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Author Topic: Things I wish I knew as a new rider.  (Read 145 times)

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    "I eat unicorns"

  • JOINED: Jan 2013
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Things I wish I knew as a new rider.
« on: April 02, 2018, 10:24:04 AM »
  • Someone was asking about chains, so I decided to put together a list of things I think are useful to every rider new and old.

    Edit: It turned into a book. If you make it until the end, thank you kindly. I started writing, and then I didnít stop. Number 10 is a section about the things I think most helped me as a street rider.

    1. Chains: - Stay away from Ebay chains, unless you're buying from a verified store. Some of them are "China Shit" which aren't actually DID, EK, Regina, Tsubakimoto, or RK. We live in MN, so there are a bazillion dealers that will have what you need in stock. Remember what I said above about china shit- if a chain breaks, it could cost you an engine. Chain flies off and cracks case for example. It's possible. Sprockets: Thereís no reason a street rider needs an aluminum sprocket. Stick with steel sprockets. Itís something to watch out for too, pay attention when buying a sprocket kit to make sure the sprockets are steel. Don't ever skimp on a chain or tires. A good chain should last you a couple to a few years if you take care of it depending on your application. When you buy your first chain you should be buying the appropriate lubricant, and a brush. Learn how to lube your facking chain, and when to do it! (Seriously, it helps.) Invest in a chain breaker (or something to cut the old chain) and a chain tool ($100-$150), which will flare rivet style master links, or a clip style link may also be used. There is a lot of speculation on which is better. Iíve seen both in heavy industry, and will make no comment other than research on your own - itís more than what most people do, spouting off on on forums and alike. Budget $150-$200 for a quality chain. There is also potential to swap to non OEM sizes - do your research. As technology advances smaller chains are becoming increasingly stronger. Itís all about risk vs reward and the application. Youíll hear me use application throughout this guide, itís important to understand that how you ride your motorcycle affects the components you use. A leisurely sunday rider, street squid, street rider, track rider, and stunter make a difference in the parts required.

    2. Fork seals: - if you're buying a used bike, check the fork seals. If already own one, just check it every so often. Most everyone who's ridden a few years can wheelie. Sometimes the fork seals take the brunt of it. Take a finger, and run it along the shiny part of the fork tube. If you've got oil on your fingers a seal is leaking. This doesn't necessarily mean a bad thing if youíre looking to buy a bike and theyíre leaking - wheelies arenít detrimental to a bike. Mention the fork seals, and get it fixed before you ride it. Differing levels of fork fluid can cause speed wobbles, and weird suspension issues. This can cause you to go down. As always, getting work done costs money. Iíve done fork seals, theyíre not that hard depending on the setup you have, however you need to know what youíre doing. Iíve seen pictures of fork assemblies that were put together wrong. Budget $250 for fork seal replacement if you bring the forks to a specialist.

    4. Change your oil around 3k: This is most important, read further if you care to learn why. High revving motors require oils that have a tolerance for high shear stability. What is shearing, and how does it affect me? Shearing is the effect that mechanical stress on oil has to itís viscosity. I donít really have a good way to explain this, so forgive what Iím about to describe. Imagine silly putty - you pull it apart, and put it back together - it sticks as it should. Now, put it in a blender, and crank her up to 11. The molecules that cause the putty to stick together break down, due to the mechanical stress imposed on it. Eventually the putty might not stick to itself anymore. This is a terrible example, but itís akin to what happens inside your motorcycle at high RPMís. Your transmission among other things, cause a lot of mechanical stress on the oil. Imagine a piece of paper being torn in half and taped back together repeatedly. Thatís happening to your oil - the molecules are being tossed about like a wave in the sea. Over time this causes the oil to break down and the viscosity thins. This is bad. Polymers are added to motorcycle oil (and other applications) to increase its durability and resistance to shear. So what does this have to do with you? If you donít change your oil frequently youíre playing the game of is my oil viscous enough to provide the proper protection my engine needs. 1,000 miles past due? Youíre using already broken down oil which is likely the wrong viscosity for 25% of the time it shouldnít be. Learn how to change your oil, and this really becomes a non issue. I do an oil change about 4 times a Minnesota riding season. This costs me ~$100 a year. Big deal. Use a motorcycle oil that is JASO-MA rated in the appropriate weight. Side note: If you want some insight to your engine, or are just a nerd like me, checkout Blackstone Labs. You can order a kit and send in samples regularly to get a ďsnapshotĒ of your engine/oil. It costs $30 bucks unless you have a hookup. Some forums do. Look specifically at SUS viscosity, cSt viscosity, and flashpoint. The first two are measurements of viscosity (indicator of shear thinning), and the flashpoint is an indication of fuel in the oil. Both of these things need to get taken care of if continuously out of spec. There are metal and element measurements as well, which can indicate various wear of engine components.

