Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Adventures in motorcycling

In case you missed the recent news flash, I am now the proud owner of a brand new 2013 Suzuki Burgman 400. What's that? It s a big, beautiful, fully automatic scooter! I looks like a badass bike. So far, I've only ridden her twice, thanks to some truly horrible weather over the long weekend. It's been fun and nerve wracking. Definitely nothing like riding a bicycle, which, by the way, I've not done any of since moving to Newfoundland. Bicycling can be done while wearing nothing more than the clothes you wear around the house. Riding motorcycle requires a few more articles of clothing. 

Helmet. Think "diving helmet" and you come close to the feeling of confinement. It allows limited visibility, which I'm sure is unintentional. Frequent fogging, which comes along with breathing inside the confining helmet in cool weather. Limited range of movement of your head, restricted pretty much to swiveling from side to side within the range of your jacket collar. Ducking your head results in an abrupt thump onto your chest. Of course, the main feature of this important piece of riding equipment is the protection it affords your melon, should you meet the pavement abruptly.

Riding jacket. Mine is black cordura with a quilted lining. For a wonder, the sleeves reach my wrists. Padded and armored, this piece of essential bike wear affords wind protection and pavement abrasion protection, should I inadvertently take a slide. The jacket is large enough in the body that I can wear an extra layer of warm clothing, ie two shirts and a sleeveless vest. Or my wonderful heated vest, which plugs into the bike's system and keeps me as toasty as any marshmallow would want.

Riding pants. Also black cordura with a quilted lining. This is the only piece of equipment that I really despise wearing. Not that I don't want butt and leg protection! No no! I like that aspect of it! Protection of my tender bod is paramount in my mind. It's just that the damn pants weren't made with a 6-ft tall, fully curved chick in mind. So, they're short, riding up higher than my lovely leather boots, and the armored bits that are there for the protection of my knees are sitting halfway up the caps and gouging into my thighs. Not conducive to ease of movement. Also not good is the fact that the slightly tapered legs are slightly tapered in the wrong spot for someone with my thigh size. Wtf does that mean? It means that raising my legs onto the bike requires a near-Herculean effort, made stressful by the fact that the ground is rolling along at the same time you're trying to get your feet onto the bike, causing some degree of wobbling while trying to "feel" your way onto the pegs. (In the case of the scooter, the floorboard.) I hate those pants. I'm gonna try to find me some tall person pants with allowance for bigger thighs and generous booty.

Leather Boots. The boots are good. They started off stiff and rigid, but have softened nicely so they're quite comfy. Double zipped and higher than my ankles, they are pretty awesome. They won't win any beauty prizes, but I've had to walk in them, and while I feel a bit like a Stormtrooper extra, they'll do just fine.

Riding gloves. Cordura, padded with armour bits. More flexible than they were when new, they're worn in to the point where I can now make a pseudo fist with ease, which means I have no trouble reaching my fingers over my brakes quickly and smoothly.

How long does it take me to dress for biking? Um... Five minutes or so?

May long weekend. Three days off! Riding! Wheee! Um... No. Friday was the only day it wasn't completely pissing rain. Since I only have my learner's permit for motorcycling, I have to ride with a fully licensed buddy. That buddy can be riding a motorcycle or driving a car. Doesn't matter. As long as they are with me. Lol... My support team of one! Paul led me up our road to the intersection at Torbay and signaled a right turn. My support team member was starting to worry me already. My unspoken hope of doing drills to familiarize myself with the bike in the relative safety of the parking lot of the Jack Byrne Arena flew right out of my head. Should probably have told him what I wanted to do, hmm? 

So, with a bit of a struggle, I got the bike onto Torbay Rd, heading north towards Flatrock. A shaky start, of course, but any fool can ride a bike if they don't have to worry about stopping, turning corners, or worrying about traffic. This fool wasn't any different. Chanting "look where you want to go" under my breath, I followed the leader.    ...   ... ...   ...   ???  !!!   !!!  !!! 

I learned how to decelerate on hills, lean into curves, and how to come to a stop. Oh boy. Don't use your feet before your bike has come to a stop! Hold your bike upright with your knees! Brake in a straight line!!! Don't be abrupt, or your horse will try to fling you over it's head. 

We did some finishing drills at the Arena, then headed for home. Thank f*#*!!!  I'd spent that entire ride on a roller coaster of emotions. My muscles were in dire need of loosening. Moments of relaxed happiness, cuz I've got pretty good balance and the actual driving is a pleasure, interspersed with moments of tension and fear of dropping the bike, steering into the ditch, chuddering the bike to a rough stop and the classic "stop the bike with your feet." Practice is needed, and the second ride, yesterday, went better for it.

Ride two went better, (Although a bad left turn from a full stop onto Logy Bay Rd resulted in a curb climb, turn, roll off the curb. A lovely move, judging by the dropped jaw of oncoming traffic, but wholly unintentional), and the subsequent practice at the parking lot taught me greater control at accelerating out of a stop into a turn, and smoother braking. Not perfect braking, but better. 

We swooped and spun around the Thomas Amusement trucks, and I got better at judging my turns, then lining up to park the bike and braking with a bit more confidence.

I could use a Novice sticker on the back of my helmet... Maybe some rookie wings? 

I think we're going out again this afternoon once the rush hour traffic dies down. Whee?! 

1 comment:

  1. OMG you just described me to a tee...Except the pants, I have chaps, and I dont wear pants!!!! HAHAHAHA!!! Joke btw. I Haven't ventured onto the road yet. Just got my permit, just my driveway and the neighbours make for a lovely landing strip for me to practise. The concrete walls and ditches are less of a hazzard than moving metal idiot boxes moving around the streets. I'm happy where I am, until I get the shifting-down, non-stalling starts and stomach-knots under control first. I'm sure we will go for a ride together sometime in the future! :-)


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Wake up call
Sunrise over Torbay