Trial by Fire

Yesterday, I decided to bite the bullet, take my neighbor’s advice na magpalakas ng loob (grow a pair), and take the Monster to the open road.

Call it a trial by fire if you will. And in a nutshell, I was able to cover decent ground: started from Valle to Taguig, then went around Taguig (and McKinley Hill) for a while. Then proceeded to go back north via C5 – to Eastwood area, then to Katipunan, past Ateneo, then took a U near UP then went back home.

Later, I went to Motomarket Libis to get a balaclava – but then it drizzled a bit so I returned home immediately and called it a day.

Hola from Taguig!

However, I did learn a few things:

  1. There are only two types of riders: those who have already fallen, and those who are about to.
  2. If you’re not falling, you’re not learning.

You got that right; I learned this the hard way. I fell, twice! But as the sayings go – I did learn a lot from the experience and I still consider the things I did as accomplishments. 1 And now I’ve got “battle scars” to show for it hehehehe And of course, unlike my previous post, this I can consider to be a legitimate post of real-world riding impressions on the actual bike – from the perspective of a total noob.

Crashes and Bloopers

The first accident was a low-side crash 2 A “low side” crash is when the bike loses traction, then lays down and slides ahead (or with) the rider. Literally it falls on it’s “low side” as far as leaning goes. As against a “high side” where the rider goes over, and falls in front of the bike and the bike slides/rolls behind the rider. on my way to the Katipunan area. I entered the tunnel from C5 that connects to Katipunan (right after the flyover) and hadn’t anticipated that a part of it was a bit too sharp a turn. Come to think of it, after the experience, I do remember that “turn” catching me off-guard on my car – I guess I deserved to fall (and thus, proving the the second saying).

Trying to get a 412-pound Monster (how apt a name) up, as I assumed from my previous post was right on the money – it fucking sucks. Thankfully, my neighbor Bam gave me a lot of tips and I actually got to use every last one of them! From using the tank to relieve pressure from your arms (when riding), to putting a fallen [big] bike back up – as I had to do that critical moment. Thankfully, it was a Sunday, so there were no vehicles on the tunnel when I crashed.

The other was more of a blooper than an accident. It was so trivial that it makes me feel so pathetic when I think about it. This was the very last thing that happened in the day – as in I was literally parking the bike (engine off, etc.) in our parking space. Suddenly, the bike started tipping to the right! I strained for about 3 whole seconds trying to keep the bike from falling with my right leg – but alas, its weight and love for gravity quite literally, overpowered my [already injured] right leg. I fell and the bike pinned me.

This was funny because the day was fucking done! I was home, the engine was off and everything. I was literally just maneuvering the bike into our slot. 3 I decided to just put it in between our two cars Then I have to deal with this! It doesn’t help that unlike with the low-side where I was not pinned by the bike (or I had enough clearance to crawl out) – here since it was just a tip over from a standstill, I was properly wedged inside and under – and was now faced with the task of pushing a 412lbs machine off of me – not to mention putting that same machine back up!

So there, I wasn’t perspiring when I started, or even when I got back (apart from the typical perspiration due to wearing my riding gear), now suddenly I’m sweating bullets just because of the very last few minutes I had to do all that shit.

The things I’ve learned

Shifting

Shifting was easier than I had anticipated. I honestly thought I’d be too distracted with the shifting 4 Since this is the first time I ever rode a motorcycle – a manual transmission one at that! that I wouldn’t be able to drive safely. This was actually the very reason why I kept on putting off riding on the main road – because I didn’t know what to expect when I needed to shift. That’s why I chose a Sunday; least cars on the road.

But I found it to be quite straightforward as it is with a manual car. Truth be told, I’m having more trouble actually finding the shifter 5 because my boots are so thick with protection, that I can’t feel if my foot has successfully caught the shifting pin than I am thinking about shifting. So shifting was fairly easy – shifting smoothly on the other hand, is damn near impossible at my current level.

