Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Troubleshooting the motorcycle update

I know my limitations. I was all psyched up to tear into the Suzuki to see what its intermittent problem is. By all accounts I should have been able to check a few things and eliminate those issues.

So I started by taking off the seat. Easy enough. With my owner’s manual in hand, I followed step by step the process of removing the gas tank so that I could get to the spark plug. The manual failed to mention that you have to disconnect the fuel line, speedometer, etc. to lift off the tank. Duh! I felt so stupid that I hadn’t thought of that and had no idea how to go about disconnecting these things.

My husband is the type who doesn’t wrench anything, and would rather pay a professional who knows what they are doing (sometimes). So he wasn’t much help, and kept recommending that I hang up the tools and take the bike to a mechanic.

Meanwhile, I proceeded to remove my battery, fill up the cells and put it back in. No problem. That was all I could check because I couldn’t get past the gas tank. I decided to order an owners repair manual, but only could locate one online for my particular motorcycle and it was $65.00. I am considering ordering it, but then I hope to get a larger bike in the near future. Maybe I’ll just take it in……

So yesterday I rode to work again. The idle is running fast, but still occasionally wants to die when I come to a stop. I want to take a long ride over the Labor Day weekend so hope the bike will keep up with me. We’re hoping to take a ferry ride over to one of the islands and ride around there. Washington State Ferries are great fun. Motorcyclists are first on, loaded in front of the boat. Then they are first off when it arrives on the other dock. There is no waiting and a lot less expensive than going in a car.

So the saga continues. I looked at new motorcycles online today……hmmmm…..what do I want? Harleys are talking to me, but now BMWs look pretty good. Must decide.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Ride for a cause

A while back I stopped at my local Brier coffee stand one morning, Jason’s Java. He is one of a handful of businesses in my small town and knows everyone. I noticed on the take-out window there was a poster about a benefit ride. I read it carefully as I waited for my double tall espresso drink to be made. Not knowing Jason very well, I said ‘thank you’ and went on to work.

The notice about the ride stayed with me all day, and when my husband got home I mentioned it to him. We had only been riding a couple of years, and hadn’t ridden in a group before. We decided to just do it.

Saturday morning came and we woke up and anxiously got ready for our ride. We started up the motorcycles and rode the half mile up to Jason’s Java. There waited Jason, with a chromed out Harley Road King in the parking lot. He was surprised to see us, but happy to have more riders for the cause. One by one the riders came and we greeted each one and introduced ourselves. Everyone was appreciating each others bikes. There were 10 of us altogether, with 2 women riders including myself.

We paid $20 each and still didn’t know who the ride was going to benefit. All the bikers were willing to pay and ride just for the opportunity to help someone in need. Jason began telling us about a local 18 year old boy who had just been stricken with multiple sclerosis and was already confined to a wheelchair. He had gone to school one Monday and was fine. By Friday he couldn’t walk. It was a sad story; and Jason went on to say that the family needed help, of course, with the medical bills. Then a man spoke up from the group and said he was the dad. We were all motivated by that point to ride…..

We took off and rode the back roads from Brier, which is located north of Seattle, WA. We headed east towards the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. We rode lots of twisty, cornfield bordered roads. The feeling of riding in a group was wonderful. It was a little hard to resist going faster than the group. I felt that I was holding back, but got used to it after a while. What wonderful farmland and fields we saw. We stopped in the town of Duvall, where there is a little ‘biker bar’ that any biker in this part of the state has probably been to. We had some refreshments, took some pictures of all the bikes lined up outside, and started back. In all it was a 3 ½ hour ride.

When we returned to Jason’s Java the dad asked if we wouldn’t mind going up a few blocks to his home. His son loves motorcycles and knew we were riding for him that day. We all started up again and rode up to the house which was located in a culdesac. We rode round and round in a circle and revved our engines as loud as we dared. One guy did the ‘tire burnout’ in the center of the circle. The front door of the house opened and out walked the mother, pushing her son in a wheelchair. His eyes were lit up, but sadly he couldn’t even speak or do anything but make a few noises. We each introduced ourselves and hung around for a little while. Then we rode off, revving our engines as we left.

I think we made his day……he sure made all of ours.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Cat on a motorcycle

Here is the picture that gave me the idea for this weeks poll over on the right sidebar. I found it amusing and endearing, mostly because I love cats and own three. None of mine would go for this, but the biker cat seems to be up for anything.

Some people have a dog that would go anywhere the human goes. Why not a motorcycle ride?

It's probably not safe for an animal to be on a motorcycle, but if your companion wants to ride then they should be able to enjoy it with you.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Troubleshooting my motorcycle this weekend

It has come down to this. I am going to have to tear into my motorcycle this weekend and see what is going on with it.

