September 19, 2012

A meditation in motion...

I arise, a little weary, to face the day.  Dawn is breaking as I do, though the days are growing longer, and ever so slowly warmer as the year wears on.

Several hours later I reflect on my morning, in equal parts wonder and appreciation.  :)

As I left home this morning the sun was a pale gibbous light wavering through a misty shroud, dew gleaming on the grass and a faint fog rising off the dips and hollows.  Calm, peaceful, serene.

By Woodend I was riding through a shroud of fog, wiping the visor repeatedly, sound muffled, sailing through a cocoon of isolation.

Past Macedon the fog lifted, the sun broke through the cloud, and shafts of golden light speared down to set the dewy grass aflame, and the moment felt truly precious.

By Gisborne the sky was a leaden grey, heavy and low, the wind a triksy imp, tussling this way and that, laughing gleefully as I passed a truck or large SUV (or was passed by more oft than not).

Four shades of Central Victorian morning on one ride, and every one of them beautiful in its own way. 

For that hour and a bit I am transformed, alone, serene, totally at peace.  In a very zen-like way I am in the moment. Focussed on my bike, the road around me, the road.  Nothing else matters.  It is like doing Kata, finding perfection in the movement, totally absorbed in the flow.  The sense of self seems to fade.  Or maybe expand.  Hard to describe, but tose who meditate will know what I mean I think.  A moving meditation, at 110 kilometers per hour.

Who'd take the train?

August 22, 2012

Street Legal

Well, time has flown by, and there have been a few milestones and achievements go past uncommented.  To summarise though, I'm making progress, and I'm still enjoying the bike immensely.

Some time back now I did the Stay Upraight Learner Roadcraft course.  It was a cold and wet Sunday, blustery with pretty steady rain.  It was also a fantastic day, and one that taught me quite a bit.  Slow riding work was valuable, and the emergency braking practice was really valuable.  In my learners we e-braked frmo about 25kph.  This time I was going at up to 80kph on a wet road in the rain.  I appreciate that ABS is not the be-all and end-all, and that folks can in fact use it as a crutch, but I'm still grateful my bike has it.

There was really only 2 negatives to that day all told, neither of which was a fault of the course at all.  The first was when I dropped the bike (stationary drop) in the car park before the course began.  That slow riding stuff, just a few hours too late.

The second negative; another flat tyre.  I must have picked up a nail just as I got home, because when I went back out to ride the bike a few days later I discovered a slow leak in the (500km old) rear tyre.  Bugger.

Since then I've been commuting more regularly by bike, and I've done my license course and lost my Ls.  That was heaps of fun as well, and pretty simple in the end.  So now I'm street legal and on the countdown to lose my LAMS restrictions.

Let the good times roll...

June 17, 2012

New Tyre

Well, after my adventures on the Queen's Birthday I wasn't really too comfortable with my double-plugged rear tyre.  The fact that it was (slowly) losing air only really confirmed that discomfort, and it was time for a new rear tyre.

I had been going to get Bolton's to do it here in Kyneton, and organised to work Friday from home so I could get it seen to, but saw a providential post on NetRiders by MMMTS (Metro Mobile Motorcycle Tyre Service: about having done a tyre at Lancefield. 

A quick message or three later and MMMTS were teed up to come sort my rear tyre for me, and sort it they did.  Top service, friendly, helpful, and I have a new rear tyre that should keep me motoring happily for quite some time.  Replaced the OEM Dunlop Sportsmax RoadSmarts with a Michelin P3 that by all accounts should give me good touring life with better grip and confidence than the Dunlops.

I've only really started to scrub it in - about 60kms worth yesterday (Saturday) so it really still needs a bit more working in, but already I'm pretty happy with it.  I started off pretty gingerly, and while I'll certainly still have wider chicken strips than my brothers I've had it leaning over quite a bit on Cobb and Co road, Chevelley's Lane and the Woodend-Tylden and Tylden-Kyneton Roads, all of which have some fun sweeping bends that I took probably as fast as I ever have without the tyre giving so much as a wobble.

