Friday, 24 May 2013

Snow is Gone!!

The snow is gone - hurray! The temp has been hovering around 12 to 15 C (53 - 59 F) and it's been quite nice. Now we are just waiting for the city to sweep all the dirt/sand they spread everywhere for traction for drivers because of all the snow. It seems to be taking a long time this year...In the meantime, this is what I've been up to since I've not had time to post lately...

To have a break from the snow, we took a road trip west (not on the bikes as there was still snow here) and said we were not going to stop until we found land without snow! Well, we got to Banff, Alberta, with a stop at Calgary on the way back. Glorious sun and 28 C (82 F).  Picture from the window on the way west...you'll notice the slight flooding from snow...

Then we made a side trip to Lake Louise where we actually saw and "heard" some mini-avalanches up there at the top. Beautiful day!

I finally got my mesh jacket on that trip too. I picked up a REV'IT Airwave jacket.




When I asked the first sales guy (about late 20s) to help me find the right size and fit with their stock, he asked me who it was for. I told him it was for me. He looked at me and said "For You???!!!" I still chuckle over that. Obviously, he hadn't heard that women older than 25 ride now! An older guy stepped in and found what I was looking for after laughing at the younger guy too. 

So...it was nice to get away for a week and walk outside in my sandals and do some hiking around Banff. My favourite hike resulted in this view one afternoon of the Banff Springs Hotel:

These other two were taken at Lake Louise to show how much snow they still have there in the Canadian Rockies the first week of May:




This really is the best time to go there, it's off-season and the hotel rates are way cheaper than ski season or summer season, otherwise we'd never be able to afford it! 

My husband has been out on his Kawasaki for about a week now. Gas has spiked to $1.35 per litre here the other day and he just could not wait to get out any longer. He's riding to work along with five of his work buddies who will all be commuting on their motorcycles for the season. Their boss has been good to designate a "motorcycle parking" area for them all. They got busy and leveled the gravel and put down some cement blocks for the kickstands so the bikes won't go over in the soft gravel. Pretty nice eh?

One of his work buddies just bought a new Honda CRF 250L and is going to be commuting with that. I asked my husband to tell him from me, Congratulations, now go and take the motorcycle safety course to keep safe! People don't think they need to, but I nag them anyway! A friend of my son's (a young lady) didn't think that she needed to take it either, but I put my two cents in anyway.  

My husband feels vindicated with his own 250 against the others who ride 1800s & 1500s & 650s and tease him about riding a "real" bike. He's looking but this year will have to go for his "road" test to get his "M" classification rider's license after having a learner's for the 2 years now. More practice after a long winter off the bike, then an appointment will be made. Once that has been achieved...then, he will seriously look. No point in taking your "road" test on a bigger bike that you're not as familiar with...
  
After his first inaugural ride last weekend, he came back and said it was very slippery out there with the extra dirt and I've asked him to please be extra careful when he's riding. It would be too easy to slip just as you're making a regular stop if you got in it at the wrong angle.

As you can guess, I have not yet been on my Suzuki this season for a few reasons. The dirt is one big factor, the constant sneezing from seasonal allergies is another, and I'm also just finishing up an intensive course for work that is sucking up all my extra time for a few more weeks until the exams are over. Once I have completed all the course work and am ready for the final exam, then I will swing a leg over my beautiful Gladius as I'll be able to focus then. (I know what happens when I'm not focused and distracted...and it's not pretty). It is my carrot on a stick to get through it as fast as I can. 

So, that will be it for a while...Hope you all have been enjoying your "rides" and staying safe and I'll catch up at a later date!  Bring on summer!!

Suzu

Friday, 19 April 2013

Slowly Thawing Out

I thought Spring had finally arrived two days ago - puddles were everywhere along with potholes, birds were singing, snowbanks were getting smaller, and I even went to work one day without my winter coat and boots! I also happened to spy two intrepid motorcyclists this week - one was a dual sport with the rider all bundled up, and the other, one of those huge cruisers with two guys in leather jackets and 3/4 face helmets - I could see they had very red faces from the cold. 

