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My Honda Rebel Blog for May, 2005
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

* November blog * * October blog * * September blog * * August blog * * July blog * * June blog * * May blog *

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May 31, 2005:

I got in a short ride this morning before work. Very pleasant. Made it to mile 105 on the tripometer. Only one thing of note happened. Today was trash pick up day. As I was going down 10th street a big trash truck was backing up onto 10th from a side parking lot. Not at an intersection. Anyway, for whatever stupid reason, I kept going, assuming he would see me or that I could whip around him before he totally blocked the lanes. Several mistakes there. First, the truck was so big I did not have a clear view of oncoming traffic. Second, my "plan" was to whip around, which would put me in the oncoming lane of traffic, when the view was "somewhat" obstructed. I had a good view before he continued to back up, but a car turning left onto 10th would be completely obscured. I forgot that possibility. Third, I went ahead and whipped around the truck instead of stopping. Why? I don't know. I was in no hurry. Turned out alright, but why press the odds. Smarter thing would have been to stop. Live and learn, if you're lucky.

Tuesday night Maria and I went to pick up the metal plates for the bike. I checked out saddlebags for the Rebel, but was concerned about them interfering with the spokes and back brake cable. Passed them up for now. I've got to do something for storage if this bike is to be a practical form of transportation, even for short errands. Hard to drive while holding a jug of milk.

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May 30, 2005:

This was planned as a milestone day. It is Monday, and Memorial Day. I figured traffic on Memorial Drive would be minimal in the morning, and I could take the Rebel out for a 50 mph ride. Unfortunately, we got two inches of rain overnight, so the streets were wet early this morning. No matter. By the time I got some household chores done it was a little after noon. I headed out to Memorial via Height Boulevard. Made the loop at Memorial and cranked it up.

At first it required conscious effort to get the bike up to 50 and keep it there. But after a few minutes it was easy. Some traffic, but not much. Good planning. I drove all the way to Louisiana Street in downtown and U-turned back onto Prairie for the ride westbound on Memorial. I got the bike up to 56 mph*--to keep with the flow of traffic.

Bumps in the road, and there are bumps, feel especially exciting at 50. So does the effect of the wind on you and your bike. But I knew that the bike would go fine in a straight direction, if I didn't fight it. So I didn't.

Turns at 50 mph, even gradual ones, do require countersteering and leaning the bike. Not hard to do, but necessary. I practiced changing lanes a lot. Head check, turn signals, looking out ahead. I felt very confident.

I went down past Shepherd and turned around for a trip back downtown. Instead of another U-turn on Louisiana I took a side street and went to the downtown post office. Just like I have done so many times after work. No problems.

I got back on Memorial and took it to Memorial Park. Seeing the park from the top of a bike is a new perspective. Lots of time to see the joggers, who were out in force. Didn't see anyone I know, however. I ended up on Westcott, which I took to Washington, and headed east. At TC Jester I took a left. As I was north-bound on TC Jester, a train showed up. Rather than wait, I ud-turned and went back to Washington, then to Heights, then weaved my way back home. The ride lasted a little more than an hour, and I now have 100 miles on the bike. Another great ride, although I missed a couple of shifts at the end. Must have been tired.

I'm back home now, and ready for a beer. This riding is playing havoc with my drinking! I have to decide between drinking and riding! I guess no more rides for today. Rain is expected anyway. Gee, this is fun.

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May 29, 2005:

After driving back from Laredo, I decided to get in a quick ride before the rains came. It was thundering, on and off, but no nearby lightning. I went up and down Heights and Waugh and got in a 10 mile ride. Now at mile 75. It was another near-perfect ride. The only eventful thing was having to perform a relatively "quick" stop when a light turned yellow as I approached at 35 mph. My practice is to mentally decide when I still have room to stop and when I will gun it if the light turns to yellow when approaching such lights. I was still in the "room to stop" mode when the light turned yellow. This is an excellent way to practice quick stops, since an "outside authority" tells you when to brake. I don't think the Rebel has the sensitive front brakes the Buell Blast had, which is a good thing. I have had no trouble stopping the Rebel, without locking the wheels. I'm glad to have two great rides in a row, even with a Saturday off!

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May 28, 2005:

This is my first day without riding since I got the bike. My excuse is that I was in Laredo and the bike was in Houston. I made up for it by stopping at three of the four motorcycle shops in Laredo. I love the Laredo Harley Davidson shop. The nicest thing about it is the sticker prices are on each and every bike. That is not my experience with Harley dealers in Houston. The Suzuki shop had Draggin' Jeans. I tried on a pair, but I wanted the version with armor, so I didn't buy them. I'll probably mail order a pair on Tuesday. These jeans are made with Kevlar, and offer several times the protection of regular denim jeans. And there is no way I am going to wear chaps for neighborhood rides. These jeans should give added protection without advertising that fact. Just what I'm looking for.