A run in to work and back at some stage this week and she'll be well and truly ready for anything I think, and definitely up to scratch for my Stay Upright course weekend after next.  So I'm back on the road again, and happy to be there.  Now if I can just avoid any more nails for more than a couple of thousand kms please...


Well, my ride with my brothers on the Queen's Birthday Monday didn't quite go as planned.

The first inkling that trouble was brewing was a text from Ali saying that he was having electrical problems with his bike.  Ouch.  The hope was that he would be able to get that sorted and still join us.  So off I set, on what was a very brisk cold morning, to make my way over to the initial rendezvous point at Romsey.

Well, the road was clear, it was a nice enough ride over, but the thick frost on the paddocks highlighted that my choice of leather jacket over textile might have been suspect.  Arrival at Romsey saw me changing the Hellfire's, as I was definitely needing the heavier winter gloves.

Then, with Ross arriving it was off to Whittlesea, where, the plan was, we would meet up with Ali and have a coffee.

Hmmm.  Fog.  Where the heck did that come from???  And not just any fog, but london-style pea soup fog.  Wipe your visor frequently and repeatedly fog.  Lovely road out towards Wallan, and it would have been fantastic if we could see far enough ahead to actually enjoy all those glorious bends.  Ah well...

Rightio, into Whittlesea, stop for coffee.  And notice my rear tyre has a puncture.  Crap.  Ali's electrical issues were still ongpoing.  Double crap.  Oh, and Ali had the puncture repair kit.  You get the picture...  The culprit; a 4" masonry nail of all things.  Thanks a lot to whoever thoughtfully left that lying on the road.  There were a group of cyclists at the same cafe who had also had a member get a puncture, so I guess I wasn't alone.

Enter stage left a pair of guys on cruisers who came to the rescue and helped me get the rear type plugged.  This is probably one of the most endearing thing about the biker community, they really do stick together a bit and help out in situations like this, and I deeply appreciated their help.  I'll be paying that forward any and every time I can.

Another rider had a comressor in his truck, so the tire was re-inflated, and we were good to go, although now the plan was modified to be a quick return back home again alas.

So, return journey, the fog has lifted (mostly) and back we head, only for me to notice the rear felt pretty slushy over the recent roadworks we'd passed without incident on our way in.  Ross confirmed a few seconds later that 'I don't like the look of that rear tyre again mate'.  Double crap.  So, find a place we can pull off safely and yep, tire flat again.

Oh, and Ross also starting to succumb to a gastric upset.  I guess that was our third unlucky thing.  About 5 mins out of Romsey, spotty phone reception and a flat.  My folks came to the rescue with a trailer, and a repair kit.  Re-patched the puncture and found a staple (from a staple gun type staple) in the tyre as well.  Patched that too.  Pumped it up again, and continued homw under escort in case it deflated again...

Finally made it home.

It was an interesting ride, and pretty educational, if not the unalloyed fun I had been anticipating....  I guess that is just the joys of motorcycling.  :)

So, tyre repair kit very much on my to-get list now, as well as an angle adapter given my wheels make may attachments damn difficult to fit to the valve.  Some sort of bike friendly compressor would be an awesome find too I suspect.

C'est la vie.

May 27, 2012

More milestones

Well, the last couple of weeks have been fun.  :) 

1550kms on the clock, so only another 50km to go and I'm officially out of the break in period.  I've been a little naughty occasionally getting up to 7k rpm (supposed to not exceed 6k) and on the whole though it has been fun.  That jump from 4k to 6k opened up a new world of acceleration, but while very pleasant it wasn't an 'oh shit' event.  I suspect in part because a lot of my riding initially was smaller trips, and spread out over quite a bit of time, I've had time to adjust and get comfortable on the bike.

Ali did ask if I was comfortable accelerating flat out from stop up to speed (albeit gear changing at 6k) and I wasn't sure - hadn't really tried 'flat out', though I've certainly been quick.  So I tried it today - answer is a qualified yes.  A tad stomach dropping, but pretty comfortable on the whole, and she gets up to speed pretty quickly.  Of course, the real qualification is insofar as that was twisting the wrist as far as I was comfortable doing in my regular riding grip - I didn't feel any 'stop' though, so I suspect I could twist harder, and it would probably accelerate harder again too...  Something to experiment with a tad more yet perhaps.  But if it isn't as flat out as the bike can go it is certainly quick enough to get me out of trouble I think, if I need to do so for whatever reason.