Then it snowed again last night, covering all the previously exposed bits of road and lawn. I guess we all got a little too excited that we might actually be on our bikes on May 1, sigh...will it ever go away?



My Suzuki is still slumbering comfortably next to the snow blower which has seen a lot of action this winter. Apparently our city has broken a record for snowfall from the mid-1950s! Everyone here says it has been the longest winter of their lives. 

I think it will now be closer to June 1 for the first riding day. The thawing has exposed main streets that are full of tons of sand that was sprinkled over the winter for traction. It will take a good rainfall (perhaps more than one) before I will feel comfortable getting out on that slippery surface. Most of the side streets are still covered in snow ruts that will take out your suspension or strand you if you choose the wrong path. 

I have told my coworkers that I am done, done with shoveling until December 1. Then I remembered we have to still move snow away from the house so that when it does start to melt faster, we will not have a flooded basement. My husband has decided he will have to buy some new shovels and a roof rake in the fall, they are all completely done too after so much use. I will even have to buy a new ice scraper for my car, the edge is gone, it just doesn't work anymore.

It's that time of year, when in the morning you are walking very gingerly down the sidewalk covered in ice (know of a few people who have broken wrists, legs and arms from a spill), but then by the afternoon, those same puddles are wet and I'm skipping through them like a six year old. 



So, that has been my moto report for the month. I will be visiting my fellow moto-bloggers sites to keep up with their news, just have been extremely busy lately with work stuff and collapse into bed at the end of the day.

Wishing you all a good day in your part of the world!

Suzu 

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Chicken Strips & Tires

About two months after I started to ride my bike, I noticed a disturbing wobble one day going over railroad tracks. The whole back end felt like it was out of control. So after double-checking that the tire was not going to imminently fall off, I made a bee-line for home in a very slow fashion.

My husband checked it all over and discovered the rear tire had lost a lot of air since we had left that morning! It's supposed to sit at 36 psi, and it was down to like 18 psi. He started rolling the tire to see what had punctured it and sure enough, there was a nail stuck in on the inside of the tire. Now this baffled me as I do not ride that far over to have hooked one, but maybe I was more daring than I thought and did it without thinking!

So, that was the end of riding that day and made an appointment to get a new tire installed. 

You all know the size of motorcycle tires, but...check out these tires:


That's my husband (in 2009) checking out everything under the vehicle. These are the "buses" that take tourists over the Columbian Icefield between Jasper and Banff in Alberta. 

Anyway...a week and a half later, I was good to go again...I know, they were very busy that July.

I was told to ride very, very carefully that day until the compound applied to the tire at the factory had worn off (about a tank of gas - 160 km in my case) as it made riding pretty slippery until then...Oh great, just when my confidence was getting better, now I had to tip-toe around on my bike like I was riding on ice!

Looking back, I think it took me a few days of riding to use a tank as my Suzuki has seemed to get better gas mileage the longer I own it. As of the beginning of the season last year, I could ride for 200 km before it needed a tank fill. Someone told me that the engine is still "being broken in" and that affects your mileage. Good to know.


Once the new tire had been "scrubbed" as I've come to know the term to mean, I continued on my self-imposed training of learning the nuances of riding. 

My "chicken strips" are very slowly getting smaller, but have a long way to go. Every time we start out on a ride, I use the same route in my neighbourhood before I hit the city streets. I devised the route to incorporate a number of tricky "to me" manoeuvers that I felt are important to master to be a safer rider and build muscle memory. If I am feeling like I need more practice, then I do it again and again.

First up is a tight lean to leave the driveway so as not the hit the parked cars that take up most of our residential street (can't see very well around them if you know what I mean without sticking the front tire out very far into the main road).

