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Beginner Motorcycle Info - Periodic Post (v2.0)

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Archive-name: motorcycles/beginner-info
Rec-motorcycles-archive-name: beginner-info
Posting-Frequency: monthly (5th of each month)
Last-modified: 1996/09/03
Version: 2.0

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this is one of the most interesting and worthwhile posts that i ever read 
on and i reproduce it in entirety, since i am not capable of 
making half the sense! this document was prepared by Lisa Delorme and with 
her permission i continue to repost it every once in a while. please send 
all comments and criticism to:

Thanks to: Lisa Delorme, Lissa Shoun, Andy Beals, Don "Pooder" Fearn.

a small point before we proceed:


one of the questions that is posed by almost each person new to 
motorcycling and is: What bike should i buy?. there is no one 
answer to this question and if you have to ask us what you want to buy, 
maybe you haven't understood motorcycling yet! however, if this is the
first time you are going to ride a motorcycle, a goldwing or a ninja
zx-11 may not be the right bike for you. believe us, when we tell you
that there is enough time left in your life for you to get 10 dream bikes.
as a beginner you have to bear in mind that you are more liable to drop
your bike, and more liable to drop it on yourself! keep the costs of the
bike down, buy used, buy a rat bike, something without too much plastic.
go for something light and easy to handle, with not too much power. an
ideal beginner's bike would be in the range of 250-600cc, and you should
be able to get a used bike in this range, in most parts, for about 

despite the amazing performance of the latest fgxsrz as reported in the
media, it may not be the right bike for you due to various reasons such
as comfort (handlebar reach, footpeg height, inclination and width of the
seat, airflow), power, weight and a few hundred other features that are
individual to you and cannot be gauged by the media reviewers. remember
that the 0.2 second difference in the 1/4 mile has no significance on the
road. read the reviews, but select a motorcycle based on how well it suites
your needs, and how comfortable it feels. motorcycling involves a great
level of interaction between the rider and the motorcycle and seemingly
minor details (at the time of purchase) lacking/present in the bike, assume
major significance after 100 miles on the road.

- ravi

......................... Lisa Delorme's article ...........................

You must understand that I wrote this document with two particular
people in mind. They are the kind of people who on more than one
occasion have said "What do I need to take a class for? Here's the brake, 
here's the gas, what more do you need to Know? and they
actually meant it! Thus, my main concern here was to nip any
squidly tendencies in the bud. That should explain the real heavy handed 
tone that I take here. So, I will tell them how not to be
a squid and Conrad can tell them what they really need to know.

-----8<-----8<-----8<-----8<-- cut here --8<-----8<-----8<-----8<-----8<---

This document is long and wordy, sorry about that. Everything here
is at a very basic level and I tried to only cover the immediately
necessary things. Sorry if I insult anyone's intelligence but I
didn't want to assume anything.  At the end are phone numbers of
several cheap sources for buying all the things recommended here.


The first thing you will want to do before buying a bike is to take
the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. The course is multi-session (over 1-4 
days) and involves both classroom and riding. Even if you have ridden 
before or have already started riding now you should take the basic class. 
Experienced professionals teach you how to ride, turn, break, accident 
avoidance, etc. ie.generally how not to get crunched. You DON'T need a dmv
permit/license to take the class, and motorcycles and helmets will
be provided. Call 1-800-447-4700 (national) or 1-800-cc-rider (CA)
to find out where to take it. Cost is $50-150 depending on age and
location, whatever the price, it is well worth it. If you ignore
all the advice here, don't ignore this one, your health insurance
company may later thank you! Next year you can take the advanced class.


Get one, get one immediately, and get a full face one, they offer
more protection than half face helmets. Order it early or you will
either have to sit waiting a few days after you get your bike or
risk helmet-less rides. You can get one immediately from a dealer
but you will pay $50-$80 more than if you get it mail order. Order
the best one you can afford, here isn't the place to skimp and
order a $50 one (unless of course you have the infamous $50 head).The
Shoei RF-200 is a good helmet at a reasonable price (about $140
mail order). Phone numbers for mail orders are included at the end.

