Saturday 24 September 2011

Nailed it!

Yesterday afternoon, I crept away from school as early as possible (it was a professional day so that was OK) and went on a later afternoon ride. Along with Dave and me, there was a young guy who is heading up to the Yukon in a few days where he works in a camp. On his visits down here, he keeps his hand in, so to speak, and is waiting to book a time for a test when he is here.

I took the 600 again, the other guy took and 1100 - whoa! We headed out to Poco and basically rode the testing route. This time, no speeding, no missing zone changes, and I got all of my shoulder checks and intersection scans. The only error that we both made was slowing down in a school zone that didn't have the hours posted - in that case, you are only supposed to slow down if there are children on the road.

After doing the route for a while, Dave said we were both fine so we went back to Maple Ridge and on to Ruskin for a ride.  It was basically uneventful but exhilarating. Got some speed up, some nice curves and I was feeling relaxed.

Upon returning to Dave's place, his words were, "You both nailed it today!"


Tuesday 20 September 2011

Double Trouble!

This week has started with back-to-back lessons last night and today. I think I'm improving but the two rides had definitely different feels.

Last night, I rode with two women and Dave and we headed out to Port Coquitlam to ride the testing route that we will have to take when we attempt to get our license. The route will, of course, vary but it gives and idea of what to expect.

I was in the lead to start which I liked because it really tests my skill (or lack thereof). Problem was, we were on the highway and I couldn't hear Dave over the radio half the time. As a result, I missed a few turns which was frustrating. I thought I was doing OK for the first 20 minutes or so and then noticed that we were zooming by a playground at 55 kmh when the posted speed was 30 kmh. Fail!

I think I was nervous because of the testing conditions and I missed a few scans and most of my left shoulder checks. None of use had a great ride and I was feeling a bit frustrated that I kept forgetting things. I was in the second position for the latter half of the ride and still managed to miss a few checks and scans.

Today I was with a guy and a woman (neither who I had met before) and Dave. I had a better focus this time and nailed most of my scans and shoulder checks. This was a good thing as a cyclist caught up with me at and intersection and decided to turn with me, very close. Luckily I saw her because of my right shoulder check.

We did a fair bit of turns and driving on streets in the downtown core and I felt very confident tonight. Last night I stalled the bike a few times but tonight was much better. I really felt that I am in control even when going slowly.

We then hit some windy roads which was very enjoyable. The other guy and I ended up taking off on the rest a few times. We hit the highway and that was lots of fun as well.

After we arrived back at Dave's, he actually seemed pretty pleased with out riding. My only real flaw? Left the turn signal on (like an old person) too long once. Things are definitely looking up!

Next ride, Friday.....

Wednesday 14 September 2011

3rd Ride Out

Last night, Charles and I joined Dave for another ride.

It was a cloudy evening so I actually wore a jacket for the first time. Of course, I don't have a real motorcycle jacket but I do have a real cycling jacket and so I wore my red reflective MEC jacket for the ride.

Dave decided to take us around town and this time, for the first time, I was the leader. I was on the Honda 600 again which I really liked. It is a very stable bike which is comfortable to ride...

Now, you have to understand, that as a teacher, I can be a distracted student in the classroom. All that stuff about lane placement really didn't stick all that well. Last night, I got an earful about where I should be on the road. I must admit, though, I improved rapidly as the ride progressed!

After practicing in town, we rode up to Alouette Lake. During my first ride, I found 60 kmh a tad fast and frightening. This time, I was itching to go faster! I am definitely getting more comfortable on the bike!

Things to work on - right check, left check, intersection scan, and turning from a standstill.

I am trying to be more careful to practice these safety routines on my Vespa. We'll see if they take.

Got rides scheduled for Monday and Tuesday evening. Can't wait!!

Sunday 11 September 2011

Windy, windy, road....

Ah, that's better. My leg muscles have finally unclenched.

Scooters have a heckuva lot more space to move your legs around than motorcycles. At least that's how I feel today.

