In this web site there's a lot of information about owning, maintaining, and modifying motorcycles. This web site is now pretty much a team effort, in the sense that I have gotten a lot of information and help from a lot of other riders scattered all over the world. I've also from time to time handed out "homework" assignments to particular people with particular talents, and gotten back information that would have been difficult to obtain otherwise. I've tried to credit these people throughout the site, at least those who would accept credit.
There is a general section to the web site, which holds information that pertains to pretty much all motorcycles. There are also sections with information specific to particular motorcycles. So, for example, there's a generic section on tires where you can learn how to read their sidewalls and how to make a small portable air compressor, and there's a section on tires in the ST1300 section where you can see other riders' experience with particular brands of tires on the ST.
I've put checkmarks next to products I've bought, used and recommend. There's nothing scientific about this, it's just stuff I like.
More than half of all motorcycle accidents involve riders with less than 5 months or 500 miles of experience. The USC Hurt Report found that two-thirds of all motorcycle accidents involved riders who were unlicensed, or riding a borrowed motorcycle, or riding for their first 12 months. I cannot overemphasize that a Motorcycle Safety Foundation course is excellent preparation. If you have less than 5000 miles experience or haven't ridden in 10 years or more, go to their web site, find a class near you, and take it. It's very easy to get over confident with your riding abilities after a couple months. Don't. Motorcycles are reasonably safe to ride, but very dangerous to learn.
Today, anyone with $8000 can buy a motorcycle that goes 150 mph or faster. It's also true than anyone with $150 can buy a gun that will blow their head clean off. For an inexperienced rider, there are a lot of similarities here.
If you haven't ridden a bike before, I recommend you get a used bike, 500ccs or less, and ride it for a year. You are going to tip over a few times. If you tip over on a new Harley or Japanese sport bike, you're likely to do several hundred dollars of damage, and likely will need help picking the bike up. If you tip over on a new Ducati, I think you should be scourged. I've trained 38 people how to ride bikes. Every one said "I'm not going to fall down, I'm going to be careful." Every one fell down. It's not about you. "Pride goeth before the fall."
Most of what there is to know about riding motorcycles can be learned at slow speeds, where falls are only embarrassing. A good exercise on a street bike is to find an empty parking lot and practice riding in circles until you can hold your handlebars against the stops and turn an entire circle without moving the handlebars. You steer the bike with your hips and the throttle, clutch, and rear brake. This exercise will teach you a lot about balance and throttle control, two critical skills on a street bike.
Another good exercise is to place your front tire on the top of a curb, and leave the rear tire in the street. This exercise is easiest if the rain gutter is a bit wet. Now, ride. Go about 5-10mph. Practice until you can keep your feet on the pegs and go for as long as you wish. This exercise is best done on a bike that weighs less than 350 pounds. This exercise will teach you balance and how to handle a bike that's not going straight.
Riding in the dirt is excellent preparation. You learn how to handle a bike in uncertain traction, and you get to fall down where there's no traffic waiting to run you over. Kenny Roberts, 3 time world champion, trains himself and other riders on a small dirt track on Honda XR100s. They wet down the track and practice sliding either or both wheels. Any falls are at 15mph, from a height of 2 feet.
On a dirt bike, find a loose surface and practice driving with the front brake locked. Ride at 5-10mph. Great for balance and learning not to fall down just because your front wheel is skidding.
Good bikes for 1st time riders include: Honda 250 or 450 Nighthawk or Rebel; Suzuki 250 intruder, or DR200, 250, 350, 400; Kawasaki GPZ250 or 500; Yamaha XT250 or 350. All of these bikes can be bought used for $1000 to $2000.
Really poor choices for 1st time riders: Any Honda CBR. Any Yamaha YZR, R1 or R6. Any Kawasaki ZZR or ZX or Ninja. Any Suzuki GSX, GSXR, TL, or Hayabusa. Any sport bike with 600ccs or more. Any of these bikes will pop wheelies at 60mph and has a top speed in excess of 150mph.
Good advice on buying a first bike.
A very interesting article by Keith Code on counter-steering.
Check your reaction time.
There is cold, and there is cold on a motorcycle. Cold on a motorcycle is like being beaten with cold hammers while being kicked with cold boots, a bone bruising cold. The wind's big hands squeeze the heat out of my body and whisk it away; caught in a cold October rain, the drops don't even feel like water. They feel like shards of bone fallen from the skies of Hell to pock my face. I expect to arrive with my cheeks and forehead streaked with blood, but that's just an illusion, just the misery of nerves not designed for highway speeds.
