January 12, 2009
Since I purchased my bike last spring I have mostly commuted to and from work on it. I was more than a little scared of the highway traffic the first few times I rode to work. Having not been on any bike for about 5 years, let alone a bike as big as my new one, I was really worried that I would get into a situation that I was not prepared for.
The year before I bought my bike I read several riding skills books. Mostly the Proficient Motorcycling books by David Hough. The information that he provided (including diagrams) gave me a greater understanding of how a motorcycle works and how a rider should interact with his bike and the road. I also purchased a motorcycle maintenance book (generic maintenance because at the time I didn’t know I’d be getting a Hog). I wanted to not only understand how to ride a bike but how it works.
Understanding the lessons that Hough wrote helped tremendously with my confidence and improved my riding skills. I as surprised that with just the application of some basic principles I was able to make nice, tight U-turns and low speed turns, even on my EG. I haven’t had time, but there are also practice lessons to sharpen the skills discussed in the book. I try to fit them into my commute just to break up the routine of going to the same destination every day. It really helps (that and my IPod, but more on that later). The most useful tips that I found for commuting are these:
1. Breaking is almost always the best action to take. Learn how to break with front and back breaks properly. Learn the limitations of your breaks in a safe environment (parking lot) and not when you are breaking in a dire situation.
2 Look at the front tire of a car that is stopped at an intersection or cross street. The tire will make almost a full rotation before the bumper moves much at all. It is a far better indicator that a car is going to move than trying to make eye contact with the driver. The front tire also has to turn before the car can so this is also a great way to find out which way the car is headed. Looking at the tire also helps when traveling on the highway. As I stated above the car tire must move before the car can, so you’ll see the tire turn before the car moves into your lane. This last observation has saved me some skin a few times.
3. Wear all the gear, all the time. I work in an office and have to dress business casual but I still wear my full face helmet, jacket, gloves, chaps/riding pants, and boots all year. The key here is getting the right gear so that you will wear it. For the summer I wear a mesh jacket (with armor), mesh gloved, and leather chaps or my vented riding pants with the liners removed. At highway speeds this keeps me cool and comfortable. For winter I have a neck sleeve, insulated jacket, insulated pants and lined riding boots. My theory is that I want to be sure that I have as much protection as possible just in case. I may be the best rider out there, but that does not stop a distracted driver from putting me in an inescapable situation. Like a boy scout, be prepared (plus, bugs and rocks hurt).
I’ll be posting another entry about my winter commuting adventures. Stay tuned to find out exciting information about my low temperature threshold, keeping your feet warm and hands warm (without heated gear), and much much more.