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May 27, 2005:

I got in a short (5 mile) ride before work. Had to really squeeze because I had a client coming in at 9 am. Nothing remarkable about the ride except it was the first one with no major goofs. A near perfect ride. I say "near perfect" because I have high standards and because even little goofs are valuable lessons on a motorcycle. Still, except for a few rough shifts, the ride was very good. Glad I fit it in. Up to mile 65.

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May 26, 2005:

After last evening's ride, I could think of nothing to do but repeat that turn off Waugh. Like they say, if you fall off a horse, the only thing is to get back on. So on this morning's ride I weaved my way down to 6th Street (practicing right-hand turns all the way) and headed for Waugh. I rode Waugh all the way to 20th, and made the turn, albeit at a much lower speed. Stayed in my lane. All-in-all, a nice ride. Made it to mile 60.

Reflections: On the way to work (in my car) I paid attention to how fast I go in a car when I make right-hand turns. I usually make them at around 20 mph. When I was behind other cars that were turning right, they also made their turns at around 20 mph. This is the sharp, right-hand turn inside the city. So, probably, the problem is that I am trying to take the turns too fast on my bike.

Unfortunately, I did not get to try out my theory this evening. We had a light rain and I decided not to learn how to ride on wet streets yet.

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May 25, 2005:

I took a morning ride and boosted my mileage to 50 miles. I had two interesting incidents during the morning ride. First, I was on Harvard Street, going south. A car was on Harvard going north. We both had the stop sign at 10th. Anyway, a van was headed eastbound on 10th. I was stopped. The van turned right onto Harvard, going south. I checked the traffic to my left. It was clear, so I headed out. Oops! The van had come to a stop immediately after turning right to let kids out. As I started out, there was a van taking up the whole lane. Fortunately, I had just started out and was able to stop. My mistake was in not rechecking my direction of traffic after checking to my left. I assumed that I had an all-clear for my direction of travel because I ssumed the van would keep going. Wrong.

The other incident occurred as I was going southbound on Beverly. I pulled up to the stop sign at 8 - 1/2. A car was coming toward me, also with a stop. I noticed a parked pickup truck just off the road to my left. Something didn't look right about it. This registered subliminally. Anyway, I keep staring at the pickup truck. Without any warning, it pulled out, at full speed, from the parking lane, and proceeded through the intersection. It would have hit me if I had gone forward after stopping for the stop sign. Pay attention to that inner voice saying something is not as it should be.

My evening ride took place around 8 p.m. Still light out. I was working around the house till then, and glad to be on the bike. I worked my way over to Waugh, and headed north. Speed limit 35 mph. Traffic was going at a good clip, but I didn't feel threatened. I got it up to 45 mph*, a new record. As I approached the light at 20th (doing around 35 mph) I decided to turn right. I guess my speed was way over my limit. I made my first serious mistake on the bike. As I turned right, my turn was too fast, and I could not keep the bike in my lane. Fortunately, no one was in the oncoming lane, because I went way over the center line. Now I have experienced what it feels like to go too fast into a curve. By the way, I had a death grip on the clutch, so when I tried to power my way into a sharper turn, nothing happened. I realized what I had done, but it was too late. I did manage to resist the urge to squeeze the brakes during the turn, but only because I was sure I had room to finish the turn, even across the center line. I have read numerous accounts by David Hough in his Proficient Motorcycling series about turning too wide, but this was my first "first-hand" experience with it. I have figured out two things I could have done, once in the midst of the situation, to correct the matter. One is to consciously countersteer. I should hve given the right handle a shove forward to sharpen my turn. The other thing is to look where I want to go. I should have turned my head sharply to the right to tighen the turn. Hopefully, I'll remember these things next time. Hopefully, I'll slow down when enterning a sharp turn.

You would have thought I would have learned a valuable lesson, but no. A few minutes later I was making a left turn at speed when I ran off the road into the grass. This was the first time I have had trouble with a left hand turn. Because they are so much more "sweeping," they have not presented much of a problem. But this time I was going too fast, and got out of my lane again. Fortunately, nothing was "parked" on the grass, so no harm done this time.

After this, I decided it was time to head home, which I did without incident. Managed to get to mile 55 on the tripometer.

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May 24, 2005:

This morning's ride was uneventful. I did venture onto Heights Boulevard, all the way to 20th. Lots of traffic. But we went along at 30-35 mph (except school zones) and everything was fine.

Tuesday evening I also went out for a spin. I worked my way over to 11th street because I wanted to try for some speed. I got it up to 42 mph, at least momentarily. When going down 11th Street (at about 35 mph) I discovered another truth about motorcycle riding: Turning right at 30 to 35 mph is no fun. As I was going down 11th, a car was right on my butt. Almost tailgating me. Or so it seemed. In a car I would slow down, and rely on the bulk of the car to make the other car slow down too. On my bike I was a little concerned that if I dropped down to 20 mph to make the hard right turn, I would be rearended. I decided to keep going straight for the moment. Just as I made that decision, the car behind me made its own right hand turn. So I turned right at the next block, with no one following. I have to work on turning hard right at 25 to 30 mph.

