RTOD 13MAR2008: A Bike! A . . . Honda?

(Not So) Random Thought of the Day 13MAR2008: A Bike! A . . . Honda?

UPDATE 16MAR2008: Thanks to JM for sending this!  http://break.com/index/awareness-test.html 

I took delivery of my motorcycle today. For the second time. I (a hard-core GM automotive enthusiast) am now the PROUD owner of a 2004 Honda Shadow 600 VLX Deluxe in gloss black. Yes, I took delivery twice, once direct from the dealership, and again this morning, an actual delivery to my house. Let’s just say my first delivery ended up a little . . . muddy. The second delivery was much cleaner and more upright.

I learned a lot from my initial delivery. I learned that overconfidence can kick you in the ass. I re-learned that it is really important to shift your weight going into a turn from a stop. I learned that three years of rust doesn’t just slow you down, it seizes you up completely. I learned that my wife’s concerns about me being inexperienced were not entirely unjustified. And, I re-learned that this is a machine. It’s not a toy. It’s not a game. It demands respect and full concentration, and a degree of confidence in your abilities and the machine.  If you feel unconfident, the machine is NOT forgiving in that respect. It will tell you how you are doing, and if it doesn’t like it, it’ll usually tell you. Loudly. And, in my case, with a mud puddle.

Today becomes my soapbox about the importance of motorcycle safety, as well as my explanation as to why a Honda versus a Suzuki, Harley, Kawasaki, Yamaha, or anything else that is available.

First, why the Honda? Two reasons. One, it was cheap at $3995. Two, it was through a dealership that is truly concerned about rider safety. Diamond Motorsports was willing to accommodate my lack of practice by carting my bike to my residence after re-cleaning it off, and buffing out some of the scratches for me. Yes, I’m plugging Diamond here, because they are worth the time and energy to check out. Diamond Motorsports Website If you talk to a man named Herb, tell them Al Ehrmann sent you in. For anyone else, it’ll be easy to refer tome as the mud ball. J

Why not the Suzuki’s or Kawasaki’s? Ultimately, the cost. There wasn’t a used bike that was affordable to buy through L & D Suzuki, and Diamond had a few other cheap bikes, but this one felt the most comfortable. Why not Harley? The BIG reason is the BIG price tag on anything that says Harley. If it has Harley-Davidson on it ANYWHERE, it triples in price. Nothing against them, but I think you are ultimately paying for the name, and that’s about it. Oh, yeah, and for those wondering why not a sport bike, ultimately, I love my wife. I love her so much that I like seeing her happy. I like seeing her happy so much that I don’t want to make her upset by my choice of bike. She let me have the bike, I let her pick the type. Fair is Fair.

On to the next topic: Motorcycle Safety. Let me ask you: out of all the people you know, how many own motorcycles, scooters, mopeds, anything that isn’t 4-wheeled and street legal? Now, how many people own the 4-wheeled, street legal cages (not a knock on cars/trucks in any way, love my Pontiac Grand Prix)? I’m willing to bet that it would be very few bikes, and almost everyone has a car or two or three. Because of this, no one looks for the bikes. Not that all bikers are bad and poor drivers, but people only expect to deal with the cages. Try this one time, try to count the number of motorcycles that you see in a day. Right now, in the winter/spring time, it won’t be too many. In the summer, you may get into the teens, maybe twenties, unless you come across a biker parade. Compare that to the number of cars, trucks, vans, SUV’s, crossovers, and semi’s you see in a day. Exceptionally few bikes to cars. Due to this, people typically don’t give the motorcyclist the respect of the road that they DESERVE. (Please note, I am NOT including show boaters, they are a hazard all around!)

What do I mean by respect? Simple, watch for us. We are small. We don’t take up the whole lane. We only have one headlight. If we have more than one, they are REALLY close together. It makes us hard to spot. Also, remember, not all of us are trying to ride the highway on one wheel or zip through traffic. Most of us are simply on our way to work, a meeting, to a friend’s house, just like you. We slow down really quickly, and sometimes without brakes. Almost all bikes are manual. We slow down using our engines. Smarter riders will at least flash their brakes, but not always.

To the riders, remember to ride safe. ALWAYS! You are the one who is exposed to the worst of the accidents. What does that mean? HELMET! ALWAYS! There is virtually no reason to not have one on if the bike is RUNNING! Even the American Motocycle Association (www.ama-cycle.org), who is against mandatory helmet laws, is all for the voluntary use of helmets. It has been proven to save so many lives. Why risk it? Also, body armor goes a long way to save injury. Even a properly-fitted leather jacket will save your skin from road rash, but not necessarily from broken bones. And, if you don’t like the look of armor, there are mesh underlays with armor built in. It’ll hide under your clothes, and definitely help.  At least a little.

Visibility is key. If they can’t see you, you are in danger. Blind spots are HUGE on cars, and GIGANTIC on semi’s. If you are in them, they probably don’t see you. Even in their mirrors, you look small, and non-reflectives hide very well. I plan on getting a set of black or silver reflector strips sewn onto my jacket. Otherwise, I may never be seen. That’ll be bad. And don’t be afraid of using that horn or flashing the high beam. It could save you.

Additionally, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (www.msf-usa.org) offers beginner rider courses, as well as experienced rider courses. In Delaware, the beginner course is only $50, it gives you your motorcycle endorsement, and teaches you the basics of save riding, including stopping, starting, turning, swerving, and much more. Fifteen hours may help save you from hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs. Looking at it that way, it’s more than worth it. Also, insurance companies offer reductions in rates for taking the courses at least once every three years, and sometimes up to 10% off! That’s more than worth it.

Hope to see you all on the roads. I’ll be watching. Drive safe, and Ride Free!

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