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Motorcycles Are Heavy - cellophane
the story of an invisible girl
renniekins
renniekins
Motorcycles Are Heavy
So yesterday I dropped my first motorcycle. Oops, that didn't take long. But I've been reassured that it's not uncommon, this dropping of bikes. I still felt awfully embarrassed. Fortunately the bike and I were both okay afterward, so that's what's important.

F and I were invited to his friends' house (D and his wife Cy) for dinner. D recently bought two used motorcycles, the same year and model, which he is excited about fixing up so he and his wife will have matching rides. Only one currently runs, but he and F both thought it would be "rennie-sized". Eager to try out my new skills, I hopped up on the bike when D offered to let me try it.

I think guys with long legs just have no idea how short mine are! Anything smaller than them must be tiny, especially since they're so used to riding. I was barely able to get the thing upright, and once it was, my toes were only just touching the ground. And when I say "toes", I mean precisely two. I could only touch with the tips of each of my big toes.

I was able to walk it and keep it balanced by literally tip-toeing along. It made me kinda nervous, but the guys both assured me I should give it a try. Like I said, I was eager to try a non-school bike. It was a quiet little subdivision, and I had no intention of going fast. So I agreed to let F drive it into the street, then I climbed back on and gave it a shot.

I believe the scenario from the spectators went something like this. I toed it along in first gear and, once I got the feel for the bike and the balance, eased on the throttle and put my feet up on the pegs. I started tooling down the block, and F and D turned around and walked back to the sidewalk where Cy was watching with their little girls.

F: "I don't know why I'm so nervous!"

Cy: "Well she just fell over...."

F: "What?" (F and D turn back around and run over to help me out.)

The scenario from my perspective was more like this. "Yikes, this is huge. Okay, I've got it balanced pretty good. Yeah, I get the feeling now, it's centered nicely. Hey my feet are up, I'm riding! Wee... this isn't so bad. I can do this! Oh look, a stop sign. Well I've figured out how to make it go, I guess it's time to try stopping. No problem, just take it slow, do it just like they taught in class. Clutch, right hand brake, right foot brake, now stick out the left foot, yikes it's tipping oh my God this thing is heavy!" *tumble*

Fortunately I was already stopped when it tipped, so I just rolled right away. I was wearing gloves/jacket/helmet, and I was completely unharmed. I stood up and saw my friends hurrying toward me, and I started apologizing profusely. D was very cool about things though, which was nice. (He also told me he dumped that same bike before he even owned it! Which made me feel better.)

"The problem is," F told me, "you were going too slow."

"But I was trying to stop."

"Oh."

In class, they told us to stop with both the hand and foot brakes together -- in particular, for an emergency stop, because that'll stop you the quickest. In fact when we were drilling that, the first time I stopped with only my hand brake. Both my feet were on the ground. The instructor demanded of me, military style, "Which foot do you put down first?"

"The left foot!"

"Then why are both feet on the ground?"

"No good reason!" I felt like I should end my response with "Sir!" But I resisted.

So anyway, that's my lesson learned. Never try to stop a big bike with just one foot on the ground. Especially if only your big toes reach the pavement!

I was all ready to turn the bike back over to its rightful owner at this point, but both guys insisted I get back on and try again. "You gotta get back on the horse," they stated. So I did. I took it down the street, turned it completely around, then went around a whole block. I didn't get past 3rd gear, (in fact I'm not even certain I went up to 3rd gear), but that's okay. I wanted to keep in nice and slow.

Once I was aware that stopping would be a challenge, I just made sure to give myself tons of time and stop very slowly. I let my toes reach for the ground while still moving, and tip-toed along until it was balanced and motionless. Less than ideal, at least in my opinion, but it worked.

So that was my little adventure last night! I felt really bad about dropping D's bike, but he and F both treated it like it wasn't that big a deal. F even congratulated me, saying that now that I'd dumped I was really official. So, um, that was cool I guess. And D said he'd learned a lot of valuable information about getting the bike ready for his wife. So hey... maybe I even helped out!

The rest of the evening was delightful. Friends, kids, grilled chicken, s'mores, music, and good conversation. A nice way to end a rather exhausting weekend.

