Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Motorycle Diaries, Part II

I have promised you, The People, another motorcycle blog, and I have been delinquent in delivering. Forgive me. I've been a bit distracted. In addition, my motorcycle has not even been in my possession this week, as I brought it in for a 15,000 mile servicing. This is after skipping the 4,000 and 7,000 and 13,000 mile servicing, for which I am a very bad boy, indeed. The problem is that I ride every single day, 70 miles a day, and so I hate to be without it. Which is about the stupidest possible excuse I could come up with, since the bike will obviously be no good to me if it gets screwed up.

Now, I have done the basic upkeep of the bike--oil, tire pressure, etc--but when it comes to actual mechanics, ferget it. I am beyond incompetent. Well, that's not entirely fair. I'm just unskilled. I lack knowledge. I did not grow up with a father who tinkered in the garage and handed me down his toolkit. I do not, in general, repair items, and the only furniture I've ever assembled successfully comes from Ikea, which doesn't count. It's kind of a crappy thing to have to admit as a guy, and even worse when you ride a motorcycle. Because the expected cultural wisdom is that you fix yer own goddamn bike. It's about being "at one" with your machine, which, in theory, I completely agree with. I just know that in practice, it'd end in catastrophe. So, I just pay the price instead--and in this case it's a heavy one. Like, $1,500 worse. OUCH. The only solace I have is that this is what it would have cost me, apparently, anyway, just as a matter of course---not because I was delinquent on bringing it in. Still, that is a veritable buttload of money, and makes me realize once again how helpless I am in the face of mechanics.

In any event, I promised to say what I ride, and since it's not like it's any big mystery or big deal, I will tell you. I don't know why it has not come up yet. It is a 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic, in black. It looks like this:

I absolutely freakin' love it. Not only is it the first bike I bought brand new, but it is also the biggest and most comfortable. And loudest. Now, you may scoff at that last part, and I am certainly not one of those obnoxious attention-getting a-holes who feels the need to wake the neighborhood or cause babies to scream and dogs to howl as I ride down the road (and really, it's not THAT loud--it's all stock parts), but I promise you that having a bike that motorists can actually HEAR--since no one ever sees us--is a huge safety thing. I can tell, on the freeway, that it's usually the sound of my bike that makes drivers aware BEFORE they see me, and it's a comforting feeling.

The sitting stance on this bike--a cruiser, my first--means that I can basically sit upright, and even lean back a little, which is great if you're a middle-aged dude like me with a bad back. Younger dudes like to point and laugh at cruisers, but my comeback to you is this: Fuck off. Wait till you get to be my age. All I know is I can sit comfortably on this thing for 70 miles every day, and have a nice wide viewing angle in which to watch all the traffic. So you sport bike/rice rocket punks go ahead and rip by me and have a nice day. Old man Green is having a great old time anyway.

I started out small, by the way, on a tiny Ninja 250, and if you are a new and inexperienced rider, I can't recommend this strategy enough. Do not let macho posturing get to you. Do not let your friends laugh at you. Learning the basic techniques, and staying alive while doing it, is your first and only priority when you are starting out, and you do not need, nor really should have, a bigger, more expensive bike to start. It's just stupid. You're gonna drop the thing almost guaranteed at some point (I did, more than once), and, for me anyway, the 250 was just the right (small) size in which I felt like I could be in charge, rather than having the bike overwhelm me. It's also fast as hell, anyway.

I know some folks will probably comment that they started out on bigger bikes and were fine with it, and that's cool. Well, it's cool as long as you survived and didn't feel out of your depth. But I totally recommend starting small and working your way up. Or shit, even just staying small. My previous bike, before this Vulcan, was a Yamaha Seca II, a 600cc that was just beautiful to ride. And if it wasn't for my new, long commute, I would have been happy staying with it. I only upgraded because of the commute. I mean, to be honest about it, I totally would have gotten a bigger, newer bike much earlier than I did, because, ya know, you will always have that itch, but I let practical reasons, like money, trump my base desires. Fortunately, by taking a job with a hellish commute, a new, bigger bike became a practical reason. So yay!

One more thing about this bike. Some folks may be inclined, for better or worse, to say it looks like a Harley. I really have no opinion on Harleys or Harley riders. I'm too concerned with my own riding to judge others. I will, say, however, that I have heard that my bike is referred to, among Harley riders, as a "Hardley." I am amused.

Okay. I have procrastinated enough. I now must brave the horrid Bay Area freeway in my car, for one last evening. I hate it. Even when traffic sucks, when I'm on the motorcycle, well, I'm still on my motorcycle. In the car, I just want to run everyone else off the road and/or stab myself in the head with a pencil. I do promise I will do neither, however. The one thing I can do in the car that I can't on the bike is listen to music. And the first Gorillaz CD sounded so freakin' great on the way in this morning, that I'm going to listen to it again on the way home. But even louder.

Next time: The joys and perils of lanesplitting.


Unknown said...

Viva CHE!

Ryan said...

That's a nice bike. I don't pay much attention to the harley or sportbike scene. I bought a 2007 Honda Rebel as my first bike a few months ago. I think it is a great first bike.

The next one will be a dual sport. A DR650, F650GS, or a F800GS. I am several years away from one of those though, I need to get through school first. I really enjoy the moto posts.

Unknown said...

Hey, Jeff, nice bike. It's interesting that your first bike was a Ninja 250, as mine is a '07 Ninja 250. Still on her, been riding for 2 years now. I'm loving my ability to ride, makes a trip to work, friends, or a store much more relaxing, even if people are trying to run me over. Hate having to go anywhere in my car now-a-days.
I also am not too good at repairing my bike, so I keep it to the basics of oil, air, and coolant. I'm interested in reading more on this, keep up the good blogging.

