From a new (to me) Ninja with 8100 miles to 11,410 miles by the end of my first season, April to October, 3,310 miles, … 5296kms.
|2013: Out and about on 2 wheels!|
The first time I looked at that map I wondered why I didn’t go further afield, but I did make some longer sorties. Next year I’ll make a point of doing some overnight riding trips
Here are some moments from my first year in the saddle:
The first time I changed gears without consciously thinking about it was probably about a month into riding. I then immediately became aware of the fact that I’d just changed gears without thinking it all through and had to focus on the road again before I rode off it.
In that first month I kept pushing further away from home. The first time I went on our local (rural) highway I had a lot on my mind. I found a left hand turn and got myself into the turning lane. In a gap in traffic I began to make the turn and gave it (way) too much throttle, my first wheelie while turning left on my first ride on a highway! I leaned into the bike and got the front wheel down in time to make the corner. The kid in the Cavalier waiting to pull on to the highway got all excited by my wheelie and did a huge burnout onto the highway. I had to laugh, I’d scared the shit out of myself and he thought I was showing off.
First time I was on a major (ie: limited access) highway, I’m riding up toward Waterloo through Kitchener and the new slab of tarmac I’m on begins to taper out. It’s the kind of thing you wouldn’t think twice about in a car, but I couldn’t cut across this. The new pavement began to peter out and I ended up slipping three inches down onto the old pavement, sideways, doing about 90km/hr. The clench factor was high, it felt like the bike just fell out from under me. That was the first time I really realized how little is around me on a bike, and the first time I had trouble understanding what it was doing under me.
|The lightning is to remind 348
drivers that it’s fast… for a car
Early on I was out on local back roads getting used to the Ninja. I pulled up to a light and a red Ferrari 348 pulled up next to me with a very smug looking boomer at the wheel. He started blipping the throttle. I’d never really even gone into the top half of the rev range on the Ninja, I only knew what it might be capable of from stories online. The light changed and I twisted the throttle harder than I ever had before (which probably meant about 75% rather than 50%). I didn’t know where the Ferrari was but it wasn’t next to me. The Ninja is quick in the lower part of its rev range, more than able to stay ahead of the traffic around it. In the upper half of its rev range something entirely different happens… it lunges. I made a clean shift into second even while registering astonishment at what my little 649cc parallel twin could do when that second cam came on. Second gear lasted for about a second before I had to do it again for third. I eased off and sat up to look over my shoulder, the Ferrari was many car lengths back. My little thirty five hundred dollar mid-sized Ninja could eat Ferraris for breakfast. I’ve owned some fast cars in my time, this thing was something else entirely.
On the long ride back from Bobcaygeon I was within half an hour of home when I was trundling along behind a greige (grey/beige – featureless and soulless) mini-van at 75km/hr. By this point I’m getting comfortable on the bike and have a sense of how it can pass and brake (astonishingly well!). In my helmet I suddenly ask myself, “why are you following this clown? If you had bought a Lamborghini would you be driving along in the row behind this P.O.S.?” I passed the mini-van on the next broken line (easily) and, in that moment, adjusted my riding style to suit the vehicle I’m on. Everything is still by the book (indicators, shoulder checks, passing on broken lines), but I don’t wait for BDCs to begin paying attention to what they are doing, I just put them behind me.
Speaking of which, I’m riding in Guelph in the summer on the Hanlon highway and the old guy in a Toyota appliance (it was even the same colour as a fridge) pulls right into where I was, no indicator, no shoulder check… at least he wasn’t on a phone. I had the radar on and could see what he was going to do before he did it. Being on a bike I was able to brake and swing over onto the curb in order to avoid getting mashed; my first experience of being invisible on a bike. I had to look down to find the horn, I’d never used it before. He studiously ignored me. What is it about people in cars not feeling responsible for what they are doing?
The commute to Milton and back was a big part of my first season. It began after I got back from my longest trip to Bobcaygeon over the Canada Day weekend. I quickly had to get rain gear sorted out after deciding to take the bike every day rain or shine. In those three weeks I rode 400 series highways, big city streets and miles of country road. Temperatures ranged from 8 degree fog to 36 degree sun beating down.
One morning I left torrential rain and rode the whole way through fog, rain and spray. Another day coming home the sky in front of me turned green and purple, real end of the world stuff. I stopped and got the rain gear on and rode into what felt like a solid curtain of water only thirty seconds later. As the wind came up and the rain went sideways I remember thinking, “OK, if you see a funnel cloud just hang on to the bike, you’re heavier with it than without.” The bike’s narrow tires cut down to the pavement even as the wind was trying to send me into the trees. I eventually rode out of that darkness and decided that if a bike can track through that it can handle any rain. The commute also contained the first time I didn’t think twice about riding through a busy city. Riding day in and day out on the bike gets you comfortable with it quickly.
My first tentative steps onto the 401 (staying in the inside lane for the whole 13kms) quickly turned into opening up the bike and syncing with traffic in the left hand lane. I think a lot of that had to do with coming to trust what the bike can do, and what it can do is quite astonishing.
|River Road out of Horning’s Mills|
My last big fall ride before the end of the season had me doing one of my biggest rides down some of the best roads within a hundred kilometres of where I live. The bike was humming, it was cold until the sun came out, then it was perfect. A last perfect ride before the snow fell.
It was a great first season, and I got some miles in and really enjoyed the bike. I’m now torn whether to get rid of it an get something else, or stick with it for another season. Either way, first time we see the sun and some clear pavement again I’ll be out.
|My Ninja and I in the fall on the Forks of the Credit|