I have always been a bit impatient with the guys (and it’s usually guys. Women seem to be able to decide quicker than us) who cannot make up their mind on which bike to buy. Sometimes it’s only between the 650 and the 1000cc bike. Sometimes it’s between a sport touring bike or an adventure touring bike. Why can’t these people make up their mind?
Well, now I understand. It’s been over thirty years (36 to be exact) since I bought a new bike. Since then, I have bought used bikes that I’ve stumbled across, and when I owned Western Powersports and I wanted to ride a new bike, all I had to do was tell my service department to “Get the Super Tenere ready. I want to take it out for a while.”
I can’t do that anymore. I can ride used bikes that we have here at Holeshot, but I really want a bike at home that I can take out at any time I want. I want a new bike that I can break in and that I know has been well taken care of. I have many vintage bikes that I ride, but I am never sure of getting home, no matter how much work I’ve done on the bike.
And there’s the rub; there’s so many choices! How does anyone make those decisions? There’s the V-Strom. I like those. I like the FJ09. I like the VFR. Oh yeah, I like the FJR1300 too. And the new Africa Twin is great. I also like the Super Tenere. And then there’s the…
I can usually advise people about which bike they should buy after about ten questions. So, why can’t I choose a bike for myself? Maybe it’s because I’ve been around thousands of bikes and hundreds of clients who have told me about their adventures on their bikes. All bikes are great!
The bottom line is that I do understand what you are going through, and I hope I can find you a bike, and quicker that I seem to be able to do it for myself!
To Be Seen, or Not to Be Seen!
I often have customers saying that they like the dark coloured bike, but will get the bright coloured one because it’s more visible. They are partially correct; the bright ones are more visible-- in the showroom! On the street, however, colour makes very little difference. You can prove it to yourself by watching for approaching motorcycles on the streets. What is the first thing you see? I very much doubt that it will be the colour.
The first thing you will notice is invariably the headlight. It’s a nice bright bouncing ball that makes the announcement that a motorcycle is coming towards you.
What’s the second thing? If the helmet is the right colour, you’ll see it next. And then, also depending on its colour, the jacket. The colour of the bike you may not notice until the motorcycle in question is passing you.
So what’s my point? You want to be seen. You don’t want to ever hear,”I just didn’t see you!” That’s the one thing we always have to guard against.
There have been studies that have shown that a bright helmet is the most effective conspicuity device there is. In some cases a dark one is seen first if the background the right colour, but bright yellow, red, or pink, etc., helmets are the most conspicuous in most cases. Again, watch motorcycles as they approach; which colour helmets do you see first?
And the colour of your gear will make a huge difference. A bright jacket makes you much more conspicuous than a dark one. I realize that a black jacket is fashionable, but conspicuous it is not.
So, what else can you do to become more prominent? Headlights are the most obvious answer. Many bikes now have lighted front signals, which announce that you are on a motorcycle rather than driving a one-eyed car. Many cruisers also have driving lights as an option which creates a triangle effect that definitely announces you as a motorcycle. You can now add LED driving lights to most units, which not only help you to be seen, but help you to see as well.
Another great way to be seen is to have your high beams on when it’s sunny. My rule of thumb is when I see a hard shadow, I switch my high beams on. This will make you much more conspicuous on those days when sunlight is bright and most people have sun glasses on.
I’ve had many people who’ve iterated to me that “Loud Pipes Save Lives,” which I believe is an utter fallacy. Certainly a car driver can hear a loud bike as it moves away from you, but that won’t make you more conspicuous as you move towards a car. Especially a car with windows and a loud stereo, as many of them now do. All loud pipes do is annoy the neighbours, and perhaps deafen the rider. I don’t mind an exhaust system that lets out the rumble, but I don’t need to hear the seven hounds of Hell when a bike goes by.
So, when you are looking for a new helmet, jacket, or accessories for your motorcycle, keep conspicuity in mind. Fashion sense is great, but being seen is by far the more important thing in the world of motorcycling.
Let’s do the Wave!
