On becoming a motorcyclist
My purchase of a 2002 Ducati Monster 620ie has me planted firmly into a new subculture usually associated with leather, rebellion and general bad-assery. I am now a motorcyclist.
This journey began as a result of my brother Eric's initiation into the fraternity with his purchase of a 50cc scooter, and later a Kawasaki Ninja 500. It was heightened when I took, and passed, the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider course, which I've written about in the past.
But in no way would I consider myself a bad-ass yet. That won't happen for another couple hundred, or thousand, miles.
My first motorcycle is a 2002 Ducati Monster 620ie. I purchased it used on Craigslist with only 7,500 miles, and in mint condition.
Credit: Patrick Beeson
Finding a motorcycle
As my newly-minted wife will tell you, I didn't intend getting a motorcycle this soon. But finding a well-kept, low mileage bike of this vintage doesn't come along everyday. And it's one-third the cost of a new model.
I found my bike on the infamous free classified Web site Craigslist, which I had previously thought to contain a lot of cruisers and liter-sport bikes, but no European mid-sized models.
This particular bike has only 7,500 miles, and was owned by Dan Paransky, a mad-genius engineer/fabricator that also happens to work on Ducati motorcycles as part of his day-job. Needless to say, it's in fantastic condition, and a joy to ride and admire.
Riding the motorcycle
My first ride on my motorcycle was around a nearby neighborhood that offered quiet, low-traffic streets on which to learn the bike's mannerisms. And yes, I was scared shitless as I pulled out of the apartment complex.
Riding a motorcycle on a public road for the first time is like driving a car for the first time -- you pay too much attention to the big picture, and not enough to the smaller items, like turn signals and mirror checks. It's also amazing how fast you feel like you're going despite a relatively minor speed on the gauge.
In the week since I purchased the bike, I've ridden a variety of roads including a few Hardin Valley back-roads and a brief stint on Pellissippi Parkway, which was way to fast for my comfort level (or hearing).
Maintaining the motorcycle
Since I have the pleasure (or not) of living in an apartment complex, I'm relegated to parking the bike outside. But I've purchased a bike cover from the fantastic folks at Cycle Gear to combat the elements.
The bike had just been given its 10,000 kilometer service, which means I'm good for another 10,000 kilometers. I was told by the previous owner that I'll need to change the oil in roughly a thousand miles, which will probably be my first opportunity to learn how to service a motorcycle.
Other items to check include: chain cleaning and lube, brake and clutch fluids, throttle cable lube and tire pressure among others.
Safety is a top concern for me as a motorcyclist, so much so that I purchased my Frank Thomas leather jacket, pants and gloves prior to buying a motorcycle. The jacket and pants are padded in the key areas -- back, elbow, knees and shoulders -- and will offer better protection than work-a-day clothing. I'm also sporting my leather hiking boots until I snag some real riding boots also at Cycle Gear.
I also purchased a Shoei RF-1000 helmet that fits very well, and offers several venting options. Since I knew from riding my brother's bike on a sunny day that clear visors do nothing to protect your eyes from glare, I also picked up a dark tinted visor to swap out.
But despite my limited experience on the roads of Knoxville, it has already become apparent that a motorcyclists' worst enemy are other drivers. It's not unlike cycling really -- make sure folks can see you and never forget that you won't win a battle against a car.
And should anything happen, the awesome folks at Metlife set me up with a great plan that costs only $318 per year for full coverage.
Benefits of riding
Riding a motorcycle is a lot of fun. The first time you twist the throttle, and take off down a road, you can't help but get a grin on your face.
Sure, the first few trips out are a nerve-racking experience, but once you settle down, riding can be an exciting way of traveling or pleasure-seeking.
You can also save a lot of money on gas.
My motorcycle gets on average 50 miles per gallon, which bests my VW GTI by about 20 miles per gallon. Commuting to work can be an exciting, and less expensive, option on a motorcycle.
But fuel-savings aside, I've found that riding a motorcycle is a great experience that actually has me finding excuses to head out for a spin.
Please post a comment if you'd like to share any of your own experiences, or a tip for a rookie rider like myself.