The No-B.S. Beginner’s Guide to Learning How to Ride A Motorcycle – part 4

by on March 31, 2007
in Beginning Riders

janet in rain gearOne day during my “learning season” of riding, my husband led us on a ride through a campground that we knew had some lakefront real estate on the far side. What we didn’t know was that the access to the river was done a steep, gravel hill – and not firm-packed dirt, but good loose rocks. Not wanting to appear to be a chicken, I loosened my grip on the bars (so I wouldn’t over-steer) and rode down the hill without complaint. It was an unexpected opportunity to address a particular circumstance, and I passed the test with flying colors.Beginning riders usually have a lot of questions about how to handle specific riding situations, so here are a few tips for those times when a new experience is unavoidable ;)

  • Night-time riding – become extra aware of the road ahead. You should always be looking about 12 seconds down the road, even in daylight, but at night seeing farther ahead becomes critical so you spot any animals or anything like that along the highway. Additional lighting on your bike (such as a light bar) might also help you see and be seen. Finally, pack a pair of clear goggles or glasses in your for or saddle bag so you don’t get stuck wearing sun glasses at night. It worked for Corey Hart in the 80’s – it doesn’t work for you on the bike!
  • Windy conditions – Moving through the wind is always going to be a factor on the bike, but when gusts are strong or steady above 15 mph, it really gets noticable. Adding a windshield to the bike can prevent headwinds from hitting you hard in the chest and face, but what’s really critical is dealing with crosswind. When crosswinds are strong, it’s important to understand how passing traffic will affect the degree to which you are buffeted (moved around by) the wind. It can be pushing you hard to one side of the lane, but the moment a car or truck goes past you it takes away that force and you will get “tossed” quickly back to the other side of the lane. Experience is really the only way to learn how your bike responds and how much to compensate.
  • Tired butt – Most folks will complain that their butt hurts if they’ve been riding all day. But some bikes have really crappy stock seats that make even shorter rides uncomfortable. The problem could certainly be your riding position, so make sure the bike fits you in terms of handlebar reach and seat height. But also consider a new seat with a backrest or firmer foam. If that’s not practical, you may find yourself stopping more frequently just to get off the bike to walk around a bit. That’s okay too, you just have to figure the stops into your time schedule.
  • Rain – It’s gonna happen. Sooner or later you’re going to get caught in the rain, be it a light shower or an all-out downpour. If it gets to the point where visibility is limited, you should try to find a safe place to pull over. Try to pick a place where the bike will not be parked at an odd angle (like on the downward-sloped shoulder of a highway, or in mud). A rain suit is a smart bit of gear to keep with you; these days a quality suit can be very lightweight and can fold up to the size of a small clutch purse. And, if you don’t have a full-face helmet, you can fold and tie a bandana around your nose and chin, outlaw-style, to keep the “truck wash” off and the rain drops from stinging. Finally, remember that the first few minutes of a rainstorm are the most dangerous because the rain is getting the oil and road-gunk all wet, and making it even more slippery than the wet road might be after it all washes off.

First ride of 2007: ‘up around the lake’

by on March 25, 2007
in Ride Reports

saylorville lake mapThe problem with coming off a long winter is that one becomes really anxious to ride. And that means that one tends to venture out on the first warm day, no matter what the conditions other than temperature might be. Today was a day like that – nearly 80 degrees and sunny, but the “other conditions” were that there was a steady 30 mph wind. This didn’t deter us from taking a ride “up around the lake.” Only about 30 miles total but hey, it counts! Saylorville Lake & Dam is an Army Corps of Engineers project just north of Des Moines. The lake and dam are used to control the levels of the Des Moines River as it passes through the city. (Interesting to note that in 1993, all these efforts failed: steady, heavy rain over a period of weeks in northern Iowa resulted in extremely high water levels in both the Lake and the River, and in early July the River overlflowed not only its banks but also its levees, causing more than $150 million in damage within the contiguous cities of Des Moines and West Des Moines. I think about this every time we ride up around the lake because our house was almost completely destroyed in this flood.)

