks ago when my friend Pete and I took a one-day class at California Superbike School at New Jersey Motorsports Park. It wasn’t a small investment – about $500 for the day including rental of a track suit – but it was well worth it. The class changed my riding style and made me 100% more confident in the corners.
The format of the class was solid: 15 minutes or so of classroom instruction; followed by track time to practice on the techniques learned during the class; followed by a brief meeting with a rider coach who spends some time watching your technique on the track. Over the course of the day, we repeated this cycle five times for five different instructions.
Right from the start, I learned something new. And I’m embarrassed to say that this was a new concept for me: cut the throttle heading into a corner, and when you hit the apex of the corner, smoothly accelerate out. (NOTE: See this post for a correction. I got this point wrong.) I either missed it when they talked about it in the Motorcycle Safety Course or just never learned it. Once I started practicing this technique, everything changed. My most common cornering mistake is coming into a corner too fast. Then I need to use the brakes, then I need to change direction. If the turn is a right-hand turn and there’s oncoming traffic, margin of error is decreased and it’s all that more difficult to get through the corner – and all that more dicey. Make it a hairpin turn on a mountain pass with a sheer drop off, and uh oh…
By controlling the throttle actively, I’m now able to modulate my speed, and rolling on the throttle as I exit the corner helps me maintain my line and get through the curve quickly. You can really see Pikes Peak Hill Climbing champion Greg Tracy using this technique in his video.
Another important learning for me was the notion of countersteering – pressing on the right side of the motorcycle handlebar and pulling on the left side of the motorcycle handlebar to turn right. This was taught in a one-on-one sidebar session and it was really, umm…counterintuitive for me. As the instructor explained the concept (which I’d heard of, but never really understood), I was still incredulous that pressing on the right side of the bars will initiate a right turn. When I’m standing still on the bike, straight up and down, and I press right, it looks like I will turn left.
But here’s the thing – I’m on a rounded tire, and riding at a good clip, and I’m also leaning the bike over. In this case, counter steering works. Nobody really does a good job explaining counter steering:
Example 1 (Love how he waves at some other bikers at the 40 second mark and says, “Nobody waves. Assholes.”)
Example 2 (This one’s a little bit better.)
Example 3 (ummmmm……..)
It’s one of those things that I just had to accept on faith. And once I tried it, I was amazed by the results. Now when I really focus on and exaggerate countersteering in my turns, pushing harder on the left handlebar to make a left hand turn and on the right to go right, my turns get a whole lot snappier.
I paid an extra $20 to have my lap times recorded, and I’m glad I did because I could really see my progress:
Average lap times:
Session 1: 3.03
Session 2: 3.04
Session 3: 2.38
Session 4: 2.39
Session 5: 2.32
My fastest lap was 2:30.6, which was the second lap of the final session:
I did NOT pay extra to rent one of the school’s BMW S1000RR‘s, and I’m sorry I didn’t. This was an extra $250 and both Pete and I decided to bank the savings and ride our own bikes, which was an option. Pete rides a Triumph America and I was riding my V-Strom. We both felt silly. Not everyone rode the beemers, but everyone else on the track had a sport bike of some ilk. And the tech inspector had a visible smirk on his face when we checked in our bikes.
I got some bad information when I asked someone at the BMW booth at the NYC Motorcycle Show about this. I had asked if we would be out of place on non-sportbikes, and the rep replied “Not at all. We had a guy riding an ElectraGlide last year, and we had to tell him to turn his radio off during the sessions.”
If I had it to do over again, I’d suck it up and pay the $250 to rent the beemer.
Given the quantum leaps the class made in my riding confidence, I’m planning to go back for the Level 2 class next year. I’m also planning to take the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program‘s RiderCourse 2 in October. You can never have enough training or instruction with motorcycle riding, and the fact that I didn’t know some very basic riding and cornering techniques even after four seasons of riding really emphasize this. I spend thousands every year on farkles and gear, now I’m going to make sure I set aside a bit of that cash for training on an annual basis.
A few more pics from the day…
This is a question that comes up time and time again on the internet: what’s the best bike for a first time rider. And any time someone writes on the subject, it’s like whack-a-mole: you’re gonna get hit in the head by someone who disagrees with your list.
I’m doing it a little different and taking a page out of People Magazine’s formula with my list of the sexiest bikes for first time riders. Let’s face it. Part of the appeal of riding a motorcycle is the massive incremental sex appeal that it gives the rider. Someone who knows how to throw a leg over a two-wheeled beast and launch it is by definition sexier than someone who doesn’t.
I had a few criteria for this list. (1) the bike had to be less than 1000 cc’s, which I think is the upper limit for a first time rider. (2) the bike had to be available in the 2012 model year. And (3) the bike had to cost less than $10,000 out the showroom door (not hard to do considering criteria #1, but I’m putting it out there anyway.)