Then, it's watch busier traffic going left and right to find a suitable entry point to get into another road without taking a too wide turn into the other side of the road. Yikes! 

Then it's accelerating on a sharp curve with a lean (and some clutch shifting to gear up) while watching for vehicles backing out of their driveways.

Then a stop at a "T" intersection without sliding forward on the seat, and taking a double right-hand check for traffic squeezing up beside you and then cutting you off (yes, some stupid woman did this one Sunday morning, and if I hadn't done that second check, I would have ridden right into the side of her as she pulled in front of me from a lane she should never have been in).

Then it's through another curve watching for "tar snakes" that are the bane of motorcyclists. Carry on down a straight stretch to another "T" intersection, with more tight turns and stops.

I found two cool little places to practice my u-turns, and had to make a fast decision one day when a little boy on his tricycle came roaring out of his driveway to watch me and then try to follow me. Well, at that point, I stopped, gave him a wave and left as I didn't want anything to happen. 

Another day when we were out, we rode by a house with the garage open and full of sport bikes and there was this little boy waving at us. His parents were laughing as we waved back at him and I smile just thinking about it now. He was so excited to see more motorcycles. (Aren't we all though?)

Back to the route - lots of stopping at intersections  
(with dirt, gravel, uneven road surfaces, water, leaves) that tested my observation skills and really trained me how best to start out on my Gladius. More throttle, but slower release of the clutch to get it moving without launching myself. If I don't give it enough throttle, I tend to kill the engine when the clutch is released slowly. Then there is a  3 kilometre stretch of just riding in a circle to get the speed up and do some leaning (both ways) while changing gears.

By the time I've done that whole route a few times, I feel like I'm warmed up for the city streets and ready to "set sail".
(Taken from Goosespit Beach near Comox on Vancouver Island, British Columbia)

Also, just heard that our insurance is going to be capped at a $150 annual increase, instead of the ridiculous amount that had been proposed. Yay! Now I can still justify shopping for that mesh jacket in the spring I've been thinking about.

Out the window, the snow is blizzarding down again and the temp is -14 C (7 F) with a -25 C (-13 F) windchill. Looks like it will be a few days yet before I can go riding...

Have a good one...will bundle up later today to go dog walking and recharge with some Vitamin D.

Suzu 


 


 


  

 


Thursday, 7 March 2013

Insurance Follies: Part Two

There's been a glimmer of hope for an adjustment on the sky-high insurance rates - that has definitely lifted my spirits.

Our local newspaper announced last Saturday that the provincial government is going to revisit motorcycle insurance rates. Apparently the MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) are reporting a lot of feedback on the issue, and not just from those who are riders, but from others in general who note that these increases seem to be very high. The move has prompted a huge backlash from bike enthusiasts and business owners. It was suggested the rates be gradually phased in to cover the shortfall. (Yeah, no kidding!)

On the roster for more debate when the politicians get to their meetings next week

1) rewarding motorcyclists who have taken training courses
2) selling different types of licenses - pay a premium to insure lost income from a crash injury
3) increase training before granting a license to get out on the road


Good news indeed and now I'm off to test out the winter tires again...have a great day!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Is Winter Over Yet?

I still have just a few more stories to tell of riding in my first two years, but at this moment, they don't seem as interesting to write about. 




I find myself looking at books of traveling these days - looking at pictures of places where you can put your sandals on and just wander. 


This was taken at Banff a few years ago - awesome trip. Next time I go, I'm hiking up that trail that you can just spot through the trees at the bottom of the picture. 

I spied these birds one morning looking as if they were talking to one another and had landed at the wrong airport: "Holy cow, when I get my hands on that travel agent, someone's going to be sorry!" I had never seen them here before in my province.


I will get a shot of this same vista about mid-July, covered in flowers and greenery and compare for you. Provincial Parliament Buildings.

Yep, I've officially hit the winter blues, inspiration has left the building!  