I try to ride as much as possible, and one of the things I’ve always done is wave at fellow motorcyclists. Most of them wave back. Some of them so subtly that it’s hard to catch it, but they do return my wave. Lately, however, I’ve noticed that more riders don’t bother at all, ignoring my greeting entirely.
It raised some questions in my mind: Why is this happening more often? Do they think they are better than me? Is it just me? Are they just shy?
But back to the lack of comradery; and that’s what I look at the lack of waving as. Are these riders refusing to wave at us because they’re lazy, or they don’t understand basic etiquette? Or is it because I’m riding a bike unlike theirs? Some of the big American Twin riders refuse to wave at any but their own kind. Even some riders of European brands will not wave at you unless you’re on the same brand as them.
The point to all of this is that we represent, in our entirety, 3% or so of the population, and it seems to me that we should be more than happy to be one cohesive group, rather than a splintered one.
Yes, it’s a small thing, this waving; but as riders, I believe that it’s our responsibility to encourage our riding buddies to wave at all riders, no matter what they ride; to treat all riders as comrades. Some of you may think I’m making a tempest in a teacup, but I believe that this is important. It’s up to us to get others to realise that we’re all in this together. How many of the riders who refuse to wave started out on small dirt bikes? Dirt bikes made by the same companies whose bikes they now refuse to wave at.
Lift your hand up over the mirror, and wave. Every time. At every bike. Of course, if it’s dangerous to do so, that’s another thing. But on the straight and level, let’s wave to each other.
I understand that it’s in our nature to want to be with our own kind. Instead of being Big Twin riders, or Sport Bike riders, or Adventure touring riders, let’s be Riders. And let us, as readers of this Blog, show the way.
“…it is not possible to quantify this benefit because we do not have sufficient data to estimate the injury rates of models that already meet the requirements and models that do not meet the requirements. Thus we cannot estimate the potential effectiveness of the dynamic lateral stability and vehicle handling requirements in preventing injuries.'"
The above is from a recent article quoting the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC; an American organization) about their new program to place yet more safety requirements on the SxSs that have been on the market for the last few years. They don’t, apparently, know how many injuries there have been on Side by Side (SxS-Rhinos, Pioneers, etc), and they don’t know if there is even a reason to impose more safety requirements on these machines, but they are certain that there must be a problem. Oh, and they don’t know how effective any safety regulations they might implement would be. Not only that, it’s an additional example of an American organization telling Canadians what to do. This is because the OEMs can’t build a different unit for Canada, so we’ll get the same model as the Americans.
Here is another case of Higher Purpose Persons sticking their noses into something they know little or nothing about. Soon they’ll be demanding bubble wrapped vehicles and training wheels on our motorcycles. These are the same people who demanded that the OEMs stop selling the ATCs in the eighties. Because they played to the Chicken Little mentality, they won; but as a frequent rider of ATCs, I still believe this was a matter of an organization that had to be seen to be doing something whether it made any sense or not.
What they’re really saying is that they don’t have a clue, but they know better than we, the unwashed Powersports Community, and, as they’ve heard from the lady down the street about SxSs being very dangerous, then it must be so, and we need to be protected from these devil machines… Have the members of CPSC ever even ridden a SxS? I’m sure that most of them have never even been near them, other than watching YouTube videos.
Certainly SXSs can be dangerous, but so can a lot of other things. God help us if they discover that people sometimes trip and hurt themselves; they’ll demand airbags on all new shoes. It’s this kind of thinking that held that if we went more than 50 miles an hour, our lungs would collapse, that all women with black cats are witches, and Justin Trudeau would make a good Prime Minister just because his father was Pierre Trudeau.
From what I’ve seen, most of the problems stem from inebriation, or having riders not old enough to have the strength to handle these machines, or not doing up the seat belt. Is that the machines fault? Is that the manufacturers fault? Perhaps if we had people who thought about what they were doing or parents that were more responsible. Responsibility; now there’s a thought. Instead of creating a nanny state, we should teach responsibility…
The danger here is not from the vehicles themselves, but too many small minded people who have been given too much power. I’m sure that if one was to try hard enough, we could stop all injuries to anyone doing anything, but wouldn’t life be boring then? Wouldn’t that turn us into a nation of spectators, rather than a nation of doers? Because if you do anything, there’s always a chance that you’ll get hurt.