    5. Tires: There are so many tire choices to choose from. Start by checking out what is OEM for your bike. Modifications to your tire sizes can and will impact suspension, temps, turn in, speed, and clearance. Tires usually have different tiers according to riding style. Generally from what Iíve seen you have Touring, Sport Touring, Street, and Track tires as readily available options. The first three are DOT approved, and track tires frequently are not. Choose a tire that fits your riding needs. I generally stick to street tires, Michelin being my favorite brand (donít hate me!). Play around with different tires and see what you feel most confident with. Budget $250-$300 a set for 600ís, and $300-$350 a set for 1000ís. Self installation and balancing always saves some dough if youíre a DIYíer. I usually go through 2 rears for every front, but your riding style may differ. Other things to note about tires include inflation, wear, age, and damage. Inflation: This is one of the most common things I see people neglect, especially at the beginning and end of each riding season. First, for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit, your tire pressure is drops OR rises about 1 PSI. So, if you aired up in 70 degrees (let's assume you never lose air), and now itís 30, youíve effectively lost 4 PSI. There are many different pressures people choose to run based on the application. I generally run 32/34 for hard street riding (actual twisties), or 34/36 (front/rear) for normal riding. This is what Iíve found best for MY tires, your results will vary. Always measure tire pressure COLD.  Wear: your tires will probably have wear bars or some kind of indication for a reason. Typically unless you track only, the center part of your tires will wear out first. Just be cognizant of your tire wear. With experience comes the ability to recognize wear levels and rider confidence at these levels. Age: Generally speaking, older tires are something to be not nearly as worried about. Why? Well, just like the compounds in oil breaking down, rubber also breaks down - albeit slower than molasses in the winter time. Oxygen is actually the major factor in the breakdown of tires. I actually know a bit about this from 3D printing rubber based and alike filaments, and storage requirements. Oxygen will break down the tire compound, and can make them brittle, crack, etc. Hereís the thing - unless the tire is years old, itís not the end of the world. Just note it, and ride accordingly - or replace them. Flat spots generally occur with older tires from sitting - this can cause an ďinteresting rideĒ and should be replaced if noticed. Cracks are dangerous - just replace the tire. Damage: Ran over a nail? Should you plug/patch it, or buy a new one? I donít have a smart answer for you. Fortunately I have yet to have this problem in my many miles. Hereís my theory - Front tire? Replace. Rear central? Patch/Plug it, and send it (taking into consideration that itís damaged.) Seriously, itís important that you realize a tire is damaged and operate it with that in mind. Also, the person doing the patching/plugging also matters. If they do a shit job with a patch, it will lose air and it can become dangerous. If youíre not comfortable with the risk, buy a new tire. There is something to be said about your tires being your life line. KNOW the risks, and take them into consideration. Know the application. If youíre on the track - maybe think twice about riding with a plug. I also want to add something about race takeoffs. Hereís the deal - Iíve had buddies buy race takeoffs (itís typically a DOT ďtrackĒ tire thatís been used only at the track and has ďplenty of mid-tread life leftĒ) and pay upwards of $80 for a rear. If youíve got a sweet hookup (not $80) on race takeoffs and donít mind swapping them frequently, and it works with your riding style, go for it. Personally, itís not my thing. Itís not worth it to me to constantly change my tires, and not knowing the squid using that tire (hopefully your track track takeoff source has transitioned from squid life, to responsible rider) and its history. Also, if youíre paying $$$ for a race takeoff, just buy a new facking tire. I get it, sometimes young riders are in a pinch.

