What I Ride, and learning to Ride


I mentioned a day or so ago that I have a motorcycle. A little clarification is in
order.

I started riding in 1986 when my 1969
Citroen Safari
broke a timing chain at 70 MPH, and embedded a couple of valves
in the pistons. It was either a cheap car or a decent motorcycle, and a Honda
FT500
made its way to my apartment. After a few months of riding, I got my endorsement,
and started riding from time to time. Kim was also interested in riding, but the FT
was a bit tall for her, and her attempts were not successful.

Enter the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
MSF was formed in the 1970s to provide, not surprisingly, motorcycle training. I took
their Experienced Rider
Course
, and Kim took the basic
course
. The basic course is a wonderful way to find out if you really want to
ride a motorcycle - the course provides motorcycles, helmets, and a world-class
curriculum, all for a few hundred dollars or less. In many states, you walk
away from the course having earned a motorcycle endorsement (assuming you pass).

Kim’s success led to a 1988
Ninja 250
for her, which was soon followed by a 1989
EX500
 for me, followed closely after by an MSF instructor course for me.

MSF takes its instructor training very seriously, and I spent 10 days doing nothing
but motorcycle training. After that, I taught a lot of classes, and did a lot of riding,
commuting year round by motorcycle for about a decade. The Ninja 250 was replaced
by a CBR600F2 for Kim,
and a few years later, my EX500, having hit 50K miles, was replaced with a 1997
VFR750
, my current bike (though mine is a bit more customized than this one).

Kim liked the power of her CBR, but it’s a little too tall for her (she’s somewhat
height-challenged). So, where do you find front-line sportbikes for people who are
a bit on the short side? The answer is
obvious. All the Japanese manufacturers make home market bikes that would be perfect.
A friend led me to somebody who imports Japanese-spec bikes and registers, and the
CBR was soon replaced with a very rare in the states Honda CBR400RR,
which is pretty much the perfect wife for Kim

Then, a few years ago I moved near the Microsoft campus and got a lot more busy, so
I had to give up teaching motorcycle safety, and I still have a hard time finding
time to ride.

I missed a few high points, including an introduction to the pavement, riding a GP
spec 125cc bike, and being a passenger around a racetrack at 130MPH, but that’s for
another entry.


Comments (14)

  1. Glad to hear another MSF success story. And how cool that you’re an instructor as well!

    I took the MSF course before ever getting a bike, and I credit MSF with the fact that I’ve yet to lay my bike down (though I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve dropped it while standing more than once). My wife took the course as well, and enjoyed it, but not enough to become a regular rider. So she’s stuck with the passenger role.

    I’ve noticed the last couple of times I was in Redmond that a lot more folks ride up there than I would’ve expected, given the weather. Certainly more so than here in the other Washington. Any insights as to the (seemingly) greater popularity of motorcycles up there?

  2. Werner says:

    Eric, it is a real pity you don’t get to ride more often. I know you live close but have you tried too commute again using the bike? I also live close to work, and don’t have too many opportunities to ride, but I find myself frequently taking the ‘long road’ to work, which is about half an hour instead of 5 minutes. This somewhat eases the pain …

    Werner (BMW R1200C)

  3. eric says:

    G. Andrew:

    One of the reasons that the Northwest has more riders is because the weather is conducive to year-round riding. The winter isn’t cold enough to be icy or snowy for more than a few days each winter, and the summer isn’t hot enough (usually – yesterday was 92 degrees) to make riding tedious. And contrary to popular opinion, it really doesn’t rain that much in Seattle – we have lots of 45 degree and cloudy days, and those are no problem.

    It’s also because of our natural zest for life, and the great natural scenery.

    Werner:

    I’ve been trying to make an effort here, but it’s tough. I don’t want to ride the bike for only 2 miles, and while I sometimes take the long road to work, I don’t often have the time. I also have schedules that vary widely – sometimes I need to take my daughter to school, sometimes I need to get to the gym. I’m usually carrying my laptop, which I have a backpack for, but it’s not waterproof.

    Those are only excuses. A more pertinent reason is that I’ve been spending a lot of time on my bicycle…

  4. Jim Argeropoulos says:

    The bicycle is what I thought you were going to talk about when I first ready your title.

    Personally I have never had much interest in internal combustion driven bikes. But I love to pedal! I commute daily (a whopping 1 mile each way) and ride with others as often as the family commitments will allow. Unfortunately I don’t have much of a bike to brag on. But it gets me where I want and lets me keep up with the "hammer head club" once a week. Plans are that next year I will upgrade to a carbon fiber bike. That is a long awaited prize.

  5. Jim Argeropoulos says:

    I love the Citroen!
    They have always been one of the "cool" cars on my list. But, living in the States, I don’t want to own one. Too hard to find parts and people who have even a remote clue when working on one. I can do minor stuff to a car and I am willing to try a fair amount on my own with a little help, but I need a real mechanic to back me up for serious things.

    Cool car.

  6. jordany says:

    hi, im a young student in high school in miami and i love to become a motorcycle rider but i dont kno what i need to become a rider and i have no training…would u help me on some tips and tell me where i can get a license to ride a motorcyle especally a ninja which is my favorite one..if its not too much trouble could u send me the info and tips V.I.A e-mail. at jordany2002@yahoo.com

  7. Sean Schade says:

    It’s great to see other riders in this industry. I also had a Ninja 250. I know do club level racing with WERA on a Honda CBR 600RR.

    Check out my pictures section if you’re interested.

    http://blog.magenic.com/seans/archive/2004/03/19/168.aspx

  8. Wolf Logan says:

    I don’t know if I’m still considered "in the industry" (I’ve been looking for work for three years now), but I ride a buell S3 thunderbolt. when I *was* working, it was great for skipping through the notorious silicon valley traffic during the week, then riding in the hills on the weekends.

  9. MBA says:

    Helpful For MBA Fans.

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