Now, I mentioned milestones in the post's title, and there is another milestone or two that can be mentioned here.  Both occurred on Friday just past.

First was riding in to the office in the rain.  Constant, soaking, heavy rain.  I was actually pretty comfortable to be honest, though obviously more careful than ever in the wet.  Put the occasion to good use by cornering with my body weight consciously transferred so the bike didn't need to lean as much, and that really is good practise when, on a normal commute, I hardly need to lean the bike at all anyway...

Note to self however:  You bought waterproof over gear.  Put it on.  It started raining just as I hopped onto the bike.  I hoped it would clear up again quickly.  Bad move.  I should have just bit the bullet, taken off my gloves and put on the waterproof pants.  Would have saved me a very uncomfortable, cold soaked crotch.  'Nuff said.

The second milestone was on the ride home.  I had my waterproofs on.  It didn't rain.  (Did I mention Murphy is a sod?)  What it did instead was somewhat more disconcerting.  It blew a gale, with gusts of up to 70km/h according to the observation data from the BoM.  70 km/h crosswinds.  That was fun...

The practise I got hanging off the bike to keep her more upright in the corners that I got on the ride in stood me in good stead, as I spent a large part of the ride home at about 90 km/h, hanging off the bike just to keep going in a straight line and not switch lanes unexpectedly.  Counter steering as needed to compensate for lulls and heavier blasts.  It was fun, in a stressful and disconcerting kind of way, but when I got home I felt like I'd been wrestling for an hour and a half....

So...  nearly 1600kms down, and I have to say, I'm loving it.  :) 

Stay upright, and let the good times roll...

May 10, 2012



Well, I've successfully commuted in on the bike a few times now, and I've just had the 1000km service done.  All in all I have probably racked up close to 950kms riding experience now, across a variety of roads and conditions including country roads, freeways and inner city/CBD driving.  I've not ridden in more thank light drizzle yet, and am definitely not keen on meeting an icy freeway any time soon, but on the whole my confidence in my ability is slowly improving.

At this stage I'm still taking the train far more days than not - if I need to train it for some reason then far and away the cheapest way is via a weekly ticket (or even monthly) but obviously that has an effect on the economics of riding.  It is ironic that as bad as our public transport system is, it is still cheaper for me to train in than to ride once I factor in maintenance and tyre costs.  Fortunately it is probably only a difference of about $30 a week or so.  That is a price I'm willing to pay for a much more enjoyable commute experience, but I do need to get myself better organised first.

Having a locker would help, and a routine to allow a quick and efficient change into and out of riding gear - but that will come.  :) 

The travel time is another issue - travelling at the same time as I train is quicker by bike, but not much.  I'm copping some pretty heavy traffic at times on the freeway (both ways) when in close to the city, and Flemington Rd in particular is pretty appalling.  I suspect if I leave earlier (on both legs) I'd meet less traffic, but that may be hard to organise.

All that aside, while (especially in winter where bad riding conditions are likely to abound) I may realistically be riding to the station and training in quite a bit I do plan to commute more and more by bike as my skills, confidence and organisational abilities improve.  :)

So, what have I learnt along the way?

Relaxing is really important.  Don't be in a rush...  this really applies to the heavy traffic situations - freeway riding at 110kms is pretty much a no-brainer for the most part as long as you stay aware of what is going on around you.  I've only had a few 'oh shit' moments, but they were all around intersections, light changes etc.  None serious, or even overly embarrassing...  more a concern for crap, did I run that red light.  In stop start traffic just flow with it - if you aren't filtering or lane splitting (and I'm not) then give yourself space, be early on the brake light (just let the guy behind you know what you are doing) and be aware of the traffic flow.  The only bit I'm messed up is being aware of when the light will change...  once or twice I've followed a car through when I probably should have stayed put - although be aware of what the guy behind you is likely to do too...  don't stay put if you will be rear-ended.  :|

Controlling my speed precisely is still a tad tricky for me - more practise will iron that out I guess, but especially in the inner City 50 and 60 zones I don't want to be edging up over the limit.  I don't need the fines, or the demerit points.  Seems almost every car on the road is happy to do so though... 