About two months ago I was riding to work regularly when the weather was nice. I stopped at a red-light in town one morning and I was first in line. All of a sudden my bike just died. That had never happened before. I couldn’t start it up right away. It would just wind and wind but not turn over. Before the light turned green I rolled it over towards the sidewalk on the corner of the street. Now that I was out of traffic it still wouldn’t start. I looked across the side street and saw a parking lot. I assumed I would have to call someone. So I rolled across the street, luckily there was a slight downward slope. I parked it, waited a couple of minutes and finally wound it up, gave it a good rev and she started up. I went on to work from there, muttering to myself along the way.

I took it home and read the owners manual. I decided to adjust the idle screw because it didn’t seem to be idling fast enough to keep going. I turned it a little until I could hear the engine sound like it would keep running. It had been fine until yesterday.

The Suzuki had always been very dependable especially since I bought her new back in 2005. It’s a Boulevard S-40, the smallest in that series. I did have to fill up the brake fluid reservoir after about a year of riding. It turned out the front brake pads were down to nothing after only 1400 miles. I do shift down to slow the bike so I was pretty surprised to see them shot so soon. I bought new ones and put them on, with a little help from my husband. I then filled the fluid reservoir and they have been perfect ever since. I think the first ones were paper thin to start with….

The other thing I did was adjust the tension of my drive belt which I love because you never need to lube it. I’ve changed the air filter and, of course, added oil. I have all the stuff to change the oil so will be doing that soon. It’s due around 4000 miles and I’m at 3600 miles now.

Tomorrow I plan to check the spark plug, and look at the carburetor. The bike only has one spark plug, but it is under the gas tank. I’ll have to lift it up to get to the plug. The seat has to come off to get to everything else. I like working on the bike if I can figure out what to do. I always refer to the manual, which has been pretty helpful so far. Now I’m not sure what the problem is. The bike died again twice yesterday at stoplights on my way back to work after meeting friends for lunch. I adjusted the idle up once again to make sure I could get home.

The other thing it is doing is hesitating a little like a bucking bronco in lower gears. When I get up past 4th gear it seems Ok. It also backfires a lot more while going downhill. I am not sure what is going on but I ride it all year and use good gas always.

If anyone has a suggestion of what else I should try, let me know. I hate to take the bike to the Suzuki dealers. They don’t respect the smaller bikes and the last time they gave mine back to me with big greasy handprints all over my tank! As you can see its white – I was not happy. Grrrrrr. I take very good care of my ride and I’m proud of it. I will take it to a different dealer next time that I can’t do something myself.

Meanwhile, I’m having fun trying….

Thursday, August 23, 2007

My brother's 1969 Honda-450cc

Here is a picture of my brother’s bike. A friend gave him boxes of parts and said he hadn’t ridden it in many years. My brother is very industrious, so meticulously cleaned and reassembled the long lost motorcycle. It is nearly all original. He rides it every day to work when it isn’t raining. If you live near Santa Cruz, California you may see him cruising around on the Honda. He says everyone stops him and asks about it

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

When you ride

There is a feeling that comes over you when you ride a motorcycle. It’s an emotion that all is well with the world and everything will be ok. As you ride along with the wind hitting your chest you feel powerful and strong - invincible.

There is no sense of time on a motorcycle. It doesn’t matter how long it takes when you’re enjoying the ride so much. Your sense of smell is awakened every second you are riding. You’ll smell freshly cut grass, dairy farms, dead carcasses, sweet honeysuckle along a country road, fresh air, salty ocean air, car exhaust, and the local dump. These are just a few of the things you will experience for your olfactory pleasure along the way.

You are unencumbered on a motorcycle and nothing is restricting your view. You become part of the landscape as you move along. It makes you feel closer to the earth. You see things in a whole new way and come to appreciate the beauty while you pass it by. On a bike you can stop anytime you have a notion.

Riding a motorcycle is very freeing; meanwhile you are developing a complete sense of control. I find it very calming to ride. When I am full of stressful energy taking a ride seems to pipe me right down and I come back home calm and relaxed. Then I am ready to tackle anything.

I love to ride alone because I can go where my imagination takes me. I can change direction on a whim or change my mind and try a new route, not sure where I will end up. It’s completely up to me. Riding alone lets you have time to think.

I also love to ride with my husband because we stop and enjoy places together along the way. We take turns leading depending on who knows the way to where we are headed. We’ve discovered a lot of new places to go just by heading in one direction and seeing what we can find. Bikers have a great sense of adventure and a need to keep seeing new things and finding new places to go.

So as you ride, enjoying nirvana in your mind, keep your eyes on the road ahead.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

It’s raining outside…….

I am a fair weather biker in most respects. I don’t mind if it starts raining on me when I am on my way home from anywhere. If I am going to work or elsewhere, I am really not equipped with rain-gear so usually my pants will be soaked by the time I arrive – wet crotch is no fun. I also don’t like to get my motorcycle splattered with road grime in the rain, at least not on a regular basis.