In this particular case, it’s not usually the machines fault but the supposed macho invulnerability of the riders themselves, or even, in many cases, just plane stupidity, and we all know that you cannot cure stupidity. Maybe the CPSC should concentrate on an anti-stupidity campaign…we know that there is no lack there; and that would at least keep them busy and out of our hair for the next thousand years or so.
Anything so they’ll leave us alone.
“When is the Best time to buy a new bike?”
This a the question I often get on the sales floor. The answer, of course, is a multifaceted one. What are the criteria? Riding time? Best weather? Best pricing? Certainly pricing can be slightly better from October to the end of January. This is the time when the rebates are the greatest, and shops are perhaps clearing out old inventory.
The problem there, of course, is that your bike or ATV will probably just sit there unused until the spring. As they say, time is money, and when something sits unused, (especially if you are paying for financing) it does have a cost associated. If you wait till the spring, you might pay a bit more, however the new models come out at that time, and there might be a better model that you’ll like a lot more.
It’s always been my feeling that the best time to buy a new bike or ATV is when you see one that attracts you, feels good, and will do the job that you require. Let’s face it; usually, after two or three years, your eye starts wandering, and a new machine will catch your eye, or your needs will change. That doesn’t mean that the first bike wasn’t wonderful, it just means that the new has worn off. This happens, and will continue to happen as your motorcycle life carries on.
So, in review, go with your gut. If you’re not sure, then wait, but know that right now, there are very few poorly made motorcycles. If you like the look, like the fit, like the idea of the bike, you’ll probably like the bike.
If you have any questions, call or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Which Motorcycle is the right one for me?
So you’ve taken the Motorcycle Safety Course, and passed all of your tests with flying colours; now you’re ready to get your very own Motorcycle and join the rest of us on the road.
In some ways you’re lucky (See my previous Blog entry), as the choices currently are far more diverse than when I started riding-There’s so many styles and genres that were never available in the past. There are easily ten to twenty different bikes that I can think of for the first-time rider.
Before you pick your first motorcycle, you should do some investigation; there’s many questions that have to be answered. Some of them are: What do you intend to do with your fist bike? Do you just want to go to work? Do you want to go out on day trips? Alone? With a passenger? Long trips someday soon? Which bike feels good to sit on? Etc. etc.
The questions go on and on. When we do it correctly, the answers can make it a lot easier to find the right bike. For instance, a large cruiser might be a great touring bike, but you might be intimidated by the weight, and a Virago 250 is a wonderful bike for commuting around town, but you would not want to go to Kelowna on it. A 600cc Supersport bike would be a good all around bike, but for a very long trip, you might find it hard on the wrists.
A good Powersports salesman can guide you to the right bike, if you let him. We’re trained to find out what you need, which may be different from what you want. We can usually help you reach that wonderful motorcycle that will do everything that you want to do for the immediate future. Listen to what your salesperson’s message is. They’ve sold hundreds of bikes to hundreds of people, and usually have a great idea what will do the job for you.
So, come on down and sit on all the bikes you want; ask all the questions you want; we’ll be glad to help.
If you have any questions or comments, e-mail me at email@example.com
What to Ride?
When I started riding, there were only a few choices for the novice rider; larger British or American bikes that were cool, but priced out of my meager wages, or small Japanese bikes that were either too small, or not what I was looking for. I finally settled on the bike that fit my needs perfectly. There was also the reliability problem; riding across the country was a Big Deal, as you had to have a perfectly maintained machine and an extensive tool kit.
At the present time, we have an odd dichotomy; lots of well priced, inexpensive, reliable motorcycles that would go around the world on only oil changes and maybe an odd chain lube, but the choice of motorcycles for both the novice rider or the seasoned veteran is overwhelming. When I started riding, there was no such thing as Cruisers or Adventure Touring or Sport or Super Motard or even Touring Motorcycles. There were just motorcycles, and some were marginally better suited for one thing or another, and we customized bikes to make them into what we wanted. Remember Vetter Fairings and Krauser Saddlebags? Then along came fully dressed touring bikes and both of these companies (and many others) disappeared.
