Sunday, 7 March 2010

Brass Monkeys

Contect Warning: Petrol head bike post below!

Well I went for the test ride yesterday and noted two things...

1) After not riding since November due to the snow and ice I had forgotten just how much I love it
2) I always forget just how cold it is when riding in winter temperatures :)

I got my old bike going, always interesting in cold weather - it fires and then dies unless you get the choke *just* right; one mm too much and it doesn't start at all one mm too little and it fires for 1/2 a second. Rode it to the local jet wash to clean the gunk off of it and to get the tyre pressures correct and then set off.

It's so much fun! Even keeping legal, riding is just a fantastic rush. When I set off it was cold (tights, socks, inteligent suit (warm in winter, cold in summer) below and inteligent suit / t-shirt above) but quite doable under the leathers. Summer gloves (I hate riding in winter gloves - warm hands, but no feel) no neckerchief but it was fine.

Hit the motorway and decided that maybe lack of neckerchief was maybe not the best idea :) But nothing too bad. After riding for 30 miles or so the temperature suddenly plummeted and within a few miles I couldn't feel my fingers, seeing as the pain was starting to make in roads into my concentration I stopped at the next petrol station and swapped my summer gloves for the space tech winter ones. Instantly I could feel my fingers again, unfortunately instantly the heat pain started, I gave it a couple of mins before starting off again :)

Got to the garage looked the bikes over; I had my eye on two different ones, one was older with more KM's but was a much neater bike. After uhming and ahing for a few mins I settled on the older one. It looked cleaner, was stock and didn't raise any alarm bells. The newer one was covered in power stickers, had an illegal carbon exhaust that would have to be changed before I could take it and has tiny indicators at the back. All made me wonder how it had been ridden in it's life...

After trying to get what I could for my bike (half what I wanted) we agreed on a price. I could have gone elsewhere and got another 300 for my bike (I think) but the bike would have been a lot more than that so I settled. Then came the test ride.

OMG. At this point I should point out that I love sports bikes. My first bike was a little GPZ500S - looked a little sporty and was fun enough, but was a perfect first bike as it was gentle on the rider. My current bike is an SV650S. A Suzuki Ducatie imitation, quicker then the GPZ, but still a budget bike and still fairly sedate. I have decided though that at 33, and with 10 years of riding under my belt, it was time to get a bike I really wanted. Seeing as the servicing (and purchase) cost of real Duke was *way* out of my price range - I wanted a 748 Biposto, but that's a pipe dream - I decided a japanese bike was the way to go. Now I know that Honda's have a great reputation for reliablility but I find the CBR's just too chunky looking. They look like an IL4 rather than a twin. The only one that doesn't is the Yam R6. I don't know how they make it so compact, but it's no wider then my SV, and is such a pretty bike...

I was expecting a difference between the SV and the R6 (obviously) but seeing as there are not that many steps between them I was shocked at just how much difference there is. The clutch on the R6 is ultra light, and has very limited feel, the other controls work just so much sharper than the SV. The first 200 meters I looked like a fool in expensive leather, on a supersports bike trying to find the bite point of the clutch and a balance point of the throttle somewhere between 1000 and 10000 rpm. A bit of low speed riding and it started to come together, but it's going to take some practice before I become proficient at pulling off I think.

I was surprised at how easy it is (once you are moving) to ride at low speed - once you are actually moving. The engine only really works at high RPM, so keeping it between 3000 and 4000 it's such a laid back ride. It flip flops nicely in the bends and was really pleasent for town riding - something I was not expecting.

Then I took it for a quick blast between junction on the motorway. At 8000 the engine changes totally. You have to keep you eye on the speedo because it just takes off, keeping it at legal speeds is easy enough (the old adage that it's only as quick as your right hand still works here), but I had to conciously do it. I guess over the first few weeks I'll get used to it and it'll become second nature.

Got back to the shop, agreed to fix the issue I found (wear bar on the front tyre, so that's being replaced) and did the paper work. I pay for it today and pick it up on Friday. Can't wait!

Lastly... I want to know how people with new licenses possibly think it's a good idea to start with these bikes. With 10 years experience it was not 'easy' to start with it. I can imagine that you want the nice fast bike when you first pass, but surely after test riding it you would think 'hmm, maybe I should practice on something closer to the power I learnt with before taking this on'? I came across the term Squid in the search for the R6. It describes everything I hate about a certain type of new rider. Stupid, Quick ,Underdressed, Imminently Dead. It's a pet hate of mine - people who buy expensive bikes as their first bike. Talk the whole day about how they raced this that and the other on the way to work, and ride in jeans and coat becuase their budget didn't stretch to the leather suit. I prefer people who do it the other way - first bike budget = what you can afford - cost of good quality safety gear. Sorry rant over, these people just annoy me.


  1. Hi Stace,

    The answer is that it's NOT a good idea to start on such bikes... It's one reason why, in the UK at least, motorcycle deaths now result mostly from rider error and the only vehicle involved is the bike, whereas in the past bike crashes were mostly caused by other road-users, usually car drivers.