Coming from a car, I actually pride myself in my smooth shifting, (My lancer has paddle shifters so that doesn’t count, but most cars I drove in college were all manual) so it was really frustrating that I can’t get the Monster to transition smoothly during a shift. Either I over-rev, or I end up engine braking, or if ever I do it successfully, there’s a jerk like you would feel when trying to race in a car, but much more pronounced. I’m not sure if that’s normal or if there’s a smoother way of doing it. Again, I have no basis for comparison.

The only consolation is that despite my poor performance, I think I still shift smoother than some tricycles I’ve ridden – I’m just not sure if it’s because I’m just as stupid as they are, or if that’s really how shifting on a motorcycle feels like in general.

To add to that, the friction zone (FZ) 6 That’s the “threshold” where the clutch starts engaging/disengaging the gears. of the clutch is a bit too far. I have small hands, and the FZ is almost where I have to fully extend my fingers – so quite literally, assuming I’m in optimal gripping position, the FZ is when my fingers are almost spread totally out, and the bar is just hooking onto the first crook(s) of my index and middle finger. Isn’t it supposed to be a little more inward so I can get better modulation out of it? Perhaps I have to have the dealer adjust it.

I initially tried to focus on both (shifting and shifting smoothly), but I ended up focusing solely on shifting 7 Get a feel of the proper gear for a given situation, because as you know, the Monster’s gearing is a bit odd, you can probably stay on first for the first 50kph, I’ll try to confirm that in the next ride – and not mind so much whenever I ended up jerking a bit or revving too much.

Brake Lever

The Brembo brakes are impressive and the brake lever is so responsive that it can be operated with one finger. It’s bit scary how effective it is, that even during one-finger operation, I find myself braking too aggressively than I intended to. Hopefully this is just a matter of getting to know the bike more over time. That, and I should learn to use the much weaker (and therefore smoother) rear-brake.

Also, I’m glad that for my Mountain Bike, I had the brake levers reversed – my front brake is on the right as well on the MTB. The logic of that decision at the time was precisely in case I got a motorcycle (better to have the primary brakes on the same side for muscle memory). Looks like I got to reap the benefits of that decision 🙂

Speed

The Monster is quick to say the least. Again, I don’t know if this is how riding a motorcycle should feel, but for me, as of the moment, its potential of acceleration is a bit terrifying.

I was in habit of driving just as fast as the cars surrounding me – basically I was acting like a car, in the proper lane behind another car if need be. The only time I tried overtaking was when I would see motorcycles that were below 400cc overtaking everyone (including me) and I didn’t make it a habit because I would want to avoid splitting lanes as much as possible. Perhaps in time and with experience, I could handle all those “tricks” – but I’m in no rush. Safety first.

I did try opening up the throttle a few times when the coast was clear – and sure enough it’s extremely easy to go past 100, I think I hit 130 in just a few seconds without realizing it. It was like I was just trying to see if I can get to the last gear… and before I knew it was going really fast na pala.

I was terrified for sure, but the reason I “didn’t notice it” was not because the ride was plush like a car with good suspension. 8 Imagine trying to run a car with lousy suspension fast – sometimes even at 120 you think the cars about to fall apart. The reason I wasn’t aware was simply because the sensation of the wind hitting me is alien to me – I didn’t know how to differentiate between wind hitting you while going fast, or wind hitting you while going really fast.

I keep asking myself, “is is normal that the wind is hitting me this hard? Should I be expecting this sort of physical sensation, or am I doing something wrong?” and that sensation pretty much felt the same after I hit a certain speed – and faster. It’s like once you’re doing 80 or 130 the wind hitting me feels the same way; A LOT.

If you’d make me describe the feeling of wind on a relative scale from a speed of 0 to 100kph it feels like this to me:

Which makes sense coming from a bicycle. Because you can feel that wind as well when riding downhill on a flat road – and you can feel like your going fast, which you are – relative to what you’re using. But compared to a motorcycle of any displacement, bicycle speeds of non-professional riders is probably not even worth noting.

