Monday, September 15, 2008

Advice column.

I'm thinking of starting an advice column here. If it works for Dear Abby, it ought to work for a rough and tumble motorcyclist, don't you think?

The Idaho trip has come and gone. There were some unique adventures which I'll share later in the week. The guest post is starting tomorrow. For now, though, here's a sample of how the advice column would go. This is an actual inquiry from a recent post. Well, the question itself is real. I'm making up a bit of the introductory stuff!

Ask the Maniac

Dear Maniac,

Any tips on first-time peg scraping?


Would like to go farther.

Dear Farther,

I'd like to share two important pieces of wisdom with you.

Firstly, your bike doesn't have to look like this for you to be considered a legitimate motorcyclist.

This is a photo of the underside of my brand new bike. As you can see, I've clearly set the expectations for this bike from the very beginning. This kind of behaviour works for me which is probably why I'm called a maniac. However, this doesn't work for everyone. Don't let anyone pressure you into going farther than you're comfortable with.

Truly wise riders will understand and respect your position. Those riders who would ridicule you for not having scraped pegs on your bike should be considered as bad association. If their pegs are scraped it was probably done accidently and thus shows poor riding skills. In most street riding situations scraping pegs should not be involved, anyway. This is "the streets" after all.

Since you have, however, expressed a desire to head down the path to motorcycle debauchery, I'm going to share the second piece of wisdom with you here.

Take the time to truly listen to your bike when it talks to you.

Like my dear Katie, my bikes want to talk to me. Yours will do the same. The bike, that is. This is a riding advice column. I'm staying with my strengths here. Unlike a marriage, any conversation the bike may choose to have with you is going to be useful. It's very important information and should be heeded. Further, the real key to success is to listen before committing. Failure to do so, at the very least, will result in neither one of you being happy. I'm pretty sure that applies in marriage and motorcycles, both. Things will just get worse from there if a rider continues to ignore the bike's feedback. Separating from a bike will surely be a lot more physically painful than separating from a partner. Your results may vary, though.

Let's break it down a little bit and you'll see what I'm saying.

Picture your bike as having a 2" diameter rod inserted horizontally from the rear wheel to the front wheel. I know, it's a painful picture, but it's for a good cause. This pole runs right through the center of rotation. Think of the bike now as rotating around this pole. If it helps, imagine a whole chicken roasting on a rotisserie. The succulent bird is roasting quite nicely as it turns in a smooth, even circle. It looks and smells so delicious! Sorry, it's lunch time and I haven't even had breakfast, yet!

Back to the bike. Ignore the rumblings from my stomach. Whenever you lean the bike, think of rotating it around this pole. Think back to the chicken. It's rotating nice and evenly. There's no funky chicken slam dance as one side is flung down and then the other. The same should be true of your bike. Picture yourself gracefully rolling the bike around to the left, back upright, to the right, and back up. Smooth and steady.

As you go through a turn, set your entry speed so that you're comfortable holding steady or slightly increasing throttle all the way through the curve. This is extremely important for a lot of reasons. For this discussion, I'll just say that the throttle application will give you something to press against. Many riders are afraid the bike will fall over if leaned very much. Throttle application will help hold the bike up. Steady throttle will also help ensure that ground clearance stays consistent as you explore the lean angles.

Back to rolling the bike on its axis. During these rotations the bike will tell you how it's doing. Listen to the tires, especially the front one, with your ears and hands. Does the tire sound content? Does the bike's suspension still feel steady and composed? Good. How are you doing? Ok? Rotate a little farther to the side on the next corner. Everything still calm? Maybe that's not a good word. At greater lean angles the bike will sound a little more excited. That's ok. Excitement is a good thing. Just ask Doctor Ruth. Oh, I was going to stick to motorcycles here.

The key is to learn to distinguish between excitement and distress. Bikes will tell you when they are becoming distressed. Traction will vary in different corners. Some corners are cambered nicely in our favor and some not so much. There's a lot of factors that come into play. Where you apex is also a big factor. An early apex will usually require less lean angle than a late apex. Again, the bike will tell you how it feels. If there is a distress signal you want to hear it before it's too late. Smoothly rolling the bike from side to side will allow time to change the plan if you do hear a distress signal. You're both in a position where you haven't gone too far to back away.