Our ride took us first to a Casey’s General Store for gas and bottled water, where we got our first taste of the 30 mph crosswind. This was actually worse than what we had experienced on our way home from Sturgis last August, and I decided at Casey’s not to lead us over the Mile Long Bridge that spans the Lake. We rode instead up to one of our favorite campgrounds, Cherry Glen, where we discovered that the lower parking lot and boat launch was closed off and indeed, completely under water. We then rode back toward the dam, and took the road that goes over the it, to get down to the Spillway. (The wind was just as awful going over the dam; I think the only consolation we got from not taking the Mile Bridge was that we were not being thrown around in our lane with a hundred-foot drop into the Lake on either side of us. The dam road contained earthen embankments, steep and rocky though they were, down to the lake on one side and another camp ground on the other.)

The spillway is of course where the water from the lake churns through the opening of the dam and settles back into the flow of the Des Moines River. I wish we had thought to take our camera – we go to the Spillway frequently when we are in the mood for a short ride, but I have never seen the water as high or as turbulent as it was today. The water rushes downward from the opening of the dam into a giant pool, where underneath there is a cement buttress that forces it to splash back, creating the effect of ocean water crashing against shore rocks. This serves to slow the rushing water down so it doesn’t wash away the river banks. The water splashes often some 40 or more feet into the air, and frequently rains down (or washes over) the people standing on the overlook high above. It’s frightening, but mesmerizing, to look over the fence and watch the water rushing down the spillway and being flung back and forth.

After watching the water for some time, we left the dam area and headed back home. I commented on the wind, and our friend Garry said, “The wind must be a ‘woman thing,’ I don’t even think about it.” So now I’m curious – is the wind a ‘woman thing’? Is it a ‘woman thing’ because women tend to right lighter-weight bikes? DO women tend to ride lighter-weight bikes, or is it just a ‘Janet Thing’ because I ride the Sportster? Anyway, doesn’t matter, I’ve got a little bit of windburn on my cheeks that almost looks like a sunburn, so at least it’s obvious I spent the day outdoors. Not bad for March 25 in Iowa.

Chap my hide! A brief history of biker chaps

by on March 25, 2007
in Commentary

pink biker chapsIn the “Just In Case You’re Curious” department, here’s a brief bit about a popular bit of biker leather – chaps! We can all guess that biker chaps have evolved from what the cowboys out on the range historically wore (and still wear), and we’d be right. But, the style bikers like – the kind that zip up the side and cover the entire leg – are only part of the historical picture.Wikipedia says, “The word is recorded in English since 1844, as an abbreviation of chaparajos, from Mexican or Spanish chaparreras. Words with similar background include chaparro or chaparral, the evergreen scrub vegetation that can tear at a rider’s legs and gave rise to the need for chaps.” Styles of chaps include:

  • Batwing, which are cut wide with a flare at the bottom and have only with two or three fasteners around the thigh. This gives plenty of room for movement for the lower leg.
  • Shotgun, are the type bikers wear. They fit snugly and completely around each leg, and the two legs are joined by a built-in belt at the waist. So-named because the legs resemble the double-barrel of a shotgun.
  • Chinks are a half-length chap that usually come to just below the knee, with a couple of fasteners up around the thigh.
  • Half chaps protect the lower portion of the leg only and are usually worn by English-style riders in place of tall boots.

Of particular interest to bikers, this little bit about shotgun-style chaps appeared recently on a Harley owners’ newsgroup.

The early Texans (mexicans and Anglos) of 1830-40’s designed the first full length leather britches, that completely encircled the legs and by the early 1870’s were called SHOTGUNS, because these seatless pants resembled a double barrel shotgun. The plain variety which were not adorned with fringe or conchos were called CLOSED LEGS. For big legged cowboys they fit snuggly around the legs and for some were difficult to remove with your boots and spurs on. The waistband is the defining characteristic of the period it came from. The early pairs had a belt that went all the way around the waist and buckled in the back. Most of these chaps were made of lightweight leather, doe, kid, calf, even shaved seal was offered in this style. By the 1880’s some chap makers were making two pieced chaps that were lased up the front, with a square waistband, up until the turn of the century when the curved or contoured waistband was introduced. Although these were the most popular style until the turn of the century, there were still many working cowboys that preferred this style. The 1900’s also added another feature, zippers. Most modern shotguns include zippers for a tighter tailored fit and are popular with cowboys and motorcycle enthusiasts.

Just thought you’d like to know!

