Monday, January 26, 2009

First rides ...and a mishap

Once I had the motorcycle home, I began looking it over. The fine, shiny plastic cowlings gleamed in the light, and it seemed prudent to buy a set of frame sliders in case I tipped it over. I did not want to cut the cowlings as some sliders require, so I settled on a set of Kawasaki OEM sliders. I bought them from Blue Ridge Performance [BRP], their having the best price. Gary, the owner is a bit of a character, but he has good prices on 650R parts and accessories. Once the sliders arrived, I installed them over the next couple of evenings.

I also thought it prudent to get some body armor to wear when riding. The SquidBusters Forum had advertisements for the VelocityGear Juggernaut armored shirt. It consists of a back protector, chest protector, shoulder, elbow, and forearm CE-approved armor. The back protector can be zipped off to be used separately. It was priced attractively, and there was a discount if you were a forum member. I placed the order.

...and I bought a new silver helmet, a Scorpion EXO-700.

Oh. I should tell you that for some reason, while I was waiting for the MSF Basic class weekend to roll around, I decided to grow a beard and mustache. Actually a goatee and mustache. I had not had facial hair for around thirty years, so this was out of the ordinary. Maybe I was announcing the new me -- macho, motorcycle rider, hairy faced, young (second childhood?). Who knows. Actually, that is about the time I started using the nickname Bucky, too.

The first time out riding on my own, I was very shaky. I wobbled around turns, had to remind myself to look where I wanted to go, and generally had a time of it thinking about all the things that must happen to control and maneuver a motorcycle. There was not yet any sign of muscle memory helping me coordinate everything that had to happen. At any rate, the first few rides were taxing, and unnerving, with only a little of the enjoyment and exhilaration I longed to feel. I found that running along a straight road at 45 miles an hour was scary to me.

Slowly I gained some confidence, and began to have moments of enjoyment when riding. I ventured out on the roads near our house over several days, occasionally going further away.

I learned about target fixation next. It was a hard and expensive lesson. I was on a slightly curvy road, thought I could not make a turn, looked hard at the edge of the road, and went off within an inch of where I was looking. The ditch was shallow, but my nearly-new bike was in several pieces. Some of the shiny cowlings were scarred up, and the windshield, the seat, and a few other miscellaneous things were all separate from the carcass.

I called my wife from my cell phone with the news. She excited. So there I was, having flown off a nearly new motorcycle that is laying in pieces along a considerable stretch of road, asking my wife to be calm. I talked her down. A little while later, she drove to the site and stayed there with the bike while I went to borrow the neighbor's trailer to bring the whole mess home. She diligently piled all the loose pieces up so it would be less work once I arrived with the trailer. Two of our neighbors, Wes and Randy, were very helpful and sympathetic. Thank you, kind sirs. Once home and with the carcass unloaded into the garage, Randy gently asked me if I thought I would fix it and ride again, or whether that was the end. He philosophically and quietly stated that he had seen it done both ways. ...and he left it at that. At that point, I closed the garage door and went to bed.
I have dwelled on the injuries to the bike, but not the injuries to me. I must tell you that I was almost unscathed. Here is why. I vowed from the start to wear all of my protective gear whenever riding, no matter how short a distance. You remember the photo of me on the Honda Nighthawk at the MSF Basic class wearing a leather suit, boots, gloves, and helmet? That was the start of wearing all the gear, all the time [ATGATT].

When I took my tumble, I was wearing all this gear:
  1. Fieldsheer two-piece leather suit
  2. VeocityGear Juggernaut armored shirt
  3. Joe Rocket Sonic boots
  4. ICON TiMax long gloves
  5. Scorpion EXO-700 helmet
I suffered aches and pains for a few weeks afterward. Over-the-counter painkillers made it tolerable. Without the gear, I could have been much more seriously injured. My strong advice: NEVER, EVER ride in anything but full gear. Anyway, I think it looks cool. I can ride up with a bunch of others, and not until I remove my helmet do the bystanders realize that I am middle-aged. That makes me feel pretty good.

I already hear your excuses:
  1. It is too hot.
  2. I don't like to be all bundled up.
  3. I like to feel the wind in my hair.
  4. It is too expensive.
  5. Nobody else wears it.
  1. Wait until you feel the burning when they take skin grafts from your back/chest/head/thigh.
  2. Wait until they start to pick the gravel out of your hide.
  3. You might not have a skull, let alone hair, if you fall on your head...or you might be a vegetable.
  4. How much does one emergency room visit cost? And the lost wages away from the job?
  5. Everybody who is serious and practical wears the gear.
Look at these, if you can bear to do so, to see the effects of a tumble from a motorcycle:
So, I learned that target fixation works perfectly. The experts are correct: Your bike will go where you look!

It took me quite a while to get over the psychological trauma of my tumble. I had lost quite a bit of confidence in myself. I could not bear to tell my coworkers what had happened. Once I got over the initial despair, I started to determine how to make the bike rideable again. It turned out that it was good therapy to find parts and figure out how to put them together into a real motorcycle. A local shop, Baker's Cycle Werx, helped with some work I could not manage on my own.

Well, enough about my accident. Suffice it to say that two months and many dollars later the bike was back in one piece and almost as good as new.

I started riding to work as much as I could. There was almost nobody there who could believe that I had actually bought a motorcycle, let alone a sporty one. Even now, when I ride in, some of my work associates comment to me about my "Power Ranger" appearance as I come into the plant.

I met a grandmother at the post office last Saturday in fact, who said her four-year-old grandson riding with her in the car had spotted me riding up, and told her that I looked like a Transformer. I went over to talk with him for a few minutes about how he might be able to get a motorcycle one day but, as I knocked on my helmet, that he had to be careful with it so he didn't get hurt. Maybe the seed is planted.

I started riding further and further away from home, and I have visited some of the many sites within about 100 miles. I'll report on them in upcoming postings.

Meanwhile, here is what I usually look like when I ride, though usually without the saddle and tail bags.

Note that I am wearing ATGATT and that you can see the frame sliders.

...all color coordinated, to boot!

Pretty snazzy, don't you think?

No comments: