Diaries of a Newbie Biker, Vol 1

This is one of a series; here is the introduction and table of contents.

[This, the first part of my diary, picks up in mid-February, 2004.  If my memory serves, I actually started the diary on the 17th, then went back and wrote in a few things that I thought were interesting or pertinent.

I hadn’t really committed to buying a motorcycle immediately, but I think Dyskinesia and I had agreed in principle that I’d get one at some point between then and the summer.  So I went ahead and started sniffing out deals on riding gear on eBay and other places.  The jacket was my first gear purchase.]

February 12, 2004 – successfully bid for Joe Rocket 03 Blaster Jacket on eBay.

Feb 14 – we meet my in-laws to drop off my son for a weeklong visit.

Feb 16 – [Dys graciously accompanies me to a raving death metal concert in a nearby city.  We get back home around 2am.]

Feb 17 – [Tuesday] I take the day off.  We go to [local motorcycle dealership] to check out riding gear – see the blue ’03 SV650.  Up to this point I’d been thinking seriously about an SVS (well, since I found out the insurance on a Ducati Monster was 3x more expensive).  This SV had a great accessory package already installed – small front fairing, chin fairing, radiator cover.  We both agree it kicks butt.  I feel more comfortable with the more upright riding position.  Dys asks for a price.  The salesman comes back with a figure, and I ask if he can do better.  He comes back again with a lower figure.  Dys says we should put a $100 refundable deposit to hold it, so we do.  We go to the eye doctor where we wait a horrifically long time, then we go out to Red Lobster.

[The Suzuki SV650 comes in two sub-models, the “plain” SV650 or “naked” model, and the half-faired SV650S, more commonly called the “SVS”.   The SVS models now come with full fairings standard, but at that time they didn’t.

I had been completely fascinated with the Ducati Monster for years, but had been somewhat dissuaded with the more frequent tune-ups that the Ducati’s desmodromic valve engines require.  When I called my insurance agent, the Ducati was officially out of the question.  The SV was classified as a “standard,” and therefore relatively cheap to insure.  ALL Ducatis were classified as “sportbikes” and sportbikes are ridiculously expensive to ensure, largely because they tend to be purchased by young squids with more balls than brains.  Supposedly the average lifespan of a sportbike in the hands of a first-time rider is about six months.  Damn squids ruin it for everybody!  Grr.]

Feb 21 – I drive out alone to meet the in-laws and pick up my son.  We have a good drive back, just the two of us.

Feb 25 – Dys finishes the taxes and takes them in to be prepared.  [That is, she finished them on our end.]

Feb 26 – We do the taxes and decide we have enough money to buy the SV.

Feb 29 – James Toseland & Noriyuki Haga win the first WSBK races of the year in Valencia, both on Ducatis.  (999’s.)  Dys is violently sick to her stomach.

March 1 – I’m supposed to fly across country for a conference in the morning.  Because Dys is so sick, I stay home.

March 2 – I leave work early, violently sick myself.

March 3 – I stay home from work sick to my stomach.

March 4 – back to work.

March 5 – I take off in the afternoon.  We sign the purchase agreement at [the dealership], and buy the bike for $6011.  My loan payments, for 7 years and with money built in for gear, are $97 a month.

March 6 – Saturday  AMA Superbike Daytona 200.  Mat Mladin wins on a Suzuki.  My bike is delivered at around 3pm.  My son at first doesn’t want to see the guys getting it off the truck.  Later he’s thrilled.  I ride to the end of the street and back with no helmet.  My son rides up the driveway and into the garage behind me with Dys hanging onto him.  He squeals laughing the whole time.  3 miles on the bike.

[Sometime earlier in the week I’d ordered my helmet from an online dealer, but it hadn’t arrived yet.  I just couldn’t wait another few days to take it for a spin.  Stupid, I admit, particularly for a rank newbie, but oh well.]

March 7 – Sunday  Very windy.  I ride a bit around the neighborhood, still with no helmet.  Wind makes my eyes water.  Hard to get used to the power & high gearing compared to my dirt bike!  Keep hitting the horn when trying to turn the signals off.  I install the frame sliders.

[Re:  The gearing:  dirt bikes have relatively low gearing for low-traction situations.  I could let out the clutch on my dirt bike and it would chug along.  The first time I let out the clutch on teh SV, it lurched forward and almost choked out until I pulled the clutch in again.

Frame sliders are round bits of plastic that are bolted through the frame and stick off to the sides of the bike.  The idea is that if the bike is involved in an accident, the sliders keep the frame off of the ground, keeping it from being damaged.  They are also very helpful in very low speed, parking-lot type drops that are common for new motorcyclists.]

March 9 – Tues Cold!  My helmet arrives.  My son tries it on.

Wed Mar 10 – I’m starting to get a cold.  I come home from work instead of lifting to ride around the hill.  15 miles.  [My house backs up to a big hill that has a series of dead-end streets and very little traffic.  The 15 miles refers to the mileage on the odometer, total, not 15 miles that day.]

