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Author Topic: Motorbike advice required (WoM to thread)
steveeeeeeeee
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I've begun taking my A-licence and hope to start riding a motorbike around town and maybe further afield this summer. I had intended to take my license to drive a car but the high levels of stress associated with owning a car, especially in a city like Lisbon, are not for me.

When I was hypothesising about the idea of riding a motorbike to colleagues of mine, everyone seemed generally encouraging and only had great things to say about riding. However, now that I'm actually taking the license, it seems like the whole world can't wait to tell me their horror stories of how dangerous riding a motorbike is. I shouldn't let it get to me but I've heard so many stories (all friend of a friend stuff) that I'm starting to go off the idea.

There are a couple of things I'd really like to know:

How dangerous is it? Everything I've read says that the main danger is not being seen by motorists. This was the same danger I had when I cycled in London for 5 years, I was always very alert to my surroundings and had just a couple of minor accidents.

What is a good first motorbike to buy? I want to get a motorbike but Sra stev9e is not too happy with this, however she's fine with me riding a scooter. Can you buy 125cc scooters? One of the main reasons I want to buy a motorbike is for easy beach access in the summer but I'd need to ride on the motorway to get there and as I understand it, you can't ride on a motorway with a bike that has less than 125cc.

All advice is greatly appreciated and please can nobody post any second hand horror stories as I think I've heard them all in the last few weeks.

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noby
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Well, firstly, and before the experts arrive, you can indeed buy a 125 scooter.
Vespa, for example come in 125cc and 200cc, although I'm not sure if the 200cc version has been discontinued.
(As an aside, as much as it pains me, I'm currently selling my Vespa P200E. I would do you a good deal, but it's a long trek to Lisbon.)

Being seen by other traffic was always my main priority, so I always had my headlights on, and on occasion wore reflector vests. Other than that, it's much the same as cycling where you have to always be wary that other road users are likely to do something stupid, and it's up to you to react.

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steveeeeeeeee
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Cheers noby. So, you had no problems driving your scooter on a motorway?
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noby
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There be no motorways 'round here.

Legally I had no problem, but I didn't often get the opportunity.

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Twilight Johnny Atom
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You can, in fact, buy a 600cc scooter and it's a lot more practical than a normal 'motor bike' because of its storage capacity and general ease of handling.

evilC is looking for one of these:

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Yes, it is dangerous and it's good practice to be extremely aware of that. Beware of other road users, be alert to your surroundings, watch the road surface and learn how to spot when it's slippery, practice avoidance of target fixation, train your peripheral vision, plan, look and think ahead and get the best training you can. All commmon sense really, and I'd recommend some track training as well.

My first bike after passing my test was one of these:

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Then I went on to one of these:

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And this was before the limitations on new riders which are in place now in the UK so you don't have to start with something small and underpowered. The first bike was easily capable of 140mph and I could ride it on the day I passed my test!

Although these are focussed on racing, and fast riding I highly recommend them for understanding the science of riding a motor bike.

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WornOldMotorbike
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Yes, to echo what the others have said, 90% of the battle is being seen by other motorists. Truth be told, it's pretty rare to be in a one-vehicle accident on a bike. You don't just fall over or run into stuff.
The first two years I was riding, my bike was black and I rode with a brown leather jacket. I was cut off by cars, in a rather heart-stopping way, at least once every two weeks. One winter, I painted the bike bright yellow and bought a yellow Joe Rocket riding jacket. I don't think I've had a real heart-stopper in four years now. So, in my experience, being seen is everything.
The other bit is noticing the stupid behaviour before it happens. I took weekend-long defensive riding course that highlighted signs of impending doom, ie; how to avoid cars pulling out in front of you from side-streets, and how to avoid being 'doored' while riding past parked cars. I can't stress this sort of training enough.
Plus, I'm sort of an old man when it comes to both riding and driving. I don't speed, I don't jack-rabbit away from stops and I'm always checking my mirrors. This all improves your odds.

Yes, it can be dangerous. Statistics bear this out. But it's a risk that can be lowered.

As for your choice of ride, personal preference. A scooter is a great idea for the type of riding you mention. Clive's your scooter resource. Anything over 125 should get you going quick enough on the highway.

Good luck, and enjoy yourself.

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Femme Folle
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quote:
Truth be told, it's pretty rare to be in a one-vehicle accident on a bike. You don't just fall over or run into stuff.
True, but gravel roads should be avoided.
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evilC
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I've been riding for less than 9 months now, so my experience is limited. Also, due to my paralysed left foot, I can't operate the gear lever that is on most standard bikes, so it's scooters or other (semi)automatics only for me. Cheap ones, at that!

I have no knowledge of the rules of riding in Portugal, but obviously they're worth checking out, just to make sure how you're restricted capacity-wise. (In fact, TJA, are our 'rules' in line with Europe-wide policy?)

For instance, until I find a good secondhand scooter like the one above, I'm on its little brother - a Honda Pantheon 125, from 2005. It's surprisingly quick off the mark for what basically looks like a 'granny scooter' (0-60 in 7 seconds and 0-30 in about 2 ...or that's how it feels!) but it runs out of speed at 70, basically. It's fine for commuting and the odd longer trip. I do 125 miles a week commuting to work each day, but have made trips to London, Salisbury, The New Forest and Brighton on it - all of which were just fine.

One thing I didn't realise, until I was reading the highway code in the lead-up to my test, was that, once you've passed, you can even take a 50cc bike on a motorway! Personally, that would terrify me, having taken my basic training on one, but in the last few weeks I've done my first bits of motorway riding and - although I was in the slow lane most of the time - the 125 handled it just fine and it was even fun. Motoways are easy - it's (sub)urban roads that are the scary ones.