Despite this, it's hard to give up my motorcycle in the fall and I rush to get it on the road again in the spring; lapses of sanity like this are common among motorcyclists. When you let a motorcycle into your life you're changed forever. The letters "MC" are stamped on your driver's license right next to your sex and weight as if "motorcycle" was just another of your physical characteristics, or maybe a mental condition. But when warm weather finally does come around all those cold snaps and rainstorms are paid in full because a summer is worth any price.
A motorcycle is not just a two-wheeled car; the difference between driving a car and climbing onto a motorcycle is the difference between watching TV and actually living your life. We spend all our time sealed in boxes and cars are just the rolling boxes that shuffle us from home-box to work-box to store-box and back, the whole time, entombed in stale air, temperature regulated, sound insulated, and smelling of carpets.
On a motorcycle I know I'm alive. When I ride, even the familiar seems strange and glorious. The air has weight and substance as I push through it and its touch is as intimate as water to a swimmer. I feel the cool wells of air that pool under trees and the warm spokes of that fall through them. I can see everything in a sweeping 360 degrees, up, down and around, wider than Pana-Vision and than IMAX and unrestricted by ceiling or dashboard. Sometimes I even hear music. It's like hearing phantom telephones in the shower or false doorbells when vacuuming; the pattern-loving brain, seeking signals in the noise, raises acoustic ghosts out of the wind's roar. But on a motorcycle I hear whole songs: rock 'n roll, dark orchestras, women's voices, all hidden in the air and released by speed. At 30 miles per hour and up, smells become uncannily vivid. All the individual tree- smells and flower- smells and grass-smells flit by like chemical notes in a great plant symphony. Sometimes the smells evoke memories so strongly that it's as though the past hangs invisible in the air around me, wanting only the most casual of rumbling time machines to unlock it. A ride on a summer afternoon can border on the rapturous. The sheer volume and variety of stimuli is like a bath for my nervous system, an electrical massage for my brain, a systems check for my soul. It tears smiles out of me: a minute ago I was dour, depressed, apathetic, numb, but now, on two wheels, big, ragged, windy smiles flap against the side of my face, billowing out of me like air from a decompressing plane.
Transportation is only a secondary function. A motorcycle is a joy machine. It's a machine of wonders, a metal bird, a motorized prosthetic. It's light and dark and shiny and dirty and warm and cold lapping over each other; it's a conduit of grace, it's a catalyst for bonding the gritty and the holy. I still think of myself as a motorcycle amateur, but by now I've had a handful of bikes over half a dozen years and slept under my share of bridges. I wouldn't trade one second of either the good times or the misery. Learning to ride one of the best things I've done.
Cars lie to us and tell us we're safe, powerful, and in control. The air-conditioning fans murmur empty assurances and whisper, "Sleep, sleep." Motorcycles tell us a more useful truth: we are small and exposed, and probably moving too fast for our own good, but that's no reason not to enjoy every minute of the ride.
Get a 12" steel Lazy Susan bearing set at Lowes or Home Depot, about $10. Place a piece of mild steel over it. Now, put your bike on the center stand, riding on the lazy susan. You can push down on your luggage rack to lift the front wheel, and easily turn your bike 360°. Good for cleaning and working on your bike; for not having to back out of the garage; and for all of you who have wanted since you were five years old to have your own train turntable. Alternative: if you have smooth concrete, you can get a 12" by 12" piece of Teflon. Idea and photos by Scott Cloninger
Dennis Watson at bikepolishing.com will
A must-read for our generation, like Catcher in the Rye and Catch-22. Author's Note: What follows is based on actual occurrences. Although much has been changed for rhetorical purposes, it must be regarded in its essence as fact. However, it should in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice. It's not very factual on motorcycles, either. About $21 hardcover, $8 paperback, $1 used, Free on-line, Free PDF. Now you have no excuse for not reading it.
Insurance: I use GMAC.
All of these companies have offered quotes to different people that were reasonable, and
to other people that were exorbitant. Apparently there's no single answer, you'll just have to shop around. The best prices are
invariably paid by people who have a lot of insurance with one company. Consider getting quotes on homeowner, car, and motorcycle
all at once. Don't be afraid to call back and tell the companies that someone else beat their price, you'll find many of the quotes
suddenly become quite flexible. Zip codes are a major factor: consider moving to the sticks.
Online Motorcycle Magazines
Bike Buyer's Guide
Canadian MC Guide
|MN Motorcycle Monthly
One Wheel Drive
Street Biker Magazine
TWO (Two Wheels Only)
Used Motorcycles Guide