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Category Archives: Autos and Motorcycles

Before you pull out into that intersection – is it really clear? Check twice!

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Here’s some pictures I took at the park today. I put a Sailormoon graphic on the wheel cowling :).

I actually ended up with a bike this weekend. I got it at Renton Motorcycles – they were generally nice, and gave me a pretty good deal. Its hard to tell to be honest, because I’ve never bought (or financed) one.

I rode around the parking lot a few times – to get a feel for the clutch, then when I felt like it tore down the avenue and rode home. Then I hit the freeway and went home from there. Not sure why I did, but I got some good training :).

On Sunday I rode to church on it down I90.

I’ve already found a few things I need to do. First is I need a helmet with a mouthpiece – the one I have fogs up too quickly, I need some gloves that are warmer than the ones I have, finally I need some mirror extenders or some after market mirrors. The ones I have I don’t get a real good view of what is behind me. The gear I picked it up is pretty good. It keeps me warm, but I need to work on my hands and face. The helmet I have is nice enough, but it doesn’t have a mouthpiece at all – and consequently kinda cold. Its probably better for summer.

The sad thing – the real expensive part is the new helmet 😦 – they can cost as much as $400. I don’t think you can really place a price on your head though. But I’ll have to save up for it which means limited freeway riding for a while. I think the most important thing I need to fix is the mirrors – that shouldn’t cost more than $50. It does mean if I want to get it fixed this week I’ll have to sacrifice lunch and rip arse up to the motorcycle shop…

Oh and what kind of bike? Its a Yamaha YZF600R (599 CC). Inline 4 cylinder, 16 valve, dual overhead cams, and its got 4 carburetors. It redlines at 14,000 RPM. Supposedly it has a top speed of around 150 miles per hour, can do 0-60 in 3-4 seconds and can do the quarter mile in 11-12 seconds (at 120 miles per hour). And they make bigger and faster bikes… That info wasn’t in the manual – you can however read those stats here > http://www.sportrider.com/bikes/146_performance_numbers/index10.html.

Do I like it? Very much so – its bit hard to get used to warming up the bike itself – fiddling with the choke etc. I’ve only killed it with the clutch maybe 3-4 times, but I’m getting better at it. Driving a car with a clutch for the last 5-6 years helps.It handles pretty well, and accelerates really well. For the price too, it has surprisingly nice components like from Brembo (famous for brakes). It also has user adjustable shocks.

Stock photos (from www.yamaha-motor.com):

Found this one on the net (if you want the full size version contact me):

I have a confession to make. I have a tendency to be interested in various things throughout my life. Amateur radio, anime, stereos (yes – stereo components!), cars, and motorcycles. Some of these things have taken a back burner – for instance I really haven’t been interested in what kind of stereo components I have in a long time. And while I like anime, believe it or not I don’t watch it every waking moment of my life. In fact I haven’t seen a Japanese cartoon in months. I still carry a 2 way radio in my car, and sometimes use it to contact people in remote parts of the world, but not nearly as much as I used to. Motorcycles are my latest fad.

Why motorcycles? I dunno really. I’ve read comic books like Ah My Goddess, in which a lot of the characters ride bikes. Belldandy even works at a motorcycle shop called “Whirlwind” who’s boss rides sportbikes (racing bikes) for fun. I’ve seen the Ghostrider films, and while I’d never even remotely consider riding like that since I value both my life, freedom and drivers license (Ghostrider does crazy things like ride from Stockholm to Upsala in 15 minutes in rush hour traffic where its normally an hour long trip in good traffic… with the cops on his tail). It looks like a fun thing to do so I signed up for the class.

Fact is – its a lot harder than it looks. Its like learning how to drive a stick shift car again, except it requires balance, coordination, shifting weight, counter-steering and great precision. For one thing – when your riding a bike and you steer around a corner than you lean into a corner and then get your bicycle back upright is something really amazing. Don’t try to think about it too hard, there are lengthy physics papers on how and why this happens. On a motorcycle you have to be able to do that a great speed. Thinking about it too much will mess you up big time. First thing you really need to do to be a good rider is to stop thinking about the physics of what your doing, let go of the brakes and listen to the instructor.

One of the first things they did in class was introduce everyone. Of note there were a self proclaimed lesbian couple, a really nice guy who had been riding Harley’s for quite a while and wanted to get legal, and a girl who was convinced by her former boyfriend to do this class. They all passed as far as I know. The second thing they wanted to know was who had clutch experience. I immediately thought I had an edge on everyone since I’m pretty good at driving my manual car. In fact my sister in law remarked “oh! is this car is a manual?” after driving around for quite a while. That’s the best comment you can ever get as a driver of a car with a clutch. I have my moments, but overall I’m a smooth operator and I can pretty much drive any speed you want at any rpm.

So my ego rose. When we got to the riding range – which is disused parking lot out at the Boeing space center (which I think is a space communications office – there were transmission dishes all over the place). They gave me a 200cc Suzuki “dual sport” bike with something like 240 miles on it. Dual sport bikes are dirt bikes with street legal equipment on them. They operate and handle like a regular motorbike. I actually ended up liking it better than what they gave most people as it was considerably more agile than the poor Honda Rebel’s most were using. I wouldn’t really mind riding this bike as my main ride except it was lacking certian features I think I want like a fuel guage, tachometer, and an accurate speedometer.

Finding neutral, getting into gear, and making the bike move actually proved easy. Shifting into second gear was a challenge at first because my boots didn’t fit under the gear peg, but the instructor showed me out to tap it with the edge of my foot which was much easier. Getting the bike to do all this while corning, adjusting the clutch etc proved extremely hard however. So hard in fact after the first day I didn’t really want to go back.

Still I really wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. That night I thought about the instructors words and decided to head her advice as best I could to the letter, let go of what I “know” and trust the bike. Things got much better after that. I was speeding through corners, I wasn’t being chastised about my technique so much anymore and my skill was growing – I could tell really quickly. In short it became much easier.

Then they brought out “the box”. You have to make a slow speed u-turn, on one end and then cross over to the other end and do another u-turn then exit with speed and do a swerve maneuver – which I was really good at. Its about the size of two parking lot spaces. This exercise is actually hard on a regular bicycle. You cannot touch the ground or go outside the lines. The instructor even admitted it took her 6 times to do it when the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) introduced it into the list of exercises and she’s a seasoned rider. I got a total of 5 times to try it, 6 if you include the test itself. Its one of the few parts of the riding exam that required real skill – I mean amazing clutch and throttle control. I wasn’t perfect, I went outside the box. Frankly I wasn’t that good at slow clutch control.

One big thing I learned while doing the corning exercises is that you really can’t do “late breaking” in a motorcycle – otherwise you might end up on the road or worse. Late breaking is where you realize you went into a corner way to fast and hit the breaks to bleed off speed. You see cars do this all the time on exit and interchange ramps. Instead the best strategy to get around a corner is to slow to the speed you think its safe to handle during the entry and roll-on through the corner (rolling on is just applying the throttle through the corner).

So the big question… Did I pass? I did in fact :). I’m perfectly legal to ride a motorcycle in the State of Washington. And because I took the class I get all the discounts I’m entitled to when/if I get insurance for my bike (which I don’t have).

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