Friday, July 11, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

It's my pleasure to introduce Steve Liu this week. If reading this doesn't put you in the mood to go for a ride and take more training ( hint, hint ) then I don't know what will! Sit back and enjoy!


I'm Steve, I'm 33 and I live in Eugene, Oregon. I was born and raised in England and moved to Oregon in 1999.

My first experience with motorcycles was at the age of 11, at a friend's house. He had a little 50cc "mini-motorbike" and we spent hours taking turns riding around his woods on that little thing. I'm sure I dropped it several times, but now I know it's because I had never learned to counter steer or how to correctly apply the brakes!

At the age of 21 I was an officer in the Royal Air Force and was stationed at Akrotiri, Cyprus for a brief stint. A group of us rented 125cc bikes and decided to ride around and do some sightseeing and then have some fun on the dunes on base. It is a wonder I am able to be here and share this with you - anyone who's ever been to Cyprus will know what the drivers are like over there. That, combined with a complete lack of skill, and an over abundance of confidence should have spelled disaster. Luckily my mishap occurred on the dunes and not on the crazy streets.



Fast forward to 2006 and I'm 30 years old, married and have two small children - a 2 year old son and a 6 month old daughter. Typically this is not the time most people decide to start taking more risks, but my wife and I had been talking about learning to ride for years.

I'm not sure what it was that brought me to take a Team Oregon course, but I think perhaps it may have been divine intervention!

I ended up signing up for the 1 day IRT on September 9 2006. In hindsight, I should have been on a basic course. I arrived, having not sat on a motorcycle for almost a decade, and my experience was a day in Cyprus and an afternoon as a child on a mini bike. As you can imagine I was thrilled to start the riding portion of the course with the offset cone weave!

I could tell my instructors (Jake and Laurie) were thinking this was going to be one of the longest days of their instructing career!

It took a little while, then something clicked. I was like a sponge, soaking up all the tips and techniques they were throwing my way, and by the end of the course I was totally 100% hooked. My poor wife had to endure several days of me talking about counter steering, head turning and emergency braking.

I found a 1986 Honda Rebel 450 in Portland and trailered it down to Eugene.



I live about 300 yards from a Bi-Mart and became very familiar with the parking lot - I put in over 50 miles of parking lot time practicing what I had learned on the course. I didn't feel comfortable on the streets until the bike operation was completely automatic. I wanted 100% of my mental capacity to be on the road and other traffic, rather than thinking about operating the clutch and shift lever. I put 600 miles on the Rebel 450 before getting the itch to look at other bikes. I'm a researcher when it comes to purchases. I did my homework and decided I wanted the lightest cruiser possible, that would keep up with my desire for more power for a while to come. The bike that fit the bill is my current bike - a 2007 Suzuki Boulevard S50. The new name for the Intruder VS 800.



My father-in-law is getting close to retirement and seeing me on my bike got his interest. He'd ridden before, before he had kids, and so took a little while to refamiliarize himself. I still had the Rebel 450 and so I spent several hours with him in the Bi-Mart parking lot running exercises similar to the ones I had gone through. He was signed up for the IRT but wanted to have a little saddle time in before going on the course.

I make sure everyone I know who rides or is thinking about riding knows about the Team Oregon courses. Some resist, but eventually they all come around!

On his 63rd birthday he bought himself a 2007 Yamaha V-Star 650 Classic - his pride and joy.



My wife, Serena, was unable to take the BRT course until April of 2007, on account of the lack of infant breast-feeding breaks on the courses! (should we put that in the course debrief?!). I did the right thing with her and refused to even show her the controls of the bike. I wanted her to learn from the experts, instead of picking up on my bad habits. She had never driven a manual transmission vehicle so had quite a steep learning curve.

After the course she practiced on a 2006 Honda Rebel 250 which I picked up in Kelso Washington. It sure was fun to ride that bike around after getting used to my S50!

We were definitely hooked. We went from having no bikes to 3 in the space of 6 months! As my wife built her confidence and skills in the parking lot, I started hitting the local roads and exploring different routes to the coast.

Here's a link to a short video from one of my favorite roads - Wolf Creek to Lorane. I have the camera mounted to my turn signals and the other rider is Walt, my father-in-law.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7b9xtEAum5w

and a link to a photo page from the Cascade Lakes loop ride

http://picasaweb.google.com/orbrit74/CascadeLakesLoop/photo?authkey=t4IhXdJFmbg#5217725068207441554


Walt is my riding buddy. We haven't gone on group rides and probably never will. He doesn't mind if I take off and ride my own ride, then stop and wait for him. That way he gets to ride his own ride too.


He commutes daily on his VStar. It's only 6 miles, so he has to find diversions to get more of a ride in on the way home. I only really get to ride for pleasure - I work as a Technology Consultant so quite often have to carry a lot of computer equipment in my truck. Occasionally I do get to ride to client offices though.

The summer came and went and I was ready for a refresher course, so with 6000 miles under my belt, I took the RSP course exactly 1 year after my IRT. Jake and Aria were my instructors and I thoroughly enjoyed the course. It was really quite amazing to watch Aria zipping around the cones on his Bandit 600. At the end of that course, I was asked to consider the instructor program. What a compliment! I already recommend Team Oregon courses to everyone I meet who rides, so I guess the next step is to get involved with the actual preparation of those riders for the streets.

I wanted to start this riding season off on the right foot (or peg?) and signed up for the ART in Canby on June 9. What a blast!! For anyone who has never taken this course I would highly recommend it. I feel my riding has progressed so much from being able to really concentrate on the dynamics of cornering and also gaining the confidence that I'd hopefully be able to react effectively to hazards on the road.