On the freeway there really isn't much call for worry about cornering lines - everything is pretty gentle and slowly sweeping, but it is an area I know I need to continue to work on.

Crosswinds...  oh how thou art a pain.  Mild counter steering against a buffeting crosswind helps me to keep my line stable, but I do need to work on not tensing up when I'm being buffeted by winds.  Oh, and note to self.  On a windy day, think seriously about the heavier earplugs.  Boy does that wind noise get loud.

But overall impressions a month on, with 1000kms on the clock.  Fun.  Definitely fun.  :D

April 27, 2012

The First Commute

Well, today was the day.  The first commute ride...

It was cold and dark at 6am as I wandered outsite, moved the bike out of the garage, popped my car back in and then started her up and headed out into the darkness and quickly left the sleepy back streets of Kyneton for the less sleepy Calder Freeway.  I'm guessing it was maybe 10 past or so by the time I actually got motoring and on my way, and while it was certainly milder than it will be later in the year I was glad of some of the layers I was wearing.  In fact, the only slight miscalculation was in not wearing the thicker, warmer gloves, as my fingers were pretty darn cold by the time I got to the BP at Calder Park.

The initial part of the ride was fine, although I did tend to drift back towards about 103 if I didn't keep an eye on my speed.  Perhaps it is just my speedo, but the traffic was definitely moving a bit quicker than me as a rule, even when I was up at 110.

By the time I'd gone past Diggers Rest I was starting to overtake the odd slower car, and it was now getting light, and shortly thereafter I pulled in to the BP to top up the tank ($16.00 petrol, so not bad given I'd done quite a few kms on her since I last filled up).  By about 6:50 I'd filled up and was just waiting for Ross to arrive to keep me company on the ride in to the CBD.

And then it was back out into the traffic, noticably heavier now, and that just continued to increase as time wore on, but on the whole we only really slowed down alarmingly where the Tulla merges with the Calder.  And then it was off the freeway at Flemington Rd and largely stop/start until we swung left up Grattan St.  After that it freed up a bit again, and it was smooth sailing right onto Rathdowne/Exhibition and into the CBD until I found myself parked in Flinders Lane just round the corner from the office.

On the whole a smooth and uneventful ride, which is the way I like it.  :)  Won't be long now till I'm ticking over the 800km and then 1000km milestones (and attendant first service).

April 25, 2012

Anzac Day Ride

Well, today I went for a really pleasant ride with my brother Ross, and I have to say I had a blast.  :)  I may not be blitzing the tarmac at race speed, but I most assuredly had a very enjoyable ride on some roads that are frankly an absolute delight.

The weather wasn't ideal, it was a tad cold and there was the odd spit of rain about, but on the whole it was far from the inclement wet-weather riding experience I was expecting.

In particular the road from Woodend to Daylesford is a beauty with some lovely sweeping bends, and fantastic scenery, and it is a trip I can see myself doing regularly.  Stopping for a coffee in Daylesford (or maybe Glenlyon to switch it up) is an added bonus.

This, I have to say, is about as much fun as you can have on wheels I reckon.  :)

April 24, 2012

More time in the saddle

Well, on Saturday I had some fine weather, and an hour and a half or so time that I could steal to ride the bike.  End result was a happy little camper.  :)

I cruised along the (really very pretty) road from Kyneton to Tylden, and then down to Woodend before jumping on the freeway back as far as Carlesruhe.  Then it was my favourite bends on Cobb & Co Rd, before back on to the freeway (back to Woodend) and then home via Chevelley Rd and the Carlesruhe-Central Rd, back in to Kyneton.

Lots of comfortable sweeping bends that you can take at 100, a few signed as 80, a little traffic (mostly on-coming) and some time on the freeway at 110.  I felt pretty relaxed and comfortable throughout, although I do need to consciously relax my left hand grip from time to time - wrist and elbow are relaxed, but I am gripping a bit tightly and will have to work on it.  :)

Now I'm looking forward to tomorrow (Anzac Day) and a bigger ride with my brother, even if the weather will be a tad wet.  Alas Ali won't be able to join us, but we'll get the three of us out and about soon enough I'm sure.

