Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Final Shoulder Update

I've already posted about getting the Ninja back into road worthy shape, so I'll post about getting myself road worthy again.

I went to my orthopedic surgeon yesterday afternoon for another check-up on my shoulder and heard one of my favorite lines of the year: "Your shoulder is doing better now than if I had given you a new one." So, almost four months after the crash and following just over two months of physical therapy, I have a clean bill of health and nearly 100% range of motion back. I say almost because it still hurts at the extremes of the range of motion, but I can't see any need to flex that far. I also need to keep up the strengthening exercises for a while to make sure my shoulder remains stable.

I've been back on the bike once on a nice Saturday afternoon and hit the parking lot to run through some of the MSF exercises and I'm looking forward to getting back on more regularly as the weather gets nicer. (With the encouragement of both my doc and my physical therapist, who also rides.) The only caveat I was given about riding was being told to carry their cards with me in case it happens again.

Ride safe.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Visibility and Commuting

One thing we have talked about here and gets discussed on several of the forums out there is visibility. One of the common comments from people who have hit a motorcyclist is "I just didn't see them." Fortunately, gear manufacturers have listened and the selection of jackets and helmets in bright colors is massive. In addition to that, the US military has mandated the use of reflective gear for the people in the service who ride. Gear manufacturers have also picked up on this and the recent proliferation of brightly colored vests with swaths of retro-reflective material shows it.

I wear Icon's Mil-Spec vest whenever I ride, especially since I commute at times when the lighting is bad. I know that wearing it has made people more aware of my presence and suspect it may have saved me from having to execute quick stops on many occasions. One way to know that people notice is to see all the stares I get when I ride to the mall. ;)

Why do I bring this up now? Only because I've recently been made aware of another Icon product that addresses some of the issues I've had with my vest. Wearing the vest makes me not want to use a back-pack, if only because it blocks a huge section of the vest from view. So unless I want to have my saddle bags on all the time, I have to use my tank bag for carrying my things while commuting. Not the best way to carry a first aid kit, rain gear, and lunch. SO, to alleviate this issue, they have developed a mil-spec compliant back pack. I can't give it a review yet, but I figure anything that can carry a lap-top computer, first aid kit, tool kit, spare face shield, and still have room for my rain suit and lunch will be worth a look. Now to scrape together the cash to get one. I'll let everyone know what I think whenever I can find one to at least take a look at.

Full disclosure, I am in no way affiliated with Icon Motorsports or any motorcycle gear distributor or retailer.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The New Year's Offerings

With the advent of 2009, I think we should look at this year's offerings from the major manufacturers in motorcycles that I would recommend to someone who made a resolution to learn to ride this year. Well, actually I would tell them to look for something used, but if they insist on a new bike, these are what I would want them to take a look at.

From Yamaha:
If you're looking into the cruiser segment, Yamaha's V Star line has several from which the beginner may choose.

First off is the V Star 250, formerly named the Virago 250, this has been one of the recommended bikes for years running. With a low weight of 324 pounds and only 250cc in the engine it fits the bill quite nicely. It even looks good.

If you don't feel that it fits you, check into the slightly larger V Star 650. It comes in three styles; the Silverado, a fully loaded touring machine, the Classic, a flowing cruiser, or the Custom, a factory bobber.

Unfortunately, if you're looking for a sport bike, I can't tell you to look at the Yamaha line. But any of the dual-sports offered would work well. Especially the distinctive TW200.

Next manufacturer up is Honda:
Big Red has one bike for the beginner's cruiser. The Rebel. As mentioned in an earlier post, the Rebel is one of the most recommended bikes for several reasons, not the least of which are the 234cc engine or the wet weight of 331 pounds.

Disappointingly, Honda has discontinued the next motorcycle I would have recommended, the Nighthawk. However, they have added a few that I would jump at the chance to try out, the CRF230M and the CRF230L. With both of them having sub-300 pound curb weights and massive give in the suspensions, they would be great fun to throw around in city traffic.

With a few more styles comes Suzuki:
The first of the manufacturers to have a sport bike that I would recommend, the GS500F. The heaviest of the bikes I've mentioned so far, it tips the scales a little north of 400 pounds. It also is the bike the Matt has been using for the duration of this blog, so any review of it will be his.

Suzuki also has the requisite dual-sports in the DR-Z400S and SM version. However, I would only recommend these to those very long of leg and able to get their feet down from these towering seats. Or those with more normal sized legs, the DR200SE has a seat four inches lower.

Finally, Suzuki offers several in the standard/cruiser segment. From the GZ250 (a prime competitor to the Rebel) to the Boulevard S40 (single cylinder) or the S50 (for those more into the v-twin market.)

Last of the Big 4, Kawasaki:
Kawasaki is the only one to have two bikes in the sportbike category suitable for the first time rider. The smallest two editions of the Ninja line come in both a 250cc and a 500cc engine. For those of you who have followed our blog have seen my older 250 and know how much I love it need to hear no more about it, for those who haven't heard yet... Well, I like it a lot and you'll just have to read more of our posts to find out why. The Ninja 500 hasn't had the luxury of the update that it's smaller sibling received, but it's still a bullet-proof choice.

From the cruiser side of the street, Kawasaki offers both the Eliminator 125 (another favorite of the MSF classes and great for tooling around town) and the Vulcan 500 (sharing the same engine as the Ninja mentioned above.)

As far as dual-sports go, any one of the Kawasakis in this category are great to start on, even the KLR 650 if you can sit it.

The last of the major manufacturers who have a bike I would recommend for someone to start on has just one; Buell's big single, the 500cc Blast. If you missed my reaction to this wonderful addition to the playing field, go back and read it, Buell has decided not to mess with success on this one.