The fit of the helmet is important, it should be tight enough that
the pads firmly touch your cheeks. It should be tight enough that
you can't grab it and roll it off or rotate it from side to side
very much. But, it should be loose enough that it doesn't pinch or
bind your cheeks or forehead, this will cause fatigue. Sizes vary
by brand, A large in one brand will be like a medium in another
brand. You must try on the exact brand/model in a new (not used)
version before buying. Go to a dealer or cycle shop and try on
several, then order mail-order. (and buy something small from the
dealer for his/her trouble). If it comes in the mail and doesn't
fit right, return it!

Some people claim that helmets restrict your vision, it's not true.
Others claim it reduces your hearing, it actually helps you hear over
the engine. As for the claim they cause neck injuries, I can't offer
any evidence on that but I will take my chances. Wear one for a month
and decide for yourself. The first week it will feel weird (especially
a full face) but it will quickly become as comfy and familiar as your
old fuzzy blanket.


If you want to be fully safe you should be covered from head to toe
every time you ride. Buy all the equipment you can and wear it,
even on hot days or for just a jog to the store. Again, get the
best your budget allows. Good clothing will protect you from the
nasty cuts and abrasions (and glass!) that happen even in a low
speed slide. Many people with older used bikes spend about as much
on equipment/helmet etc. as on our bikes, devote a generous portion
of your cycling budget to clothing. Here's what you need:

JACKET: Get a high quality leather jacket suitable for motorcycling, not 
a thin "fashion" leather jacket. These begin at about $300. Make the fit 
tight enough that it won't ride up and expose your skin in a slide and 
loose enough that you can put sweaters under when it's cold. Leather isn't 
the warmest garment, its more for protection than cold. See that it closes 
firmly at the neck and wrists or you will get quite cold. Leather made for 
racing is the best but it is expensive. Shop at a motorcycle store or 
good quality leather factory, boutiques and department stores generally
don't have suitable jackets.

[with Pooder's correction:]
As an alternative to leather, Aerostich makes high quality riding wear
made of a cordura/Goretex laminate.  The Goretex is there to make it
nearly waterproof while still allowing your body fumes to escape. Because
it's one more layer, the Goretex may also provide some additional abrasion
resistance, but its main reason for being there is waterproofing.

PANTS: Ideally you should have leather or Aerostich pants on all
the time. This can however be expensive as well as impractical
to walk around in or carry around all day. But, a famous study
found that Levi's only last for about 4 feet in a slide before they
give way and expose your bare skin to the pavement (no cite). There
isn't an easy solution to the protection/inconvenience trade off here.

Aerostich makes pants that zip together with their jackets (~$300)
or a one piece step in riding suit (~$600) Leather suits come in
two zip together pieces (jacket/pants). Again, no fashion leather.

FOOTGEAR: Good quality leather riding boots are the best protection
for your feet in a crash. (high boots, no heels!) If you must wear
sneakers at least make them high tops that cover the ankle and lace them
firmly. Most kinds of sneakers or regular shoes tend to come off
in a crash. Sandals, dress shoes or open shoes are out of the
question, even if you don't crash they make it hard to control the
bike and land your feet correctly when stopping.

GLOVES:  They give you better throttle control and protect you in
a crash. At first, they feel weird and make it feel as if it is harder 
to use the controls but you get used to them quickly. Get leather (whatelse?) 
Check saddlery stores if you can't get a good fit at a cycleshop.

EYE PROTECTION: If you don't have a full face helmet then wear
goggles, without them the wind in your eyes is too intense to see
properly, sunglasses won't do it because the wind just blows under
them. With a helmet and shield you will still need to carry
sunglasses. Without a roof the sun for you will be much more
glaring than in a car. You can also get a tinted face-shield, but
only for daytime riding. Get one pair just for the bike and bend
the paddles (earpieces) of the glasses so that they are straight,
they will fit under the helmet much easier.

[Andy Beals adds:
Or, buy a pair of [real] aviator-style military surplus sunglasses -
straight earpieces designed to slip on when you're wearing a helmet.
Probably available at your local surplus store and definitely via
mail-order from Kaufman's Surplus.  Not cheapie sunglasses, real 

If you plan to carry passengers you are responsible for providing
a similar set of gear for them if they don't have their own. Whenever
you replace your original equipment and clothing consider keeping
the old stuff around (if it is still serviceable) and building a
passenger set. Don't let improperly attired people pressure you
into giving them a ride! (they will try). You will probably want
to wait at least 6 months before carrying passengers anyway.