That's a really big problem with a lot of riders. They throw the bike from side to side rather than rotate it smoothly. Sometimes it's ok despite that. I've also seen a lot of riders crash during our track courses. The bike was forced to do something it wasn't ready for and the rider didn't allow enough time for the bike to communicate that fact to the rider.

Head turns come into play, too. Our natural instinct is to look while we're turning. It can seem really strange to be looking far to the left, for instance, while the bike is still headed straight ahead. That's a whole long discussion by itself. For now I'll just say that turns can be deeper and more confident if both the bike and rider know well ahead of time where the target is. Look sooner, look farther.

Follow my advice and you'll be scraping pegs in no time. The biggest difference is that you'll be doing it with skill and control. Please let me know how your progress is going.

By the way, I'd strongly suggest that a rider go forth and safely explore the limits of themselves and their bikes. A rider may choose to never lean far enough to scrape. Once in a while, though, a situation may call for more extreme countermeasures. Better to have explored on your own terms ahead of time than be called upon to do it with no preparation. Pick a corner with room to safely play. Ride the same corner over and over. This will provide a consistent base from which to work.

A word of caution is also in order. Once you hear the peg gently scrape that's far enough. A scraping peg is also feedback from the bike. It's telling the rider that ground clearance is nearly used up. Footpegs are hinged so there's a little room to roam. Just remember, though, that the next thing to scrape after pegs are hard parts like mufflers and centerstands. Hitting those things on the deck can lift the rear tire off the road. The key is to scrape, not grind. I've ground but I'm also a maniac, remember.

If your bike has floorboards, be especially careful. Properly installed floorboards should hinge, as well. I've seen a lot that don't. If the board doesn't move, even gentle scraping can lever the bike off the road. Make sure the boards actually move like they're supposed to.

Miles and smiles,

The Maniac


Steve Williams said...

Dear Maniac: I have no pegs to scrape and if I did would probably be nervous about pushing so far towards the pavement. Are there other ways for me to test my mettle?


Slowly wanderer.

Earl Thomas said...

I haven't scraped the pegs on the Kawasaki yet, I don't really know how possible that is, I suppose anything is if you put your mind to it. Scraping the pegs doesn't really concern me anymore, not as much as it used to. I suppose if that C14 keeps whispering dirty little words to me in my sleep, I may end up with one, and who knows, those temptations might return.

On another note, I'm pretty sure I saw you going through Spokane on Wednesday afternoon, we passed each other going opposite directions on I-90 right around downtown. Either that was you, or there's another guy around here riding an FJR wearing a high-vis jacket. Couldn't really wave, I had my hands full with a school of agitated commuter fish.


irondad said...

Dear Slowly Wanderer,
My thought is that you need no test of your mettle. It has been proven many times.

The Hummingbird knows it has a place in God's plan. Still, though, avian eyes turn skyward and behold the Eagle. It wonders if it could ever be like this majestic bird.

The proof would be in living like an Eagle for a day. Its flight would have to be far and fast, in search of prey, not nectar.

My advice to this Hummingbird would be to travel a great distance at a higher speed. It would have to resist the urge to stop at flowers and sample their sweetness.

In other words, complete a day like I had Friday. 11 hours on the bike, doing battle along the way. ( more on that in an upcoming post ) Most importantly of all, you would have to resist the urge to stop and make photos!

It's quite possible to scrape pegs on an KLR. Maybe not on the street as a rule, but certainly on the go-kart track!

That was probably me you saw Wednesday. I passed through there around 4 PM or so headed East. The Hi-Viz 'STich was what I was wearing. I stopped to take a picture of the FJR at the big blue Welcome to Idaho sign then went on into Coeur D'Alene. My gas receipt there says it was 4:29. How cool that our paths crossed!

Were you on the bike? Did I wave at you? I remember a few bikes but not a green KLR. I did, however, turn another year older last week so maybe my memory is finally starting to go!

Take care,


jon said...

Hi Dan
Thanks for the advice. I shall progress gradually, and let you know how I get on - it's currently too wet on the roads here, and there is that thing called work.
It seems that spending Friday with a younger lady has rejuvenated you!

Bryce said...

Advice column eh?

Let's call it...
Dear Danny Boy?

Dear DB I have a shep (that's one male sheep)that wants to head butt all the other similar types and scrape his pegs when he's getting ready to run.
Is this normal or should I have the pegs removed so my shep won't know if he's coming or going?

