Easy Writer Part 8: Training Wheels
Finally, it's time to pull the tags off your new gear, gas up your ride, turn the key and see what all the fuss is about.
But, remember, baby steps. Before you crank back the throttle and start singing "Born to Be Wild" in your head, get used to the bike before hitting city streets. Don't be afraid to putt around a residential neighborhood or a big, open parking lot for a little while before you're comfortable enough to deal with traffic.
One of the best exercises to do is stand over the bike with both feet on the ground, and just ease on the throttle and slowly, slowly let out the clutch lever to find the golden "friction zone," which is where the engine and transmission start to talk to each other to get your wheels moving--just enough to rock you from your heels to your toes. Then pull in the clutch, go back to your heels and repeat a few times. Do that every time you get on a new bike, because almost every motorcycle is different in how it responds to your actions.
Some clutches only need to be pulled in about a quarter of the way before they totally disengage the engine, while others have to be yanked back to the hand grips. And different bikes with different amounts of power, as well as different power ranges, should be played with a little before you get a nasty, torque-filled surprise on the road.
For instance, a cruiser will have more smooth low- and mid-range RPM power, while sport bikes tend to be faster off the line, somewhat mild in the mid-range, and rockets near red-line. It's much better to know where the power band is on your bike so you can either anticipate or avoid it instead of thinking your bike is possessed and potentially scare yourself out of riding altogether.
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Once you get a handle on using the clutch and throttle, get yourself going around 15 to 20 mph, or low second gear, and pull in the brakes to both get a feel for them and how much force they need, and also train yourself to always pull in the clutch and shift down to first gear when coming to a stop or near stop. This ensures you'll always be able to take off again immediately and avoid stalling out, which is both dangerous and embarrassing.
Remember, kids, do all your braking and down-shifting BEFORE you head into a turn. This is especially important if the roads are less than immaculate, or it's raining. It's not like a car where the brakes are almost always friendly and braking mid-turn just results in less speed. If you're leaned way over on a motorcycle and grab yourself a big helping of brake lever, you're probably going to learn what a "low-side" is immediately after. And then you're going to have to explain to your friends that you were bested by a right turn on a city street.
A very slight speed reduction is okay, but if you need to slam on your brakes before you're done with your turn, get yourself and the bike upright before you do so.
Just take things slow for the first couple of weeks until you get fully acquainted with the bike. There's no rush to hop on the freeway or go flying through any canyon roads. The more time you allow yourself to learn, the longer you're going to live to put the lessons to use.
Previously in Easy Writer:
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