It’s a great time to be a motorcyclist, as there is any kind and size of motorcycle you could possibly imagine; Supersport, Supermotard, Naked, Sport touring, Touring, Dualsport, Adventure Touring, and Scooters big enough to cross the continent.
It’s also a confusing time to be a motorcyclist, as there is any kind and size of motorcycle you could possibly imagine; Supersport, Supermotard, Naked, Sport touring, Touring, Dualsport, Adventure Touring, and Scooters big enough to cross the continent.
How to pick the one for you? There are many questions that need to be asked; how much experience do you have? Are you going to commute? Day trips? Weekends? Weeks at a time? Are you looking at doing some Adventure Touring? Just logging roads, or more rugged dirt riding?
The questions go on and on, and on. My job is to help direct you and guide you to the right motorcycle, whether you are a novice, or this is your 35th bike. So, don’t be afraid to ask us questions, and tell us what your ideal bike is; I’m sure we can help you find it!
If there are any questions or comments, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Are You a Motorcycle Ambassador? By Marq
We all go out riding our motorcycles to get away and have some motorized fun outdoors, either by ourselves, or with our friends. We socialize with other riders, telling stories of our travels, or our travails, sometimes bench racing or sometimes just talking trash about each others’ rides.
First of all, of course, it doesn’t matter what you ride, as long as you do ride; we’re all part of the great collective motorcycling universe. Second is this question: Are you an Ambassador of Motorcycling?
If someone admires your bike, or motorcycling comes up in conversation, do you ask if they ride? If they did once upon a time, why did they stop? If they’ve never ridden, why not? Maybe they never had the money when they were young. Maybe their mother never permitted it, and they just never went any further. Or all they’ve heard is how dangerous motorcycling is, or that if they say the wrong thing, one of us will laugh at them, or give them a wedgie.
A lot of people want to ride, but just don’t know how to get started. Perhaps all they need is some encouragement. I always mention the local riding schools, where they can get some experience on the school’s bikes. Many potential riders don’t even know that they’re able to learn to ride without owning a bike. As we all have experienced, once they get a taste of riding, most people fall in love with the whole concept.
Let’s show them how friendly we are, and tell them how much fun riding is. Tell them how much more enjoyable work is if you can ride there in the morning. How much more rewarding road trips are on a motorcycle than a car. How much fun you can have riding with friends to a newly discovered restaurant. How everyone is far more attractive in leather, everyone looks up to us, and our sex life is better.
Also, twenty somethings don’t understand how much fun motor is. It is, after all, in that strange place called “Outside” that many of them never go. Let’s encourage them to get out of the basements, and onto a motorcycle.
So, let’s all be Ambassadors of Motorcycling, no matter where we go. At a recent awards dinner, I asked my local MLA what kind of hobbies he had. He looked at me like I was a dead fly in his soup, and then said, “You know, I really don’t have any.” We had a great discussion about riding, and he’s been to the shop to see me since, and is trying to find time to take the course.
Motorcycling is an amazing, fun, very social activity, and it behooves all of us to promote it, especially with the aging demographic we now have. Let’s promote what we do. Maybe we can be a great example to those we bump into, and meet some new friends along the way!
Now We need to get ready. By Marq
The weather’s getting better every day, and every day, I see more and more riders dropping by the shop. Everyone’s smiling, getting new gear, tune-ups, tyres, and doing all the other things we need to do to get ready to ride.
My last blog entry was all about getting your bike ready; now I want to talk about getting yourself ready. You’ve been sitting around all winter, eating bonbons, imagining summer, and getting out with your friends on the local, or maybe, the not so local, roads. You and those extra pounds need to get ready.
After you and your bike are on the road, what about practicing those things you learned at the motorcycle course that I hope you took when you first started riding? And if you didn’t take a course, all the more reason to get some practice in.
The best way is to get a few of your riding friends together and find a large deserted parking lot where you have some space, and hopefully no moving cars. Industrial parks are usually quiet on evenings and weekends. By having others joining you in doing these exercises, you can get some competition going, and also see how you’re doing in relation to others.
