Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Importance of Paying Attention

For a long time, ever since I first became interested in motorcycling, I've been told that motorcycles are invisible. Having grown up around bikes, friends and family's, I never really understood that. The fact is bikes are small and fit very well into blind spots. Why do I point out the obvious? No matter how often it gets repeated, it can always be said again: drivers need to look for bikers.

You know I wouldn't have this on my mind for no good reason, so here comes one more commute write up.

Friday's ride in to work was the usual, mostly harmless with one tailgater as I stayed pretty close to the speed of traffic. But it was the ride home that got interesting for a moment. Part of my evening commute is a stretch of interstate with a long, convoluted entrance ramp with multiple entrances/exits in the same access road. As I rode down the roadway, I watched a man in a sedan in the lane to my right, which was both an entrance and an exit only a few blocks down. He wasn't signaling and stayed in the lane so I began to pull past him. When I was even with his door, he started into my lane, still not signaling. Fortunately, I was watching for such an action and had my finger on the horn. When I pressed the noise making button, he jumped in his seat and pulled back into his lane.

That was an instance of driver inattention, not due to any major error, merely because he didn't expect a motorcycle right next to him. Even checking your mirrors is no substitute for looking. Also, as a motorcyclist it was my task to SEE everything that was going on around me. Had I really been being careful, I would never had pulled into his blind spot, no matter that it seemed like he was going to exit.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

As If I'm not Enough

One of the guys on found a web page I found interesting. It sounds like something I can get behind. So, in the spirit of encouragement, I'm passing it along to those who followed us for the month of April. I may not be doing a detailed write up, but I will be riding to work still. (Weather permitting, as I'm still a bit of a fair-weather biker.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Motorcycle Awareness Month

Not that I think drivers should only be aware of motorcyclists for one month of the year, I think this is a step in the right direction. Drivers need to be better educated about motorcycles and I would like to see more about them included in our, now mandatory for teens, drivers ed courses.

But this is what started me on that:

Saturday, May 10, 2008

I Test Rode a Buell Today

I went in to ask if I could test ride the XB12Ss Lightning, but they didn't roll that out. I got a brand spanking new 1125R. I secretly wanted to test that one, but was afraid to ask for it. I mean really, go from a 30 hp Ninja 250 onto a 146 hp BEAST....

So, after I got over my shock, I swung a leg over and discovered that I can tip toe it, but not flat foot. Ok, a little worried about that but when I pulled it upright I found out another fun little fact: this bike weighs in under 400 pounds and is incredibly well balanced. Once we got out onto the road I found the throttle to be very predictable and the clutch pull smooth and not terribly grabby, good for someone who's a bit worried about keeping the front wheel down. I didn't get a lot of practice on the transmission, since I only once got up the third but it had some of the expected Buell/HD "clunk" when it shifted.

On the open straightaways I took the chance to open the throttle a bit and was rewarded with gut-wrenching, socket-pulling acceleration and the brakes were more than equal to the task of pulling the speed back down. The bike just begs you to tuck in and when you give in it's almost relaxing. On a hot day I wouldn't be able to do it since I was completely protected from any wind. Even when I sat upright, I had a great wind pocket.

The controls were all a little stiff, but I think that may be due to it being new and unfamiliar. The rear brake lever felt small and tucked away, but once I figured out where it was I managed it.

Oh, and the handling, oh my, the handling. The best way to describe it is: think where you want to go and it happens. I never took it on any good turns, but even low speed parking lot maneuvering was easy. At stops I almost never had to put my feet down to keep it balanced, either.

All in all, my complaints are as follows. It was almost impossible to find the kickstand at the end of the ride and I don't have the money or skill it requires.

Here is my disclaimer. The 1125R is an amazing machine. It is also too much machine for me right now. I have not developed the skills required by a bike built to race. The Buell is built to be as user friendly as possible, but it is not beginner friendly.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Q&A Session


Hi, nice blog. I'm on the verge of moving to a new job which I'll have to drive
to - about 40 miles each way, so I'm debating the idea of buying a bike to cut
my fuel consumption. What do you think after commuting for a month? Is this
something you'd be happy to do long term or are you sick/afraid of it?


First of all, thank you for reading! Now to the meat of it, and I'm sure Matt will also have a response, but here is my take on it. I think that the best way to answer is taking the last point first. Motorcycle commuting is definitely something I will continue to do. Not only does it conserve fuel consumption, it has a variety of other helpful effects.

One, if I have had a stressful day at work, the ride home is rather relaxing. I think that comes from the fact that to concentrate on the commute I must focus completely on it, no distractions left over from the day can continue to eat at me on the way home.

Two, I can concentrate better on my work when I get there. Again, motorcycling is as much a mental exercise as a physical one. It wakes you up and focuses your mind before you even sit down behind the desk.

