Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Biker's Creed

I found this on a Honda Magna Yahoo Group that I joined to get information and suggestions from people who own the same bike that I do. They are a friendly bunch. In any event, I found this on the site and thought it was somewhat cool.

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.

- Anonymous

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prepping for Homecoming

There are many items that you need to take care of before you can bring home and ride a motorcycle in New York State. I thought I would list a few:

  • 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 Adirondack Community College. It is a three day, 15 hour course that splits classroom time with drive time. If you successfully pass the class, you are exempt from your NYS road test, so it sounded like a good idea. The cost was a little high at $275, but it seems like it is worth the money to be more knowledgeable and to have my riding technique critiqued by instructors. I was hoping to get into a class this week, but the soonest opening was July 11-13, so it looks like I will be doing a lot of partner riding with guys from the rugby team until then. Good thing that there are about five or six of them on the club.

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 Marshall's Motosports in Ballston Spa and buy a Canyon Dancer ($29.99)
  • Pick up insurance cards from insurance agent (cost of premium for one year: $89)
  • Arrange with my friend Michelle to ride with me to Vermont
  • Grab a wheel chock normally used for my boat after deliberating on building one out of 2 x 4's
  • Print MapQuest Directions to Springfield, VT
  • Get together the $510 I still owed after my $100 Deposit.

We arrived, after an interesting dinner in Chester, VT at a combination Chinese Food Restaurant/Car Wash, at the owner of my new bike's house, Paul and Tisha. They live on a mountain and I immediately put the truck in four wheel drive to get up their sandy driveway. After some maneuvering, we manage to get the bike loaded on the trailer. I asked Paul to do it as I had images of me accidentally flooring it and getting flung headlong over my entire truck. He quickly maneuvered it up the ramp. When I asked about securing it to the trailer and what he would suggest, he said that he just used two straps in the front, slightly compressing the front spring. This went in the face of everything I read on the internet, but Paul and Tisha seemed to know what they were talking about when it came to bikes, so I acquiesced. Paul must have seen the dubiousness on my face because he offered to strap down the rear wheel even though the weight of the bike, he said, would more than hold it in place.

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.

On The Road

A Midlife Crisis? No.
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, 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.