Normally I wouldn’t recommend anyone – let alone a first time rider – buy a brand-new bike. You end up paying dealer setup fees and shipping which can add another grand to your purchase price. There are so many bikes available used that if you don’t have your heart set on a bike that was just introduced, you can find low mileage late model year options on Craigslist or Ebay or the motorcycle forums and save thousands. But for the sake of setting a line in the sand, these are all 2012 models.
Here’s my list:
10. Honda NC700X. This bike is set to hit showrooms later this spring. I saw it’s debut at the New York Motorcycle Show and it’s very cool. Just please please please – if you buy one – don’t get automatic transmission, OK? It automatically eliminates the sexy quotient.
9. Triumph America. Cruisers are sexy, and the Triumph marque adds a little something-something. I rode this bike for three years and if you’re a new rider in the market for a cruiser, I can’t say enough about it. In a sea of homogeneous middleweight cruisers (take the badges off a Vulcan, Shadow, Boulevard, or Star and you’d have a hard time telling them apart), the America stands out.
8. Kawasaki Ninja 250. Many fellow riders think that a first time rider should consider only 250 cc and below motorcycles. I think this approach really limits choices. Nevertheless, the Ninja 250 is just a great looking bike that owners love. On the motorcycles subreddit (fantastic motorcycle forum – go there if you haven’t already) a Ninja 250 owner crossed the 30,000 mile mark this week, so it’s NOT a bike you’ll outgrow.
7. Suzuki V-Strom 650. The 2007 edition of the V-Strom is my current ride and I’m thrilled with it. It’s comfortable, versatile, nimble, easy to ride and easy to love. The 2012 version is less versatile (it’s off-road capabilities have been stripped away) but it’s still a great-looking machine and in fact is sexier than the 04-11 Weestroms.
6. Honda CBR250R. I saw this bike sitting on the floor at the NYC moto show and it definitely qualifies as sexy. It also tends to win all of the 250 cc shootouts that the motorcycle pubs do every year.
5. Harley Davidson Sportster Iron 883. So many people who get a M class license want to ride Harleys, and this is the only one that really qualifies as a bike for first-time riders. And my brother-in-law recently let me take his Dyna for a spin and I have to admit there is definitely something intoxicatingly sexy about riding a Harley.
4. BMW F650GS. Nice bike, looks great, goes off road, has that BMW logo on the tank that just gives it that extra boost of sex appeal. Plus riding a BMW Adventure-Sport bike automatically links you to Ewan and Charley, even if the tires never see dirt and you never eat The Stew of 100 Testicles. I tried out a 650GS last year and found it a bit small for my 6’2″ frame but still…gotta be on this list.
3. Kawasaki Ninja 650. Drop-dead gorgeous. Looks fast standing still. Getting great reviews from the motorcycling press. Comfortable to straddle with a neutral upright riding position. A flat-out winner.
2. Triumph Bonneville. Just one of the coolest bikes on two wheels. 60’s retro sensibilities and all of the modern technology, fun to ride, turns heads everywhere it goes, moddable to your heart’s content. A fantastic, fantastic machine.
1. Ducati Monster 696. The Monster is a work of art. There is some debate as to whether it’s really for first time riders (in fact there was some discussion about this very point last night on Reddit) but I vote yes. And it simply defines sexy. At Fast by Ferracci here in the Philadelphia area, you can get a Monster for $9,947.70 out the door ($8,795 MSRP plus 6% sales tax, $525 dealer prep and freight, and $100 documentation fee) so it just qualifies for the list.
Honorable mention: Husqvarna Concept Baja. C’mon, Kris Odwarka. Pull some strings and make this beauty a reality! If it were available today, it would be #3 on my list. And there would be one in my garage.
What do you think? Any contenders I overlooked? Fire away!
Yesterday I picked up the Rocket’s replacement at Ferracci’s. I considered a lot of different bikes – too many – and ultimately decided on the bike I’ve wanted in my stable and pined after since last summer, the venerable Suzuki V-Strom 650.
This is a big departure for me in a lot of ways:
- My first non-Triumph. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license in 2008 were Triumphs, first the America then the Rocket III Touring. As a result, I’ve got dozens of items of Triumph garb and all my motorcycle helmets have Triumph stickers. My name on at least a dozen online motorcycle forums is PersonalTriumph (a reference to both my allegiance to the Triumph marque as well as some personal accomplishments.) When I decided on the ‘Strom it was hard to face the fact that I would not have a Triumph in my garage. I suspect at some point in the future I may have another though.
- My first non-cruiser. Both bikes I’ve owned since getting my license were cruisers. The ‘Strom is my first sport bike.
- My first dual sport. The ‘Strom is designed for light-duty off-roading. I’m going to do some research and find some fire roads up in the Poconos to give this a shot. I’ve already experimented with a lap around my yard. (Don’t tell my landlord though!)
My first impressions after about 24 hours of owning the ‘Strom are extremely favorable:
- Twitchy. This bike handles like a dream. I think about turning, and it seems to turn. I’m sure other sport bikes handle better, but coming as I do from the land of cruisers this is a really welcome change.