Three, I drink less coffee over the course of the day. See reason two for an explanation.

That being said, it is more nervous to ride to work versus drive to work. Commuting any sort of distance over congested roads is not something to be taken lightly. Rush hour traffic is the worst for aggressive drivers and inattentive drivers, all focused on something other than the task at hand. If I had it to do over again, knowing what I have learned over the past month, I think I would have waited until I had a few more miles in the saddle before actually committing to a lengthy daily commute. On the flip side of that, you'll notice that I did not actually commit to the full month and cherry picked the days that I drove a car due to the problematic lack of experience.

As a final note to anyone interested in a motorcycle as an alternate form of transportation. Over the past month, my fuel consumption has averaged 65 miles per gallon. Obviously, motorcycles are very effective gas savers and a very fun form of rapid transit. They are also not for everyone, they are more exposed and less noticeable than a car and they require a huge commitment on the part of the rider to learn, practice, and care for the motorcycle. However, my advice to anyone curious about the sport, look into it, whether you know people you can ask, have a dealership you can visit (although, as with auto dealers, take what they say with a grain of salt) or a motorcycle safety school you can enroll in or sit in on, do it. Learn everything you can and make an informed decision on if it's a hobby that you can enjoy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Final tally

So, the month long challenge is finally over - I completed my last "make-up day" today. For those who have just started following the blog, I assigned myself three extra days of commuting to make up for one day I had to bring a truck home from work to cart off a broken water heater and two days the bike was not running. I also stayed home one day of April and attempted to work from home while waiting for the replacement water heater to show up. I didn't assign myself a make-up day for that one, since working from home is even better from a gas conservation standpoint and still a bit of a challenge.

This post, I'm just going to put up what I accomplished by the numbers. I'm going to spend some more posts over the next few days drawing conclusions.

Final odometer reading: 10,165.5
Number of miles ridden: 1,919.2
Gallons of gas bought for the bike: 35.6
Total fuel costs: $123.17
Average miles per gallon: 54

The actual miles per gallon may be a little higher as I had a fairly empty tank at the start and right now the tank is nearly full, and I used so few gallons that an extra 1 or 2 gallons in the tank could mean another 1-2 mpg.

Now for some extrapolating - how much gas did I save by doing this? Here's a little more math from the above numbers.

Number of gallons a 20 mpg car would have used commuting: 96.0
Average cost of a gallon of gas for April: $3.459 (normally, I'd round to the nearest cent, but the price of gas must have a 9 at the end)
Cost to buy gas for a month of commuting: $331.93
Amount of gallons saved: 60.4
Difference in gas spending: $208.76

Saturday, May 3, 2008

End of April

So, with the end of the "official" ride for a month time frame, I have been wondering where we will go with this site. I don't feel like ending the blog with the end of the month. However, I think I will tend away from the daily ride report and go more into the realm of general motorcycling advice and reviews. After this last commute write up, that is.

Yesterday was a fairly standard commute. I left before the traffic began to build into the city. My only mistake was to not put the liner in my new mesh jacket. I did not quite anticipate just how effective it would be at letting air flow through. It was good for the warmer afternoon ride, though.

Ok, so it wasn't my only mistake, I was also following some one a little too closely on the way home and had a chance to practice hard breaking when a car further up the line realized it was time to turn, stopping traffic momentarily. If I had been slightly further back I would have had a little more time to react and may have been able to avoid stopping altogether. Oh well, at least I was still far enough away to avoid hitting anyone.

"Could you pick me up a..."

My wife was at home yesterday, but she's getting better. Before I left work yesterday, she called and asked if I could pick up a couple things at a local soul food restaurant. This isn't necessarily easy on a bike, although I was able to pull this off without much advance planning this time. Normally I carry a soft-sided lunch box in a magnetic tank bag. I was able to stuff the lunch box in my saddlebags, and walked into the restaurant carrying the tank bag so I could check if everything fit inside. Got the take-out dinner home without any trouble.

Not nearly as hard as the challenges some people in other countries face... check out Lords of the Logistic for some astounding photos of motorcycles, bicycles, and people carrying things that sometimes would be tough to carry in a small car.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

First Ride This Week

Yeah, I know I'm being a bad M4AM contributor, but I have excuses!
Enough of that though. I finally got to ride in to work today and I love it! Especially with the great weather we had today. As far as the ride went, I got a lot of practice playing the guess what the car is going to do game. One guy weaved back and forth between his lane and mine. It made me a little nervous passing him.

My announcement of the day though: I got a mesh jacket today. Which means I can ride tomorrow and stay comfortable as the temperature rises.

3 more rides to go...

Today I am not riding to work as I am staying home to care for my wife, who is not feeling well.