Here are a few suggestions of things to do when you can’t get out and ride:

  • Watch some old classic biker movies such as “Easy Rider” with Jack Nicholson and Peter Fonda, “The Wild Ones” with Marlon Brando, “Hells’ Angels on Wheels” with Jack Nicholson, and “The Wild Angels” with Peter Fonda. “The Big Book of Biker Flicks: 40 of the best Motorcycle movies of all time” by Jack Wooley has these movies and more for your amusement and pleasure. These are fun to watch, very stereotypical, and you’ll recognize other actors who went on to do greater things.

  • Read a good book on motorcycling. One that I read which encouraged me to ride was “The Perfect Vehicle: What it is about Motorcycles” by Melissa Holbrook Pierson. She describes the riding experience wonderfully. Other fun books are “Biker Billy Cooks with Fire: Robust recipes from Americas’ most outrageous television chef”, “Biker Billy’s Freeway-A-Fire Cookbook: Life’s too short to Eat Dull Food”, and “Biker Billy’s Hog Wild on a Harley Cookbook: 200 fiercely flavorful recipes to kick-start your cooking from Harley riders across the USA” all by Bill Hufnagle. Lastly, “Harley and Davidson Family Recipes: Celebrating 100 years of Home Cooking” by Margo Manning.

  • I also enjoy the Motorcycle magazine, “Rider”. Each month there is an article about a ride somewhere in the US. There are lots of pictures, and good articles, and it is mostly just about riding any motorcycle.

  • Research your next dream bike. If you are like me you will always be thinking of the motorcycle you want but can’t yet afford. Read up on the one you think you want. Go down to the motorcycle dealer and check it out. Sit on it, and ask questions about it. If it’s raining you probably won’t take it for a test ride, but you can go back when it is sunny!

So these are just a few suggestions to kill time when you can’t get on your bike and ride. In those situations you can still enjoy the riding spirit, keep riding foremost in your mind, and have a few laughs – while watching those old biker movies.

Friday, August 17, 2007

The two-fingered high five

The first time I rode out of my neighborhood I was exhilarated. I was out on the back roads and I was a new female motorcycle rider. I am always conscious of this. When you are new, every ride is glorious and leaves you wanting more.

So a motorcycle passed me and gave what appeared to be a wave. I waved back. The next biker passed and waved the same way. This time I realized it was a two-fingered wave and the fingers were pointing down. Not up like a peace sign.

It was the biker signal, the two-fingered high five, the symbol of the community of bikers, the realization that we are all of like mind. We bond because we are willing to be unprotected and travel with no hindrances, so that our senses can enjoy everything we experience as we go along.

I sent the signal back. As I rode more frequently I realized almost all bikers signal to each other - except large dudes on Harleys, who only signal to other Harleys.

I ride a 2005 Suzuki Boulevard S-40. It is a perfect size for a female’s first bike. She’s a cruiser style bike. It’s very easy to handle because it is light. There is only one cylinder, but it has a powerful 650cc engine so has lots of “get up and go”.

I got a little cocky and started signaling every biker I passed. I was one of the gang. I love the community of bikers because we all have a common passion for motorcycles and riding them. Most people you meet are very nice, friendly, and supportive of new bikers.

Then one day I signaled to a large black and white motorcycle that I saw coming towards me. It was a policeman – OOOPS! He didn’t signal back. He was on a real nice Harley.

Since then I give the two-fingered wave to anyone who gives it first. It feels good. There is a silent communication among motorcycle riders. It is like I am accepted into their club.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Today was a great day for riding in the Northwest

It isn’t often we have such a beautiful, warm, summer-like day that just begs you to ride.

I woke up this morning and knew this would be one of the last perfect days before it started raining again. I got ready for work and got the Suzuki S-40 out of the garage. It is a cruiser style bike and I think of it as my “little Harley”. I started her up and got my gear on which is a ritual for me.

On the way to work I am always thinking “what a beautiful day” because I am riding and also because I love the mornings - once I crawl out of bed. I had a fine ride to work today with less traffic than usual. So I got to work on time!

I had a date at lunchtime to go meet some old co-workers and hear about their experience last week at Sturgis. I rode over to meet them and the day was noticeably hotter by that time. I was dying to hear the stories they would have to tell, and see pictures, etc. Turns out they had few stories except that everyone had a real good time. They rode a lot around Crazy Horse Monument and Mt. Rushmore and loved the ride. One of the guys has a gorgeous Victory motorcycle which he had trouble with. The starter went out and so for 3 days he couldn’t ride, until he got it fixed. They brought me a T-shirt with Sturgis Bike Week 2007 written over a couple of skulls. I love it! Some day I will go….

