Tuesday, July 3, 2007
I took off the side covers and looked for a kick start. I found nothing resembling a kick start. At this point I am getting tight in terms of making it to the appointment. I replaced the side covers and tried one more time. Nothing. I checked my front light. Nothing. Great. The battery was dead.
I decided to try pop-starting it using my downhill driveway. It was faster than getting out jumper cables. I made it halfway down my street, with the engine sputtering and burping before it died. I pushed it back home and tried again with a similar result. I moved onto jumper cables, fully sure that I was going to now be at least ten minutes late. Maggie fired right up and ran smoothly...until I unhooked the cables and after 30 seconds, she coughed and died. Same deal the next time I jumped her.
Finally, I had to call Marshall's and reschedule my appointment until 4:00 that afternoon. I hooked her up to a battery charger and on my way I went to go run with Katie.
When I returned, I waited until 3:30 and tried again. Sure enough, she fired right up and ran smoothly. I was afraid that if she stalled that I wouldn't have enough battery for another start, so I put the choke on full and ran inside to change my clothes. That was a bad idea.
When I get back outside, I turn to the side of the house and see smoke. As I come upon my bike, their is smoke POURING from both sides of it. It only took me four or five minutes, but I guess letting it idle high for that long is a bad idea. I immediately shut her down and off come the seats and side covers, once again. I use one as a fan to dissipate the smoke. After a few minutes, and the smoke is gone, I try again, because how can you possibly call it quits when you have put this much time in. She fires right up and I notice that her temperature gauge indicates she is plenty warm. I head off to Marshall's without another problem.
After getting my bike inspected ($20) and ordering a new front tire ($60) because the old once was scalloped a bit, Dan told me that there was a good chance I had a bad battery or potentially worse, a bad recharging system and to keep and eye on it.
The following day, my manual came from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. I immediately read it cover to cover. Come to find out that there are two lock positions on many motorcycles. One just locks it. The other, in case you are on the side of the road at night, leaves your license plate light on for easier spotting by other vehicles. The night before my inspection, I locked the handle bars before I took the key out. Guess which locking position I unknowingly used? Riiiight.
Next Chapter: The First Night of Bike School
So, on Sunday, I, for no particular reason, decided to go for a ride. Maybe it was because I hadn't ridden since Thursday, or maybe it was because I had some free time and was tired of cleaning up around the house by myself while my wife was at her parents watching her sister because her dad has a combination of Lyme Disease and the West Nile Virus. Talk about not complaining about working inside anymore! At first it was just to make a deposit at Adirondack Bank and get gas for the first time. The real moment of truth came when I pulled in at Hess and was mauled by a ten year-old who was raising money for dance camp. How do you say no to that? So you have to throw in $5 right there ( it was all I had on me...no ash tray of change on a bike). I filled myself up, having driven roughly 75 miles, although the tank wasn't empty. The grand total? $8.32. Woo-hoo! I was giddy. And I don't get giddy.
After the bank, and returning to home to find my wife still not home, I decided to head back out. So I decided to take a little run through Ballston Spa and just tool through some of the neighborhoods around Grand Ave. Its one of those maze-like suburbanite developments and it was fun to see the reactions from people in their yards. Men and boys looked on with a mixture of desire and distaste, depending on the individual. Moms pretty much had that "What is the scary looking biker guy doing in our neighborhood" look. I don't know if it was concern for their daughters in the here and now or the concern that a biker named Snake would come home with their teenage daughter on the back of his bike. It could be worse mom...she could be riding on a Vespa. Then you have the danger of a moped mixed with the arrogance of its owner.
Maybe I should out an "I am a teacher" bumper sticker on the front forks.
After I finished there, I just took road after road until I, and quite to my surprise, ended up in Greenfield Center where my in-laws live. I stopped at their house to check in on my wife and then headed back over a different route. I really enjoyed being in the open air on a beautiful day. I could take in so much more than when I was in my truck and it was nice that I didn't have a radio, which is always on in my truck, or the ability to check or even hear my cell phone. I rambled for about 35 miles or so before I came home. It was a great day to be out on slow turns and I only hit trouble once when I slightly misjudges a turn. I braked somewhat hard and yanked in the clutch, reflexively. When I started to lean through the turn, at a decent angle, the back tired barked enough for me to hear and feel it, and I was reminded to be more diligent in judging turns and that I still need more work on SLPR, despite my efforts.
