Riding my Monster

Well, after days of finding excuses to put it off, I finally mustered up the courage to ride my new bike. And just to manage reader expectations, I’d like to make it clear that I did not put it through its paces… far from it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do want to ride it, it’s just that the venue is a bit unnerving. I’m a total noob in riding a motorcycle – so I have no idea whatsoever what to expect from a “handling” perspective. I do intend to take lessons, but I still want to be able to ride my bike as I go along.

I wish I still lived in a subdivision, where the roads are wider, the houses are further apart. And the overall area is not so busy as it is in our condo cluster. I want to be able to practice where I can experiment without anyone seeing me make a fool of myself. Obviously that’s impossible in our area. The guards, the maids, everyone is within ear/eyeshot so it’s like there’s so much pressure just not to fall.

So my friend Paul (who rides motorcycles) stopped by today to teach me the basics of riding a big bike – or in my case, a motorcycle in general hehehe. Nothing fancy, just what we would call atras-abante to get a feel of how to operate the clutch. Hell, I even haven’t got to actual shifting beyond 1st and neutral – partly because the Monster’s gearing in particular seems to be at home at higher speeds – so I’m not even sure if you can even get to 2nd without the engine complaining. According to Paul (who did the actual road test outside, while I waited in the safety of our condo) if you even try to shift to second at what you’d think would be a normal “2nd gear speed”, you can already feel that tell-tale sign of the engine wanting to stall… so even he was in 1st gear most of the time.

Anyways, back to the atras-abante, I put in some U-turns as well – but not the legit kind of U-turn, just to get a handle of how I could manoeuvre the bike at walking pace (for parking, etc.). I kept my feet out just like when I was learning how to ride a bike (ah the childhood memories!)

Here’s what I found out from the whole experience:

Big bikes are REALLY HEAVY.

Of course I don’t have any basis of comparison (or maybe because I’m really such a weakling) – since this is my first ever motorcycle (and motorcycle ride for that matter), but my god, it’s fucking heavy!

And it’s not the it-just-takes-a-bit-more-effort kind of heavy, but the oh-my-god-if-this-so-much-as-tilts-the-other-way-while-I'm-unmounted-on-the-other-side-there's-no-way-in-hell-that-i'm-going-to-prevent-it-from-falling kind of heavy… the even-if-I-have-my-foot-out-and-the-bike-leans-too-much-I'll-probably-still-fall-and-get-crushed-by-it kind of heavy.

Seriously, as in one of my legitimate dilemmas is how to actually bring this up the sidewalk along where the other motorcycles (of a different homeowner) are parked. I guess if I was driving it up it would be fine – assuming the most sensible point of entry isn’t being blocked by cars. If it is, I might have to just push it up with the engine dead – and I sure as hell can’t get enough speed when I’m on it – then the alternative is to do a running start while I’m off it (which compromises balance given its weight). It really is a problem given how small I am.

It’s easier the faster you go.

Paul was right, of course. But it does make for quite a dilemma especially for someone who has never ridden a motorcycle before. Because here’s the deal – it’s all about the turning. And turning at low speed sucks.

Now I’d like to think I can mountain bike aggressively downhill, I respect the dangers, but I can keep my fears in check because I have a decent idea of how the bike handles: I know that this amount of lean, and that amount of turning, etc. will give a certain result – and I can do this comfortably at speed.

With the motorcycle, speed certainly is your friend, just like with the bicycle. But without an inkling of how it should “feel” when you turn at speed, then you can understand why I’m a bit hesitant to take that very counter-intuitive leap of faith.

With a bicycle, you know you always have the option of just taking it slow when you’re not sure. But with a motorcycle, apparently it’s the opposite; the slower you are, the harder it is. But then if you speed up, sure it becomes “easier” but also will have more dangerous consequences should you miscalculate. It’s that possibility of miscalculation that terrifies me.

My neighbor Bam articulated it best: “Kelangan malakas ang loob mo, at wag ka negative mag-isip” (you should have fortitude, and never think about the bad things that could happen.)

And that’s the dilemma: to be able to ride safer, you have to ride effectively and you can only ride effectively if you ride… well faster.

So I guess I’m really going to have to take riding lessons one of these days.

795/696 frame is the frame for me

I’m now certain more than ever that not getting the 796 (just because of the appeal of the single sided swing arm) was the right decision.

The 795 and 696 are practically the smallest bikes out of all the Ducatis across the board. Yet even with my riding boots, 1 Which put more height from my normal FiveFingers I was still tiptoeing! That, compounded with the bike’s weight, makes it really difficult to Flintstone it (move with your feet) given how high this “smallest” frame still is. So my next project is to get a low seat.

I need to work out

First I need to get physically stronger obviously because of the sheer weight of what I’ll be dealing with. If I plan to ride this alone, and park it alone, etc. then I should at least be able to handle it without any help – yes, that includes falling over, and having to put it back up – which honestly at this point, I have no idea how I’m going to manage that. I really have to strengthen up.

So, I’ll finally get to use you after all

I’ll also have to get more flexibile; continuous mounting/dismounting already made my legs and thighs a bit sore. It felt quite pathetic that just putting your legs over something could give you that much strain. I really have to fix that.

Steering Damper FTW

I’ll be honest, I only got a steering damper for the Monster because it was on clearance ($200 off!), if it weren’t it’d be at the last of my list.

I know the uses/benefits of a steering damper, but I also am aware that for the most part, it’s virtually useless in street/city riding. However my neighbor bam is motorcycle reviewer for various magazines; and he said one of the problems of the Monster 795 (or perhaps monsters in general?) is that it’s “malikot” (fidgety).

Now, I don’t know if this observation was because he had actually driven the motorcycle at speeds that would utilize the benefit of the damper, or if the observation included normal city riding. But in any case, one of his first recommendations was to put a damper on it. So I guess getting it on clearance did more than just save me a couple of hundred bucks 🙂

Nothing sounds like a Ducati

I’ve heard Ducatistas throw that phrase around – and while I don’t necessarily have the experience to be able to compare different bike sounds, I can understand what probably made them say it. That desmodromic engine, I have to admit sounds heavenly. Revving up the Monster, it kinda speaks to the soul. It’s like the bike’s telling me with each rev “Hey there, let’s play… don’t worry, I can handle it”

The only thing that keeps me from appreciating it fully is the fact that I tend to get concerned about disturbing the neighbors.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Which put more height from my normal FiveFingers

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