Diaries of a Newbie Biker, Vol. 2

This post is part two of a series: click here to read the introduction and table of contents.

[This segment picks up three weeks after I’ve actually had my motorcycle delivered, as I go to attend my first rider training course.]

Mar 27 – Sat – First day of MSF Beginners Rider Course at [redacted]. Wet in the morning as we did classroom work, warm in the afternoon. I rode a beat-up Suzuki GN125. Both the school owner/instructor Rob & the other instructor Jim [names changed] complimented me on my oval drill. I felt like one of the best riders in the class, especially at cornering. My confidence is way up after today. If the weather looks good for tomorrow, I may ride out to the second day of class.

[This is the version that I wrote out in my diary. Shortly I’ll convert, edit, and post the fuller version that I wrote up for one of my motorcycle bulletin boards.

Rob was a BMW rider slightly older than myself. Jim was an older fellow who reminded me very much of my graduate school mentor. I’ll always remember Jim saying “Getting paid to teach MSF is almost like stealing.”]

Mar 28 – After originally forecast T-storms, morning forecast is all clear! I geared up and rode to class. When I left I had 98 miles on the SV. Left home around 7:15am on this Sunday morning, about 55F, beautiful weather to ride in. Rode [highway A to highway B], found out quick what it was like to have wind buffeting at 70+ mph. Practiced my tucks. Found out in full tuck why clip-ons are nice – wrists by my head are uncomfy. First scratch on my tank from laying on it. First time in 5th & 6th gear. Found out how quick I could roll on from 65-80+ on an empty straight stretch – answer is quick.

[“First scratch” angst. Aww, how cute. This was my first highway ride, which explains why it was my first time in 5th & 6th gears. 4th allowed comfortable cruising from 45-50mph, which was plenty in town.

FYI, “clip-ons” are a type of handlebars normally found on sportbikes – instead of one piece of metal tubing that runs across the forks like bicycle handlebars, clip-ons are individually clamped to the left and right forks, allowing for a lower handlebar position, which in turn allows the rider to put more weight over the front wheel.]

Got to class. Very excited to ride. First warmup was offset weaves – one of the ladies in the class dropped her bike. Practicing figure-8’s in the box & S-turns, I went dirt-bike and got all the way up onto the pegs throwing the bike over form side to side – felt good. Passed the written test, passed the skills test without a single point deduction. Rode home in the afternoon, temp 75+, feeling great about life. Didn’t wear the JR pants on the way back, but otherwise even in the leather jacket I didn’t feel too warm. Feeling really good about my own ability on the bike, just gotta practice in traffic now. In driveway, 164(!) miles on the bike – 66 miles in one day. Yeehaa!

[Offset weaves – a set of cones placed in a wavy line, with the object of weaving in and out of the cones. The “box” is a drill in which a large box is drawn on the pavement and the rider must complete a full figure-8 turn without leaving the box. The “S” is, as you might guess, a tight S-turn. In my class, the two were done together – do the figure-8 and then exit the box into the S-turn.

I clearly remember passing a couple of smiling girls in a convertible on the way home in the gorgeous weather and thinking how fantastic a day it had been.]

4-1-04 April Fools Day, & I’m the fool. Came home, Dys leaving for Tennessee for a few days so I wanted to quicklike practice my figure-8’s. In doing so, I ran up on the sidewalk by the house. When I went over the bump, I accidentally blipped the throttle & scraped the house. Minor scuffs to the back of the can [the exhaust pipe], right side mirror, front brake lever, & radiator cover – just enough to tick me off. I’m very embarrassed. Oh well.

[“Embarrassed” is an understatement. I was mortified beyond belief. I briefly considered hiding this from Dys, but decided to man up and own up to my stupidity. She took pity on me, but (justifiably) laughed at my stupidity as well. As did her friend who was going to Tennessee with her, a motorcyclist herself, who laughed off the scratches.]

4-4-04 Sunday. Dys’s back. I put my son down for a nap, get all suited up to ride, and as I click the bike into gear to ride out, he comes to the door. I played with him for a while & put him down again. This time I rode out. Went to the top of [local park] – first day it was open. Then down [scenic boulevard 1, scenic boulevard 2, through second park] and back.