    IMO you were right to avoid the Ducati. Fine if you don't ride too much, but very expensive if you do. Servicing costs are WAY too high.

    And the reliability of most Italian bikes, (Moto Guzzi possibly excepted) is still poor compared to Japanese and British ones.

    I've been riding since 1974, but stopped a few of years ago as I took over looking after the Diva. Two years ago I sold my last bike.

    I do want another... They are in my blood. But Sports bikes are no longer on my list; and really haven't been for a decade or so; too cramped and too manic. I also feel that the huge drop in my T levels have meant I no longer feel the urge to whack that throttle open anymore.

    Right now, most new Roadster-style bikes are far too expensive for what you get, and bike weight and engine size seem to be increasing, with the middle-weight (ie, 650 - 750) side of the market now dropped almost totally (in the UK at least).

    I will probably veer towards a Cruiser or Retro bike next. The Moto Guzzi Calfornia Classic still entices me, years after I saw Magnum Force.


  2. Damn, I have a rideout planned today, you beat me to it!

    Well done on the R6. Try to keep the front wheel down :)

    Squids? yes, they do rather give the rest of us a bad name don't they. Why they don't get the pleasures of being a serial bike abuser after learning, trying anything and everything to learn the craft and experience as many machines as possible I don't know. Look upon them as a source of cheap bikes for the rest of us, they get the licence, buy the sportsbike, scare themselves witless, leave it in the garage for a year or two and sell it on cheap. Result!

  3. Chrissie: When I brought my last bike I spoke to the salesman about the Ducatis. He said they have a huge amount of nearly new second hand ones as people just don't realise what it costs to service - so after three months they trade it on. IIRC it was something along the lines of 1000 euros every 3000 miles. Most of that was mechanic time resetting their interesting valve system.

    Jenny: I hope the front wheel will stay firmly planted for some time (for one thing if Mr Plod sees you it's instant hand over your driving license). From the test ride I found I can ride it as quick as I ride the SV from the off - I think that's a good starting point.

    I must admit that for the most part I will probably waste the power and performance though - I like my license and they can leave you at the side of the road with no way of getting you or the bike home over here. Kind of how I drive the Volvo - I rarely use all the power on tap their either.

    I may do a supervised track day at some point to learn how to ride it properly. But I think I have to biuld the savings back up a bit first.

  4. Ducati's are expensive. I think mine has cost well over $10,000 in maintenance fees and tires. But it's a wonder to ride!

    Mine's off the road, right now. It needs a couple of thousand dollars of maintenance, and I don't quite have that much. I have somewhere in the region of a couple of hundred cents. :-(

    The Duc (S2R Monster) was actually the first bike I bought. I then bought a Vespa because I've always wanted one, and then I bought a Royal Enfield because the roads around here are wonderful on a thumper. :-)

    It took me about a month to get used to the Duc's performance and handling. Now I simply consider that if I hit the limits of its handling, I'm either going way too fast for the public road or I'm having a blast. :-) (No speed cameras and not too many cops around certainly helps.) (On the other hand, it can also mean I screwed up.)

    As I ride all year, I don't have the pleasure of that first ride of the season. Yeah, winter riding can be a bit nippy. I try to ride in the fresh snow, not the packed snow of car tire tracks.

    (I don't know if it means anything, but the captur is "boyawear"!)

  5. Riding in fresh snow - impressive! Snow and ice are about the only things that stop me (I can do cold as long as the carbs don't freeze, something I don't expect on the new bike with it not having any :) )

    So they salesman was not lying about the cost of servicing then? Shame - I don't think I'll ever have that much free cash lying around. With the SV I did almost everything myself, with the R6 I', going to do every other oil change and let the shop do a service the rest of the time (there are bit that need replacing every other service that you also need special tools for).

    I usually try to be the first in the office on two wheels each year - but with the snow, and me having a nice alternative to 2 wheels, I have not managed it yet this year (it's just started snowing again here). Friday when I pick the new one up will be the first time.


  6. I actually found that the off-road training and racing I did gave me a real edge in on-road riding. On public roads; IMO balance and control are WAY more important than knowing the proper racing line.

    Track days are fine, but one can learn some VERY bad habits from them. A lot of sports bike riders here seem to forget that we have traffic coming the other way. They line up to take the perfect racing line around a tight bend, like they were shown on their Brands Hatch track day, and end up as a radiator grill ornament on a 16-wheeler coming the other way.


  7. The course that I saw didn't so much concentrate on the racing line (it was there, but not the essence), as how to handle the bike at all points.

    The final lesson at the end of two days was how to do an emergency stop with the bike lent over, without binning it.

    Of course it was at Donnington so I don't know if it's going to be ran anymore...

    The off road sounds like fun as well, I did it a couple of times when growing up (as part of MVT in secondary school) - but never since actually knowing how to ride a bike.

    As for treating the road as a race track - I always thought the idea of track days was that you could be the hooligan on the track, so you didn't have to be on the road... I've never understood people who do country lanes on the wrong side of the road... I used to do them quick when I lived in England, but almost always on the right side of the road! (Almost always - I was a teenager - who got it wrong occasionally...)