Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Motorcycle Bug

This is what I did when I got bit by the motorcycle bug:

1.  I read a lot.  There are a bunch of good books at the local library.  I read a couple of "Motorcycle for Dummies"-type books, as well as a series I really liked called Proficient Motorcycling by David Hough (there are two books in that series.)

2.  I took the MSF class.  I found about rider education from www.msf-usa.org .  They've got a lot of good reading material there too.  I signed up for the course and I took the class at our local community college. There are several "types" of class, and I took the Beginner RiderCourse.  When you [successfully] complete the class, you get a card, which might be worth an insurance discount to you.  The class covers the types of situations you need to be aware of, and how to deal with them.

The class cost $235 (when I took it), and it was well worth it.  I had zero experience to speak of, and I want to learn things the right way.  It's a three day course: Friday evening, and all day Saturday and Sunday.  There are some videos to watch, book work, and discussion.  The fun part is riding.  They supply small (250cc range) motorcycles that you use to develop skills, and practice driving around the range (a parking lot).  You'll practice quick stops, swerves, etc.  You don't venture out into traffic. 

To take the class, you'll need gloves, a DOT-approved helmet, something long-sleeved, and over-the-ankle footwear. This particular class offered helmets to borrow, but in my group, everyone had his own gear. 

3.  I got my gear.  I bought riding gloves, a full head helmet, a riding jacket.  I wear all the gear all the time. My jacket is a Tourmaster Intake II. It is a mesh jacket, with a water/wind liner and a thermal liner.  During the summer, people ask "don't you get hot in that?"  No more so than a car without air conditioning.

4.  I ask questions.  There are a couple of riders at my office here, and they are a great resource; I've still got a lot to learn.  There are good on-line motorcycle rider communities, where you can continue learning. 

5.  I practice.  When I first got my bike, I had the previous owner drive it to my house.  The first couple of days all I did was drive it around the block a few times.  I learned that it's tough to start of from an incline, for example :-)  After I felt more comfortable I ventured out on the road.  I try to ride as much as I can.  The experts recommend you continue to take some time driving around a parking lot to get better at handling, continue practicing quick stops, swerves, etc.

6.  I got my full license.  My state requires a rider to have at minimum a Motorcycle Learner's Permit; the basic restriction of which is that one cannot ride after dark.  Here in SC, one can get a permit after passing a written test.  One of the findings from the Hurt Report is that having a full license reduces your chances of being in an accident.  I suppose it's because if you've shown that you can handle the bike good enough for the test, you can handle it good enough on the roads to keep out of trouble.  The riding test here consists of several maneuvers. I practiced for a couple of months, and then passed the riding test. In some states, successfully completing the MSF Intermediate RiderCourse allows you to waive the riding test at your local DMV. Of course, you'll have to check for yourself.

7.  Of course, I bought a motorcycle!  I bought a lightly-used 2006 Honda Shadow VLX. It's a 600-cc bike, and reviewed very well as a fine "beginner bike." What I like about it is that it's small enough for me to control, but large enough to put on the interstate without being blown all about.  It's a fantastic bike. 

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