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Comments
murphyw From: murphyw Date: May 1st, 2006 09:12 pm (UTC) (Link)

Everyone drops one sooner or later. It's just like when you ask to borrow someone's unicycle and they say "sure, just watch the seat if you dismount fast". Then you're certain to send the uni scudding across the pavement dragging the seat.

Glad no one was injured and nothing was broken or scratched. You'll do it again if you ride more; probably at the end of a long sunny day when you're tired (if you're at all like me.)

--Bill
renniekins From: renniekins Date: May 2nd, 2006 02:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks -- now I'll be extra-cautious when borrowing your unicycle! That's gotta be even more challenging to balance than a big bike.

That makes sense, and it sure sounds like it's.... well not common, but not uncommon either. That's encouraging.
kevinnickerson From: kevinnickerson Date: May 1st, 2006 09:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Of course you dropped the bike. Kevin's rule of motorcycles: If you can't stand it back up, it's the wrong bike. I'm serious. Too many people have two wheeled cars instead of motorcycles, and they're going to need a wrecker if (when) the thing ends up on its side.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: May 2nd, 2006 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I don't want to own anything I can't pick up if it drops, that makes perfect sense. Who wants to wait around by the side of the road for somebody big to help? (Now test-driving, with friends around, that allows for larger bikes.)
pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: May 2nd, 2006 11:55 am (UTC) (Link)
You can pick up almost any motorcycle, if you use the right technique. Do it like Skert.

(BTW, I tracked down that link from this interesting-looking page.)
jenx From: jenx Date: May 1st, 2006 10:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dropping a bike isn't a biggie. Sliding your boss's bike under a parked car and breaking your leg, that's a big deal. I should know, my aunt (who was, at the time, my dad's secretary) laid out his bike one afternoon. I think this was after margaritas, and about an hour after she declared she was the best shool pooter ever. Hey, it was the '60s.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: May 2nd, 2006 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Ack! Oh wow, that would really suck. Now I feel better....
duane_kc From: duane_kc Date: May 1st, 2006 11:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Dropping a bike is expected. It happens Happens to me every time I hit a patch of sand going around a corner too slow, f'r instance.

But a bike you can't touch the ground on is Too Damn Big. You might want to look at the Yamaha Virago (which is what my little stubby legs own...) or a Honda Rebel.
pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: May 1st, 2006 11:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
I wouldn't ride a Rebel in Michigan. You'll get run over.

Virago 535 or a Vulcan 500 would work, though. Or a Ninja 250.
pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: May 1st, 2006 11:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
No problem, just take it slow, do it just like they taught in class. Clutch, right hand brake, right foot brake, now stick out the left foot, yikes it's tipping oh my God this thing is heavy!" *tumble*

Heh. Reminds me of when Wyn's friend Michael dropped the Leper.

He didn't have his license yet, and Wyn was helping him practice by doing some of the MSF exercises in a parking lot. I went along because I take every opportunity I get to practice that low-speed stuff with a trained instructor.

Michael was riding a borrowed CB450. Little, low-power bike. He kept killing the engine. He wanted to blame the small engine and the cable-clutch, and kept admiring the hydraulic clutch on the Leper.

After a few exercises, I agreed to let him ride the Leper for a bit. "But," I warned him, "It's heavy. A lot heavier than that 450. You can't muscle it around, you have to balance it."

He nodded a lot.

He start off around the course and I started walking back to the lone patch of shade where Wyn has set up a lawn chair and I had left my drink. I was about halfway across the parking lot when I heard "vvvvvvrrrrRRROOOOOOMMM!"

I turned around to see the Leper lying on its side on the far end of the course with Michael laying on the ground next to it.

Wyn got there before me, and shut off the engine. By the time I got there Michael was standing up and looking embarrassed.

"Didn't I tell you it was heavy?" I said.

"I thought I could hold it up," he said, "but... yeah, it really is heavy."

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay. I'm sorry about your bike."

"Don't worry about it. It's not the first time it's been dropped," I said. "Besides, if I was worried about it being dropped, I wouldn't have let a beginner ride it."

On the up side, that drop knocked the highway pegs back straight. (I'd knocked them cock-eyed a few months before encountering gravity in Kentucky.)
renniekins From: renniekins Date: May 2nd, 2006 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Heehee! Good story, with a nice happy ending.
thatguychuck From: thatguychuck Date: May 2nd, 2006 12:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Congrats!

