Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The First Ride Home

I had just purchased a 2003 V-Star 1100 Classic. I had the title and two sets of keys. I grabbed my leather jacket, which was not a real motorcycle jacket, and put on the black full-face helmet that my son had found in a junkyard. It was time to head for home. My wife would be following me in our 1998 Ford Explorer the 40 something miles back.

The first thing I noticed while backing the bike down the driveway was how heavy the bike was. It felt three times as heavy as the bike I used in the MSF Basic Riders Course. I'm 6'2" and weigh a good 200 something and I had to be careful not to lean it so far over that I could not get it back upright. I managed to finesse her backwards down into the street and was ready to take off.

I started her up and she roared to life underneath me. I let off the clutch and, promptly killed the engine. Hmmm, I needed to get used to that clutch and the friction zone. I took off from the first stop sign with no incident and decided to go to a parking lot to practice before taking her out on 635, the local multi-lane racetrack, I mean Interstate. I635, or LBJ as it is sometimes non-affectionately called, was named after Lynden B. Johnson and is a large freeway that circles part of north Dallas Texas. I drove for several blocks out of the neighborhood and on up to the main thoroughfare. I turned right and headed away from the direction of the Interstate and looked for a parking lot to pull into.

I pulled left into an empty parking lot with my wife following right behind. I came to a stop and turned off the bike and she asked if everything was all right. I assured her everything was fine and that I just wanted to get used to the clutch better and make a couple adjustments. I adjusted the mirrors noting that the handlebars seemed perfect for me. The previous owner must have been the same size, which would save me having to make a lot of adjustments later. Now that I could see behind me in the mirrors, I was ready to go. I started the bike back up and cautiously headed back to 635.

I came to the stoplight at 635 and got ready to turn right on red. This intersection was on a slight upward incline. I accidentally killed the roar of the mighty 1100 V-Twin again by letting out the clutch and not giving her enough throttle again. The cagers behind me now are all getting a little anxious and I’m a little flushed from embarrassment. Thinking it would take me a while to get used to how much throttle to use to get this big beast moving, I quickly restarted her and took off rapidly and sped onto the windy Interstate.

This bike had some power. When you twist the throttle you better be holding on tightly. The driver’s backrest on the Corbin Dual Tour Saddle saved me several times. Occasionally I had been caught by surprise when twisting the throttle and the bike pushed me back into the backrest. I hated to imagine what would have happened if it was not there.

Fortunately, it was a weekend, so there was not as much traffic on 635 as usual. Or, maybe I should say, rather than one gigantic parking lot, the Interstate traffic was actually moving. It didn’t take long for me to remember about the wind advisory for the day. This motorcycle had a Memphis Shades Windshield on it. Windshields on a motorcycle are nice to have to keep some of the head wind off you. The bad part of a windshield is that they act like a sail. I was headed west and the wind was gusting from the north. When the gusts were kind of hard the bike wanted to tack to the left. My knuckles whitened as I tightened my fingers around the Kuryakyn ISO grips harder.

About halfway home I checked my right side mirror to make sure my wife was still behind me, and she was. Just then, the Audiovox CCS100 Universal Vacuum Cruise Control switches, mounted on the right handlebar control box, caught my eye. This got me thinking did it work? Probably not the smartest decision being a new rider on a new bike, I took my eyes of the Freeway momentarily and tried to figure how to turn the cruise control on and then how to set it. With my eyes bouncing back and forth between where I was going and the switches, I finally decided to just start pushing buttons and on the second try got the combination between on and set correct and the cruise control kicked in. I used my new found right hand freedom to make another adjustment to my right mirror and quickly put my hand back on the grip. I pushed buttons again and turned the cruise off. I was stoked; the cruise control does indeed work.

It wasn’t long before I was north of the D/FW Airport and came to the large two-lane left hand ramp that curved up and then down to Highway 121 southbound from I635. The MSF Basic Riding Course training for taking curves was going through my head, outside, inside, outside. I was in the right hand lane and already on the outside track of the curve. As the lane started to turn I was now almost on the white line and shoulder. I was not turning fast enough and probably going way to fast for this curve being a newbie on an unfamiliar bike. Then the training kicked in again and I looked where I wanted to go and pushed the left handle bar forward. The beautiful V-Star leaned and went to the left and I leaned with it as she responded to my leading. I was right back on track and in the middle of my lane finishing the corner gracefully.

It was not much of an eventful ride otherwise. The new bike and I made it home in one piece. My wife and youngest son later told me that I gave them a scare on the curve and also when a large truck had wanted to be in the same lane I was in. The truck incident was just normal D/FW traffic stuff. I moved into another empty lane, let the truck have the one I was in, and went around him. I thought it was a great first ride. The bike, she was getting used to me and I her. It was the start of a kind of bonding process. It was nice to have motorcycle now to ride.

Ride on,