    6. Fluids: All of them have a lifespan. For OEMís look at the maintenance guide and find the service levels. This is commonly ignored. Brake Fluid: is hygroscopic and will absorb water from the atmosphere. For all intents and purposes water is not compressible (technically it is, but not in a brake system) and when found in a brake system will cause brake fade - it also lowers the boiling point of the fluid as well. Both of these are bad. General rule of thumb - replace your brake fluid every 3-5 or more if your application requires it. Coolant:  Iíve heard people say you never have to change it, only add it if low. Sigh. First, your cooling system is whatís called a closed loop system. Itís like a sealed bottle of soda. If thereís soda missing, itís not magic - something's wrong. If youíre EVER missing coolant, youíve got a problem. Yes, it can come out the overflow if youíre stunting it, or it overheats, but those are both technically problems. My manual states to replace it every two years. Second, the appropriate way to test coolant to see if itís still good is to test the PH level. Itís much easier just to buy coolant and replace it every two years (or more if your application depends on it). Iíve seen what corrosion does in coolant, and how it damages water pumps in autos. Itís cheap, and a good learning experience. Gasoline: you can argue with me until youíre blue in the face, but running a different octane than specified by your manufacturer is not going to help performance, and has the potential to hurt the engine UNLESS you have an ECU which has been mapped to accommodate the change in octane. Air/Fuel, blah blah, research on your own. Running race gas in your GSXR isnít going to make you faster, bro.

    6. Storage: Iím just going to tell you what I do. Buy a fuel stabilizer like STA-BIL. When itís time for your squid rocket to go nigh nigh, fill the gas tank up as full as you can with fresh gasoline. Add the appropriate stabilizer amount. I change the engine oil because itís cheap - however this is up in the air. If you run your motorcycle every so often during the winter (I live in the frozen north) it can cause condensation inside your case. Water and oil donít mix, and this will change the PH as well. Water in your oil is never a good thing, so a clean oil at the beginning, or a change at season start is what Iíd do. When the bike cools, I put painters tape over the intake and exhaust holes. This prevents animals from making a home, or storing nuts in places they shouldnít like the airbox, or exhaust. I can at least tell if a mouse chewed through my tape and investigate at the beginning of the season. If Iím not stupid and forget, the battery comes out and at least comes inside my house. You may also invest in a battery tender - this will slowly trickle charge your battery throughout the winter. I try to keep the tires off the ground with stands to prevent flat spots on the tires. The above was written for fuel injected motorcycles. Iíve never owned a carbureted bike, but have helped clean friends carburetors enough to say ďfukitolĒ when it comes to knowing what they require. I believe the general consensus is clean fuel, and start and run regularly, but, well... thatís just like my opinion, man.