If tomorrow's ride goes well I may just brave riding in to work on Friday - see how we go.

April 18, 2012

The Freeway...

Well, I took a very short night ride last night.  In part it was short due to a fogging phenomenon....  Not my visor, the anti-fogging doover worked just fine.  My glasses.  I wasn't wearing my lenses, and wow, what a difference that makes at low speeds.  Note to self:  The contacts was deifnitely the right move.

Basically all I did was ride onto the freeway as far as Carlsruhe, stop to top up the tank, and then back onto the freeway home again.

This was interesting for a number of reasons though.

  • 110 km/h is fine now, doesn't stress me at all (although I do still need to concentrate to avoid having my speed fluctuate somewhat).
  • I'm still a bit tense around traffic (hardly surprising) but think more exposure is definitely in order now.
  • Vision at night is restricted (especially if your glasses show a tendency to fog up) which affects the speed at which you are comfortable cornering (like, for instance, on an on-ramp to merge).  I'd like to try this again in the daytime with a bit more traffic, but don't see it as an issue.
  • Speed limits (e.g. for roadworks) are a real pain - I slowed down to the posted 60, but the rest of the traffic seemed to regard that limit as advisory at best.  Slightly disconcerting, but traffic was pretty light, so it wasn't a major issue.
  • I still need work smoothing out my gear changes, particularly changing down when I am slowing - it isn't automatic yet, and I do want it to be.

But on the whole, not a bad (if short) ride.  I felt a bit uncomfortable and jerky, so I'll do it again over the weekend in daylight and see how that feels...

I think commuting is getting closer though, definitely closer.  :)

April 16, 2012

Two weeks on...

Well, I've had my Learners and my bike for 2 weeks now, and it has been a fun ride so far.  :) 

We had the MiL up for the weekend, and our usual busy schedule as well, so ride time was limited, but I did get out both days.  Sunday I went for a trip out to Tylden and back (the slightly scenic way) which had some really nice sweeping bends, and mixed it up between bends without speed warnings and a few 80km posted bends.

I have to say I'm feeling more confident and settled on the bike now, 100kph feels quite solid and dependable, and the unsigned bends were totally comfortable.  I still slow to the posted speed coming in to a signed bend, but am generally doing those with ease as well now, and really starting to enjoy that.

While I'll definitely be working on my cornering technique for the foreseeable future, I suspect that introducing mild to moderate traffic might be my next challenge, and looking to tackle the 110kph freeway.  :)

May not be long until I seriously start looking to commute on the bike, and a longer ride with my brothers is looking more and more feasible. 

April 11, 2012

Skills session

OK, a bit late, but on Monday I did some work on riding skills with Ali, and I have to say it was a blast.  Obviously with just over a week of riding under my belt I'm not going to be stunning anyone with my ability just yet, but I feel quite a bit more comfortable after that workout, so a job well done Ali.  :)

We started off with a short ride around town before heading to the local High School Bus Loop - a nice sized car park area just perfect for practising skills.  First up was practice doing u-turns, and I quickly got the hang of this - occasionally put my foot down, but mostly I was doing just fine.  I seem to naturally counter-balance when turning slowly so that is great.  Just need to train myself to not do so in regular turns!

Then quick stops, and again I'm feeling reasonably OK with that...  practise will always be good of course, but I do OK, and got the ABS working once or twice (so obviously grabbed it a bit hard), and even had my tail start to lift on one stop, which is a bit surprising given how heavy my bike is.

What actually gave me a bit of a turn was accelerating to get up to speed for the stop.  Stopping from 30-35-40 was fine.  Once I was trying to go faster than that however it meant I was needing to accelerate faster than I have been previously (probably a rate similar to what I would in a car).  So, I give the throttle some serious stick (though still nowhere near a full-on rip) and genuinely scared myself with the acceleration.  Hmmm...  this is a LAMS bike, and I'm not revving much over 4000 rpm while running in the engine.  Clearly some more scares to come in future, but tight grip with legs and a forward lean will help me there I guess.