- Fast. I was worried that going from the 2300cc Rocket to the 650cc ‘Strom would leave me longing for the days of plentiful roll-on power. It’s a non-issue. In fact, the ‘Strom feels faster than the Rocket. I was on the highway this morning, cruising along at what seemed like a comfortable and reasonable pace. I looked down at my speedometer and I was going…well…way too fast. I need to be careful.
- Light. After ‘rassling with the 900+ pound Rocket for the better part of the past year, it’s such a nice change to have a lightweight machine that I can easily roll around.
- A bargain. I bought my V-Strom used. It’s a 2007 with around 10k miles on it that I got for less than $4,000. (Bonus: I was able to bank several grand after liquidating the Rocket.) But a brand new leftover 2011 with ABS and a warranty can be had at your local Suzuki dealer for around $7 grand. Even a brand new 2012 is just over $8 grand. It’s a fantastic machine for the money.
- Its good to be in love again. After spending the past year falling in and out of love with the Rocket (and even feeling vague trepidation about it during the good times) it’s wonderful to once again have a bike that gets my heart pounding and my pulse racing every time I look at it.
There are a lot of folks who love the Rocket III, so don’t let my bad experience color you if you’re considering the bike. In fact, I think my friend Art will ditch me when I tell him the swap-out that I made, because he is so enamored with the Rocket. One of my fellow Rideitors on the Reddit motorcycle forum stated it best: “although you did enjoy it for a while I think you have eliminated a lot of the things you don’t want in a bike because they don’t fit your riding style. Its a little like dating the hot girl who turns out to be a superficial, high maintenance pain in the ass. Well said, my friend. Well said.
If you’re a new rider, definitely put the V-Strom on your list of bikes to consider. I’ll keep you all updated as I get more experience with this bike.There is also a lot of help online at Stromtrooper, the V-Strom owners forum, which I have found to be one of the most comprehensive, active, and friendly motorcycle forums on the internet since I started lurking there last August.
Today on Yahoo Autos there’s an article called Someday You’ll Wish You Owned These Cars. It’s about 10 cars that are most likely to become collectors items in the future, such as the Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca and the Nissan GT-R Black Edition.
It’s timely because just last week on Reddit there was a thread asking, “If money was no object, what would be your dream bike?” One of the Redditors responded “Ducati Sport Classic. Hands down.”
I was curious about this, because when I was shopping for my first bike, one of the bikes I saw in a local dealership and seriously considered was the Ducati Sport Classic. It was in my price range (under $10,000) and was stunningly gorgeous. Ultimately I decided against it because I was nervous about owning a Ducati (I had heard stuff about them being expensive to maintain and there are only two dealerships near me – neither terribly convenient to my home or work). I ended up buying my Triumph America instead. It ended up being a good decision because the next year I got into touring on my motorcycle – something that wouldn’t have been particularly comfortable on the Duc.
Turns out that the Sport Classic was discontinued for the 2011 model year and have become extremely sought after and hard to find. I searched a number of websites including Ebay, Cycletrader, and Craigslist and found only two for sale this morning – one of them was at an asking price pretty close to the original sticker price. The other was highly modded and had an asking price over $16,000.
So that Sport Classic I threw a leg over and fell in love with at Eurosports back in the spring of 2008 is now a collectors item. Coulda, shoulda, woulda…
From a first time rider’s standpoint, I think I would have done all right on the Ducati. Granted, a Ducati isn’t a marque that’s typically thought of as making bikes for new motorcycle riders, but the Sport Classic was powered by a 1000 cc engine, which is about the upper limit I would recommend for a new rider. And I do think the current Ducati Monster 696 is a good bike for a first time rider – others who own it like it because it’s light, handles well, and has a peppy but not overpowering engine. And it is a sexy bike that turns heads everywhere it goes.
There are some in the motorcycling world who insist that a new rider shouldn’t buy a first bike with more displacement than 250 cc’s but I’m not one of them. I think I would have been quickly bored by a 250. I did just fine with my 865 cc America; it was nice and tame off the factory floor but modifiable to get more power as my riding skills grew.
I’ve written a bit about my love/hate relationship with my current ride, the Triumph Rocket III Touring. On a positive note, it’s a fantastic long-distance cruiser that eats up long mileage days with nary a complaint from my posterior. I love the cool factor of the bike and the fact that it can kick in the teeth of any old Harley on the road. And as my friend Art says, “You get the classic American bagger look, but with that 2300 CC engine…”
As I’ve mentioned previously, one of the primary objectives of this blog is to help expand motorcycling to new riders, and to help motorcycle dealerships better serve the first-time rider. It strikes me that winterizing is one of these areas where some basic motorcycle dealership best practices to be applied to the first time rider market. After publishing my post on winterizing on Wednesday, I had some additional thoughts on how motorcycle dealerships can use winterizing as an opportunity to do more business with their customers who are first time riders, while helping them to take better care of their bikes.