    7. Aftermarket accessories: ah, yes. The bling. I recently put together a list of $3,700 dollars worth of enhancements/upgrades for my latest motorcycle purchase. Itís fun. Iíve also got short arms. (Define short arms: Frugal. A guy can wish, right?) Hereís what you should know: motorcycle crap is expensive if you havenít figured this out by now. Want some new rearsets? Woodcraft? Ho-Lee-Fuk. Iíve never been a flashy kind of guy. While I do appreciate a good clean sexy looking bike, I also appreciate the mofo who can bang twisties like a boss, or pass everyone at the track, more. Iíve adopted the philosophy that itís more important to me to know how to ride, and further my ability, than to bolt on parts to make people stare at my bike in awe. No offense to anyone, but more often than not, they guys and gals I see sending their pickle into the ditch have more accessories than skill. To the new riders: keep your upgrades minimal. Learn how to ride your new brap cycle. You might crash it. I sure hope not, but itís something Iíve seen over and over again. That $1400 full exhaust system that became one with the guard rail on O, or fence at DCTC, a year after buying it cost you about $10 every time you rode the damn thing. Was it worth it? Safety: in well made parts. Some stuff you can find knockoffs for. There are places where a knockoff is acceptable, and other places where it may not be. It all depends on the quality of the part, the fitment, and again the application. A ZG double bubble costs $174.00 for some bikes. Iíve found a near identical well fitting knockoff for $20. Personally Iíd replace it every year for 8 years if it gets scratched, or faded, but thatís just me. Again, short arms. Something I see quite often is levers - china knockoffs, or ASV and alike levers. It comes down to the fitment and application. If you know what to look for (brake drag, snag hazards, cheap construction), a clever person can make the knockoff parts work for them, potentially. Itís all about risk vs reward, just like the chain thing. There are certainly people out there who would remind you that your brake and clutch are life line components which you cannot risk failure. I personally sit in the middle - do your research, learn about how the part works and interacts with your bike, and make your own call. I have no problem using knockoff parts for SOME components, but I am careful to inspect usability before riding. Would I use a knock off clutch? No. structural components? No. Rearsets? No. Lights? No. Engine parts? No. Bearings? No. But all of these opinions have either come from personal experience or extensive research. Do your own research!

    8. Gear: Donít be a squid. I always preach wearing an actual motorcycle helmet, jacket, and gloves at a minimum. I nearly always wear boots as well. I have seen many people go down. Some even with gear that now walk with a limp for the rest of their lives. Iíve lost friends to a lack of gear, people get out of riding because of it, etc. Donít buy a bike if you donít plan on having gear. If youíre worried about being hot, there are solutions such as textile or perforated leather. Helmets with more airflow, gloves with airflow in mind. Honestly, if youíve got the balls to ride, youíve got the balls to handle the heat gear sometimes causes. Girls will also go for the guy with a full race suit over the guy with his hair slicked back with a bandana on. Haha. You get what you pay for: to an extent. The quality/build, comfort, and safety, for some of the gear manufacturers differs greatly. Again, this is where research and experience play a big part. I started off on a Speed and Strength helmet, which was cheaper than a 4 person buffet. Thought it was the bees knees. Turns out, the padding in it sucked. It felt as though I was wearing stone on my head. I only found this out after trying on a friends helmet. Does this mean a $800+ Shoei is right for you? Maybe, maybe not. I donít like the fitment of the Shoei helmets Iíve worn, but that could be my head shape or a lack of break in. I donít rock a super expensive helmet. ($250-$300) I know several people who use Bell helmets, or Icon, or Scorpion. I personally use a Scorpion helmet (I have two of these in different models) and I find itís comfort to be great for me. All helmets sold will need to meet standards - mainly DOT and SNELL to be able to be sold for street use. DOT is the required minimum in the US for street use in states which require a DOT approved helmet, and SNELL is an ďvoluntary add on ratingĒ which meets all DOT requirements and more. There is also something called an ECE rating which is a European certification. Find what works for you and your application. (If youíre at the track for instance they may ban snell M2005 for whatever reason) Something is better than nothing, but donít let me catch you with one of those obnoxious skull caps. Your face will thank me. Budget $170-$800 for a helmet. Helmet Age: Just like the rubber on tires, or the compounds in oil, helmets break down over time. You can argue with me until youíre blue in the face, but youíre wrong. Itís been tested and proven and even a factor in SNELL and ECE testing that the components which make up a helmet provide safety and reliability for 5 years. Does this mean a 5 year 6 month old helmet wonít work? No. A tire with oxidation may still ďworkĒ, but it might be cracking, or blow out. Same with the glues in your helmets, the pads, foam, and other components. Replacing old helmets is a good investment in your safety. Textile or Leather? Jackets come in many different styles. Generally speaking the consensus is that leather is safer, however textile is acceptable. Again, generally speaking - leather is hotter, textile is cooler. What do I wear? Currently, I have a textile jacket. Because of my height, I struggled to find a leather jacket that was long enough. I also just feel weird in tight leather. Iím writing this while waiting for a new full leather race suit which will arrive Wednesday, so again, application matters. Iíve found that gear inspires confidence. I ride harder with boots. I feel naked without gloves or a jacket. The more ďsafeĒ your gear is the more youíll be likely to push yourself. This can be good or bad. Iíve adopted the well known philosophy in the community which is ďride your own ride.Ē You are the pilot of your pickle, you have control. Iím a computer freak, so my saying is the sudo rule, ďWith great power comes great responsibility.Ē Gloves: Gauntlets or shorties? Gauntlets. Just do it. I donít have a reason. I know there is one, Iím just feeling lazy. Sorry. Mechanics gloves are not motorcycle gloves, and while in some applications (stunting) might be acceptable, theyíre never a solution for protective gear while riding the street or track. Iíve got a buddy with scars to prove it.

