Wednesday, September 30, 2009

I Ride

The first day on the range started out drizzly.  It eventually turned to rain so we spent most of that first morning in rain gear.  I was little nervous about being on wet pavement and trying  my first maneuvers on a motorcycle on the slickness but, because we were in a parking lot and not on a road there was little to fear from dripped oil and road gunk.

There had been four of us in the classroom but when they got to the range portion of the course an additional student joined us.  There was me, my son, Premed- a med student who had been riding his Ninja for several months without a license and decided he needed a class, Silverwing - middle-aged gentleman who had just upgraded to a Harley from his Honda and got the class for free, and Blondie who had taken the course a year ago and had not ridden since and wanted a refresher before starting.  Our instructor, EMT, had been riding for a number of years and rode year-round regardless of the weather.

Our first few exercises were: inspecting the bike, safely mounting the bike, starting the bike, and figuring out where the friction zone was on the clutch.  The bike I used had a very narrow friction zone that was right at the beginning of the clutch release process.  Therefore, as soon as I started to release the clutch the bike was in the friction zone.  As a result, I had to be prepared to throttle it as soon as I released the clutch to keep from stalling it out.  The next exercise was power-walking the bike which amounted to straddling the bike and moving it forward slowly under bike power while walking along with it.  Doing all of this in raingear on a warm humid day with full safety equipment on was sweaty to say the least.

The next exercise was where it all started to come back.  We walked the bike a few steps while balancing it and then accelerated while bringing  our feet up and finally riding about 25 or 30 feet or so.  It felt like the first time I rode a bicycle.  I didn't have any problem keeping my balance and even though I was probably only going 10 miles an hour or so it felt pretty cool.

But, it was during the next exercise when I remembered what I love about riding.  For this we rode the bikes down to the opposite end of the range, made a turn, and then on the return trip slalomed the bike through a series of cones.  We ended the circuit with another turn and then got back into line for our next run.  The first run I made was kind of slow, I don't recall getting out of first gear; but the second run I shifted into second in the middle of the curve and came out of it at about 15 to 18 mph and then did the slalom.  After the slalom I downshifted again prior to going through the final turn and getting back into line.  It was a great feeling, something I haven't felt since I was on a pair of skis.  A combination of connection with the equipment I was traveling on and full control over power, lean, speed, and balance.  Freaking awesome. 

That took place at 10 AM on 26 September 2009.  I was back in the saddle again!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Let's Start at the Beginning

Now, I need to back up and explain why this blog exists and what motivated it in a little more detail.  The motorcycle idea is all mine, my wife does not agree with it nor does she enthusiastically supported.  Basically, within reason, she is not standing in the way.  I think if I was to come home with a $20K Road King that attitude would probably change quickly to the negative, but as long as I can reasonable I can expect few ruffled feathers.

As a result of her feelings, and the fact that my son is away at college, I don't have anyone to talk with this about or to share my experiences with.  Being the kind of person I am, I like to express my feelings about things and to share with others.  This blog will provide me with that audience, even though I cannot see them or in most cases know who they are.  It is very different for me, because I'm used to some feedback about the things I say and the stories I tell.  So, if you enjoy this or have your own tale to tell please take a moment and drop me an e-mail.  It will be appreciated.

One thing I decided when I started to document this journey with a blog was that I was not going to use any real names in the blog itself, including my own.  I'm not trying to hide, I just don't want to cause any problems for anybody that I may choose to speak about.  It is my way of offering a little protection, at least on the surface, to those who cross my path.  So, I will usually give them some kind of descriptive moniker early-onset you know who I'm talking about instead of trying to use a string of pronouns that would get confusing very quickly.

As I said in my last post I thoroughly enjoyed the class that I took and as result will be proceeding to the next step of my plan which is to find an inexpensive bike to learn and gain experience on.  With winter coming on quickly I have at most a month of clear riding left before it starts to get too cold to do so without extensive equipment.  It will be a quick pick if it is going to happen before the snow falls.

I made a lot of notes during the class and since that I will be turning and entries over the next few days.  There was just simply too much going on to hope to capture it in real-time.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


Simply:  The most fun I have had with my pants on, doing something solo, in a long time.  It will take me several entries to cover the rider’s course and my thoughts before, during and after.  I will get to those over the next few days.  Right now a have a big silly smile on my face that I think I want to just quietly enjoy.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Night Two

More classroom time, tonight included a tour of the dealership.  It is very easy to imagine myself on anyone of the bikes in the showroom from the simplest Sportster to the most expensive Ultra Glide.  I am excited and can;t wait to get on the range tomorrow.  Got my boots, gloves and other equipment ready to go.  I am ready to go.  Come on 8:45!

Friday, September 25, 2009

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

An interesting turn of events.  First, I called the DSR and they were willing to exchange the helmet or just give me thinner cheek pads to make me happy with my helmet.  Then my son was able to do some time shifting so he could make the motorcycle course.  When he came home,  I had an idea and I pulled the cheek pads out of the Draco helmet and had him do the same with the Throttle;  then we compared them.   Almost 3/8" difference in thickness.  So we swapped the cheek pads between the two helmets.  Viola! Now I am in my red helmet and he is in the Draco helmet he wanted. 