4-5-04 First ride to work. Morning wind chill of 29F. I wore work clothes, long johns, sweats, balaclava around my neck, & cloth gloves under my Teknics. Made it just fine. Hands & face a bit cold but otherwise OK. Worked out in PM, came back to the office to change. Hot as hell by the time I got back on. Noticed on the way home that my problem shifting from 2nd to 3rd is almost always under moderate acceleration. I asked the SVRider board, & they recommended an oil change.

4-6-04 Great ride into work. Parked in my normal lot. Got an email [that required a quick trip across campus], so I figured what the hey, I’d ride over & park the bike at [alternate motorcycle parking lot]. As I was parking, I stopped without my handlebars squared & dropped the bike on the left side. Very angry at myself. Scratched left side of radiator cover, kickstand, bent shift lever (manually bent it back) & broke the ball end off the clutch lever. I ordered a new clutch lever from [my dealer] for $12. When I walked shamedly back to my office, [the original emailer] had left me a message saying [my trip across campus hadn’t been necessary after all]. Just a twist of the knife. Uneventful ride home. If I shift from 2nd to 3rd low in the rev range, it shifts fine. Strange. Going to [dealer] tomorrow to pick up a rearstand & oil filter – intend to change the oil this weekend. If the clutch lever arrives, will do that too.

[This was far more embarrassing than the previous scratch-up. I was riding into the parking lot, a few people were walking by. One minute everything was fine, the next minute, CLUNK. Bike on its side, me scrambling to pick it up (deadlift 400 pounds in a half-panic sometime) and act like nothing happened. Yeah. That’s the way to look cool.]

4-7-04 Wednesday – nice day but drove to work. Skipped workout & went to [dealer]. Picked up Pit Bull rearstand, Maxima chain wax, oil filter, filter wrench, & rearstand spools.

[A rearstand is a device used to lift the rear tire of a motorcycle off of the ground and square the bike upright so that it can be worked on. Rearstand spools can be screwed into the swingarm on the back of the bike to provide a secure spot to attach the rearstand. “Chain wax” is a type of chain lube that doesn’t fling off like grease.]

4-8-04 Thurs – ride to work. Bit warm in afternoon. Otherwise unremarkable. Ran thru park on the way home.

4-9-04 Rode to work. Lifted in the afternoon, back to the office to change, rode home. Knees sweaty in shorts & JR pants. Rode thru park again on the way home. 264 miles on bike.

[This was the beginning of me figuring out that the overpants I had were entirely unsuitable to warm weather. They were HOT.]

4-10-04 Saturday – shopping in the AM w/ my son & Dys. [Dealer] called to say my clutch lever was in. Appleby’s for lunch. Drove out to [other side of town], sold some books to a used book dealer, picked up clutch lever. Came home. Geared up. I rode & Dys & my son drove to [nice playground on the other side of town] for a bit. Nice ride. I decided not to replace the clutch lever until I can get in some low-speed practice. Hope to change oil tomorrow if it stays dry or dries off enough for me to ride & heat up the oil.

Apr 11 – Sunday In the afternoon, when my son was taking his nap, I adjusted the angle of the clutch lever & took off for [empty old stadium parking lot]. Got in some slow maneuvering practice – straight line weaves, swerves, figure 8’s, & quick stops from 20 up to 40 mph. Made a park run on the way home. There was a guy at one of the overlooks in a Plymoth Superbird, but before I could come back around he was gone. Came home & drained the oil & changed it. See maintenance log. Replaced the broken clutch lever. [Neighbor] from next door came by & invited us over so my son could hunt Easter eggs. Spent some time over there, did some yard work, put my son to bed. Tried to take my used oil to AutoZone on [nearby street], but their reservoir was full, so brought it back. Tried to adjust clutch letoff point. This process took me about and hour & a half as every time I thought I had it, I was wrong. Finally got it where I wanted it at about 10:30 pm. Cleaned up, came in & wrote these logs, went the hell to bed.