    9. First ride of the season! Whoa man. Itís March, maybe February. Snows gone, and the sun is shining. You dust off the gear and head out to the garage. Hereís my 10 step process:
    1. Check your facking helmet for spiders. For real.
    2. Does all your gear fit, and in acceptable condition? Visor attached all the way? Zippers work? Gloves not so holey?
    3. Complete all maintenance & inspection. For me this is an oil change, removing the painters tape covering intake and exhaust, (donít forget thisÖ) installing the battery, checking tire pressure and condition, pumping and inspecting the brakes, checking the fluids, operating the clutch.
    4. Clean your visor. The cold weather will make it fog up. Inside and out.
    5. Are you warm? Because itís about to get schwifty.
    6. Start the bike - now is a good time to check your lights. Sometimes the cops like to welcome motorcycles to a new season with a shiny new ticket.
    7. Did you put your tabs on? Insurance valid? Donít be that douche.
    8. Is your bike warmed up? Hop on.
    9. The ground is cold. Your tires are cold. This means less grip. Your brake rotors may have lot rot. There will be sand, snow, water, ice, salt, and general shit everywhere. Pay attention and ride with caution. Itís also cold and your limbs donít move as fast when cold.
    10. People forget motorcycles exist or something. Just like they forget how to drive in the snow. Donít assume anyone can see you, ever. Be vigilant. Keep an eye out for everything. Iíve ran over a fucking basketball (nobody believes this but itís true... almost went down too!), been hit by a womens DC shoe at 80MPH, hit a crow (Both the crow and the DC shoe left bruises on my chest), hit another small bird, and gotten my bike stuck to another person's while going through corner, and Iím sure Iíve forgot more. Pay attention.

    10. Tips and Tricks: Iíve been asked what the number one thing that changed my riding. Iím not an expert, nor do I claim to be good by any standard. (Good is subjective anyway, fack off!) Iím not a track queen. (Iíve got nothing against track riders, Iím just an asshole.) I ride pretty much only the street, and spend a good percentage of riding on twisty routes. A lot of the time by myself, but also often with a few friends who Iíve ridden with for a quite while. Low and ďslowĒ is what I like to call it. Anyway, the number one thing? Body position. It all started with someone saying opposite ďtitĒ over the gas cap, and head in the turning mirror. So I tried it. It felt stupid, but I felt faster. I naturally had to hang off the bike a bit to do it. I was doing it slightly wrong in the beginning, but whatever. I already had the looking through corners down, head level, all that shit, but it made so much more sense, and made it so much better and easier once I started to get my ass into the right position. I own and read that book twist of the wrist (I will loan it to anyone who requests it!) and saw basically what was explained to me written right there in front of me. Huh. Over time I got better and better with that positioning, and it felt more comfortable, and to be honest I felt more at ďone with the bike.Ē When they mean head in the mirror, and opposite breast over the gas cap, they fackin mean it. Put that head up there, for real, touch the damn mirror if thatís what it takes to get it through your head, get those arms bent on the inside, and straight-ish on the outside. In a right turn, your right breast should be off the bike, left breast over the gas gap, head in the right mirror, left arm nearly straight, right arm should be at nearly a 90 degree angle, a few inches above your right knee in height which at this point should be pretty close to the ground, head level with the pavement (or as close too it, itís awkward), and looking through that corner. Your weight should be on the outside peg, holding onto that tank. If youíre at knee down skill level youíre just guiding that knee, youíre not holding the bike up with it. Iím not a master at this by far, and my lack of knee down exists solely because of my one time on an actual track, and my GP race pants not being able to zip up anymore (sadface). But I will tell you, this made a serious difference in my ability to do tight twisties considerably faster.