Next Post: Minor Mechanical Mishaps
Monday, July 2, 2007
So Paco arrives after riding his bike all day. He took his girlfriend Nichole to New Berlin to get some work done in her classroom and had some other odds and ends that he handled all over the capital district. Paco is a good shade smaller than I am and he rides a much lighter, and faster, bike. His ride is a Yamaha R6. Its like the one I have pictured here. It weights about half of what my bike weighs. We go over my bike. I ask if he wants to take it out for a quick ride around the block. That is what I have been doing in my development all day. My development is a big oval and I have been NASCARing it all afternoon to gain some comfort with the handling before I head out onto the open road where there is traffic all over. At this point, my neighbors love me. Especially the senior citizens who had whatever has replaced The Price is Right routinely drowned out by the roaring of me starting and stopping and accelerating to high RPM's trying to shift. Paco does a quick lap and comes back, noting the increased heft and unfamiliarity with the gearing. His bike, which I am not going near, I had a heart attack sitting on it, probably shifts by just thought. You need to commit serious leg power to Maggie. Ha. I think I just named her.
Paco goes over what he calls his mental checklist: Headlight, taillight, turn signals front and back, break signal, gas, and tire pressure. I check all of these and they look good. We head out. We get to the first stop light and he pulls up along side of me (he suggested riding second so he could critique my style). He notes that my back tire looks soft and suggests we pull into Stewie's right accross the street from the light. Upon inspection we find that my back tire had 17 psi and my front tire had 21 psi. We bump both up to 33-35 psi and head off on our way again. I lead us on a winding route trying to push myself. Winding roads, straight aways, steep hills, stop lights, four way stops, stops on the uphill, right and left turns, you name it. Once we get into the village of BSpa Paco pulls up next to me and mentions that I should start signaling earlier than I am, which is what I would do in a car. I note that I am so concerned with shifting I haven't been paying as close attention and promise to remedy that. I head down Route 50 and get the bike over 50 mph for the first time. I pass many bikers going the other way. Most wave, as I quickly learn is proper etiquette. Paco notes that pretty much only Harley and Vespa riders will not return waves. Harley-Davidson riders I get. Why wave to riders on "Metric" bikes (I learned that term for Japanese bikes today). But when you are "ridin' dirty" on a Vespa, I guess you are just too cool to notice the rest of the world. We made it to where I work, Burnt Hills High School. We took a ten minute break and talked motorcycles and riding theory. After that we got ready to leave. Paco reminded me just before I pulled away to pull up my kick stand. That would have hurt.
I decide to take an even more winding path back, up through Ballston Lake to Eastline Road. Other than waving at a student on mine at a stop light (she was completely clueless as to who I was thanks to the full face helmet, we were uninterrupted by traffic controls. The long, rolling turns proved to be more of a challenge than I anticipated. Once I had to break with some mild enthusiasm because I misjudged the lean on a turn. Beyond that, we wove ourselves home, with me once getting up to about 60 mph and passing a car (on Route 50, again). There was one somewhat hairy moment as I headed up Geyser Road towards my house. I had attempted to shift and the bike would not, as I was accelerating. I tried 2-3 times with the clutch held in and then decided to let the clutch out and try again. The back wheel barked when I let out the clutch, which was startling to hear, but that was it. After a quick stop at Stewie's for water, Paco went over turns using the SLPR technique, which stands for Slow, Look, Press, Roll. I have been practicing it, but the press part always makes the bike wobble, so its a work in progress, I guess. And that was it.
As we pulled into my driveway, I noticed how really nice a night it was turning out to be. In the 35 miles that we traveled, the sky had turned a mixture of pink and orange and lit up the clouds. I don't think I would have noticed it in my truck because I wouldn't have had so much head space and the warm wind wouldn't have been as in my face. I know it sounds poetic, but it was something very different about not being surrounded while I was driving. And while I am having a hard time getting use to not having a seat belt when I get on the bike, I am finding that there are other perks, as well.
Next Chapter: Out for a Sunday Drive
The first trip, before I headed off to work, was to stop by the DMV. It was a fairly simple process. Armed with a form I filled out online, my driver's license, an insurance card, the title from the previous owner, and my check book, I was pretty much ready to roll.
I had one additional form about sales tax to fill out and $114 later ($42.40 in sales tax, $71.30 for registration - which is almost as high an the year's insurance!), I had plates and sticker in hand, and a 10 Day inspection ready to go.