4. INSURANCE) Same Advice, get it now

Most car companies don't cover bikes so you will need separate
insurance. Some car companies only cover smaller bikes.
Cycle insurance is first of all based on the size of the bike, then
record, age and other factors. A 25 year old with a GS450 can pay
less than $100 a year, an 18 year old with a ZX-750 (ie. a ninja)
can pay up to $1000 per year. Cycle mags often advertise companies 
that cover cyclists, you can also get it through dealers, most have
an association with one or another company. 

In an accident with a car, you and your passenger will probably (I
know all accidents are different!) incur the greatest medical bills
while the car will incur the greatest property damage. The bike
will probably be in worse shape than the car, but unless you have
a fancy new bike the car will probably cost a lot more so
$$$damages will be higher for the car than the bike. Think about
this when deciding what coverage to get. 


Start assembling a tool kit to keep in the house and a smaller one
to carry on the bike, don't worry, even with a brand new bike you
will soon need it. If you are not willing to do any repair work
you should either find a rich uncle or reconsider and buy a Volvo.
Bikes aren't like cars, you can't just slap some new oil in them
once a year and run them into the ground. They operate on an
intricate system of cables, chains, mirrors and trick doors that
all need fairly constant adjustments. A new bike will probably save
you a lot of early complex repairs but you will still have to
adjust clutch cables, brake cables, chains, etc. All of these
require more frequent and more precise adjustments than a car.
Unlike for cars, there is not a bike shop on every corner and parts
are much harder to get. Even if you have mucho bucks and are
willing to let a mechanic do everything it just isn't always
possible. Luckily bike repair is easier (I think) and more
enjoyable than doing a car.  

Order a Clymer repair manual as soon as you get your bike, also
consider the factory service manuals if they are available. Clymer
should run you $15. If you want to go all out you can even keep
frequently used spare parts around, it's a pain not to ride for a
month when Kawasaki takes that long to deliver a stupid $10 part,
but that's going beyond beginner advice so back to the story. 

The basics for your tool kit will include:

-  A set of spare spark plugs
-  A spark plug socket and socket wrench
-  Impact driver and hammer for removing hard to turn screws on the
   engine covers (oil filter cover, point cover, timing cover,)
-  An adjustable wrench
-  Spare cotter pins for the axles and pliers to remove them
-  Spare chain master link and clip
-  Tire pressure gauge

These are what I would call the very basics, I'm sure others would
argue with me so go ahead and accumulate whatever you wish to your
little hearts desire. Consider how badly it would ruin your day not
to ride because you are waiting for a part on order or how much/far
you are willing to push home if you break down without tools and
plan accordingly.

Remember, this document errs on the conservative side, hopefully
you will have a smooth cycling experience and will never have to
push home. Proper care and feeding of your motorcycle will make
this even less likely.

6. Miscellaneous

1) Buy same chain lube right away. You have to put it on your
chain every 200 miles and those miles will accumulate quickly.

2) You can accessorize until your bank account is busted, I
won't advise you on that. One (I think) necessity is a bungee net
for carrying those objects one inevitably picks up in the course
of a day. You can get fancy and more expensive options (tank bags
etc.) later

3) When your bike won't start, check first that the three most
obvious things are in the operating position (kill switch,
sidestand, fuel petcock) before running for the manual. Yes, we
have ALL at one time or another sat scratching our head trying to
start the bike and then found one of these in the off position.

4) You can keep your bike shiny new and prevent rusting by
covering it at night and giving it an occasional polishing (as well
as cleaning) with a scotchbright nylon pad and a little Mother's
aluminum polish or Turtle Wax Chrome Polish. Besides appearance,
it helps with maintenance, rusted parts can be a bitch to remove. 

5) The fork lock on the ignition can be easily broken, if you
value your ride consider a kryptonite lock or other protection.

6) If you ever plan to not ride for 2-3 months (vacation,snow) you must 
properly prepare you bike for storage in advance or
else you will have some nasty stuff to deal with upon your return
(ie. an inoperable bike) I won't go into all the details of
removing batteries, draining tanks, etc here, just be aware that
you need to find out the procedure before winter/vacation. A
battery charger is a good investment if you will need it to do this,
it will pay for itself quick.