Here's a video from the "personal evaluation" part at the end of the course to show you what the go-kart track is like.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIvg9J0zmTw

During one of the exercises, Stan Porter suggested I speak with him after the course about the instructor program and I also spoke with Ray and Laurie about it afterwards. What better way to improve my riding skills and educate others - I think I'm going to have to pursue the instructor training.

I'm so glad I took the ART. It totally put me in the right mind set at the start of the riding season. This week, I've ridden about 400 miles this week just commuting to client sites and running errands and it has been a week of close calls!

I'm glad I just polished up my swerving, and emergency braking earlier this month.

Monday afternoon I was riding down a side street in Tualatin next to a strip mall doing about 20 mph and a truck sped out of the strip mall driveway without stopping or looking, just as I was passing.

I caught it out of the corner of my eye and had to swerve and accelerate hard to avoid being T-boned! After I passed, he slammed his brakes on!

I must have been in the blind spot behind his massive A pillars.

Tuesday evening I was riding out to the movie theater following my wife in staggered formation, about 1 second behind and to the right.

We were in the exit/merging lane on a 4 lane highway, and were not changing lanes, just came around a cloverleaf and staying in the lane to exit.

A truck merging into the lane didn't see me and cut right in right behind my wife - which was where I was. This time I had to swerve right into the shoulder and brake hard to avoid being side swiped.

I laid on the horn as I came in behind him and he freaked out and swerved back out into his lane (Stebel Air horn) and put both his hands up in an apologetic gesture.

Wednesday evening on the way to a soccer game I was in the fast lane of a 4 lane highway and just cruising in traffic and a truck merging onto the freeway came across two lanes to get around a log truck - yep you guessed it - I was right there again. I pre-empted this one so didn't have to brake too hard but the guy was totally oblivious to the fact I was there even though I was laying on the horn.

My wife is now riding confidently and is really looking like a very proficient rider. She has taken the RSP and has since upgraded to a Kawasaki Vulcan 500. We sold the two Rebels so are down to just two bikes - for now.



I have my eye on a Suzuki SV650 as my first foray out of the cruiser world. I also see a Bandit 1250 in my future!

I look forward to sharing the road, or range with you soon.

Regards,

Steve


If you look at our website you can see the different courses. The IRT is a one day course we developed for returning riders and those riding unendorsed. They don't need the "learn to ride" basics. So we bring them in for a day where we work on mental skills and more advanced skills like cornering and accident avoidance skills.

The RSP is a riding clinic with no classroom. The part Steve talks about where Aria zips around the cones is the circuit ride. It's a course consisting of a tight turn, a barrel ride like the horse riders do, a corner, a swerve, and maximum braking. We do it first thing and then come back to it at the end. Students have a chance to see how much their score improves after working on their skills during the clinic.

By the way, Aria's recently sold his Bandit and purchased one of those sporty BMW boxer 1200's!

As you probably also noticed, Steve's poised to go over the edge of the precipice and become an instructor. Another one we've sucked in! Do you think I can stand to train and work with an enthusiastic person like him?

Here's a warm invitation to share your story. Drop me a line at intrepidcommuter@comcast.net and we'll put you in the spotlight for a bit!

Miles and smiles,

Dan





8 comments:

Stacy said...

Steve,

If you're thinking a new SV650 might be in your future, you'll probably want to buy sooner rather than later. Rumor has it Suzuki is doing away with the SV next year.

Then again, there's always the used market.

Balisada said...

I sure wish that Honda still made the Rebel 450. I hear that those are funner to ride than the 250.

Balisada

Steve said...

Stacy - Thanks for the tip on the SV650. I have yet to find a naked SV to test ride. I've ridden the SV650S and the Bandit 1250s. Wow. That Bandit is amazing. The SV650S was too uncomfortable for me.
I'm also very interested in the V-Strom 650. There are just too many bikes I want!

Balisada - I remember your name from the Rebel Riders group. I was only there briefly as I sold the 450. It was a good bike to ride - the main reason I sold it was it was old and I didn't have the technical skills to maintain it and I figured my life depended on the reliability of the bike!
If you're ready to upgrade from the Rebel 250 I can highly recommend both the Vulcan 500 and the Suzuki Boulevard S50. The S50 is a bit of a dark horse - it is light and the most powerful of the Suzuki 800s so it will outrun many higher displacement cruisers up to and including the Kawasaki Mean Streak, the HD Sportster 1200, Yamaha 1300s, and even it's bigger brother the S83.

Irondad - I remember the circuit ride very well, as I was first to ride it out of the students and remember being quite nervous!Incidentally I actually had more points assessed on the second ride, but was marginally faster so had scored a 103 vs a 107.

R.G. said...

Steve,
I love stories where I can follow the evolution of a rider. And how great is it that your wife rides too! My wife really doesn't have any interest and I respect that but man that would be awesome.

Allen Madding said...

Excellent story. Thanks for sharing. I never cease to be amazed how cage drivers can ride along side a bike and never recognize it is there.

Thanks for sharing!
-Peace

Earl Thomas said...

Like R.G. said, I never tire of reading about the evolution of a rider.

I envy you Oregonian's for you're access to the Team Oregon program. I understand that the program is recognized nationwide for setting high standards in motorcycle instruction, and getting riders new and seasoned ready for a positive and safe ride.
What a privilege to be asked to join.

E.T.

irondad said...

Just a footnote to brag a little about TEAM OREGON. Not only were we ranked high, but number one in the nation for best practices. This was determined by an independent research agency commissioned by NHTSA.

Steve L. said...

Team Oregon rocks!
You guys (and gals) are the best!