Worried herdsman

Arizona Harley Dude said...


The Glide's floorboards have 8 1/2" clearence on the low side in an upright position. I scrape all the time and it is invigorating to hear and feel the asphalt scraping by. I have to keep reminding myself, though, that a full dress Harley wasn't made to bounce from left to right scraping merrily along through the twisties. That even power or slight acceleration gets the better of me on ocassion. However, a good pucker once in a while is a great way to keep my limitations in check.

Yes, I continue to learn from the master.

irondad said...

You don't know the half of it! Stay tuned for the Idaho trip report.

I'd suggest giving him a new FJR and a blog then letting him have at it!

Arizona Harley Dude,
Hey, nothing wrong with a little spirited spark show now and then. Just remember to set the boards down and not to slam them.

On a powerful bike with a lot of torque like yours, applying anything more than even throttle can throw the bike wide in the corners. As you know, applying throttle makes the bike want to stand up and go straight which can be a conflict when you want the bike to lean and turn.

The throttle effect can be amplified by fuel injection. Sometimes it's helpful to think of "flexing" your right forearm instead of "rolling" with your hand.

Keep on having fun. Isn't that the two reasons we ride? To have fun and look good?

Take care,


SheRidesABeemer said...

OMG, I want an advice column too! But half my answers would be glib and half my readers would not know that!

The Snark said...

Dear Maniac,

I'm a slow rider, but riders following behind keep complaining they can't overtake me without ending up in the ditch, and that they keep getting blinded by sparks coming off my motorcycle.

I have no idea what they are talking about, but this is beginning to cause problems because they keep sending me newbies for breakfast.

My question is, should wear my pants over or inside my boots?


Fashionally challenged.

irondad said...

Who do you write the blog for, anyway? Be glib all you want!

Dear Fashionally Challenged,
I think you just made up a new word. Whatever.

Wear your pants inside the boots. You are the Steely Eyed Missle Man.

Riders behind you should wear welding goggles to deal with the sparks. I hear newbies are nutritious and tender. Use different spices if the breakfast menu turns boring.

As to crashing in the ditch as they try to pass you, quit shoving their bikes with your boot as they go by. Put your ego aside and let them pass. It will keep them fresh until lunchtime, if you get my hint.


Bryce said...

Dear Maniac:

A good friend of mine, rides as much as he can. He purchased a new ST1300 this spring, with all the accessories, and traded his well-
worn ST1100. It had well over 220K
on the clock. Nary a bit of trouble

Just visited him in the hospital. Yep, his 1300 developed the
dreaded rear end shake, at speed and pitched him, quite some distance too!

The bike went one way and he went the other way.

He is not a happy person! His body
is even less happy. He like me wears full padded leathers and all of the items to be safe. He didn't so much slide, rather bounced, and each time he bounced something else broke. A left leg in three places
and now stainless steel rodded, and
broke his back in two places and his left hand. Numerous internal messes as well. He was going rather fast about 170 km/h on one of our public roads. Here in Ontario that means immediate disqualification for seven days and impounding of his vehicle, what's left of it.

He gets a whopping big fine and nine times out of ten the judge lifts the license for a year, or more. And his insurance rates will be about $5000 a year to ride or drive if and when. In fact he may well be told to start all over again! It has happened.

He is a solicitor and is a partner in a large practice so I suspect he'll not be working for a while.

As to his ST1300, there wasn't much to pick up. He said he may well sue Honda as he knows of other
people who have been through similar.

My question then, does your new machine do such similar things and is there anything with Elvira that you would want that is different?

Steve L. said...

So I have a problem for the advice column.

I recently purchased a 2007 Suzuki Bandit 1250 for a bargain price on Craigslist.
I rode the Bandit the last 10 days and am just getting to know it. It thrills me and scares me at the same time - part of that fear is that I cannot corner as easily as I can on my S50 - in the low speed around town stuff.

I rode my S50 tonight and it was like an extension of me. It turns in easily and goes exactly where I want it to go.

Is it a mental thing that stops me from being able to perform the low speed maneuvers on the Bandit? Surely this bike should be easier to turn?

I have 9000 miles on the S50 and less than 300 on the Bandit.

Do I just need to give it more time?

Steve L. said...

Well I found the rememdy to the problem.

A ride from Eugene to Florence, to Reedsport then back to Eugene via the Smith River Road.

Problem solved!!