Saturday and Sunday we spent a lot of time on the range. The Range is a huge concrete area out behind the dealership with various multi-colored lines on it. We arrived not so bright and oh so early a little before 7 AM. Haven’t seen the sunrise in years. Looks a lot like the sunset so it isn’t worth getting up for. But learning to ride a motorcycle is.
During the riding course we rode Buell Blasts. Overall the riding part was both nerve racking and fun. You start out very slow and build up with each exercise. The first thing you learn to do is properly mount the motorcycle. This entails getting to the left of the cycle, reaching across to the right handle bar and squeezing the brake. Then you throw a leg over and pull the motorcycle up off its side stand. You should also consider putting up the side stand part of mounting it.
To start the motorcycle you use FINE-C. Turn the Fuel switch to the on position. Most motorcycles have a switch/valve under the fuel tank that regulates the flow of gas to the carburetor. I’m not sure if fuel injected motorcycles have one or not. The valve has three positions: On Off and Reserve. The idea is you put it in the off position when it is not running so that if the carburetor gets stuck open the gas won’t just pour through it and onto the pavement. When you want to start the motorcycle you turn it to the On position. Then you do your riding. At some point the engine starts going chug-a-chug-a because your tank is almost empty. At this point you reach down and flip the valve 180 degrees to the reserve position and get more gas and start looking for a gas station. Make sure you set it back to the On position after you fuel up or you won’t have any reserve next time.
Next you turn the Ignition on.This feeds power from the battery. It turns on the light and you need to make sure you don’t leave it on because motorcycle batteries don’t have a lot of juice to waste.
Next you put the bike into Neutral. You test this by letting off the clutch and rolling the bike backward and forward. If it rolls you are in neutral.
Now you turn the Engine Shut-off switch on. There’s a switch on the right handle bar that turns the engine off and won’t let it start. Its how you turn the engine off when you start. So now you need to turn it back to the on position.
C is for clutch though they tell you it is for clutch/choke. Our Blasts had an automatic choke so it didn’t matter. So now you squeeze the clutch. At this point you can press the starter switch and feel the bike start up. Now you slowly let off on the clutch and if the bike doesn’t try to take off you know you are in Neutral. We signal this by raising our left hands.
While this is good review I’m not going to go through the whole course. We learned a lot of basic stuff on the first day and it gradually got hotter and hotter. First thing we learned to do was Power walk which is when you let off the clutch just enough to get the bike to go forward and walk it where you want to go with you feet. Straddle walk is where you put it in neutral and just push it forward. Easy enough to do with a Blast, but would be much harder with a 1000 lb Harley Davidson. Power walking is also the first steps to driving, because when you are starting to go you easy off the clutch to make it start moving, walking a few steps as you give more power via the clutch until you are going and raise your feet up.
You learn a lot of power regulation on a motorcycle is from the clutch and not the throttle. Especially at lower speeds. I had a lot of trouble regulating the throttle while doing things like turning. That’s really were I need the most practice.
The most fun I had was an exercise where we just rode in a big oval. This was to practice leaning through turns and it was fun. Only half the class did it at a time and that meant there was more spacing and we could go faster. The next exercise after that was for shifting and we were suppose to get to third in the straits and shift down to second in the turns. But since we all did it at the same time you ended up going at the speed of the slowest member of the class, which was too slow to really be in third. I still shifted on cue because I wanted the practice, but it wasn’t as fun as it could be.
I have to say the women in the class were the slowest. Of course I was probably too fast in a number of places. OK I was too fast on Sunday and it caused me to almost fail the class.
We spent the afternoon in the class room and everyone was really tired, the sun having drained it all out of us. I wore a t-shirt and then put on a denim long sleeve shirt and winter gloves. I was hot. After class that evening I went to Academy and bought a long sleeve runners shirt and went to another motorcycle place a bought some light weight motorcycle gloves. When the bike is moving even in my denim it wasn’t that hot, but we spent a lot of time standing still. So dress light.
On the cast of characters, I learned Angus didn’t need the classification of obnoxious. He turned out to be a really nice guy. Mike deserved it to the end. He didn’t come back after lunch and was suppose to come back on Sunday even though Jerry didn’t want him too, but he didn’t in the end. I bet he just decided he didn’t need this class. But he also wasn’t the best rider in the class. Really needed to work on his braking.
All that preparation for heat on Sunday turned out to be wasted because we had a new member of our class Sunday morning, Grace….. Stay tuned.