Once we were done with the quick stops it was time for a bit of a slalom course with a tight 180 bend at the end and that was actually enormous fun.  OK, remember, must lean with the bike on this one...  drop elbow, head across towards the mirror and I'll be good.  get that bike leaning over and steady through the turn at 30 or so.  Kind of keen to try the roundabout at the end of my street now.  :D

Then we finished up with a brief ride out along Cobb & Co Rd and back - won't be long before I'm feeling comfortable with the bends on that road I'm sure, so I'm really looking forward to my next chance to ride now.  Cross winds are a bit of a cow though, and I still need plenty of work up above 90kph or so until I am really comfortable there, but it will come in time.

April 08, 2012

And corners...

So this afternoon I was again a bit constrained for time, so I headed out of Kyneton along the Tylden Rd, turned towards Carlshrue and then over the Freeway to head back by Cobb & Co Rd, and the lovely sweeping bends it has to offer.

I started on an inauspicious note - managed to stall on the driveway in truly embarrassing fashion, and thought for a second I was going to drop the bike.  Yikes!  But I was able to stop it and get  it balanced again with a bit of leg muscle exertion, and that was both a relief and quite confidence building in and of itself.

Once again I worked through 80 and then 100k zones, and felt a bit more comfortable at speed - it is really getting some practise at corners now that will see me feeling better I think (as well as quick stops, tight bends etc.) and just a bit more practise in general with getting my throttle control steady - I tended to wander up and down in speed a bit.  That is probably good given I'm still running in the engine, but it would be better if it was intentional.  :|

I'm pretty cautious heading into bends, especially if I can't see through it, slowing down to below the posted speed if there is one, but already I can see why this is the most praised part of motorcycle riding.  Going round a sweeping bend, with the bike tilted over and the exit in sight is a really awesome feeling.  I'll definitely be doing this little gem of a circuit quite a bit more I can see - a quick 40 mins or so, but with some great straights I can get up to my 100k at, and a few beautiful bends, including a sharp right (as you head from Carlshrue back to Kyneton along Cobb & Co Rd) sweeping up a hill, followed by a sweeping left as you swing around onto Trio Rd.

I finished turning right off Bourke St into Caroline Chisholm Dve.  For those who don't know this stretch there is a sharp little hill as you enter Caroline Chisholm Dve.  Now I had thought I was taking that corner in 2nd, but apparently I was still in 3rd (heck maybe 4th?) - second stall for the day.  Très embarrassing, but a learning experience - I should have been changing down more proactively before I cornered, though a gear indicator would also help for situations like this. 

Now I'm looking forward to some cornering practise and quick stops with Ali when he comes up tomorrow.  :)

April 07, 2012

A bit more adventurous...

Well, today I went for a longer ride, and tackled both 80 and 100 zones.  Slow but steady progress really, so I'm happy for the most part.  :)  Quite windy at 100, more than I expected really, but you do get used to that pretty quickly.

I need to work on handling sweeping bends to improve my technique there, and watch out for target fixation - that could have ended badly, even if was was going through the corner at not much more than idle in 2nd...  note to self:  Watch where you want to go, not the scary edge of the road!

But on the whole, pretty happy so far.  :)   Tomorrow a bit more of the same, and some quick stops.  :)

April 05, 2012

The Third Ride...

Slowly progressing...  I didn't get out to any 80-100km zones this time, but I did spend about half an hour beetling around Kyneton in at times pretty heavy traffic.  A couple of rear-brake starts on hills (interesting, but mostly done quite comfortably), a lot of changing up and down, left and right turns, a few roundabouts...  all fun.

I really just need to build my skills until changing gears, indicating etc. is all automatic, work on my cornering technique so I am more comfortable, and obviously venture out onto higher speed roads.  Saturday is looking good for the latter at least...  the rest will just take time.

But progress, so it is all good.  :)

I'll need to get Ali or Ross to check how I've attached the seat bag - not entirely sure it is correct.  And boy, do you get hot and sweaty on a warm day if you aren't moving at speed.  Bumper-to-bumper stop start through the Safeway Carpark on the Thursday before Easter was interesting, but I'm a lot more comfortable with my slow riding skills. 