Have a good one... 

 

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Insurance Follies


It was a sad week in Saskatchewan for motorcyclists. I'm having a hard time even thinking of something witty and up-lifting to write about this weekend after hearing the news.

Our government insurance agency decided that the motorcyclists should pay more - insanely more than any other vehicle owners in the province -  for their coverage taking effect on August 31, 2013. 

I present the following links for your perusal if you want to read more of the official news:

Rate Increase Proposal Facts

National News Release

Proposed Rates Numbers

Newspaper Post


People I have spoken to say:

--it's going through no matter what protesting goes on
--it will go through but they will adjust their numbers down a little, as they have seen this happen before with other "risky" vehicles
--the fault usually (99%) lies with the driver of the car that hit the motorcycle
--how is anyone supposed to sell their bike now, no one is buying
--why are riders with safe driving records being penalized
--why doesn't the insurance company give you a discount for taking the safety course
--why is this course not mandatory before you receive your learner's license

There are two public meetings planned for April in Regina and Saskatoon and they will be standing room only I'm sure, and I think it is safe to say, there will be a police presence as some people are very, very angry about this. 

I am just unhappy about it and figuring out my options:

--I'll be going from the $530 I paid last year in May 2012 to the $1,225 I will have to pay next May 2014, and that's with my safe driver discount. 

--I will have to shorten my riding season or perhaps even sell the bike, it's just too expensive for the money I don't make. 

--I'll have to get a second job for the extra expense which means less time for family.

My husband has decided he will not get a bigger bike now, the increase is too steep for our budget. There go any plans for long-distance rides...

To me it is not a "luxury" item, it is a planned expense to have some fun in my free time instead of spending money on eating out, or going to the theatre, or having vacations in the winters or having new cars or having lots of new clothes or buying a bigger house or buying a bigger television. We chose to spend our money on bikes and have changed our budget accordingly, but this increase is ridiculous.

I'm trying to find a silver-lining in this news, perhaps with a few weeks of thinking about it, I will find something...




Saturday, 16 February 2013

First Time on My Own Bike

It was May 8, two years ago, and the day had finally arrived to swing a leg over my new-to-me bike and take it out for a spin. 

I suited up nervously and went outside to pull the cover off my Suzuki, marveling at my decision which had brought me to this point. It was too exciting and I had to take a deep breath before I rolled it down the driveway. I inserted the key into the ignition and it began with a rumble that flooded my ears and heart with joy. (Does that sound corny? Yes, but no other way to describe it.)

I had asked my husband to follow me in his truck around the neighbourhood that day in case I had any trouble. The bike weighs 450 pounds and I wasn't sure if I could pick it up by myself. 

Started out by doing a very wide u-turn on our cul-de-sac at the end of the street, and then stopped to do a right turn out to the neighbourhood. Well...let me just say that within 30 seconds, the first thought in my head was "I feel just like I did on my Kawasaki when I was 18".

So the afternoon went by with me figuring out how the controls work and getting used to the feel of the bike. 




The first couple of times of starting out after a stop, I was in danger of the Suzuki leaving me sitting on the road still in the riding position. It had so much more power in a tiny twist of the wrist than the Kawasaki KZ 200.

It was interesting learning to stop the bike and sliding forward each time. I had to figure out how to turn off the turn signals without hitting the horn button and without taking my eyes off the road. I had to watch for running, barking dogs. I had to figure out how to stop slowly in gravel so as not to fish-tail too much with my non-knobby tires (hiking boots to the rescue that time).

At one point during the trip, I had stopped at a stop sign and looked over to see three young guys working on a shiny black Harley. Dressed in the standard black tank shirts and muscles bristling, they all stopped working to stand up and see what kind of bike was rumbling at the intersection. I nodded to them and received one back and proceeded on my way. Went by them a few more times, eliciting a stop work action each time.