The first thing I always do is slow riding. Measure out 100 feet or so, and see how slowly you can ride it. The more time it takes to cross the span (without a foot touching the ground), the better. Feather your clutch, and gently use your brakes to keep as slow a pace as possible. With this skill, you can amaze your friends as you are inching forward at 4 way stops. Practice until you can almost stop without touching a foot down. See who can ride the slowest.
Bring some tin cans or cones with you, and set up a slalom course. Start the objects at three paces apart (average paces-not Green Giant ones), and see if you can get your bike around all of them without hitting any. Once again, feather your clutch and use gentle brakes. Once you can all do that, start bringing the cones closer together. If anyone can do it at two paces apart, then the rest owe her, or him, lunch!
Turning your bike in a small space can be quite a challenge, so let’s practice this next. Use 6 or 8 cones to create a circle about 40 feet across. Ride around the outside of the circle, as close as you can to the cones without hitting them. Keep your head up and watch where you want to go, not right in front of you.
Once you’re comfortable with this, cross over and try turning inside the circle. Here, it becomes much more difficult. Once you have the 40 foot circle down pat, make it smaller and smaller, until the inside diameter is smaller than 22 feet, which is the average width of most city streets. Another way to do it is to make a U-Turn with an inside diameter of 22 feet. Ride in, make your U-Turn, and then ride out. See how small you can make the U-Turn. When 22 feet becomes too easy, make the diameter smaller, until there’s only one person who can negotiate the turn. Lunch for that person, too!
Finally, work on your emergency braking. Find a nice, dry, gravel free area where you can get up to 30 km/h or so. At first, just experiment with the brakes, remembering that the front brakes do 70% of the braking. Watch that the front tyres don’t start skidding. If they do, back off slightly. You want to reach that point just before they slide. This is a good one to repeatedly practice. Try upping the speed a bit, but be careful; we don’t want any mishaps.
Even if you have ABS brakes, it’s still a good idea to practice emergency braking. Don’t let the ABS think for you: be proactive, and learn how your brakes work. In the end, you’ll be a much better rider.
All of the above skills will help you in your day to day rides. The more skill you have, the safer you’ll be.
Now, get out there, and ride!
Time to ride: Make sure you do it right!
So the sun is shining, and you just can’t wait any more! Before you rush out and get your insurance, you should make sure that the bike is ready for the road.
Hopefully you kept a battery tender on your unit for the whole winter. A battery tender will measure the state of charge on your battery, and keep it topped up. Many bikes have memories in their systems, and they suck batteries dry, shortening their life drastically. If your battery is low on charge, put an automatic motorcycle charger (Low rate of charge) on it for 24 hours or so. If you only have an automotive charger, make sure it has a lower charge rate, and it’s automatic. You do not want to overcharge your battery, as that too will shorten its life.
If you put fuel stabilizer in your gas in the fall, and made sure it circulated in your carbs or fuel injection system, you should be fine. If you haven’t done this, you should at least drain the carbs, but be careful not to strip the drain screws. In the fall, check out our “Get Ready for Winter” column (I will put it up in the fall).
If you didn’t change the oil before you put it away (changing the oil before storage will get rid of most of the acids which build up as you ride) change it now. Put in a new oil filter as well. Check all pressures and levels. Open up the airbox and have a look. This is for two reasons; to check the cleanliness of the filter, and make sure no critters have taken up residence inside of the airbox. You’d be surprised how often that happens. Check for any engine oil or coolant leaks.
Check all of the unit’s pressures and fluid levels: Tire pressure and condition, Suspension pressure, Suspension seal leaks, Coolant, Final drive oil level, Drive chain/Sprockets condition and tension. Check the cables for easy operation, and this would be a great time to lube them if it has been a while. Oil any pivot points, such as levers and brake pedals. Check the brake and clutch reservoirs for both levels and any leakage.
Turn the key on, and make sure all the switches work: signals, high/low beam, etc. Do both brake light switches work properly?
Fire it up! Once again, check for any engine oil or coolant leaks. After this, I usually wash and wax it, as well.
Let it warm up well, put your gear on, and go for a ride, preferably down to Holeshot Motorsports, your favourite Powersports dealership.