[Boy, that clutch adjustment was a bear. I had the rear wheel off the ground and kept adjusting it so that the wheel wouldn’t turn when the clutch was pulled in. Whenever I took the bike off the stand, the clutch would barely let out. It was forever before I figured out – it’s okay if the wheel spins when it’s off the ground – that little bit of wheelspin isn’t enough to move a 400 pound motorcycle when the rear wheel is on the ground. Duh.]

Apr 14 – first day of decent weather since Sunday. Yesterday we actually had snow & sleet. Scraped frozen raindrops off my car in the morning. Got up to 58 or so in the afternoon. I made a full park run to feel out the new clutch. With the new oil it did shift easier, but I still missed third a few times. Maybe it’s just break-in on the transmission. I definitely need to adjust the clutch more, it’s letting out too far away from the grips. I’ll try to do that on Saturday. Going to ride tomorrow and Friday, and probably won’t have time ot mess with it then. Will ask advice on [my motorcycle board]. 299 miles on the bike at day’s end.

4-15 and 4-16 – Rode to work. Fri night was the [spring scrimmage for the football team].

4-17 Saturday – in the morning I took my son outside to play. I moved the bike into the driveway & put it up on the rearstand. First I adjusted the clutch to where I wanted it, then proceeded to run thru the 600-mile checkup. I tightened all the bolts & lubed the chain. In the afternoon I rode to [dealer] & picked up a tank bra which was my early anniversary present from Dys. I installed it on the curb outside [dealer].

4-18 – no riding. First MotoGP race, though. Rossi won on his first Yamaha race.

[MotoGP fans instantly recognize this reference – the rest of you won’t. This was the famous season opener in 2004 at Phakisa circuit, Welkom, South Africa. After dominating the series in 2002 and 2003 on a Honda, Valentino Rossi made the controversial decision to leave Honda and sign with Yamaha. Rossi felt that the admittedly powerful Honda motorcycle was getting most of the credit for his dominance, and he wanted to see if he could be as successful on the Yamaha, which was generally agreed to be a bike inferior to the Honda. Honda’s racing team, of course, had to show that it was their machinery and team as much as Rossi’s ability that brought the dominance.


The first race pitted Rossi on his Yamaha with his rival Max Biaggi on a Honda. If there are two men in motorcycle racing that hate each other more than Valentino Rossi and Max Biaggi, I’m not aware of it – and they fought tooth-and-nail for this race, with Rossi coming out on top in the end. This video shows about 10 minutes of highlights of that race. If nothing else, you MUST watch from 8:04 onward – that two minutes shows why I love this sport.]

4-19 – Rode to work. Rained briefly during the day, first time the bike got rained on.

[Again: aww, how cute.]

4-20 – Adjusted clutch & brake lever positions. New need to readjust clutch friction point – it’s too loose. Went for a nighttime ride to work & back through the park – first night ride. Headlight is great, but I feel like I can’t see well on the turns, so I’m not in a hurry to ride at night on curvy country roads.

[I didn’t make it a practice to ride in the dark again. I’m too spooked about the idea of deer and drunks.]

Apr 23 – Mom & Dad came in. Readjusted the clutch again while Dad watched.

[I’m surprised I didn’t write more about this. Given how terrified my mother has always been of motorcycles, thanks to broken bones she saw working in a small-town doctor’s office when I was a small child, her coming and seeing my shiny motorcycle was a fairly big deal. She took it better than I expected. My dad enjoyed the whole mechanics of it, and in fact ended up talking about how it might be nice to get a small motorcycle of his own.]

Apr 24 – Quick ride through the park.

Apr 26 – Rode to work. Broke 400 miles on the way back. Trip thru the park. Starting to get sick.

Apr 27-29 – Very sick, feverish. Weather great, couldn’t ride.

Apr 30 – [I gave a speech for a conference at a different university, and was elected to an office within my professional association. A day I fondly remember.]

[That seems like a good place to stop for now…]

Click here to return to the table of contents.

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One Response

  1. Dude, you said boob glitter on my blog.

    Yep. I had to return the favor.

    I was TOTALLY thinking of Jaime Pressley in “My Name Is Earl,” in the episode when she marries Crab Man and says something about his sister hugging her. “You’re getting your boob glitter all over my face!” 😀

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