But going back to the diagram, that’s how it feels to me. Perhaps I should start “adjusting” what to expect as far as wind drag goes when dealing with motorcycles.

Signalling

I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t used my signal lights at all yesterday. I guess I was too preoccupied with learning how to shift gears, modulate the clutch, control the throttle, turn, keep my speed, etc. I was of course aware of this lack of signalling, but what I did instead was to only shift lanes when I was absolutely sure no one was on the other side. If there was, then I would just stay put (even if I knew I had enough torque to do the job) and follow the car in front of me no matter how slow it was. At high(isn) speed, I never tried shifting lanes just to avoid a slow car in front of me – I’d sooner just slow down myself then triple check if I could overtake.

I should really start using them, though. After all, signalling will benefit me as well as the other vehicles on the road.

Invest in Protection!

Well, because of the fall, I will definitely follow Bam’s advice (it’s good advice, but now I’ll consider it dogma) No matter how hot, sweaty you are, no matter how close you think you are to your destination, wear the protective gear you have.

I’m also glad about the sliders I bought; they did their job wonderfully. That low side, looking back, was actually probably more serious than I had remembered it to be – of course, the sliders are scraped/banged up, and my rear-brake pin broke off but I’m not complaining; the bike itself is totally unscathed.

I only got moderately serious flesh would on my knee (nothing debilitating, though) enough to make me wear my MTB knee pads inside my pants the second time I went out. 9 And hating myself for not thinking about wearing them sooner My pinky was scraped as well, and a bit sprained. Considering the glove I had had DCP which specifically saves the pinky from dislocating – the fact that I still have a bit of a sprain (and that the road tore through the glove and onto the flesh suggests that it could’ve been much worse had I fallen with improper riding gloves.

ROI

I’m also glad that I bought the Riozma rearset at the last minute, because the OEM rear brake lever/pin is a single forged piece so if that was installed during the low side, it most likely would’ve broken the entire rear brake system. Rizoma rearsets on the other hand, have interchangeable and replaceable pins – and given that a low side crash has the propensity to break those pins off easily, I’ve just ordered 3 spares to be safe: one to replace the broken one. The second so I can always bring one extra along in case of an emergency, and the third stays at home as a spare.

I also recommend a balaclava, if you don’t want your sweat to go straight to your helmet’s liner, might as well just use a balaclava to catch the sweat. Dainese balaclavas are made from coolmax fabric. That way you won’t have to wash your helmets anymore – unless something extraordinary happens.

Now to find some knee guards that can be worn under jeans. The only time I intend to ride with proper riding pants is if it’s a really long ride, or if in a track (but then I’d probably get a legit tracksuit for that) – other than those two situations, I will avoid riding pants the same way I avoid wearing lycra cycling shorts.

That, and of course… ride, ride, and then ride some more 🙂

Notes   [ + ]

1. And now I’ve got “battle scars” to show for it hehehehe
2. A “low side” crash is when the bike loses traction, then lays down and slides ahead (or with) the rider. Literally it falls on it’s “low side” as far as leaning goes. As against a “high side” where the rider goes over, and falls in front of the bike and the bike slides/rolls behind the rider.
3. I decided to just put it in between our two cars
4. Since this is the first time I ever rode a motorcycle – a manual transmission one at that!
5. because my boots are so thick with protection, that I can’t feel if my foot has successfully caught the shifting pin
6. That’s the “threshold” where the clutch starts engaging/disengaging the gears.
7. Get a feel of the proper gear for a given situation, because as you know, the Monster’s gearing is a bit odd, you can probably stay on first for the first 50kph, I’ll try to confirm that in the next ride
8. Imagine trying to run a car with lousy suspension fast – sometimes even at 120 you think the cars about to fall apart.
9. And hating myself for not thinking about wearing them sooner

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