7) Always be courteous and wave to other cyclists on the road,
even if they ride brands you hate. Oh yeah- and as Honda says on
their gas tanks "preserve nature" 8-)

8. DOD- Turn up that flamethrower now

Of course you must plan to read regularly. A daily
dose of bragging, flaming, false bravado and generally sound good
advice is a necessary component of the riding experience. Brush up
on your begging ability, you will need it to get a DOD number. Then
tune up your flame thrower and be ready to cast it on people who
ask questions like "I already ride a bicycle, how hard could a
motorcycle be?" or "Why does the daemon mascot look like an owl?"

8. Phone Numbers

The Big Guys
The following companies are large mail order houses that will ship
at least nation wide with the appropriate shipping and handling
fee. (Sorry! I don't know about outside the U.S.) The things they
carry include: helmets, jackets, T-shirts, repair manuals, tires,
exhausts, chains, fairings, oil & chemicals, brake pads, in short,
almost anything you could want.

Chapparal- (San Bernadino, CA) Will send free Catalogue. 1-800-841-2960

Motorcycle Accessories Warehouse) (CA, NV & PA) Will send free
catalogue I believe. 1-800-241-2222 

Competition Accessories- (Xenia, OH) 1-800-543-3535. Don't know
about catalogue (any company will send it free with an order though) 

Dennis Kirk- Will send free catalogue, 1-800-328-9280

Shade Tree- 1-800-866-4747, Free Cat. 

Donelson Cycles- (St. Louis) 1-800-325-4144. Small charge for
catalogue I believe.

Laurel Highlands- 1-800-332-0670 (Norvelt, PA) $2 for cat.

Specialty Houses
They carry one or two types of products exclusively. All have
shipping in at least the continental U.S.

Bates Leather (Long Beach, CA) ) They make high quality
motorcycling jackets and pants. They are reportedly very good at
making sizes to fit women. They will send you a catalogue and
samples for $3.00. 213-435-6551

Aerostich- Makers of very high quality cordura/kevlar riding
suits. They will send you a free catalogue. If you are female or
unusually sized you should ask to speak to one of the seamstresses
when ordering the suit as Andy Goldfine (the owner & designer)
isn't too swift at fitting women's sizes, but he is a heck of a
nice guy anyway. 1-800-222-1994

Autobound (Alameda, CA) Retail store devoted exclusively to books
about driving or riding, particularly repair manuals. Despite the
awful name of the store, they do carry an extensive line of
motorcycle manuals, including many older, hard to find ones.
Warning, go here as a last resort, their prices can be up to $10
higher than at the dealer or through mail order. 415-521-8630

Hidalgo- they make sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses that are
easy to fit under helmets. Prices are less than any optical store.
Will send free catalogue. 1-800-786-2021

Cycle Tow- (San Francisco Bay Area Only!) Rich Gibbon is a nice guy. 
Should your cycle ever be stuck inoperable somewhere, he will transport
it for you (for a nominal fee of course) in a truck specifically
equipped for hauling/towing motorcycles. He is based at Berkeley
Yamaha, price will vary with distance. 415-525-8243 or pager at

Cool-Tech Leather Jackets- 1-800-426-4704 Free cat

Mike Corbin- Boots and Seats, Custom made. Pricey but reputed to
be the best. 1-800-662-6296 ( Toll free is CA only?)

Parts Dealers

Always go to your local dealer first before going to these places.
Your business keeps them in business, that way the local guy will
be there when you need them. If you have no local dealer or he/she
is obstinate, uncooperative,  or sexist then you can try one of these 

Midwest Action Cycle) Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda
1-800-323-0078 (no catalogues for parts)

I could list many more fine places here, but I will let you
discover all the rest of the places that will be happy to take your
money and make you more unwilling to part with your bike than ever.

I know this sounds like a ton of stuff and might at this point make
the sport seem more complicated than it's worth. Nothing could be further 
from the truth!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ none-%er #2 ~ ~ ~
ravi narayan     | ask me about the FAQ	|   89 suzuki gs500e
at&t bell labs   | the nj-cycles and east mailing lists	|   92 ducati 750ss
rn@bell-labs.com_|__ _____|___DoD squid #1 ____

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