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.