After finishing a landscaping job down at the La Salle Institute, I decided to pick up gear from Marshall's Motorsports on my way home. I came to this decision after first stopping at Spitzies Motorcycle Center on Central Ave. in Colonie. They had some AWESOME bikes down there. Some of the monthly payments were close to what I paid for my bike as a whole. The cheapest helmet that I could find was a little over $300. There were some cheaper ones but they had Harley-Davidson written on the side, and I thought that would look foolish to be wearing on a Honda. I had already bought a leather jacket off of Ebay and I just had to play the waiting game until it arrived. It was your standard biker jacket. It supposedly retails for $105, but I managed to get it for $15 plus shipping ($25 - bogus), for a grand total of $40. Still a lot less if the retail was close to accurate.
Once I was in Marshall's, I wandered around looking at the different options. Marshall's comes off as more of a dirt bike place but they have been really friendly and are a lot closer than other options I have found, so I thought I'd go back. I was looking for a full face helmet with a shield. I figured that I spent a lot of money on this brain and rugby has dented my face enough, so I wanted something that covered everything if I were to lay down my Magna. That ruled out a lot of the selection, but I ended up choosing a HJC CS-12. It looked a little more built for a sport bike, but it gets the job done. I also managed to get it on sale, marked down from $109 to $75. I thought I'd share two interesting notes I learned this week about bike helmets:
- I read in my owner's manual that helmets are good for one impact. That includes dropping it of the dinner table onto the floor or off of the bar on the back of your bike to the pavement, on accident. It made me much more careful as to where I put the helmet.
- According to my buddy Dennis, who was inspired to buy a bike this past weekend now that I am riding (he is an old Magna owner), a helmet is only rated to 13 mph for a head-on collision (no pun intended). If your head strikes something square faster than that, chances are that you will break your neck anyway. Wow.
Once I had everything adjusted, I spent some time going over the bike. I tried to get familiar with the controls so I knew what I was doing when my buddy Paco came over that afternoon to go for a ride. I also checked the gas to make sure that I had some and estimated that I had close to a full tank (although looking back after filling it, it was probably closer to 2/3 of a tank. I also contemplated how much money I had spent thus far to "save money" at the pump. I keep telling myself...Start Up Costs...
Purchase Price: $610
Sales Tax $42
Jacket : $40
Gas to Pickup : $60
Cycle Permit $14
Total Thus Far: $1,035 or
345 Gallons of Gas
I figured if riding my motorcycle gave me 3:1 gas mileage as compared to my Ram. I drive about 20,000 miles per year in my truck. I am estimating that I can expect to save about 6,000 miles (because I will drive it on rainy days and still use it for landscaping, etc). At 13 mpg and @ $3.00 per gallon, that costs about $1385. On the Magna, I can expect to only spend about $514. That is a savings of $871. When you consider that I will recoup the cost of the bike, helmet, gloves, and insurance in the first year, that isn't so bad. I will have continuing costs of registration, inspection, insurance, and maintenance (and tires are a need in the near future). I am also estimating gas mileage because I haven't filled it up yet, so the numbers are just estimates, but it seems like it should be a good way to save money and save miles on a truck that I still have 16 payments on that also has 75,000 miles on it.
Next Chapter: The Ride with Paco
Thursday, June 28, 2007
The Biker's Creed
- I ride because it is fun.
- I ride because I enjoy the freedom I feel from being exposed to the elements, and the vulnerability to the danger that is intrinsic to riding.
- I do not ride because it is fashionable to do so.
- I ride my machine, not wear it. My machine is not a symbol of status. It exists simply for me, and me alone.
- My machine is not a toy. It is an extension of my being, and I will treat it accordingly, with the same respect as I have for myself.
- I strive to understand the inner-workings of my machine, from the most basic to the most complex.
- I will learn everything I can about my machine.
- I strive to constantly better my skill of control over my machine. I will learn its limits, and use my skill to become one with my machine so that we may keep each other alive. Working together in harmony, we will become an invincible team.
- I do not ride to gain attention, respect, or fear from those that do NOT ride, nor do I wish to intimidate or annoy them.
- I will never be the aggressor on the highway.
- I will show respect to other bikers more experienced or knowledgeable than I am.
- I will learn from them all I can.