So far, a good day.  :)

April 04, 2012

The Second Ride

A little more adventurous this time, a longer ride (slightly) that encompassed several stretches of 60km road.  It was still pretty short as it was about 7:30 in the evening, and dark.  traffic was very light, but there was some.

A few take-aways, mainly around remember to adjust the mirrors.  Disconcerting knowing there was a car behind me but not seeing anything in the mirrors at all.  :|

The idle speed is a lot better now, but I may need to tweak it down just a fraction more, but on the whole the bike behaves beautifully.  :)

April 02, 2012

I shall pick her up today...

Take 2...

Alrighty, 2nd time round sitting the Prac test and I was still a touch more nervous than I really wanted to be, but it all worked out just fine.  :)

There were a couple of things that really helped, probably most importantly that the bike I had this time had a friendlier idle.  I still managed to stall it in practice a couple of times, but it was reasonably well behaved, and its idle setting was much nicer for the slow ride (my bugbear in the original test).  This time around all I needed to was get away to a normal start and then roll off the throttle and idle through.  Sooo much easier - no slipping the clutch etc.  :)

The instructor, Michael, was the other really great thing.  A smaller group certainly helps, but he was really good at getting me to relax.  He focussed in on posture more, and just simple things really – putting a white cone where we need to look going through both the corners mainly.

I got the $50 note analogy - imagine your gripping a note with each knee.  :)  He also talked about slouching like it was a crap day at work. Probably the biggest single thing was getting me to exhale going into the corners and slow ride as a trick to get me to relax/release tension – and probably give my brain something constructive to do.
It went really well, and I’m pretty stoked, though no doubt I’ll be back for further practice/training soon enough.

Basically it was nerves the first time, and I got a few tips on combatting that and the tendency to stiffen up the posture. I found leaning a bit forward (just a little lean, maybe 10 degrees or so) really helped me to remember to grip with the legs, and that made it easier to remember to keep the upper body relaxed.

So, a huge relief, and feeling pretty happy now, and will doubtless get more excited about picking up the bike today as the day wears on.

Onwards and upwards.

March 27, 2012

Waiting for me...

Well...  I can't get the bike until I get the learner permit (something to do with the finance), so it is waiting in the shop for me.  I dare say it will wait for a couple of weeks if need be, but hopefully I'll pass the prac re-test on Sunday.

It is so purty...

The first hurdle...

I thoroughly enjoyed the 2 day learner course with HART, it really was a brilliant weekend.  From someone who had never really ridden a motorcycle at all, and knew pretty much nothing I got up to speed reasonably well.  Like my brothers I would recommend it to anyone - even if you never intend to ride a motorbike, do the course.  It is awesome fun, and may just make a better driver out of you too.

It was certainly immesely disappointing that I managed to fail the prac test, although I've already booked in to re-sit that, and I'm pretty hopeful of getting through this time.

It has actually been an interesting experience in and of itself, because while I never really thought I'd be a natural, I didn't expect to have any real dramas.  And in practice I did master the skills ok...  nerves did me in though, in a disappointing way.

My first reaction was frustration and disappointment, followed by quite a bit of second guessing...  I'm actually not used to failing things, and I'd like to think it is character building.  Certainly I went from dispondance and disappointment to thoughts of "maybe I'm just not cut out for this".  I guess that I pretty quickly squashed that...  I'm nothing if not stubborn, and I know I can do it - hell I did it just fine in the run before they sprang the test on me. 

Sooo...  key take aways.  Keep at it.  Persistence will pay.  And for me personally, just relax and do it, because I know I can. 

If I fail again, well, I'll just resit again...  and again...  until I get it.  

March 20, 2012

Oh yes, it shall be mine

Well, finance approved, bike arrives at the dealers on Friday.  Saturday I'm off to HART for my 2 day learners course, and all things going well Monday I'll have my new bike.

I'm still a little bemused by it in a way, but immensely pleased and excited too. 

Big question will be whether I'm up to riding it home Monday night or not, but I definitely plan on getting into the saddle a lot, and getting my skills up to speed.