F: "I don't know why I'm so nervous!"

Cy: "Well she just fell over...."

F: "What?" (F and D turn back around and run over to help me out.)


My GOD you have good hearing.

My fear wasn't that you dropped the bike. I was quickly pretty sure that you weren't hurt. However, I was really afraid that it would keep you from ever wanting to get back on. I was really happy to see you come back from around the block with a great big smile on your face. :)

I'd say "Everyone tips over," but then some rarity would show up and say "I haven't." But I will say that it's commonly known that there's two types of motorcyclists. Those who have crashed, and those that haven't yet. I'm glad you've gotten it out of the way. :)

Clutch, right hand brake, right foot brake, now stick out the left foot, yikes it's tipping oh my God this thing is heavy!" *tumble*

That's exactly what happened to me on the way home with my first bike. I learned early that I had to keep it from leaning a whole lot. Like Mike's bike (above), mine was stupid-heavy.

hmmm... there's lots of bikes out there that aren't stupid-heavy, you know. < grin >


PS: You might want to ask people about when THEY tipped a bike over. You'll get plenty of stories. ;)

renniekins From: renniekins Date: May 2nd, 2006 02:01 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Congrats!

Actually, I have terrible hearing, but Carolyn told me about it later. (:

I don't want something that's stupid-heavy. I don't want something heavy or scary or tall, but at the same time you keep telling me I'll outgrow the bikes I liked at MSF. Quite the dilemma. I guess I'll just have to keep (carefully!) trying other kinds....
pi3832 From: pi3832 Date: May 2nd, 2006 12:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Congrats!

I'll outgrow the bikes I liked at MSF.

Pshaw. I think Chuck overrates your Need for Speed.

HOWEVER, living in suburban Michigan, you really do need a bike that can go 80-90 mph. Not necessarily reach that speed in under 5 seconds, but get there and stay there for awhile. Y'all got some serious nuts on the road up there (that includes Chuck, BTW), and you don't want to have them riding your ass because you're going "only" 70 mph.

The 250 Nighthawk you rode at the MSF (I'm guessing from the picture that that's the bike you rode in class) just won't cut it on Michigan roads. It tops out somewhere around 70 mph, and that's assuming you don't have a head wind or a slight uphill grade.

AFAIK, the Ninja 250 is the only 250 cc bike currently available in the U.S. that will keep you out of the grill of that Cadillac Escalade late for the Lions game.

There are also some 500(ish) cc bikes that will move you fast enough to get out of the way of danger, while still being small and polite enough not to have your stomach knotting at every stop sign.

Sportier bikes: Ninja 500 (EX500), GS500E
Cruisers: Virago 535 (XV535), Vulcan 500 (EN500)

If you're willing to explore older bikes, the options get a lot larger, though it can be harder to find one in good condition. VTR250s are pretty slick, and once upon a time Honda made a 450 cc Rebel.

If you go into the land of even older bikes, there's all kinds of nice small bikes, CB450s, GS450s, etc, etc, etc, but while the engines are completely capable, the brakes, suspensions, etc, tend to leave a lot to be desired.

I don't want to sound pushy, here. I'm not telling you that you should get a motorcycle. I just like talking about them and will do so at any opportunity.

Motorcycling is not a safe sport. (Though, I do wonder how safe bicycling is on public roads.) But, anyway, you need to want to do it for yourself if you're going to do it. You don't want to get hurt and find yourself blaming someone else for it. More so, you don't want to die in an accident and leave behind someone thinking that he or she pushed you into the sport.

Anyway, enough rambling. I've got pigtails to screw together.
renniekins From: renniekins Date: May 2nd, 2006 02:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Congrats!

...come back from around the block with a great big smile on your face

It was a fairly stressful ride for just going around the block, too! I'd just dropped it, and then there were a couple big gravely bits, and THEN I had to navigate between parked cars with an oncoming pickup... that last one was a bit freaky. I was wondering what would happen if I had to stop for him. But I slowed down early enough that he was able to squeeze through the parked-car-gauntlet before me, without my having to come to a full stop. *whew!*
elizilla From: elizilla Date: May 2nd, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Congrats!