By the end of the afternoon, I was tired and satisfied that I had done enough learning for the day. My hands were sore...but I had had a great time and knew I was not going to give this up any time soon.

My husband pulled up behind me in the driveway, got out and closed the door. He walked over to me and I said, "Well, did I look like I knew what I was doing?" He looked at the Suzuki and said "Yeah, you looked like you were having fun...maybe I should try that."

He had not ridden since he was a teen either. He had bought a trail bike with a buddy back in the day and rode a bit without telling his parents. When he told them that he wanted to ride on the street, they had forbidden it and there was no more discussion about it.  

So along comes me to shake up his life and his parents' views on a few things in the ensuing years, and here we are that day - standing in our own driveway with me having my inaugural ride under my belt, and him with that look on his face as he stares at the bike. 

I cannot even begin to describe the look on his face the day I came home and told him I had bought a motorcycle. I had asked him that day if he was interested in taking the safety course with me and buying a bike and doing something completely different with our lives. That day, he had decided no, he could not for various reasons. 

So I went ahead anyway with my own plans to ride as I could not wait any longer. I was not getting any younger and the kids could look after themselves, and my job was causing me way more stress than a person should have to put up with. If I didn't do this for myself...well, I think you have all hit a wall in your own life in this regard...

Needless to say, within a month of my inaugural ride on my Suzuki, my husband had taken the motorcycle safety course too. He told me that he had been scraping his pegs on the fancy little tight "S" curve and had no problem with the u-turn - I called him a show-off! And just before he was to do his road test on the course, a 16 year old had flipped her bike up in the air and landed on her head. The ambulance was called and she spent the night at the hospital, but we heard later that the next day she was in buying a new helmet. They work! It shook him up a little, but he passed his test with a little more reserve as to what he was getting into.

The day after his course was finished, he came home from work, and told me that he had bought a motorcycle and you should have seen the look on my face! Within two weeks of that purchase, I saw where my son had picked up his natural riding ability and I knew it wasn't from me. He bought a Kawasaki 250 Ninja.

Yep, my husband is totally hooked and addicted and can ride circles around me - which really only took a few weeks. He rides it to work, rides it to buy me flowers and rides it to buy things at the store. Our daughter has noticed a distinct lightening of mood since her dad got himself this machine. 

His work friends - who ride also - keep asking him "When are you going to get yourself a real bike?" He's thinking of getting a bigger one but is having way too much fun on this more maneuverable size. The right deal will come along when it's meant to.

So, that is my tale of the beginnings. 

Heading out to this today, the forecast is for more snow tomorrow and it's -11 C (12 F).

There is a car under there - really! 

Have a great day!

Suzu  

  

 





 

 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Motorcycle Training Course - Day Three

Every day while we were doing the cone hopping thing on the range, we would see Boeing 737s just lifting off the runway which ended right next to the training range. It made it a little harder to concentrate as I like to watch planes too.  

I remember when my dad had taken us to the Abbotsford Airshow (about 1977 or 1978) to see the SR-71 Blackbird. The organizers of the show put the pilots' voices on the loudspeaker so we all could hear them talking to the tower. The jet started out from Nevada and the pilots said, "Put the coffee pot on and we'll be there in 20 minutes!" And it was, and what an awesome sight, like something out of Star Wars.

(Google Photo)
  

Now we've never had anything like that fly out of the airport here but I have seen these flying over many times.
(Google Photo)
The pilots who go on to fly the C-130 Hercules and CF-18s and Auroras for Canada's Air Force all start at Moose Jaw down the road from us. Plenty of times they use my city as a visual reference to practice their precision formats for air shows across North America. They are known as the Canadian Snowbirds.

Okay, back to the range...day three started as day two with the sore muscle thing, and the same -3 C temp. I also had a few new bruises to show for my efforts. It warmed up to 5 C as the day went on, so that by the end of the day, I had actually unzipped my jacket a little and stopped shivering!