Fri Mar 12 – I stay home sick from work.  I ride in [a local park with a nice curvy road] for half an hour and have a blast.  Cold & windy.  My fingers get thoroughly numb!

Mar 13, Sat – a bit warmer.  I go for an hour’s ride, through the park, [a few other places around town].  Definitely gaining confidence in my ability to control the bike.  I remove the idjit stickers [the big stickers on the tank and frame that say things like WARNING:  You can get your ass killed on this thing!], and then go for one park run.  When I come back my son rides behind me into the garage again.  Mileage is up to about 53.

Mar 17 – my JR Ballistic pants & Oxtar Matrix boots arrive from New Enough leathers.  First day of decent weather since Saturday, but I worked out after work.  [I think my gloves came on the same day.  I highly recommend New Enough as a good source for gear, by the way.]

Mar 18 – good weather, 68-69 degrees and breezy.  I rushed home after work, changed into my full gear for the first time and went riding in the park again.  A little hot in the pants.  Boots very stiff, missed a few shifts because I wasn’t pointing my foot down enough to get under the shifter.  Got to the park before I realized I didn’t have my earplugs in, so I stopped to put them in & had to manhandle the bike out of the downhill parking space.  Made 2 park runs & came back home.  Waved at a little boy walking with his mom who waved at me.

[I called a ‘park run’ one lap around the local park.  A ‘full run’ is a lap around the park including an extra loop through a dead-end section.]

Mar 19 – I skipped my Friday workout and came home a few minutes early.  Changed into full gear and hit the park again.  Made several full runs.  Missed one shift, practiced hanging off in the turns.  Engine braking still very noticeable, trying to be smoother on the throttle.  Lots of other bikes in the park, shared a lot of waves – cool!  Felt good in my gear, not quite as warm as Wednesday.

Mar 20 – Temp good but stormy.  We went to Target where I picked up a Leatherman [knife/multi-tool] for my tool kit and a good digital tire gauge.  In the afternoon, we went to Home Depot where I bought a toolbox & set of screwdrivers, and to a bike shop off Dixie where I bought my Third Eye bar end mirrors. 

[Link to Third Eyes. They are used by removing the bar-end weights (there to dampen vibration in the handlebars) on the stock motorcycle and installing the mirrors in their place.  They’re actually intended for bicycles, but they look fine on motorcycles and work quite well.  They’re a bit convex and so give you more of a wide-angle view.  And they’re quite inexpensive.]

Mar 21 – Cold & windy  I install the Third Eyes, but I break one in the process.  Gotta replace it.  But I can see behind me MUCH better, and I really like the looks of the bike with them on – much more sleek lines without the vertical mirrors to break ‘em up.  [The stock mirrors were not tall enough or widely spaced enough.  They gave me a magnificent view of my shoulders.  This is a fairly common problem with motorcycle mirrors – keep an eye out if you’re ever bike shopping.]

Mar 23 – Tues.  I bought a replacement for the Third Eye I broke, and some bolts to fill the holes where I pulled out the stock mirrors.

Mar 24 – I came home from work to mow the lawn for the first time this year.  It’s about 70 degrees in the afternoon.  After I’m done mowing, I rode down to [gas station below my house] to fill up the bike (first fill-up) & add air to the tires.  1.7 gallons at 73 miles, so roughly 140-150 miles to a tank at that rate.  Dys picked our son up from school & I rode the bike to the park to meet them for a picnic dinner.  We let the little guy play some, then they followed me in Dys’s car as I made one park run & came home.  Dys says she needed Dramamine trying to go through the curves in the car!

Mar 25 – Thurs.  Home from work, ride in the par & up the hill.  I got back in time to ride with Dys to go get my son.  I climbed in the car with my helmet still on, pulling it off.  I waved at [my next door neighbor] as we went by with my helmet still on.

[You’ll notice that I haven’ t ridden anywhere other than to the local park or around the neighborhood.  That’s because I’d registered for a rider’s training course and promised Dyskinesia that I wouldn’t ride elsewhere until I’d taken the class.  That’s where I’ll pick up the next segment.]

Click here to return to the table of contents.

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2 Responses

  1. I can’t wait to hear about your rider’s course! I really enjoyed mine in Arizona and the instructor’s had lots of fun at my expense as well. (There might be an entry of my own about that…)

    I love these entries. Great stuff!!

    I actually have two write-ups of the MSF course – the one in my diary, and a more detailed one that I wrote up for my compadres on the message board I frequented. I will probably end up posting both of them – possibly at the same time, possibly saving the MSF-only one for later.

  2. *Sees a good opportunity for a companion piece.

    Go for it – I’ll send you the original text if you want to provide your own commentary! It would be an interesting counterpoint, that’s for sure.

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