By J NewriderWhen Andrea (Dirty Girl) first asked me to write an article about buying my first bike I was not sure what she meant. Thinking, at first, that she wanted a "how-to" buyer's guide to used motorcycles I felt wholly unqualified. However, after some elaboration and clarification I came to understand what she was looking for. At least, I think I did. The process of looking for, finding, and, finally, riding your first bike can be a romantic experience that only continues as you learn about bike upkeep and maintenance. Of course, it can also be a drag and so I will tell you a little bit about my process including some of the ups and downs.
I have fantasized about owning and riding a big Harley Davidson cruising machine since I was just a wee lad. This past summer at the age of 25 I decided that, even if I am still a student and cannot afford to buy a bike, I should at least get my motorcycle license—not that I could afford to do that either. So, credit card in hand, I made arrangements to take the RTI course to get my M2 and then got in my car and, without having studied even the MTO motorcycle license book, went straight to the DriveTest centre, pulled-out that trusty credit card, and smiled for my photo before sitting-down in a cramped room with a lot of Chinese immigrants who were failing their exams due to a lack of necessary proficiency in English. I felt bad for the immigrants but I had my own mission, I needed to pass my M1 exam. Actually, I needed to pass two exams; one was full of questions about motorcycling and the other was all about road signs and signals. To my own astonishment, not only did I pass, but I passed with perfect scores (apparently I ain't half-bad at guessing).
The next week I attended my RTI course and quickly found myself frustrated as I struggled to control the Suzuki Marauder 250cc bike I was on. I was beginning to doubt my ability to be a motorcyclist. I have participated in many different physical endeavors that require a good deal of coordination and skill and I have been fortunate enough to never have struggled with any of them. When I took-up martial art I quickly advanced and was running my instructor's school just a few years later. When I took-up guitar I was able to compose and perform and was often asked to do so almost immediately. Riding a motorcycle was the first thing in my life that I could not do right-away and I was almost shocked. I have been driving trucks, tractors, and cars since I was a young boy growing-up on my dad's farm. I rode dirt bikes and I have always felt I could handle most machinery and just about anything with a clutch. Finding-out that I was shitty at riding a motorcycle dented my ego just a tad. Then it was lunch-time and I decided to try to be more relaxed, not be so serious, and to try a different motorcycle.
Salvation came in the form of a TW200. She was loud, she was rough, and she taught me how to ride a motorcycle. And, no, "TW200" is not a nickname for Andrea (with a nickname like that I could be mistaken for a Nascar race! See photo of TW200 ~ editor) I don't know if it was the change of bike or my being more relaxed or just my brain and appendages finally putting things together but that Saturday afternoon I learned how to ride a motorcycle. Don't get me wrong, I was still horrible at it, but I could do it.
Sunday afternoon rolled around and we all practiced various techniques and procedures in preparation for our M2 exam. I was having trouble with my cornering and one of the instructors told me that I was slowing down too soon. And so I tried the corner faster, felt I couldn't do it, panicked, grabbed a handful of front brake and had a nice introduction to the pavement. It was during this tumble that I quickly found the answer to a question I had been grappling with for a few days. I was not sure if I should get a full-faced helmet or an open-faced helmet prior to this introduction to the pavement. However, as my full-faced helmet (a rental) made contact with the ground I noticed that it was the front of my face, particularly my left jaw, that would have sustained the impact had it been an open-faced helmet. A few days later I bought a full-faced helmet.
I passed me M2 exam but did lose four points; all four were for going too slowly - after my fall I wasn't going to tempt fate that day. If you have been reading carefully you will recall that I said to myself "though I couldn't afford to buy a motorcycle, I could at least get my license." Well that thought went out the window as I spent the days after the course searching for the most inexpensive used motorcycle I could find. I started out thinking that I could get something in the $500.00-$1000.00 range but after checking-out a few private sales and going to a few stores that sold used bikes I started thinking about that credit card again and how I could use it to buy a nice certified used bike with a warranty. I went from thinking about buying a cheap bike that might last a month or so to considering spending upwards of $3000.00 that I didn't even have. Man, when bike fever hits, it hits hard.
After about one week of bike shopping (a very tiring week) I found a married couple selling what they claimed was the wife's bike. Apparently she didn't care for it much and her husband resigned himself to the fact that she would not be joining him. Whatever their story was, the bike looked great, sounded great, and, as the owner was nice enough to let me test-ride it, I was able to determine that it felt great as well (though at this point I probably would have been content peddling a mountain bike while making "vroom-vroom" sounds and trying to look badass). The bike had a safety certificate and was ready to go. I took out what I felt was a large sum of cash and offered it for the bike. The owner told me he won't budge from his asking price and, the truth is, his asking price was actually rather reasonable. I tried my best to negotiate, even walking away, but he really wasn't going to budge.
He was a man of some wealth as evidenced by the many Porsches and Ferraris on his large property next to his mansion with the Olympic-sized swimming pool beside the hot and cold Jacuzzis a couple of hundred meters from the tennis court which, of course, was just a stone's throw from the helicopter (not the radio-controlled kind). The point I am trying to make here is that he was not hurting for cash and he knew someone else would come along. So, I went back and told him if he delivered the bike to my house that night I would give him the cash. We shook hands, I drove home, and then I waited for my bike. About two hours later he rode-in on her dressed in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip-flops with his wife trailing behind in one of the Porsches. I remember thinking that if he felt comfortable to ride it dressed like that all the way to my place then he must have confidence in the mechanical soundness of the bike.
The transaction took all of five minutes and I was left with my very own brand-new used motorcycle. It was a Friday night and I spent the weekend looking at her, sitting on her, and wishing it was Monday. Monday morning came and I was off to the insurance office and the MTO. It was a hot day but, humidity and all, I put on my leathers and took my bike out for her maiden voyage in my little suburban neighborhood. The best word to describe my first ride is "terrifying." I felt as though every car was out to get me, every corner was out to down-me, and every speed-limit sign was 20 km/hour too high. A few days of riding and practicing emergency maneuvers in a local parking lot and I was starting to feel like I might even take her on, gasp, Yonge St. in Richmond Hill. I did and it was good, terrifying, but good.
I have only had my bike for two weeks now but already am confident and comfortable enough that I have gone riding all over town. I have yet to get on a freeway but there will be time for that later. I have learned about the importance of tire pressure and lubing the chain and I have learned that motorists, most of them anyway, are completely oblivious to what being on a motorcycle is like. I am looking forward to learning more and getting more proficient with my motorcycling technique and I wish to continue developing my skills to the best of my abilities.
Ontario Motorcycle Licensing Information: www.mto.on.ca
Ontario Drivers Handbook free online: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/dandv/driver/handbook/
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