Night one of class:  Done!  All in the classroom so far, the exciting part comes up this weekend when we hit the range.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Helmet Issues

Well,  the FedEx man came and went -- leaving me a big box of toys. Not full of toys,  but the two helmets I was looking for anyway.  Broke them out,  tried mine on and the damn thing is too small around the face.  I wear a 7 5/8 hat, which is the correct match up for the helmet, but the cheek pads are too fat and squish my face to the point that it is uncomfortable.  Then I took out my son's blue Draco helmet and ta-da -- it fits.  Lesson learned:  different styles of helmets fit differently, even if they are from the same company. 

So now my dilemma:  What do I do for a helmet on Saturday and beyond?  My son had something come up Sunday at school so he is dropping out of the course.  Option 1: I could just wear his helmet for the class and then replace mine later.  Option 2:  I take the blue Draco as my own, return mine, and buy him another helmet.  Now the problems with both options:  Replacing mine later assumes my son will take the class or have another need for the helmet later.  That way leads me to being stuck with an extra helmet.  Problem with Option 2:  If I just keep the blue Draco and return mine, I don't get a red helmet -- I know it sounds trivial.  You see all the sports equipment and clothes I have are red, even though my favourite colour is blue, it is a psychological thing for me.  My ski suit, golf clubs, and running stuff are all red or red accented.

One thing I have noticed at this point in life is that I compromise less.  I want what I want or I don't do it.  Calling DSR Power Sports now to arrange an exchange.  Who knows maybe at some point I will need the extra helmet for a passenger.

Here is a pix of the blue Draco:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Needed A Plan

As with any great endeavor, you first need a plan.  I have already said that due to the length of time between my last ride and now that a safety course just made sense.  At least it made sense to me many of the folks I talked to about this (including the people giving the course) found it curious that I would spend the money on the course when I already had the endorsement on my license.  So  the course was a must do.

What was next in my plan?  Buy a small (700cc or so), light, cheap bike to practice on.  I was not going to finish the course and then rush into a $20K Harley-Davidson with all the bells and whistles.  What I felt I needed was something along the lines of a used Honda Shadow. The bike has a good rep for reliability and ease of handling.  Two others I may look at are the Rebel and Nighthawk,  also Honda's.

If this stage goes well, then I will rent a Harley-Davidson for a few days to get the feel for a larger cruising bike.  Then, when the deal and money is right,  I buy one.

Of course at each stage I will be evaluating how much I enjoy the experience and if it is worth what I am investing. 

In my younger days I would already have the Harley sitting in the driveway and it may have already had a scratch or two on it from laying it down.  With age comes a little wisdom.  I think I have a good plan.

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Choice Made

I decided to go with the fancy helmet versus the plain, but I did end up buying two as my 18 year old son will be joining me for the lessons. A pleasant turn of events.
Sent from my Android phone

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Something To Keep My Brains In

Spent time looking for a helmet.  To me it seems to be the most basic place to start.  So many options.  Finally came to the conclusion that I wanted a helmet that met both DOT and Snell certifications.  Basically,  the Snell certification means that the helmet was actually tested and to higher standards not just certified based on design.  With that decided I am now looking at lots of pictures and I am down to one model but two designs/colours.  I liked the HJC CL-SP.

This was my choice for a basic helmet:

And this one for something with a bit more pizazz

Gonna have to think on it overnight before making a final decision.  Have to order tomorrow to get it here in time for the class.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Umleitung, To Explain Umleitungs

Umleitung is the German word for an alternate route.  These must be taken from time to time due to road construction or some other change to your original planned route. In England, they call these diversions, in America, it is a detour. While I was living in Germany I came across the occasional Umleitung and based on several experiences I began to see these as more of a side adventure than an unexpected delay. Often, these side routes showed me something I had never seen before, and then I was able to go on with my original trip. 

Therefore, I am using this word in my blog to alert the reader that I am about to go off on a tangent.  At this point, they have a choice:  Read on with that truth in mind – – or Look further down the page and find the symbol for the end of the Umleitung and continue the original missive from there.  

I would hope that either choice will continue to entertain and delight – –

With that in mind I will be using the following markers within the blog:

This marks the start of the Umleitung.

This indicates the end of the Umleitung.

So It Begins...

Now that I am officially 50,  what do I do with it?  I still have faults, fears, and beliefs -- but how they have changed over the years.  Also at this crossroad, I continue looking for new adventures.  The one desire that has hit me stronger than any other at this point is getting back on to a motorcycle.   I will shortly dust off my skills at riding and try it again Since it has been 25 years since I have been on a bike,  I will take the time to attend a safety course and spend some time practicing before I put it up on two wheels.  In short, a lot more involved now due to my age and the caution of maturity. 

My first experience with a motorcycle was when I was 13.  A friend and I took his dirt bike  to a nearby field and tried it out.  I got on the bike, spun the throttle and popped the clutch which led to the most beautiful 25-foot wheelie ever.  While I had the front wheel up in the air, I could not figure out how to get it back down -- it never occurred to me to let off on the gas.  So, I just let go of the handlebar and promptly slid off the back of the bike and onto the dirt as gravity kicked in. I count that has my mandatory crash experience, since I got a little road rash and broke a brake handle.

So as I start this and other adventures of my life at this point,  I will be documenting them here for the terminally bored and those with insomnia.  I am doing this after reading and being inspired by a man who goes by the nom de plume of "Old Guy". Unfortunately, his blog no longer exists -- I hope he is doing well. He was 61 when he started,  so, by comparison, I am just a pup.