Sunday, March 30, 2008

This is the story of a wanna-be motorcyclist on a quest for the right bike.

Once upon a time, there was a dreadlocked person who wanted to learn to ride motorcycles. This person was fairly smart and mostly rational and somewhat concerned about her own personal safety in this activity. So rather than going to a dealership and plunking down money on a supersport bike, she decided to get some good advice about motorcycle choices and some safety training first.

Dreadie-Locks went to the nearest Harley dealership and took the Rider's Edge Basic Rider Course. Despite the attempted brainwashing into buying all things Harley, the course did provide very valid and useful information about safer riding. Dreadie-Locks also bought a couple of books about "Proficient Motorcycling" and spent a lot of time reading and re-reading them.

After passing the BRC and getting certified for a motorcycle endorsement on her license, Dreadie-Locks went online and found a nice community of folks at BeginnerBikers.org who were generous with their advice and their time. They asked Dreadie-Locks a few questions, mostly about her size and riding abilities.

"Well," Dreadie-Locks replied, "I'm about 5 foot 3 on a tall day, with a 29-inch inseam. And I weigh about 130 pounds, if that's truly important."

"Oh, it is," the community assured her. "It means that a low center of gravity is just as important as a low seat height when you choose your first bike."

Dreadie-Locks had been to a few dealerships and sat on a few bikes. She really liked a particular V-Star 650 custom that she spied in a dealership in Albuquerque.

The community hmmmed to themselves, and said "Well, it might be better to start on a Ninja 250 or something small, but you might do okay with the V-Star...."

So, Dreadie-Locks bought the V-Star. She rode it for a couple of years, had a few scary encounters with trucks on the freeway, and generally wondered if motorcycling was indeed for her.

After much soul-searching, Dreadie-Locks realized something:

The V-Star was Just Too Big.

It would have to go.

So Dreadie-Locks used Craigslist to sell the V-Star to a nice man who came all the way from Kansas to New Mexico to buy her bike. Then she bought what the nice and smart folks at BeginnerBikers.org had recommended at the start: a Ninja 250.

The Ninja 250 was a much better choice. It was light, nimble, and confidence-inspiring. It let her do some stupid things safely, thereby helping Dreadie-Locks learn to be a better and safer rider. It was nice to commute on, too, because it got about 57 mpg.

But after a year on the 250, Dreadie-Locks was slowly realizing some limitations of the bike. It was light, yes, but that meant that cross-winds were a b*tch. And getting onto the freeway was a bit scary.

And so, after more soul-searching (some of which occurred in the "Bike Choices: Starter Bikes" section of the Beginnerbikers.org forum), Dreadie-Locks came to another realization:

The Ninja 250 was Too Small.

It too -- reluctantly -- would have to go.

Luckily, the dealership that had sold Dreadie-Locks the Ninja 250 had a Ninja 500 on the floor. A 2007 model. That they wanted to get out the door....

So Dreadie-Locks made a deal and traded in her 250 for the 500. The dealer, a nice guy named Albert Benavidez, made Dreadie-Locks a very good deal and even delivered the 500 to Dreadie-Locks, free of charge, on Thursday afternoon.

Since there was an hour of daylight left and the 500 had a full tank of gas, Dreadie-Locks donned her armor and mounted the 500 to take a spin. The first ride, 17 miles in total, took Dreadie-Locks from her home in San Acacia down one freeway frontage road to Lemitar, then back up the other frontage road.

Dreadie-Locks was impressed: the 500 was more powerful than the 250, but well-mannered and docile. Most importantly, Dreadie-Locks noticed something else -- that the 500 wasn't as easily deterred by cross-winds as the 250 had been.

All in all, Dreadie-Locks was pleased.

Friday came, but Dreadie-Locks had to take the Cage in to work, and then she didn't get home til late so there was no opportunity to ride again that day.

It wasn't until mid-afternoon Saturday that Dreadie-Locks was able to don her armor again and take another ride on the 500.

This ride was longer that the first one -- a whopping 60 miles! This was the longest ride Dreadie-Locks had ever been on. By taking frontage roads or back roads, Dreadie-Locks could move up and down the gears, accelerating and decelerating to test the bike's mettle. This ride also helped Dreadie-Locks become familiar with the brakes, how the bike handled in turns, and what to expect when she really cranked open the throttle.

This, Dreadie-Locks decided, was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

As Dreadie-Locks was riding home, another realization dawned upon her:

This bike, the Ninja 500, was Just Right.

And hopefully, Dreadie-locks and the Ninja 500 will live and ride happily ever after.


The End