Biker Chick Buzz: Kristin in Iowa

by on March 24, 2007
in Biker Chick Buzz

kristins new sportster

bee buzz Kristin in Des Moines, Iowa (left) bought this brand new Sportster 1200L in February – and has had one – count ’em, ONE – opportunity to take it for a spin in the four weeks she’s owned it. Hang in there, Kris, it WILL get warmer. That’s her friend Hollie riding pillion… ‘spect we’ll see another new bike in that family soon! (Did I mention that Kristin & Hollie are my next-door neighbors? Congrats, ladies – let’s ride!!

Biker Chick Buzz: Sunny in Northern California

by on March 20, 2007
in Biker Chick Buzz

sunny in northern california  

bee buzz Sunny in Northern California has packed more fun into just a few rides than anyone I know. She just turned over 2,400 miles on her Ninja, Tyke, in March but she’s got a knack for taking pictures of every ride that really helps tell the story. Here’s just one example on her Bikerworlds Blog.

Lori Thiel wants women to ride

by on March 19, 2007
in Other Biker Chicks

Nice article in the Oshkosh, WI Northwestern about new co-owners of Open Road Harley Davidson. Read the story here.

National Female Ride Day is May 4, 2007!

by on March 19, 2007
in Events

nfrd posterOkay biker chicks, it’s time to RIDE! has created National Female Ride Day, set for May 4, 2007, to honor and celebrate all women who ride. Where will you go??

The No-B.S. Beginner’s Guide to Learning How to Ride A Motorcycle – Part 3

by on March 19, 2007
in Beginning Riders

Can I Really Do This? YES, you have my permission to try! (like you needed that! LOL) The hard truth is, riding motorcycles isn’t for everyone. Here are some things to consider to see if it might be for you.

  1. Healthy body: Are you physically capable? You don’t have to be able to bench press 300 pounds, by any means. But you can’t really be physically frail and have confidence that you’ll be able to hold the bike up. Try visiting a dealership and sitting on their smallest street bike. Can you raise it off the kickstand? Can you walk it forward, and walk it backward, while straddling the seat? (Try these things only with the help and permission of a sales rep.) If you can’t, but you still want to be in the wind, you might consider trying a trike.
  2. Healthy attitude: Can you keep a promise to ride safely and responsibly? Remember, it’s not just your own life at stake. Hot-dogging on a bike (or worse, riding under the influence) can ruin many lives with one bad move. Also, can you accept the level of risk involved with riding, and are you prepared for the worst with up to date life insurance, a living will, etc.?
  3. Healthy desire: Do you want to ride? Really want to ride? You’ve got to want it. If you’re learning because someone else wants you to, or for some reason you’re half-hearted about it, you won’t practice. You’ll get lazy. And you’ll end up with a very expensive boat anchor languishing in your garage.

Is Harley still missing the point with women?

by on March 17, 2007
in Brands

harley davidson logoI thought that Harley-Davidson was really getting good about engineering their bikes for women… well, not necessarily for women, but doing things to the bikes (lower seat heights, easier-pulling clutches) that made them more appealing to a lot of women. But it’s possible they are still missing a big share of the market. Why? Because they seem stuck on an out-dated notion of “what bikers want.” Business management guru Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence) spoke on Friday 3/16 to the Quinnipiac University Business Leadership Forum. The New Haven Register of Connecticut reported that Peters named a few of the most pressing problems corporations are facing (among them failing to recognize women as one of the single most important markets in the world economy) and stated: “…the solution is to change the corporate mindset from selling raw materials or other goods and services to providing businesses and consumers with comprehensive solutions to problems and offering customers ‘experiences and dreams.'”

As an example, Peters “quoted a Harley-Davidson executive who said the company doesn’t just sell motorcycles: ‘What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.’”

Now the Register did not report the name of the HD exec who said this, and maybe that’s because Peters didn’t name his source outright. But whoever it was, clearly was only delivering part of the picture. Yes, some bikers might want small town-folk to fear them as part of their alter-ego fantasy. But HD needs to be careful in trying to characterize their entire customer base as male 43-year-old accountants. There are a lot more types of people than that buying Harleys, many of them women, and I’m willing to bet that “fear me” is not the statement the majority of them are trying to make – even in jest.

Biker Chick Buzz: Robyn in Texas

by on March 16, 2007
in Biker Chick Buzz

hedii robyn in msf class

bee buzz Robyn, aka Hedii, in Texas passed her MSF class and got the “M” endorsement on her license in February! Her picture – taken by friends who traveled a bit to cheer her on! – shows her on her first ride on the range. Congrats!

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