This day the instructors set up a pseudo traffic scenario using painted lines as lanes and intersections. Here was a chance to stop, use your turn signals and rear brake to let someone know you were going to slow down before they piled into the back of you. Because I'm sure you all know by now that motorcycles have three brakes: Your front brake, your rear brake and the engine brake. Here's where I was reminded to tap my rear brake a few times every time I intended to stop

By the way, I have been practicing this for the last seven winters with my little car too, it's just so icy in places that if people aren't given enough notice to start slowing, they can't stop in time. A practice I picked up when I downsized from my Ford Crown Victoria. People can't miss that car, they were huge!

There were some tense moments watching people get the hang of making their way around the lanes. It was terrific practice before we headed out to do the real thing.

Then we had to do the U-TURN! Tighter than the "S" curve, I tried and tried and tried, but chickened out each time halfway through, always riding straight off the range into the grassed bumpy rutted area. It was a good chance to see that my balance riding off-road has not gone away, but that was not the point of the exercise. I had a few different instructors try to help me - they were so nice - but each one ended the same way. Off to the toolies I'd go. 

Maybe it was because I'd gotten brave and chosen the Suzuki 400 that morning which was bigger and more powerful than the trusty little Yamaha 200, but whatever it was, it just wasn't going to happen. In fact, on one of the re-entries back onto the paved range from the toolies -there was a bit of in incline - I didn't give the Suzuki quite enough power to get out of the dirt and stalled the engine, and then guess what? First guesses don't count! Yes, I dropped another bike! 

No damage whatsoever except to my pride. The  policeman who was taking the course too rode over on one of those Honda CBR 125 and offered to trade as he had seen what happened. I thanked him but told him I wasn't comfortable on those and he rode off. Well, he was literally back within two minutes with another trusty little Yamaha 200 and offered me that. I took up his offer and we traded. Before he zoomed off, he made sure I was alright. What a nice man, and I'm sure that's the quality his superiors saw in him to grant him his badge: resourceful and caring.  

About 3:00 pm that day, the instructors had half of us sit it out in the middle of the range to make more room. Most of us had gotten pretty good (some downright cocky)and there were some near misses with a small area to ride in. So there was a rotation of sorts to go through the obstacle course again - but with less riders you could go faster as your confidence soared. 

The lady with the new baby had been watching my son ride and turned to me to say, "Your son has no experience with riding? It must be so gratifying to see him achieve this!" I believe she felt that one day she would like to be standing there watching her son do the same. It was nice to hear as it was a leap of faith letting him try this.

The last part of the day was doing the "road test". As they walked us all around to show us what they were testing for, I was pleasantly surprised to not see a u-turn test. If that had been part of it, I would not have passed. I had decided earlier that day that that was something I would work at on my own bike in a parking lot after the course. Since then, I have done some figure eight work trying to get tighter and tighter but it is still a struggle.

The first test consisted of starting out from a little box, sharp turn right on a curve, gathering a certain speed and then stopping with your front tire in a little painted box. 

The second test was what I call the "be ready" test to swerve left, right or stop again, only you had to go faster. At this point, the instructor asked us not to run over him because he had had an accident the previous summer, and could not get out the way fast enough with a bungled leg! Those guys had nerves of steel to stand there in front of rookie riders!

The third test was to ride as fast as you can and then an emergency stop on a curve so that your tire was over a certain line and they could see the front forks go down. 

At the end of the day, the head instructor handed me my little certificate and pin and told me to spend some more time in parking lots before heading out onto the big roads. I assured him I had already planned that and thanked him for his lessons. 

Going through this experience restored my sense of fun and adventure. I will go forth with caution and practice. Already in two riding seasons since, I've noticed a change. 

Until I get back on my Suzuki in May, there's always some fun to be had drifting around corners in all the snow we have with my car. Now, there's a u-turn I can do!

Have a good one...