March 14, 2012

Shopping trip (part 2)

Wherin the intrepid author proves again his propensity for an impulse buy...

Yep, went out to meet Ross, and had a look at bikes.  Put down a deposit for a new Ninja 650L ABS in green.  Whew.  No denying it is a lot cheaper than a new car (I did that with the Daewoo) but still a big purchase.  I'll sort out finance with them in the next week or so, or with a bank...  either way, depending on convenience and rates I guess.

My wife also suggested a leather jacket for my birthday - so I now have a new leather motorcycle jacket.  A bit more than she was really budgeting for, but I'm happy to make up the difference.  I also now know I need to get a new helmet and a spine protector, but that is cool. 

I have the jeans, boots and gloves that Ross had for me, so I'll be set to go then - and just need to add to my wardrobe over time to better cater for the cold/wet etc.

Not bad for a lunch break's work...

Shopping trip (part 1)...

Well, today the adventure continues as I explored the mysteries of bikes, protective clothing and steak and chips lunch with my brother Ross.

The shopping trip...  well, actually before the shopping trip...

I between running unit tests, correcting code defects and the like I spent a few stolen moments looking at the specs for the bike I'm most tempted by, the Ninja 650L ABS.  As a complete newcomer (and ignoramus) to the field I didn't have much of an idea of what I was looking at to start with.  My first question (what exactly is the difference between the 650L and 650RL) seems to have been answered with - in the 2012 model they dropped the R from the name.  Okayyy...

So in short not a huge difference between the two, but a few nice little improvements in the latest model.

This bike does tick all my boxes:
  • ABS (hello safety my old friend)
  • A somewhat bigger/heavier bike that will handle my bulk at freeway speeds
  • 500cc+ Engine (for the same reason given the freeway around my home is 110km/h)
  • Somthing that should be reasonably comfortable as a commuter/tourer
  • Something that should be reasonably fun to ride as well
  • Something that I hopefully won't grow too bored by during my license restriction period*
It also helps that I really have liked the Ninja for ages, it has a cool name, looks awesome, and my brother has one (well its big brother the 1000 anyway).  Not that I'm shallow or anything...  much.  ;)

*I'd add something that won't scare me witless when I first start riding, but I doubt that this bike exists, and if it does it will almost certainly fail some of the other criteria.

With this mystery suitably explained it was then time to go meet Ross and take a look at gear and possibly bikes.

March 12, 2012

I can see clearly now...

Contact lenses.  Why did I wait so long to discover you? Sure there is an ick-factor about poking yourself in the eye, but wow!  Let me just repeat that...  wow!

My vision ain't fantastic (short sighted to quite a reasonable degree) but the contacts are just awesome.  Better vision than with my glasses, and hello peripheral vision, I'd forgotten what you were like.  :)

So already this obsession has led to a genuine quality of life improvement.

How's that you ask?  Well, it was glasses fogging up and slipping down nose inside motorcycle helmet that led me to take the dreadful plunge, bite the bullet and give the contacts a go.  I mean, I'd been intending to get around to it for ages...  well, about 25 years actually.  But now I have.  And it is awesome. 
OK, maybe mid-life crisis is a bit harsh, but people who know me well are probably all a bit bemused about now...  :)  I'll fess up right now that 45 is a tad off as well, I'll be 44 in a week, but a round number sounds better, and you know, I do hope I can at least get up to 45 km/h at some point (or 45 degree lean - it works on so many levels).  A mid-life crisis makes a plausible excuse at least, and there is always the comfort for family that at least it is a motorcycle fixation - it could have been worse.  :P

For those that are interested, I'm a software developer by trade, father of two, and probably one of the more risk-averse guys on the planet, so a sudden compulsion to get a motorcycle seems a wee bit out of character.  But in my past I was a more active guy, with a background in martial arts and a tendency to be a bit of a gym junkie - it seems one never quite gets over adrenalin addiction.  The minute I rode pillion with my brother my fate was sealed.

So now I am eagerly awaiting the approach of my 2 day learner course at HART, albiet with a little trepidation thrown into the mix.