Author Topic: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?  (Read 5308 times)

NH

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Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« on: November 28, 2013, 10:30:36 PM »
I Thought some of you might be interested in this, it's an article I've written and submitted to a few of the bike mags. Quite a few people will already have read it as it's appeared on other forums as well. It's intended to be thought provoking to newer riders, although at the risk of making me seem a wally, but that's worth it if helps a few people in their choice of bike upgrades.

SO, YOU'VE GOT A NEW BIKE THEN…?


You’ve just upgraded to a newer, bigger bike. There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you take it out for it’s first run to show it off. It’s almost certain to be newer, shinier, faster, and more exciting than your old bike, so it’s natural that you jump on it and head straight for your favourite roads. But if the bikes a lot different to your last bike have you given any thought to getting used to it before pushing it hard through those favourite twisties, or heading off on the long distance tour you’ve just bought it for?

For the experienced bikers with considerable years and miles under their belts it’s not so much of an issue. For newer riders though it can easily lead to an unpleasant, even dangerous, experience.
   
I first rode a motorbike at the age of 53 having never sat on one before. It was simple curiosity that led me to book my CBT, ‘what is it that people see in bikes?’ A CBT, 2 mornings training on a CB500, and a test pass, saw me with a bike license and a big grin on my face. Wow, that was fast, what the hell have I done! It was too late though, I was already hooked.

After much researching in magazines I decided that a Yamaha Thundercat was the bike for me. To cut a long story short I got exactly what I wanted and in the following 18 months I had a great, if cautious time, learning how to ride properly. I learned a lot from riding with mates who were patient with me (special thanks to Jon). This particularly applied to following them through bends and seeing how far they could lean. One thing I learned early on is that the older you are when you learn to ride the earlier the self-preservation mode kicks in. I like to think of this however as me being more streetwise, well that’s what I tell myself anyway.

After twenty one months and a trip to France with the Thundercat I decided to get something a little newer with a bigger, torquier engine. I wanted to stay with a sport tourer style as I found the Thundercat so comfortable for long distance, but what to get…? I had really fancied a VFR800 for quite a while but after a test ride I was really disappointed to find I wasn’t impressed with it… gutted! After numerous test rides I eventually thought I had narrowed it down to a Triumph Sprint 1050ST, or a Bandit 1250. Then by chance I spotted a Blackbird at a small dealers near me and decided to try it out. The bike blew an oil pipe midway through the test ride and threw oil all over the bike, the rear tyre, and me, as I was returning on the motorway. You couldn’t see the bike for smoke and it came back in a recovery truck but it didn’t matter, the decision was made… I wanted one.

At the age of 55 and with a total of just under two years riding experience I had my Blackbird. It was a nice 06 model bought privately in Gloucester. I found it a really heavy bike compared to the Cat but I had four weeks to get used to it before setting of for southwest France with Tim and Nick on their Fireblade and TDM. Not a problem I thought. I managed five hundred miles of steady riding on my own before the day came to load up to go. Top box, panniers, tank bag, sat nav, and a full tank of fuel added even more weight to her. She had suddenly changed from a reasonably lithe girlfriend to a rather overweight wife. 

Tim and I met up on the M4 services near Bristol and we linked up with Nick near to the Eurotunnel. All motorway so far and no problems. Once in France and past Paris we moved off the motorways and onto the country roads. It was now that I suddenly started to realise just how much heavier and different the Bird was to the Thundercat. The TDM and Fireblade were much lighter and Tim and Nick were used to them. On the straighter roads I had no problems but on the twistier roads, even gentle bends, I struggled to keep up. Nothing wrong with the bike, it was me, I just couldn’t ride it in the way I did the Cat, I simply wasn’t used to the weight which was the main problem.

We carried on in scorching weather and I tried hard to get to grips with the handling but I didn’t seem to be able to. A heavy downpour in the hot weather didn’t help as it necessitated putting on the one piece waterproofs and it wasn’t long before I started to feel like a boil-in-the-bag meal. 

With the traffic, although quite light on the open country roads, I was falling behind. Halfway along a nice straight tree-lined road I watched Nick and Tim as they disappeared around a fast left. ‘Just one more car in front of me’ I thought, ‘shall I overtake before or after the bend?’ I went for the overtake as I normally would have on the Cat. With the Blackbirds power a fast overtake was easy, then I moved back in and chose my line for the bend. 

It was as I entered the bend that I suddenly realised I had made a massive error of judgement. The fast left was in fact a tight ninety degree plus left and I went into it way too fast. All I can remember was repeating over and over to myself ‘don’t brake, don’t brake, don’t brake…’. I leaned the bike over further that I’d ever had the Thundercat before and somehow got it around. If I‘d grabbed the front brake, which was my overwhelming instinct, I would have gone through a hedge and finished up a few hundred yards off the road in a field. As scares go that was a 9 out of 10 without a doubt and it really shook me up.

What this should have taught me (apart from read the road better!…) was that my newer heavier bike will actually get around sharp corners no problem as long as I use more effort as befits the extra weight. Unfortunately though it had the exact opposite effect and I completely lost my confidence on bends, it had been too big a scare.

We spent nine days in France and as each day came and went I got more nervous. I had another scare on a tight left with a rock face on the outside of the bend. I virtually skimmed the rock face on the way around and decided enough was enough. I had no confidence in getting the bike around any kind of bend and wasn’t enjoying it. I was even braking entering open sweeping bends that I could see right through. The problem was I was trying to keep up with Tim and Nick and the Blackbird was too new to me, I just couldn’t handle it at their pace.

