You’ll shoot your eye out

Back in November, I took a weekend long course with Team Oregon, which taught me the basics of (safely) riding a motorcycle. On the third day, there were written and riding tests. Somewhat to my surprise, the instructors handed me an endorsement (1/3rd of the class didn’t), which I would take to the DMV the following Tuesday. Given that my license was up for renewal in just a few weeks, I was able to renew and get the motorcycle classification at the same time, which saved me some money by doing it all at once.

Team Oregon was a great experience. For $179, I spend seven hours in a classroom and eight hours on a small training course learning the basics. I went from never having ridden a motorcycle before to feeling confident enough to want to go get myself a bike. They also offer an intermediate course, but they’re not offering any until March, so I’m on my own until then to practice… in the real world.

Once I wrapped that all up, I decided to get myself a motorcycle. It took me about six weeks of looking at Craigslist, test driving a few bikes, and reading reviews online before I found one that matched my criteria.

Presenting my 2007 Triumph Bonneville.

2007 Triumph Bonneville

Here is what I’ve learned about owning a bike so far.

Motorcycle insurance is cheap
For full coverage, I’m paying about $30/month. I just went with Geico, which is who I have my car insurance with at the moment. When I found a motorcycle, I needed to have coverage on the bike immediately, so was able to call Geico and add this over the phone in about 15 minutes.

Batteries are fickle (but they’re easy to swap out)
It turns out that the battery that was in my bike was nearly dead, so had to spend $70 on a new battery. However, the auto store down the street didn’t have any batteries in my size and said it’d take a few days to order one. I found one at Batteries Plus on NE Broadway. Don’t know if it’s a good battery or not, but it appears to work.

Security is complicated
I live in a small apartment complex that has a small gated parking lot. The gate isn’t always closed, but it does provide for some off-street security for my car (and now motorcycle). I’m just able to park my motorcycle in front of my car. Given that I didn’t go out and by a real cheap one, I’m finding myself a little more protective of it. (I am a little paranoid about theft since I once woke up and found that the wheels were stolen from my car… but that’s a story for another day) I’ve done some research online… and trust me, there are plenty of youtube videos that will trigger paranoia… folks make it look easy to break locks, toss a bike into the back of a truck, etc. Given that I’m not parking it in a garage until I find a new place to live with a garage, I have increased risks to consider.

So… I have started with the following:

  • A U Lock
  • An alarm-enabled disc lock
  • A weather cover

I’m hoping the weather cover, which doesn’t advertise the kind of bike underneath it… along with a few theft deterrents, and typically closed gate will keep it safe. However, I hear that a lot of thefts happen when you park it somewhere to run errands or something. Also… did you know that “bike jacking” was a thing?

Damn those wheel thieves… they’ve tainted my trust in society.

Winter riding is cold
Regardless of how many layers you’re wearing… the fact is, going for a bike ride when it’s 33F outside isn’t terribly fun after about 30 minutes. My gloves are warm, but my fingers didn’t appreciate the cold ride.

You get to pump your own gas (in Oregon)
The day after getting my bike, I realized that there wasn’t a gauge on my bike that informs me how much fuel is left in the tank. I figured that I’d top it off, just to be safe.

I pulled into the Shell station… and opened up my gas tank.

The gas station attendant walked up, asked me what kind I wanted… and then, to my surprise, handed me the nozzle, “here you go.” As she walked away, I found myself standing there… holding the nozzle in a state of confusion. I’m in Portland, Oregon… and I’m allowed to touch the nozzle?! It’s been near 13 years since I last touched a nozzle in this state… the last time being when I found out that I’m not supposed to touch them (right after I moved here).

I filled up the tank… I put in just under two gallons of fuel. Slowly. I realized that there wasn’t anything in the tank to really tell the pump to stop pumping fuel… so I had to pay careful attention as it filled up.

Friends are opinionated
It’s been refreshing to hear so many friends speak up about their concerns for my well-being. A few have said that it was a really bad idea to get a bike… citing how dangerous they are and/or sharing stories about loved ones that they’ve known that had bad crashes. I value their opinions and it’s weird knowing that I’m doing something that not everyone seems to be a big fan of and I find it a motivating factor in me taking time to teach myself more safety tips.

It feels liberating
Riding a motorcycle around town is fantastic. Although, it feels like it takes forever to get from Point A to Point B, which I think is because it takes so much more concentration than driving a car. I’ve really enjoyed my initial rides and hope that it’s not too wet of a Winter as I plan to ride on every dry (and above freezing) day that I can.

What’s next?

I’d like to take the intermediate course when those start back up in the Spring. Until then, I’m going to focus on practicing as much as I can and have picked up a few books on driving tips in various traffic scenarios. There’s also some great videos on youtube (not all of them are of crashes!)

I’d like to avoid having anyone say, “I warned him about getting one of those things. I knew this would happen.”

I don’t want to shoot my eye out.

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3 Responses to You’ll shoot your eye out

  1. RCH says:

    When you pump your gas, make sure they give you a rag to wipe the tank afterwards to avoid damage to the paint!

  2. curt says:

    That’s a great looking bike!

    I took the beginner’s course a couple of years ago and haven’t really felt the need to do the intermediate one — but maybe that’s just asking for trouble.

    I had the same experience with friends expressing concern, some calling it a “donor-cycle.” It’ll be great when it warms up a little and you can get out into some winding roads out of town.

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