Monday, July 2, 2007


So my buddy Paco, a fellow rugger and biker, offered to go ridin later in the afternoon on Tuesday, the day after I brought the bike home. Paco is an experienced rider and I asked him because he is one of the more sensible people I know. Cornell grad. Engineer for the Navy at a base with nuclear capability. Rugger. Biker. Madman. That's Paco. The whitest guy in the history of that name. Consequently, I have asked him about four times where he got the nickname Paco. He has told me each time and I think the explanation is so vanilla that I have forgotten and continued to forget it. When the times comes, I will invent a better back story for it.

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

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