- I will not show disrespect to other bikers less experienced or knowledgeable than I am.
- I will teach them what I can.
- It will be my task to mentor new riders, that so desire, into the lifestyle of the biker, so that the breed shall continue. I shall instruct them, as I have been instructed by those before me. I shall preserve and honor traditions of bikers before me, and I will pass them on unaltered.
- I will not judge other bikers on their choice of machine, their appearance, or their profession. I will judge them only on their conduct as bikers. I am proud of my accomplishments as a biker, though I will not flaunt them to others. If they ask, I will share them.
- I will stand ready to help any other biker that truly needs my help.
- I will never ask another biker to do for me what I can do for myself.
- I am not a part-time biker. I am a biker when, and where ever I go. I am proud to be a biker, and hide my chosen lifestyle from no one. I ride because I love freedom, independence, and the movement of the ground beneath me. But most of all, I ride to better understand myself, my machine, the lands in which I ride, and to seek out and know other bikers like myself.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
There are many items that you need to take care of before you can bring home and ride a motorcycle in
- Insure the bike
- Get a Motorcycle Permit/License
- Take a Rider Safety Course (recommended by everyone that I talked to)
- Arrange transport
- Get a helmet
- Get gloves
- Get a protective jacket
- Lean how best to lash it to your trailer (there are several popular theories)
- Arrange pick-up time
- Register the bike
The Motorcycle Permit: $14
So the day I won the bike, I stopped on my way home at the DMV and decided to get my permit. I went in, asked for the paper work, and filled it out. The woman handed me a booklet, which I already read most of online, and told me I had to come in for my permit test. I asked her if I could study and then take the test right there and she said if I was a quick study, I could go ahead. 30 minutes, 20 multiple choice questions, and $14 later I had my motorcycle permit. That was a lot to tell my wife when I made it home. I had won a bike and now I was authorized to ride with a fellow biker.
The Motorcycle Safety Course: $275
I started getting serious about this endeavor in the beginning of June. After a talk with Matt Volke, a fellow rugger and motorcycle owner, he highly suggested taking the motorcycle driver safety course through
Pickup Time (Insurance & Transport)
So Monday hit and it was time to pick up the bike. I had ordered a helmet and gloves from two different websites, but both returned e-mails saying they were out of stock and unless I wanted to wait two weeks, I would have to get something else or buy locally, so that remained on the radar as something that needed to get done. I visited several websites that explained the best ways to secure a bike to a trailer and there were a lot of opinions. Some of the items mentioned as "must haves" were wheel chocks that bolted to the trailer and locked the wheel in using a pin, and something known as a "Canyon Dancer" that slips over the handle bars and acts as a means of tying down the bike without stressing specific areas on the front. After dropping my wife off at the airport, I accomplished the following tasks prior to my departure time of 3:30:
- Visit three bike shops, all of which were closed until 10 A.M. (it was 8:15).
- Call in my bike's info to the insurance company
- Pick up some ratcheting tie downs from my father-in-law
- Unload my truck and landscaping trailer
- Return to
's Motosports in Ballston Spa and buy a Canyon Dancer ($29.99) Marshall
- Pick up insurance cards from insurance agent (cost of premium for one year: $89)
- Arrange with my friend Michelle to ride with me to
- Grab a wheel chock normally used for my boat after deliberating on building one out of 2 x 4's
- Print MapQuest Directions to
- Get together the $510 I still owed after my $100 Deposit.
We arrived, after an interesting dinner in
Sure enough, he was right. I kept an eye on it for the first ten or fifteen miles and not only did it not bounce, it stayed perfectly straight up and down with the need of using the kickstand to do so. Six hours after I left my house, I was unloading my new bike and stashing it behind my boat, absolutely in agony that I couldn't take it out for a ride. That would come tomorrow when my buddy Paco Tempest was coming over on his Yamaha sport bike for my first riding lesson.
Next Chapter: Registration and FINALLY getting a helmet and gloves.
So I decided to take the plunge. No, I have been married for nearly three years. In the wake of soaring gas prices and my Dodge Ram 1500 taking over $70 to fill every time I pull up to the pump (which seems to be about once every five days with normal driving), I decided to buy a motorcycle.