Justin said...

I don't really mind commuter traffic because of 1) NPR, and 2) podcasts! Between Geekbox, Rebel FM, Giantbomb, and all the 1UP stuff, there's more than enough to keep me occupied.

Great post by the way.

mackproject said...

I'm kind of a fan of that old-fashioned look, but personally, I find Harley's to be too freaking bulky to be good-looking--I mean, God, some of them are practically heavy enough to be cars. I think yours is pretty much close to perfect. Personally, (I've never ridden a bike; I'm speaking solely on design), I like something a little lighter and more off-road-like, like for instance, this BMW R 1200R.

Or this Ducati SportClassic GT 1000

Again, I just want to reiterate that I'm speaking solely on design.

Finally, I would just like to add that the handyman is dead. I think that cliche ended with my dad's dad's generation.

Carey Peck said...

A lot of Wisconsin Harley riders don't wear helmets. How smart do you think they are?

Mike said...

I started riding last year with a 2002 Honda Shadow Spirit, which is a 750cc bike. It was easy to get used to, and I'm glad I didn't go smaller...I've been able to drive long distances including going to Americade (50000 bikers) (waited until my second year to hit the highway though). I love the bike, and highly recommend it to beginners.

Jason Maskell said...

Nice bike. I was going to say about halfway through that I thought you were a rice-rocket guy.

Anyway, as I said on your last post - loud pipes DO save lives. :)

The biggest bike I've had so far was a 650, but it's too small. I've done a lot of riding of the Fatboy and VTX-1300, and they're amazing. Just the right size for me and they both handle unbelievably well.

I imagine you'll feel the same about your 900 soon enough.

Sean I said...

This and your other blogs on the subject have inspired me to learn how to ride. I've picked up a few books, any sources of info for starting to ride you'd suggest? Btw as a guy in my twenties (at least for a few more months) cruisers are cool.

Peter Saumur said...

meh - "Hardley"

(Q) What takes 2 men and a pick-up truck to move it?

(A) A Harley Davidson.

"Jap crap", sneered the hog pilot. It was some small bump-on-the-ass shanty town in NorCal, but it did have a gas station. The pump still had the old tumbler-style numbers, faded Texaco paint, and a stall for Leaded (not working, of course).

I was riding my '86 Honda VFR 750 from Vancouver (BC) to Los Angeles for Siggraph '97.

Anonymous said...

I'd rather buy the most expensive computer that Alienware has on offer, but of course that's not going to help a fellow get to work now is it?

Seth said...

My first - and only, up til now - bike was a 1986 Vulcan 750. Thing was a beast. A silly looking, monstrous beast.

And I loved her every minute she was between my legs.

Chris said...

Sweet bike, I'm loving the fenders in particular!
I've got one of these:

I'm in the same boat as you regarding the maintenance: oil, tires, no problem. Anything else, and it's time to open the wallet.

With you on the loud pipes too. I had loud aftermarket pipes on my previous bike and they saved my butt a number of times. This one is whisper quiet. This must be rectified soon ... :)

SilentG said...

I've always wanted to get into bikes, they just seem so much more efficient and fun. For a motorcycle license, did you have to take lessons-> permit->blah blah blah like when trying to get a normal driver's license?

Fred said...

I'm one exit south of you Green. All I have to do is jump on 101, get off on Holly, and go lookin' for that bike heh, heh, heh. The bike is mine Green, mine all mine, heh, heh.

...Just kiddin' :P

Love that Gorillaz album, great for the commute. Gravity is my favorite.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Green... memo... they're not zombies alright (I apologize to The Living Dead for having just written the Z-word).

I'm referring to your Twitter feed here, in which you stated that you heard two of your colleagues arguing as to whether or not zombies can swim (and again I apologize to The Living Dead for having just used that word. Sorry. It won't happen again. I'm really quite saddened by all of this).

The simple fact, Green, is that zombies (sorry!) are real people too - they have goals and aspirations, just like you and I do, and they have feelings too, just like you and I do (though I'm beginning to suspect that yours have grown cold... is it because of all the recent layoffs at EA?).

Simple rule:

We don't call them zombies.


That's just racism!

They're The Living Challenged.

Got that.

The Living Challenged.

Sir, I hope that one day, this streak of racism which, shockingly, has reared its ugly head, will be expunged... yes, expunged... from this blog.

And, really, Green, you of all people - I must say I am surprised.

Have you joined the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott campaign as well? You are aware, I would take it, that part of the proceeds from that game will end up going to help the homeless members of The Living Challenged recover from being dead? Ah, but you just don't care about that, do you? Too concerned with polishing up that nice motorbike of yours, I suppose?

As far as the debate itself is concerned, obviously The Living Challanged do swim. They're all bloated up aren't they? Of course they're going to be able to swim.

Float, would be the word that I would've used for it.

Again, I deeply apologize to The Living Challenged for having twice written the Z-word in this post.

To all of The Living Challenged presently reading this post, I wish you Godspeed, my friends.


The Goose.

Robert said...

Jeff...there is no reason you can't listen to music on the motorcycle!!!! I commute 35 miles each way every day too. I commute in NJ across the state on Route 80 and the garden state parkway....any who, just check out chatterbox XBI bluetooth. it is relatively inexpensive and works very well. I use the in helmet speaker system and I use 32db ear plugs. Hit me up if you want more info....

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Pirelli Motorcycle Tires said...

That's a nice bike. The 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic, in black is sure is stylish.