I worked my way down to 6th street and decided to make another right-hand turn. I was doing about 35 mph. No one was behind me. So, although I slowed down a little, I decided to make the turn at speed. Just as I committed to the turn, a car in the side street where I was headed pulled up to the stop sign. I had to make my turn within the limits of my lane, or crash. I also hit the front brakes lightly while in my turn, even though my "mind" said not too. Braking during the turn is a sure way to lose control. I made it, but not before contemplating skidding out. The thought was there before I knew it. But I quickly erased it and countersteered into the turn. Made it easily. Once again, I am thankful for these (relatively) slow speed problems and that I have the time to work out the solution. Up to mile 44 on the tripometer. 48 on the odometer. Nice ride, all in all.

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May 23, 2005:

Today's rides were uneventful, for the most part. I once again confirmed that speed bumps are lots of fun on a motorcycle. Even at 35 mph, it is easy to control the bike. I did learn another truth about motorcycling: Cars don't want to wait for you to have a long, long clear shot before crossing a busy street, like 11th. After waiting some time for both lanes to clean for a sufficient length for me to be comfortable pulling across 11th, I gave up and turned right. Much easier. But I still have to work on my pull outs from a complete stop.

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May 22, 2005:

On a Sunday you would think I could get in lots of seat time. Not so. So many "honey do's" to take care of. Today was extremely hot. Well over 100 degrees. We had to clean up the garage to make room for the motorcycle. Lots of rearranging, and lots of throwing things away. I believe it when they say junk expands to fill available space!

Even though we drank gatoraide, water and ice tea, I felt I might be suffering from the effects of the heat, and I was hesitant to go out riding when my brain was stressed. But the temperature cooled off around 6:30 pm (and Eric and Jason, a couple of the neighborhood boys, came by to watch me ride). So I suited up and went out for a short ride. The Vanson textile jacket lets in a good breeze, and everything felt cool. No pun intended.

I rode around the neighborhood for a while and ended up at 6th street, and turned east to head back home. As I was tooling down the street I experienced my first "left-turner." A big, black van was stopped on Oxford, and, from the angle of the wheels, was intending to turn left onto 6th. I needed to turn left onto Oxford. My concern was to make sure the driver saw me, and didn't pull out just as I was turning in. The driver started to pull out right in front of me, even though my blinker was on and the headlight was also on. I started to brake, and try to figure out where I was going to go (not onto Oxford, that was for sure!), when the driver finally registered that a bike was approaching. He came to a sudden stop, so I (wisely or not) went ahead and turned left onto Oxford. Not really that close of a call, but it was a textbook example of the danger from left turning vehicles. Once again, I am glad these "tests" have had such a wide margin of error.

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May 21, 2005:

Thursday I bought my first motorcycle. I got it at Stubbs Cycles on Telephone Road. It's a Honda Rebel 250. I told them I would pick it up Saturday morning, when traffic would be minimal. Even though I took the Rider's Edge course from Stubbs, we did not do any street riding. Or even get over 20-30 mph.

So I knew it would be an adventure getting the bike home. It's a ten mile trip. I know because I clocked it on the odometer. After 5-10 minutes circling the parking lot at Stubbs to get my sea legs back, I headed out, with Maria guarding my six.

Boy, I didn't realize how many stop lights there are on Telephone Road. And pot holes. And traffic, even on Saturday morning.

The trip proceeded without incident until we got to the Heights. Then I had to use my training. A car decided to back out of a parking lot, just as I was about to pass it. And, of course, a car was coming at me in the oncoming lane, so I couldn't just swerve out of the way. Quick braking provided safety.

Then, a couple of blocks later, as I was making a right-hand turn into the neighborhood, what did I see but a guy on a ten speed in the wrong lane. In my lane. I heard him yell some choice words, but swerved around him, after giving us both a scare.

Made it home safely, however. Then went out again to a parking lot and practiced sharp turns and quick stops. I used the old HEB Pantry lot on 11th. I practiced until I started making "errors." Twice, on tight turns, if felt like the wheels were about to slip out from under me. The parking lot had some sand and some dirt. Once, when practicing quick stops, I locked the wheels in a skid.

Most of the neighbors saw the bike on Saturday. The boys were especially impressed. Even though it's not a Harley.

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*Note to Law Enforcement:

All statements of speeds on various streets are simple estimates, and solely for novelity purposes. Actual speeds vary, but are always lower. I'm sure that legal speed limits are never exceeded, anything in this blog to the contrary nowithstanding.

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