Thursday, February 17, 2011

If at First You Don't Succeed...

...Stomp your feet, scream, and maybe even cry. Go ahead, have a full blown tantrum if you must.  I'll wait.
I'm sad to say that I am NOT exactly a natural at learning to ride my new bike.  You can't imagine how many times I've wished that I had learned to drive a manual transmission when I was younger! I should have kept trying until I got it and not given up on it.  I don't like not being good at something, so it's been a blow to my pride to have to keep trying, and trying, and trying on this motorcycle.  Sometimes I can't even get it in first gear without stalling out.  Why?  Because I forget that I have to use the clutch.  Oops.  But honestly, I'm doing good to remember that I have to actually put it in gear in the first place.  Although technically I have to do that in my car too, it's just that in Roxie (my totally awesome Scion xA) I go from Park to Drive. 

I made an attempt to drive my bike around the neighborhood Friday afternoon by myself.  Eek!  You can't even imagine how nervous I was.  I just knew I was either going to crash it on my way to the safe loop area where I could practice without worrying about much traffic, or I was going to get it out there and then somehow mess up and not be able to get it back home.  I'd never taken the bike out on my own before!  Sadly, my fervent hopes that it would turn out to be a wonderful jaunt and that I would finally "get it" and be a pro rider before I returned home were quickly dashed. 

I lost count of the number of times I stalled out just trying to get it out of my driveway.  That whole "let off the clutch slowly while giving it just the right amount of throttle at just the right time" is pretty tricky.  I did eventually jerk and buck my way down the street to the stop sign.  But this was where my real worries lay.  I had to be able to go from a stop to a start WHILE turning, and immediately go over a speed bump, after which was another immediate turn in the opposite direction.  The maneuvering this requires is difficult enough for me, but when you add in the fact that there is traffic coming off the highway in one direction, plus traffic leaving a neighboring development coming from the other as well, it really got me worked up.  Did I mention I was turning left, so I had to cross both lanes of traffic?  Eeek!

I did manage to get through that intersection, but just barely.  I was still having trouble with trying to do a smooth take-off, and I felt like I was completely out of control.  Not a good thing when on a motorcycle! And by that time I was so frazzled my nerves were shot.  I couldn't make that second turn in time, and decided that was my cue to just turn around and head back home.  It was pretty sad that I only got out on the bike for about a quarter mile, and that I didn't drive it very well while I was doing it.  But I've got to say, considering how nervous I am about learning to ride a motorcycle, and considering I never could get the hang of driving a manual transmission when I was younger, I actually didn't do all that badly.  I may not be fearless, but the fact that I got on the bike on my own in the first place is a really big accomplishment.  I wanted so badly to find a good excuse not to go out.  While it didn't have the results I'd hoped for, I did have to pat myself on the back for trying and for making it through the intersection, even if I didn't get it back into that other neighborhood.  It may have been an ugly ride, but I didn't crash, I didn't drop the bike, and I didn't even cry!  I did stomp my feet a few times and my language was probably a bit colorful, but all in all it wasn't too bad.

I'm just going to have to keep at it and practice, practice, practice!  I like to imagine that one day I'll go out and everything will easily fall into place and then I'll return home lighthearted and carefree and I'll be able to laugh at my silly fears and wonder why in the world I ever thought learning to ride a motorcycle would be so difficult.  Hahaha!  (That's me practicing my lighthearted laughter.)

Images found here and here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

I Bought a Motorcycle!

Dear Readers, meet Molly! My DH and I have been checking out Craigslist to try to find a small bike that would fit me and be a good choice for someone who is new to riding a motorcycle.  He found this one for sale in western North Carolina, and after seeing the pictures and researching it online, I was in love! She is a 2002 Suzuki SV650 (naked).  I was pretty worried that a 650 would be way too big of an engine for a newbie like me.  I could imagine myself accidentally giving it too much throttle and it taking off like a rocket and leaving me behind! But the many, many reviews I found for it all praised it highly, and the website Best Beginner Motorcycles even recommended it for beginners.  Normally much smaller bikes like the 250s are recommended as safest for beginner riders. 

Luckily for me, this bike is nice and lightweight, much like a sport bike, but has a lot of the styling and comfort like a cruiser.  I'm not a fan of the "crotch rockets" where you lean forward on your arms and have your rear end up in the air.  The SV650 does have the foot pegs farther back than a cruiser so your knees remain bent, but it's still a fairly upright seating position.  Being lightweight (less than 400 pounds) makes it much easier to maneuver and control, but the bigger engine will ensure that I don't outgrow it immediately after learning how to ride.  The top speed on most 250 machines is about 65mph.  The SV650 is about 125mph. I have no plans to EVER go that fast, even in my car, so I don't need it to go that fast.  But if I ever need to get on the interstate and keep up with traffic in a 70mph zone, I'll be able to do so without blowing the engine.

Getting Molly home was quite an ordeal.  The location was about 5 1/2 hours from where I live, and the weather was very cold (low 30s with wind chills much lower) and it rained the entire time.  DH and my dad and I drove up there in my car to check it out and see if I liked it.  Of course I can't actually RIDE it, so I just sat on it to test the fit and see if I liked the way it felt.  We looked it over and checked out the mechanics, and then my husband took it for a spin to see if it felt like it ran okay.  It did, and I still loved it, so I bought it!  At that point we had to get it home.  My husband rode it home, in the freezing rain, on a ride that in a car would have taken about 3 1/2 hours.  We were stopping at my parents' house for the night before coming back home the next morning.  Since the weather was so bad, we had to make a LOT of stops so DH could thaw out and the parts of his riding gear that weren't waterproof.  We also couldn't go as fast as we normally might have because the bike hadn't been ridden in a year, so it wasn't quite up to par.  Turns out the spark plugs needed to be replaced, and DH spent most of the ride with the bike only firing on one piston, which meant it had maybe half the power that it should have.  Not fun for riding on the interstate, at night, in the freezing rain! That 3 1/2 hour trip ended up taking 8 grueling hours. 

Not being very mechanically inclined, I didn't really know what might be wrong with Molly, and I was worried that I'd bought a lemon and that it was going to cost a fortune to fix her.  Thankfully all it took was two little spark plugs and she was good to go!  Chris and my dad changed them the next morning and then DH even changed the oil and oil filter too, just for good measure.  Needless to say, the ride home from my parents' house was much more enjoyable!  Warmer, little to no rain, and a fun bike with a good engine.  He had a great time getting it back to our house, and I'm glad to know he enjoys the bike so much.  It means it was a good buy and that once I learn to ride and can feel comfortable and confident on it, I'll be able to have some fun too!

I love her bright yellow paint! She looks like a bumble bee, which is sort of how she came to be named Molly.  I thought I'd name her something that referred to her marvelous and snazzy coloring, but couldn't think of anything about bees that didn't sound entirely stupid.  Some people will think it's silly enough to name her at all.  But as I was thinking, the phrase "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" passed through my mind.  I thought, "Aha!  Muhammad Ali! M. Ali...Mali...Molly!"  And there you go.  A beautiful, fun bike that I still need to learn how to ride.  I guess I have no choice but to learn how to work a manual transmission now.  It's going to be a long, bumpy ride!