Sunday, 17 March 2013

Chicken Strips & Tires

About two months after I started to ride my bike, I noticed a disturbing wobble one day going over railroad tracks. The whole back end felt like it was out of control. So after double-checking that the tire was not going to imminently fall off, I made a bee-line for home in a very slow fashion.

My husband checked it all over and discovered the rear tire had lost a lot of air since we had left that morning! It's supposed to sit at 36 psi, and it was down to like 18 psi. He started rolling the tire to see what had punctured it and sure enough, there was a nail stuck in on the inside of the tire. Now this baffled me as I do not ride that far over to have hooked one, but maybe I was more daring than I thought and did it without thinking!

So, that was the end of riding that day and made an appointment to get a new tire installed. 

You all know the size of motorcycle tires, but...check out these tires:

That's my husband (in 2009) checking out everything under the vehicle. These are the "buses" that take tourists over the Columbian Icefield between Jasper and Banff in Alberta. 

Anyway...a week and a half later, I was good to go again...I know, they were very busy that July.

I was told to ride very, very carefully that day until the compound applied to the tire at the factory had worn off (about a tank of gas - 160 km in my case) as it made riding pretty slippery until then...Oh great, just when my confidence was getting better, now I had to tip-toe around on my bike like I was riding on ice!

Looking back, I think it took me a few days of riding to use a tank as my Suzuki has seemed to get better gas mileage the longer I own it. As of the beginning of the season last year, I could ride for 200 km before it needed a tank fill. Someone told me that the engine is still "being broken in" and that affects your mileage. Good to know.

Once the new tire had been "scrubbed" as I've come to know the term to mean, I continued on my self-imposed training of learning the nuances of riding. 

My "chicken strips" are very slowly getting smaller, but have a long way to go. Every time we start out on a ride, I use the same route in my neighbourhood before I hit the city streets. I devised the route to incorporate a number of tricky "to me" manoeuvers that I felt are important to master to be a safer rider and build muscle memory. If I am feeling like I need more practice, then I do it again and again.

First up is a tight lean to leave the driveway so as not the hit the parked cars that take up most of our residential street (can't see very well around them if you know what I mean without sticking the front tire out very far into the main road).

Then, it's watch busier traffic going left and right to find a suitable entry point to get into another road without taking a too wide turn into the other side of the road. Yikes! 

Then it's accelerating on a sharp curve with a lean (and some clutch shifting to gear up) while watching for vehicles backing out of their driveways.

Then a stop at a "T" intersection without sliding forward on the seat, and taking a double right-hand check for traffic squeezing up beside you and then cutting you off (yes, some stupid woman did this one Sunday morning, and if I hadn't done that second check, I would have ridden right into the side of her as she pulled in front of me from a lane she should never have been in).

Then it's through another curve watching for "tar snakes" that are the bane of motorcyclists. Carry on down a straight stretch to another "T" intersection, with more tight turns and stops.

I found two cool little places to practice my u-turns, and had to make a fast decision one day when a little boy on his tricycle came roaring out of his driveway to watch me and then try to follow me. Well, at that point, I stopped, gave him a wave and left as I didn't want anything to happen. 

Another day when we were out, we rode by a house with the garage open and full of sport bikes and there was this little boy waving at us. His parents were laughing as we waved back at him and I smile just thinking about it now. He was so excited to see more motorcycles. (Aren't we all though?)

Back to the route - lots of stopping at intersections  
(with dirt, gravel, uneven road surfaces, water, leaves) that tested my observation skills and really trained me how best to start out on my Gladius. More throttle, but slower release of the clutch to get it moving without launching myself. If I don't give it enough throttle, I tend to kill the engine when the clutch is released slowly. Then there is a  3 kilometre stretch of just riding in a circle to get the speed up and do some leaning (both ways) while changing gears.

By the time I've done that whole route a few times, I feel like I'm warmed up for the city streets and ready to "set sail".
(Taken from Goosespit Beach near Comox on Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Also, just heard that our insurance is going to be capped at a $150 annual increase, instead of the ridiculous amount that had been proposed. Yay! Now I can still justify shopping for that mesh jacket in the spring I've been thinking about.

Out the window, the snow is blizzarding down again and the temp is -14 C (7 F) with a -25 C (-13 F) windchill. Looks like it will be a few days yet before I can go riding...

Have a good one...will bundle up later today to go dog walking and recharge with some Vitamin D.






Thursday, 7 March 2013

Insurance Follies: Part Two

There's been a glimmer of hope for an adjustment on the sky-high insurance rates - that has definitely lifted my spirits.

Our local newspaper announced last Saturday that the provincial government is going to revisit motorcycle insurance rates. Apparently the MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) are reporting a lot of feedback on the issue, and not just from those who are riders, but from others in general who note that these increases seem to be very high. The move has prompted a huge backlash from bike enthusiasts and business owners. It was suggested the rates be gradually phased in to cover the shortfall. (Yeah, no kidding!)

On the roster for more debate when the politicians get to their meetings next week

1) rewarding motorcyclists who have taken training courses
2) selling different types of licenses - pay a premium to insure lost income from a crash injury
3) increase training before granting a license to get out on the road

Good news indeed and now I'm off to test out the winter tires again...have a great day!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Is Winter Over Yet?

I still have just a few more stories to tell of riding in my first two years, but at this moment, they don't seem as interesting to write about. 

I find myself looking at books of traveling these days - looking at pictures of places where you can put your sandals on and just wander. 

This was taken at Banff a few years ago - awesome trip. Next time I go, I'm hiking up that trail that you can just spot through the trees at the bottom of the picture. 

I spied these birds one morning looking as if they were talking to one another and had landed at the wrong airport: "Holy cow, when I get my hands on that travel agent, someone's going to be sorry!" I had never seen them here before in my province.

I will get a shot of this same vista about mid-July, covered in flowers and greenery and compare for you. Provincial Parliament Buildings.

Yep, I've officially hit the winter blues, inspiration has left the building!  

Have a good one...