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For Starters

Street Tips: Daily riders face an exceedingly high level of danger as major traffic areas become more congested and drivers take on wild maneuvers that can bang up an automobile ... but leave a motorcyclist without some limbs, or worse. Exposure to "cagers" is very risky business for a motorcyclist due to the comparatively small size and low visibility amidst busy traffic. We all know that cagers have plenty of guaranteed distractions and more often than not, will not pay as much attention to their immediate surroundings as an attentive motorcyclist. My personal strategy is simple ... stay visible! Here are a few tips on avoiding the smack by a cager in heavy traffic:

  • Try to keep out of blind spots by staying a few feet in front or behind the bumper of a nearby vehicle
  • Never stay side by side and assume they will see you ... Chances are they will not hesitate to take your lane even if you are in it
  • Try to stay just a touch above the normal flow of traffic (not too much) as you will be forced to concentrate more on the front of your vehicle where most of your attention is already focused
  • Motorcycle mirrors are for the most part limited in view, but it is imperative that you consistently check your mirrors, especially at stop signs and signal lights
  • Do not let your guard down and relax even for a moment, be in hyper-sensitive mode to your surroundings (not hyper-speed)
  • Stay out of the way of excessive traffic by speeding up or changing lanes
  • Avoid rush hour if possible as this not only decreases the risk of becoming a cager attack victim, but also reduces the chances of your motor building excessive heat in stop and go (more stop than go) traffic ... most motorcycles are not designed to run at idle for long periods of time
  • Use highbeams during the day when not directly behind another vehicle


Braking
  • Be confident with the front brakes, but do not use them alone; They provide most of your stopping power. Focus on learning to master the balance between the front and rear brake pressure for quick and controlled stops for your particular model
  • Rear brake should accent the front brake, skidding should be minimal and controlled in panic stops ... if the rear wheels starts to skid, release the rear brake slightly and re-apply (unless you have ABS)

Breaking In Your New Bike

  • Take it easy for the first 1000 miles: the theory here is that there are many components that may or may not have been installed or tightened properly from the factory. If this is the case, you don't want to find out while dragging a peg mid-corner. Within 1000 miles, you will more than likely shake out any general bugs.
  • Let the tires wear in for about 100 miles before trying anything aggressive, and doing some safe weaving can "burn" in the edges if you are so inclined to use all of the edge rubber.
  • With todays engines, a few brisk runs close to redline will probably do it some good
  • Do not let the motor overheat ... especially in its youth; this is the worst thing you can do besides running the motor with no oil
  • At a minimum, change the oil and filter near the 1000 mile mark
  • Check the valve clearances if applicable on your machine

Slick Issues

  • Clean oil is obviously important, but with so many oil options you may want to research what viscosity is best for your particular motor
  • Castrol 20w/50 is a good all around motorcycle oil for most Texas riding conditions, is easy to find and not very expensive
  • For a few extra bucks you can go with motorcycle branded oils such as Hondalube or Yamalube as they are designed for motorcycle clutch lubrication and have a solid reputation
  • For the fanatics, Amsoil and Mobil 1 for motorcycles is a good option for seasoned motors


Chains

  • Lube every 400-600 miles.
  • Use 90w oil for added protection on O-ring chains if you don't mind a little mess.
  • I prefer VP Chain Glide, but it can be hard to find
  • Chain tension is very important and can change the dynamics of your motorcycles drivability ... keep it in spec if possible, but it is better to run a tad loose than a tad tight


Rain Riding

  • Ride lightly and conservatively especially in braking and cornering.
  • Do not ride in the center of the lane in heavily traveled areas due to grease and oil build up.
  • With bigger motors be careful during accelerating ... the rear can spin out as if it were on ice.
  • Find a place to stop and wait it out if you can


Riding in Groups
  • It is funner, safer and with AMA chartered riding clubs you can qualify for up to 10% (or more) discount on your insurance.
  • Stay in staggered formation unless you "need" to break out for a good reason
  • Learn the hand signals for your riding group to help keep the pack informed of road conditions, obstacles and other hazards
  • Save racing for the track (or a really, really, really remote road with no traffic, deer or police)
  • Other riders can spot you gas, medical help or a couple of bucks for lunch.
  • I always have fun on my motorcycle, but it is so much more when you can share it with friends and reminisce a good ride over a cold beverage ... after the ride!


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