The process was not a quick one because I have never been a large fan of motorcycles. While I have had many friends that have had all sorts of bikes, from big cruisers to lightning fast sport bikes, I was always concerned that I would be reduced to a crimson stain on the road due to a minute lack of attention or focus. I also am something of a speed freak. I don't indulge myself the way I used to when I owned my '68 Ford Mustang, but I didn't see the need for temptation. Then I realized how much money I was throwing away to Hess Inc. because of my daily to commute to and from school. Looking for a alternative, a motorcycle was much more practical than another car. Most motorcycles in the class that I was looking for get about 35 mpg. The Ram gets about 12-13 mpg. So I started looking for one as soon as I could convince my wife...
Selling Practicality to My Wife
I'd love to say that I call all the shots in our family. My wife would agree and then laugh to herself that its at least amusing that I think that way. If I was serious about getting a bike, I had to do my homework before I dropped it on her. So I called State Farm Insurance. It seems that to insure a beater or a hoopdie (an older, slightly beat up vehicle), it only runs about $89 per year. I set myself a price limit of $1,000...top end, not a dollar more. I knew I would also have to register it (about $60 per year), and buy gear for it. If I truly was going to prove that this was a financial decision and not a mid-life crisis come early, I need to follow the guidelines of fiscal responsibility. I just happened to present my case to my wife the night before she was working in Warrensburg, which also happened to be hosting the Americade, a HUGE motorcycle weekend. To my surprise, with the expected concern that I would end up wrapped around a pole or under someone's bumper, she agreed that it was probably a good idea and was just a little excited about being a biker chick, eventually. So the search was on.
Narrowing in on a Bike
My first thought was to ask my dad. When I was really young he owned a motorcycle, which he had earlier dumped drag racing my godfather. He has been staunchly against the idea of me having a motorcycle my whole life, and being both Lebanese and Catholic, my parents' wishes and "advice" have more of a mandate over me than most of my friends. I also trust their judgement, so if they really are against something, more often than not, they have a good reason. So, I just casually asked my dad what type of bike he used to ride and that is where I started looking. He rode a 1972 Honda CB400 Supersport. He mentioned, every once in a great while, how he would blow Harleys off the line in Utica all the time. So I started looking for them. I thought it would be kind of cool to ride the same type of bike my dad did. The problem was that the '72 Supersport is now 35 years old and there are not that many floatin around. At least not in my price range, which rotted a little because I know nothing about motorcycle repair and I didn't have the budget for many really good bikes. I realized that I needed to expand my horizons and look at all types of bikes and realize that bikes like Harleys and Buells were just not going to happen. Nor were bikes that were made since I graduated from high school (and I am 31 now).
I first narrowed my search, looking only for bikes from Ebay that were within 150 miles of where I live. It made no sense to buy a bike and drive to Michigan to pick it up or spend a few hundred dollars to have it shipped. The first bike I put a bid on was a 1983 Kawasaki Specter. It was 750 cc's, which was right around where I wanted to be and was refinished by a bike shop in New Hampshire that had a Ebay Store. It looked like it was in great shape and was beautiful. My wife even liked the color. Unfortunately she was not the only one. While I was in the bidding for a while, the bike ended up selling for $1,275. I kept an eye out for more of them because I like how it looked, but nothing was really close in terms of quality. So I moved on. I next found a bike with an awesome custom paint job and in really great shape. To be honest, I've already forgotten what type of bike it was. What I haven't forgotten was that it was 1100 cc's and as soon as I made the bid, I felt the anxiety flood in about doing it. Could I handle that much power? Would the bike be too heavy for me to learn on? Would I end up going 140 mph out of my driveway on the first day because I was inexperienced? I watched Ebay like a hawk, hoping that I would be outbid, for once. To my relief, that machine went for $1,475.
And then, narrowing my search for bikes under 800 cc's, I stumbled across a listing for a 1984 Honda Magna V45 700, located in Springfield, VT. That is only about 2.5 hours from where I live in Saratoga Springs, NY. The starting price was $499, which was hope inspiring. It was 700 cc's, and was in good mechanical order. It was a little beat up, cosmetically, but was not rusty and the owners, Paul and Tisha, were great about answering my questions as a prospective first time biker. Within a few days people began bidding, but nothing outrageous, and with about ten hours to go, I decided that if I could get the bike for $650 or less, I would buy it. When the auction ended, I won with a purchase price of $610. I made my deposit and arranged a pick-up date for my new bike. Partially excited and partially terrified that I just bought the means of my own death. Be that as it may, I was technically the owner of my first motorcycle.