I reached a milestone this year, 100,000 miles of travel on two wheels. If you couldn’t tell by the name of my blog, yes, I’m a motorcyclist and travel on two wheels is what I do. Now that I have some experience under my belt, I thought it was time I passed on some advice to you novices out there and for those thinking of taking up the sport. First, a few facts about motorcycles.
Number 1: They’re heavy. The weight averages between 400 lbs. to 800 lbs. give or take depending on model.
Number 2: When not moving, motorcycles don’t balance very well. So my first piece of advice for you is this; before you get off your motorcycle, make sure the kickstand is down, or learn the technique below.
Next: Riding in groups. One of the enjoyments of motorcycling, is riding with a group. You will need to learn a few of the hand signals used when riding in a group. For instance, (hand down) this means “slow down”, and this (one finger up) means single file. Another hand signal that is often used is this (finger pointing over the head). This means there is something or someone on the side of the road to pay attention too. But I found there are variations to this particular signal and I’m going to help you understand the nuances.
This (hand flapped lazily over the head) may mean “watch out for the old man and his dog.”
This (pointing vigorously over the head) may mean “check out the hot chick jogging in the short shorts.”
I’ve included an important hand signals below to commit to memory especially if you want to join the New England Riders.
Next, let’s talk about personalizing. Motorcyclists love to pimp out their rides. Be sure to check out your fellow riders’ motorcycle for bling. You’ll be surprised at the amount of gadgets that can fit on a pair of handlebars. There are a few things to be aware of however, so read on.
My first year riding, I got a small GPS so I could find my way home if lost, and I wanted to look cool like the others. I purchased the special mount for it too. On my first group ride with it, not yet being accustomed to looking down at the GPS, I discovered that it was missing! Not knowing when in the last 50 miles it had vanished, I didn’t to stop the whole group, and just continued on. At the next stop three riders came up to me and said;
“We have some good news for you and some bad news. Which do you want first?”
“The good news” I said.
“We found your GPS!”
Me: Yeah! (Oh wait.) “What’s the bad news?"
“Three motorcycles ran over it before we picked it up.”
New riders, check to make sure items are securely attached to your handlebars. Don’t let this happen to you.
Many of the items attached to handlebars are also attached to the battery. One day, a few of us pulled over for lunch, and suddenly smoke began billowing from under seat and just above the gas tank. One thing I know for sure is that smoke and four gallons of gas is not a good combination. I became frozen to my seat! The only thought in my mind at that moment was “this is not how Dad envisioned me dying on my bike!” In the next moment my husband is yelling the seat is flying off and his hands are pulling every wire he can see from the battery. Lesson: If you’re going to add electronics, make sure you add the fuses too. The only smoke you want to see is on purpose.
Next were going to discuss riding in a variety of weather conditions.
One year we signed up for a fall foliage ride. When we left the thermometer was hovering just above freezing. But we had 50 miles to the start point and no time to wait for it to warm up a bit. When we arrived not only were my fingers frozen, so were my toes! In agony, I managed to get a boot off wanting to massage my feet between my hands. One rider seeing my thin socks, and having pity on me, reached into his saddle bag and handed me a brand new pair of thermal socks. My fingers were so cold I was fumbling and dropping the pair. The rider kneeled down, took off my thin socks, put the thermal socks on and even replaced my boots. Then he stood there a moment and said:
“I feel like I need a cigarette. I’ve never actually dressed a woman before.”
Lesson: Dress for the weather!
However, just because you start out dressed for the weather, doesn’t mean it won’t change. So be prepared for anything. For instance, a couple of years ago on one of our trips, the skies got dark and a few sprinkles began to spatter our face shields, so my husband and I stopped to put on our rain gear. I pulled over, (and put the kickstand down), got off the bike, reached into the saddle bag, pulled out the rain suit, put it on and remounted the motorcycle. The whole process took less than a minute. I’m ready to leave when I notice my husband has the contents of both his saddle bags strewn around the ground. Then, with a look of success, he pulls from the pile his rain gear. That began a 20 minute adventure in how to put it on! In the end I had to help him dress. I have a great tutorial video of all this I took from my helmet cam. Unfortunately, someone just out of camera view is using colorful language so watch the video at your own risk and with full disclosure.
Advice: Not only carry rain gear, know where you packed it, and practice putting it on before any trip.
Traveling by motorcycle is always a great adventure. It takes you to far flung places you wouldn’t otherwise have traveled. Some places have unfamiliar territory which can lead to excitement. Last winter we went to Florida as Dayton Bike Week was on my bucket list. One day, we decided to look at that piece of property we inherited but have never seen. The road was not paved, which on two wheels isn’t a very happy occurrence unless you have a dual or sport bike. But on we went. At intervals there were puddles across the road. My husband went through the first, and the second. But having just washed my bike, I wasn’t inclined to follow. At the third puddle I watched in horror as first the tires disappeared beneath water, then the tailpipes, and finally the saddle bags! He started to list to the left and I thought he too would vanish beneath the surface! This is when I finally understood what people mean when they say “time stood still.” First I thought, “Good thing we have road side assistance”. Then, “I wonder who will dive to the bottom to retrieve the bike?” With relief I heard his exhaust pipes gurgling under water as he opening up the throttle. His rear wheel found purchase and he popped out the other side. We looked at each other from across the abyss. It was the quietest two minutes of our marriage. My next words to him where. “Now what are you going to do.”
So my novices, next time in your unfamiliar territory, remember, things aren’t always as they seem. Those funny videos you see of vehicles vanishing into deceptive puddles are real.
Now that you are armed with all these important tips I feel you are prepared to begin your own motorcycling adventures.