The best thing about the smaller bikes is, of course, the economy. Mine does 60-80 mpg so if I'm only doing the daily commutes, with the 2 gallon tank I only have to fill it up once a week at a cost of just under 7. 15 a year road tax and fully comp insurance with medical and legal cover as add-ons comes to 200, so it means I'm laughing in the faces of most car drivers.

However... most car drivers - at least round here - will treat you like you don't exist, even when they can see you. (I wear a hi-vis jacket nearly every time I ride and it's a silver bike.) It feels like drivers often just consciously make the decision "that's a bike - he doesn't count. I'll pull out in front of him and he can just stop"! You also wouldn't believe the non-signalling that goes on. As a fellow bicycle rider, I was prepared for the gross stupidity and ignorance and thus have ridden defensively from the start, but because I wasn't travelling at the same speed as everyone else, I couldn't observe the details. It's astounding.

All of what has been said above is true. I'd particularly emphasise what TJA (one of my two main bike 'gurus') said about watching the road surface. Because of that, I would add never, ever, EVER ride right up behind the back of other vehicles (as I often see other riders doing). Always stay at least 3 car lengths back and preferably 6, just so you can see the manhole-cover-sunk-four-inches-into-the-road as it emerges from under the vehicle in front and take slight avoiding action.

The one last negative I'll add is that, as a public transport user and pedestrian, I had never realised just how much roadkill there is going on, out in the suburban/country roads. It's horrific. I once rode (unfortunately at a necessary crawling speed) along a stretch of road where there was so much fresh roadkill, the stench of flesh was horrible. I've also seen more dead badgers (5+) than I have live ones (2) now.

However, the biggest positives for me are the saved time, which is immense and priceless, the saved money and the ability to filter through traffic jams, which even if I'd learnt to drive, I wouldn't have escaped.

I actually now believe that people should have to ride a motorcycle for a certain mileage before they can drive a car. It'd instill a certain amount of perspective and humility in them.

Anyway, keep us updated on how you get along and what you end up getting. We could do with some more members of the 2-wheeled fraternity, quite frankly. :-)

Oh and by the way...

While the Honda FJS 600 Silverwing is my short term next-purchase, this is my long-term object of desire:

The Aprilia Mana:

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Links:

The Telegraph, Maxmoto, MSN, Motorcycle USA, Topspeed, Cycleworld.

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evilC
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(By the way, TJA - I dunno if you'd noticed this on ebay. Somehow - against all the odds - it 'works'.
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linus
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steveee, I would strongly recommend a mid-size trail bike, like a Honda XRL 250cc, great beginner bike very well suited for the city. I made a long post earlier today that didn't make it, I'll try to summarize:

easy to learn, easy to manoeuver, lightweight, nimble and great responsiveness (important safety feature, because a lot of the time you want to accelerate away from trouble)

highly visible due to higher riding position

very simple, minimalist single-cylinder 4 stroke engine design that has been arond since the 70s, extremely reliable and broad powerband (forgiving for beginners) with still enough power to cruise at 80mph on the motorway. cheap to buy and operate (great mileage). get a used one with relatively low mileage.

they look good and are very comfortable in city settings and stop and go traffic vs the road bikes where you're leaning forward. fun to ride.

250 to 350cc is a good entry-level size that you won't outgrow unless you ride a lot on motorways. the Japanese models are fairly similar: Honda XRL, Yamaha XT, Suzuki DRL, Kawa KLR. Those bikes are pretty popular in most big cities on the continent.

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linus
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one caveat, those bikes are more comfortable if you're at least 5'10" as seat height is on the high side.
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WornOldMotorbike
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Astounding coincidence, linus. I'm pondering a KLR 650 right now. I love the ride height and position, and it's got good low-end torgue for stop and go city riding. I don't do a lot of long highway cruising, so I don't care that I wouldn't be as streamlined as I could be. And I like the Dakar/Safari look with the big-ass gas tank. I'd go for a more 'street' tire, though. My first dirt bike was a Honda XL, so I guess I have a soft spot for dualies.
The KLR:

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evilC
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Similarly, despite being relatively short, at 5'10", I too would definitely go for a trail/Dakar style bike if I could, as I just love the looks and optional practicality.

However, with my paralysed left foot the only current option in the (semi)automatic realm is the hideously ugly and horrifically expensive Track T-800 cdi, from Holland:

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It's an amazing bit of low-budget engineering, really, being basically a Smart-car engined bike. It has a two-wheel-drive option, is built for easy home maintenance, can do 180mpg on vegetable oil and (also on vegetable oil) develop over 100lb/sq.ft of torque. However, at about 10,000 I could only afford one if I won the lottery.

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WornOldMotorbike
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The Buell Ulysses is a lovely machine. Takes the upright positioning of a dualie, but streetifies is quite nicely. A few grand too expensive for my tastes, too.
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linus
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Nice bike WOM. How much does a new KLR cost in Ontario?

I also rode an XL for a long time, it was amazing how reliable that bike was (considering my first bike was an Italian enduro, Fantic Motor, which was a nightmare to maintain.)

It's also a great bike for the cottage and country roads, which are very popular things in Canada as you know. I do a lot of that myself and am thinking of getting a good 2nd hand Honda XL/XRL 500, from California (no rust, highway miles, great prices, looking to get a bike with about 5kMi around $2k.)

[ 06.03.2008, 21:52: Message edited by: linus ]

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