Chuck dropped a Sabre at the end of my driveway once. I believe there were two things contributing to the problem:

1. I'd just loaned him a super-comfy seat, but it made the bike taller than he was used to.

2. At the foot of my driveway there's a little gutter. If you have one wheel on each side of it, and you try to put your foot down, the ground is like six inches farther away than you would expect it to be.

As a short rider you're going to have to have an eagle eye for disadvantaged ground like that gutter at the foot of my driveway. One thing you might do for practice, as you ride your bicycle or drive your car, is watch for those little traps along the road. Practice identifying them so when you are on a motorcycle that scan will be automatic.
dagibbs From: dagibbs Date: May 2nd, 2006 03:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, bikes get dropped. I always advise that a first bike have no plastic (fairing), cause that means lots less to get broken when it, nearly inevitably, ends up lieing on the ground, usually caused by a slow lean over after stopping a bit off balance.
egon010 From: egon010 Date: May 2nd, 2006 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, it's really good you weren't hurt, but dropping a bike eventually happens to everyone. I have three stories:

1. The FIRST time I rode a motorcycle.. I thought it was in neutral, and wasn't, so I let go of the clutch really fast, and the bike leaped out from under me, and ran across the yard, stopping near a tree. Luckily, both of us were unhurt, and the owner didn't come running out of the house to stop me from trying again. (He was actually watching in the window, and figured I'd HAVE to try again, or might never get back on one).

2. This is the story about why I never wear shorts riding anymore. I was trying to put my bike on the center stand, and brushed a bare leg against the hot exhaust pipe. It was just enough to make me lose balance, and I slowly eased the bike to the ground, since it had started falling away from me. (I also don't ride without my riding jacket, gloves, helmet, long pants, etc anymore...)

3. I had my bike on its center-stand near a friend's bike, and somehow it fell off the stand. I don't know whether I just didn't set it quite right, or on a stone that moved, or what, but it slowly fell over, and knocked his bike over as well. I remember it clearly, since it seemed to happen in such slow-motion.

I also agree with some of the other comments... You want a bike with enough power to get out of the way. I was caught in a situation once where I almost got into an accident because there (almost) wasn't enough power to drive out of the way.

Also, I've always found motorcycles to be more stable as they gain speed. You have to be more careful of balance as they slow down, and if you're just barely reaching the ground, it's a problem.

Good luck continuing to ride! It's a lot of fun once you get comfortable enough to enjoy..
jagdoe From: jagdoe Date: May 2nd, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
I may be alone in this, but let me cast my vote for you NOT to buy a motorcycle.

Don't get me wrong. I think they are cool, especially 1950's styled Harley's with black leather and chrome. Beautiful pieces of machinery.

I also like the look of Indy cars, but you're not getting me on one of those either. I've known a number of motorcycle riders, and the one thing the serious ones agree on is that you get into one BAD accident sooner or later.

According to a study done by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analyzing 3600 traffic accidents in southern California, they found the following: the likelihood of injury is extremely high in these motorcycle accidents-98% of the multiple vehicle collisions and 96% of the single vehicle accidents resulted in some kind of injury to the motorcycle rider; 45% resulted in more than a minor injury.
Site: http://www.motorcycle-accidents.com/pages/stats.html
This is significantly higher than automobiles.

Or how about this: A recent report card issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2003 says that 3661 motorcyclists died in 2003, a 12% increase from 2002 and a 74% jump from 1997. An additional 67,000 were injured, 4% more than those injured in 2002.
Site: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/PPT/PresMCFatsUpdate.pdf

According to one study, in 2002, 65 out of every 100,000 registered motorcyclists was killed that year, and another 1293 were injured. That's 27 times as likely to die in an accident per mile versus a car, and 6 times as likely to be injured.
Site: http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/pdf/nrd-30/NCSA/TSF2003/809764.pdf

That's almost a 1 in a thousand chance of dying each year and 1 in 100 of being injured.

Now, maybe I just don't enjoy the wind in my hair and the thrill of speed as much as the next person. I know lots of former coworkers who are trading in their cars for motorcycles and are pretty happy with them. Just don't let anyone kid you into thinking these machines are safe. I for one don't like my chances on one.

I have to say, though, that according to the first survey, taking a professional class on riding is a good step in reducing your chances of an accident as most of the single vehicle accidents are caused by driver error and a disproportionate number of those drivers never took a class but instead merely learned from a friend or family member.

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