    Trail Braking: Honestly this is so close to my top thing, but it requires that you have the body position down at least for the most part to even consider trying it. Iíve been asked before why my brake light was on in a turn. I respond with I was trail braking, and then have been told never to brake in a turn by that person. Because I was never taught by a coach, I donít know how to fight that one other than to just be like whatever dude, thatís like your opinion. I just know that itís helped me take corners at higher speeds, and subsequently helped me learn how to set up my corner speed better. Iíve definately facked it up many times. The issue with trail braking is that there is a fine line between doing it right, and eating shit. You really shouldnít be braking IN (where in braking means scrubbing off speed) a corner, trail braking is different though. The best way I can describe it is that your speed gets set at the point just before you negotiate the turn - meaning you donít literally brake in the turn, but youíre dragging the brake ever so slightly to keep that front suspension from rebounding UP after youíve scrubbed off your entry speed. When you brake hard the first thing that happens is your forks compress, when you let off, they rebound. If you send it into a corner at 11, and brake hard before entry you upset the suspension and cause a bounce at the last second before you start to lean. If you brake hard initially but gradually ďroll offĒ the brake as youíre following your line while accelerating at exit your forks stay compressed (if the road isnít a shit show) as youíve leaned through the corner, eliminating that rebound. Disclaimer, Iím not an expert - this however has worked well for me. On my 600 Iíd find quite often that I was coming through the coner and starting to accelerate even before the 1000 in front of me. There has been times where this has almost screwed me too. Usually itís because Iím not smooth on the brakes/and throttle or the road gets all sorts of choppy. Iíve felt my front start to turn in doing this before and barely saved it by letting off the throttle and brake completely. Never been down, but sure have been close. Iíve also read that trail braking allows you to be more ďreadyĒ for shit to go down when riding on the street. After reading that, I recalled two instances of this, one was following or chasing a buddy too close when a deer popped out right after a corner and he hammered the brakes with me right up his ass, and the other was when I was on an intense ride south of LaCrosse, WI. where there was a shit pile of sand in my line coming out of the first corner of an S curve twisty going way too fast (I think me and the other guy were doing between 80 and 90), unfortunately of course I was leading too, but luckily the distance between us allowed for him to see me. Trail braking allowed me to flick the bike straight up and turn that drag into a hard brake, stopping inches from a guard rail with a nice 30 foot drop after it, with only my nuts and dignity hurt, and a slightly nervous looking Amish fellow leading his family up the hill in a horse and buggy about 10 feet away. I mentioned earlier that you need to have body position down in order for this to work right. If youíre riding crossed up, or leaning like a buoy with the bike, if you do this thereís a chance you might fold in your front and lowside.

    Ride your own Ride: Thatís my final tip. I said it already. Ride your own ride. Remember your speed should always be AT or LESS than your skill. As much fun as it is to chase the better dude in front of you (or chick) it can get you into all sorts of a mess. Donít worry about looking like a pussy. I do it all the time. I have no problem saying itís dark, Iím gonna ride in the back. Or, thatís the third deer Iíve seen out here today, Iím going to take it easy. Practice this shit, and when itís light out and youíre feeling good, you can make the shit talkers eat their pride, unwillingly.

    I'm Fucking Awesome.

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