And then there were the ‘humorous’ incidents of twice burning my hand and arm on the exhaust, getting stung by a wasp, and dropping the bike on a French petrol station forecourt walking it around a car (no damage done). All highly amusing to Tim and Nick and they were merciless with the jokes, but all in all I was getting pretty fed up with my choice of bike. In my mind I’d clearly made a big mistake.       

From that point on wherever we went I told them to go on ahead and I’d catch them up as I knew where we’d be going. I didn’t intend to try and keep up any more, it was just getting too dangerous. I decided that when we got back I’d have to sell the Blackbird and get something a little lighter.

Once back at home though and riding alone at my own pace I decided to give the bike a reprieve. I’d give it another two months and see if I could get used to it. For most of those two months I was just trying to get some confidence back and I have to admit it wasn’t easy. The simple fact was the bike scared me after what had happened in France. Slowly though I started to get the hang of it and began to feel more relaxed and this led me to extend the reprieve for another month or two. After clocking up a lot of miles on familiar twisty roads at my pace it finally happened – the bike and I ‘gelled’. Things started to come together quite quickly, my confidence steadily improved and I started to enjoy taking her through the bends.

Eventually at the end of one run I suddenly realised that I was now much more confident and capable on this bike than I ever was on the Thundercat. It took a lot of work to get there but I wouldn’t swop the Blackbird for anything now. It used to scare the hell out of me but now that I’ve learned how to handle it I love it. It’s far more capable than I’ll ever be and it has my utmost respect, but I’m no longer nervous on it, it doesn’t scare me. When I ride now I don’t feel like I’m sitting on it, I feel a part of it.

I guess that this is all obvious stuff to the experienced bikers out there who will probably be laughing by now. To newer riders like myself though with limited experience of changing bikes, particularly to something a fair bit heavier, it’s maybe not so obvious They say that every mistake you make that doesn’t kill you teaches you something… well, I did a lot of learning in France that year! My first big bike upgrade was an experience I wasn’t really expecting and it came as a shock. My advice to other newer riders would be to get used to your new bigger bike at your own steady pace. Don’t rush things and try to keep up with your mates as they’ll be used to their bikes, yours will be new to you and could very likely be a lot different to how you expect it to be. Also if you’re taking your new bike on tour as I did, and it’s a lot heavier than you’re used to, test it out fully loaded. You could well be surprised at how much heavier again it feels.

Am I glad I persevered with the Blackbird ? Absolutely, what a machine! I can’t wait for the next European trip on her now… bring it on…!

For those of you (if any) who took the trouble to read this...  :cheers  I hope it's of interest to some.

UPDATE: She's since toured France again and also Spain, and Ireland twice, and still no plans to change her.  :)

UPDATE - September 2014: I finally exchanged my Blackbird for a Triumph Explorer after many years riding her, and have no regrets in buying her, she was an awesome bike. The Explorer is the new 'awesome bike'.  :thumbup2
« Last Edit: February 19, 2016, 01:58:41 PM by NH »
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nutty

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2013, 10:00:00 PM »
and in the better coours aswel
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kettle feet

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2013, 05:21:59 AM »
That's a good read and defiantly something to consider wish I had done more miles on my own before going out with a group on road I didn't know. Not that I ever felt pressured to "keep up" and didn't even try to but had a couple of scary moments that I would rather now forget about


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ViniH

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2014, 09:45:41 PM »
Great read, thanks for sharing, I'm in a similar boat to yourself, although 20 years your junior, I have recently got my first bike having never ridden before - this post has got me thinking a lot about my own experience (or lack thereof) and how much I still have to learn.

HAROLD BLUERACER

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2014, 10:26:45 AM »
 That was a good read  :Thumb 
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Trafford Davies

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2014, 07:31:36 PM »
Well worth re reading.

Chaps, if you have not been on your bikes for a while do take it easy until you are back in the zone.

son_of_fuzzy

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #6 on: January 26, 2014, 09:11:00 AM »
Good read that NH. :Thumb
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ClimbingAdam

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #7 on: January 26, 2014, 09:51:47 AM »

Well worth re reading.

Chaps, if you have not been on your bikes for a while do take it easy until you are back in the zone.

A very good point - I always hated the phrase "it's just like riding a bike". Get back on a pushbike after a long time off and you're a wobbly mess...

Thanks for the story NH, some food for thought :)

Dave the Rave

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #8 on: January 26, 2014, 04:57:32 PM »
Well worth re reading.

Chaps, if you have not been on your bikes for a while do take it easy until you are back in the zone.


AGREED :ride

sonik

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2014, 08:30:55 PM »
Great read , and very true. I also ride a Blackbird and it really does take a lot of time to get used to the shear weight of the bike. Then with 25 litres of fuel in the tank makes a big difference. I think that's why it was proclaimed to be the fastest sports tourer of it,s day,  IN A STRAIGHT LINE and not around corners   :ride
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NH

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2014, 08:43:57 PM »
She goes around corners good enough as long as you put the right amount of effort in. That's one of the mistakes I was making.  :excited
« Last Edit: April 20, 2014, 06:40:17 PM by NH »
Never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly.

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davertmcc

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2014, 09:57:47 AM »
Great read and so true. I am riding a bmw r1200rt and from my fzr 600 its a big jump. So bends as you say take time. Ride at my own pace untill I master the art. Thanks

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Welldai634

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Re: Thinking of getting a bigger bike ?
« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2014, 10:31:45 PM »
Just found this thread. Great read NH and two valid points jumped out.

As you stated, get used to any new/bigger/faster bike before going on long rides/tours. Build up progressively.

Wether experienced or I experienced, if you ride out in a group and you feel you're riding outside your comfort zone, slow down. If they are good mates, they will wait or make sure they meet you further down the road.