But first, back up to yesterday.

So my current spouse and I drove into Vancouver and checked out Stella Metro. We had tried a week earlier and had wandered around in the store but couldn't find anyone. The note that said, "Back in 5 minutes," was apparently inaccurate.

Now Stella Metro happens to be in the same building as Vespa Metro but they can't share the same floor space so I had to go to the back of the building, apparently a different address, to see the Stella.

It is a gorgeous machine. This one was in old school refrigerator green but the styling screamed vintage Italian scooter (even if it is made in India). Excitedly, I handed over my Learner's (with the motorcycle skills endorsement) and exchanged that for the keys. I wheeled the Stella out of the building and up a ramp and then started it. It sounded great. Unfortunately I stalled it trying to get it going and then... it wouldn't start. The battery just couldn't give enough juice to start it up again. I'm hoping it was a problem with leaving the ignition on at some other point.

Disappointed, I left, but still grateful that I had a chance to at least sit on it.

Back to this morning.

My ride today started at 10 this morning. There were just 3 of us - Dave (the instructor), Charles (the other student) and me. Charles is close to completing the course and already has a 650 on order. Dave had him ride the Honda 600 that I had ridden before. Me? "Ride that Marauder 800," Dave said. *Gulp*!

We rode around town for a little while, getting used to the bikes ("Shoulder check!" "Intersection scan!") and then headed out on the highway.

On my Vespa, 65 km seems pretty fast. On the motorcycle, 85 km seemed similar to piloting a rocket! Don't get me wrong - I loved it! But I don't have the same secure feeling that I have with the Vespa - on the motorcycle I sort of feel like I'm riding a really fast horse under control that is ready to bolt in an attempt to commit suicide at any moment!

We ended up in Hatzic (I think) that had the twistiest and hilly roads I have seen. I kept up all right but this is where I was clenching badly. "Relax...." Dave said. Yeah, right!

After a half an hour of twisting and turning, we ended up at Hayward Lake for a break. Charles said that he really had fun on the twisty road and I agreed but secretly I was happy to be walking around instead of zooming around crappy roads that had (what I thought were) huge ditches. But I tried to look like I had had fun!

This link is from Youtube and shows some of the road we were on - I think!

We then headed back and I felt relaxed and strong during the final half hour or so.

Overall we had spent 3 hours on the road. I am getting more comfortable but still have to really work at relaxing and being less tense.

Next ride..... Tuesday evening!

Tuesday 6 September 2011

First Training RIde

After I finished my skills session on Sunday, my knee really hurt from when I dropped the bike doing the U-turn. I didn't sleep very well Sunday night because it ached so badly, even after some pain medicine and a rum and coke. Monday, luckily, was a holiday, and I nursed the knee, icing it and stretching it all day.

This morning, first day of school, it was much better - thank goodness because I had a training ride tonight!

First I went the the DMV to exchange my basic Learner's for a less restrictive Learner's (no supervisor needed). I felt like a somebody!

I showed up for the ride at 6 tonight, expecting to put the 250 through its paces. Dave, the instructor, has a bunch of bikes and he decided that the 250 was too small for me! He rolled out a 600 and said, "Try that on for size."

I was not expecting to ride such a big bike (for me, at least) but after a few stalls, I got the hang of it. There were two instructors and 3 students and we rode up and down hills, through lights, stopping a starting at intersections, on hills, and then cruised along a windy road up to Golden Ears Park where we went to Alouette Lake. 

We had a break (both instructor chain smoked a couple cigarettes - do I have to learn to smoke and ride?) and then we went back down into town, practicing more intersections and lights. 

It was a great training ride for me - I'm getting to use the clutch and gears more efficiently and am improving my starts from standing. I also am doing pretty well with my lane placement. I still have some work to do for proper down shift and for starting uphill but it is coming. Eventually I'll remember to shoulder check more often!

I will try to practice the lane positioning and shoulder checks with my Vespa this week. Next lesson is Sunday morning. Can't wait. Maybe I need to re-assess the kind of bike or scoot I'm going to get - - "Big Guy, Humongous Motorcycle"? 


Monday 5 September 2011

It's Been A While

It's been awhile. Sorry.

No, I didn't die, blow up my scooter or become a spy with CSIS or some other spy organization (CSIS, by the way, is the Canadian spy service).

And I have been riding my scoot, fairly regularly, in the year and a half since I stopped blogging. And why did I stop?

I was seduced.

By a Smart Car.

Just after Christmas, 2009, I bumped into an acquaintance at a hockey game who owns his own retail company. I knew he had a Smart car and I had always been interested in it because it is a very eco-friendly vehicle and kinda funky too. It turned out he was selling it and a couple weeks later, I was the proud owner of a 2005 Smart Car. It was reddish orange and was a cabriolet with a  powered convertible roof. It was diesel and got crazy gas mileage - around 70 or 80 mpg - and it drove like a big go cart.

I did still ride my LX50 but most sunny days - previously good scooting days - I would roll out the Smart Car, open up the roof, and cruise. The Vespa became a utilitarian vehicle while the Smart was, well, the new girl in town.

Sure, I fel guilty as I walked by the Vepsa, gathering dust in the garage, as I took the bumpy, smelly but très chic two weather for a spin. Occasionally, I would take the Vespa, and still get that rush of good feelings but only for a ride to the grocery store or somewhere around town.

Then things happened to the Smart - it began to have problems. The real pain was that, here in Canada, Smart is serviced by Mercedes - and no one else has a clue how to service them - or, for that matter, knows where stuff is on them. The battery? under the passenger floor mat. The washer fluid? under the windshield. The engine? under the trunk. The glove box? under the driver seat. The spare tire? there isn't one, just a pump and some sealant.

Over the course of the last year and a half I got to know Mercedes very well. They have very nice waiting rooms with free coffee, wifi and charge a whole whack o' dough for everything.

Here's a partial list of repairs I had to have done:
- intercooler - $1500
- rear shocks $400
- computer - $1000
- roof repair - $100, $250
- water pump - $500
- sensor - $400
I could go on... oil changes were $250 - $400 because they're called "services" and most other garages can't do it.

After too many repairs, we ditched the Smart, got a new Golf, and I went back to riding my Vespa.


I found that I was tiring of going too slow much of the time. Whenever I went for a nice ride, say, to White Rock, there were always times when I was a fair bit below the speed limit and some people got impatient, even when I was careful to pull off the road. Also, to go any farther then I have on my past trips (Seattle, Powell River) I need to be able to keep up with traffic. I just don't feel safe anymore.


It's expensive to buy a Vespa that's a 150 or above.  It's a big jump - say I sell my 2006 Vespa LX for $2000 (if I'm lucky - it does have 15, 000 km on it) and I buy an LX 150, it will cost $5000 + $600 fees and $800 taxes - that's a whopping $6400 - still $4400 if I sell my scoot for 2 grand...


The Stella has now arrived. It is very retro, has a manual transmission (like my two cars), seems to have a good record, and is now available in a 4 stroke engine. And the list is $3900 - so basically a savings of more than $1000 - which I think I could swing....


Now I've started motorcycle school. I'm taking a course at 2Wheel2Itiion which is run by a guy who taught motorcycle cops from the Vancouver Police Department to ride. The bikes are Suzuki 250s and I'm having to learn how to use a clutch and gears.

I've done the first part of the course which is the basic skills and only had one mishap - I was trying to do a U-turn at slow speed, looked down at the ground instead of at where I was heading, and fell off the bike. I broke the mirror off the bike and bashed my knee but still managed, an hour later, to pass the first hoop, my motorcycle skills test.  Now I can ride a bike without a supervisor.


Yeah, I know this was too long but I had a lot to say. I will try to keep everyone updated on what is going on in my quest for a Class 6 motorcycle license.

Hey, feels good to be blogging again!