I went back to work eventually and found it hard not to look outside, looking forward to my ride home. I ducked out as soon as I was able. My ride home was uneventful but nice. I love it when I don’t have to ride behind a slowpoke or a smoking diesel pick-up truck. Today I didn’t have anyone throw a lighted cigarette butt out the window, knowing I am right behind them.

Lots of riders were out today and most were giving the biker signal to each other. It was a great day to ride around Seattle.

So many roads to travel
Not enough time

Monday, August 13, 2007

Motorcycles are not built for women

There are several things to consider when you, as a female rider, are ready to buy a bike. Most motorcycle manufacturers keep the male stature in mind when they are designing their bikes. Since the female riding population is increasing rapidly, some of them are beginning to make rides that fit smaller adults as well.

  • Consider your hand size. Can you reach the turn signals with your thumb while you already have the clutch pulled in? Can you comfortably squeeze the clutch lever with your left hand with enough strength to disengage the clutch?

  • Decide what position is comfortable for your arms. Are your arms spread too wide? Are they at a height that will be uncomfortable on a long ride? Some people like the cruiser style where your arms can be anywhere from a little above your waist to shoulder height. A lot prefer the crotch-rocket style of motorcycle where you are a little crouched over as you are riding. In this case some of your weight rests on your arms as you ride.

  • Can you touch your feet flat on the ground on both sides? Many bikes are too high for a smaller person to reach the ground safely. This is one of the greatest challenges when trying out bikes. A lot of the seats are too wide, which cuts into the thighs of a smaller person. I found there were a lot with a wide gas tank that cut into my thighs when my feet were positioned on the foot pegs.

  • Another thing that can be a hurdle is the weight of any large motorcycle. It is sometimes intimidating to think that a 120 lb female can hold up a motorcycle that weighs 800 to 1000 lbs. I have seen it so I know it is possible. Sometimes we worry what we might do if it ever turns over. Even a man would have a hard time lifting that weight alone. It shouldn’t be a hurdle as long as the bike fits in all of the other ways.

I eventually found that the Suzuki Boulevard S40 was the perfect fit for me. I am 5’4” and average weight. My bike weighs around 350lbs and is actually light and very easy to handle as a beginner. I have ridden for over 2 years now and I have almost outgrown it. Everyone said it would happen! I am dreaming about a ’07 Harley Dyna Street Bob. It is about twice the weight of mine, holds twice as much gas, and has an engine more than twice the size of my 650cc.

So, as long as women keep buying and riding motorcycles the demand will dictate the market. Manufacturers are listening, because the sales are up among female riders and increasing quickly each year. Since profits talk, I am sure that the choices of motorcycles for smaller individuals will be enormous in the near future.

So many roads to travel
Not enough time

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Love My Leather Jacket

As I go to the closet to retrieve my favorite leather jacket my sense of smell and pleasant emotions are awakened. It is a ritual while I am readying myself to ride.

I go pull the bike out of the garage, start it up, and come in to put on my gear. My jacket is first because I have already loaded up my saddlebags with the items I intended to take with me.

As I reach for the jacket my hand touches the soft, supple leather and instantly it takes my mind to the road. I take it off the hanger and the weight of the leather is reassuring. I know this jacket is my friend and will protect me from losing my skin if I ever hit the pavement. My senses are awakened by the smell, feel, and look of my favorite biker jacket. As I lift it up and put it on I instantly become happy. It takes me back to all the back roads I’ve covered, and the extremely hot and freezing days I’ve comfortably endured in my jacket.

It is getting a lovely dull finish now that I’ve ridden a couple of years in it. There have been many bugs removed from the front of the jacket. As I zip it up, it fits like a comfortable glove. I take my helmet out and head out to the warmed-up bike.

Now my adrenaline starts pumping because of the sound of the bike, the smell of the bike running, the urge to get going. I put my helmet on, adjust my bangs and hair that is sticking out, and buckle it up. As I hop onto the bike, I carefully put on each leather glove and zip up the corresponding sleeve of my jacket as I go.

Now I can’t hold back the desire to ride another second. I put the bike in gear and off I go……ahhhh - instant relief from all my cares.

So many roads to travel
Not enough time

First Post for Biker Chickz

This blog is intentionally written for female bikers and those who want to be. My aim will be to encourage new female riders and hopefully say something that current women bikers can identify with.

I have always loved riding motorcycles – on the back! When I was 52 years old I decided my time was running out to do dangerous things. My life was so safe. I have a free and rebellious spirit so motorcycling was quite appealing to me. I signed up to take the Motorcycle Safety Council Training course. My husband also signed up so we went, not knowing what to expect. It was an intense 2 day course where they supplied little 150cc motorcycles. We both passed all the tests on the second day and were given certificates to get our 2-wheel vehicle endorsements.

We got motorcycles right away and have been joyfully riding for over 2 years now. It is a freeing experience and a feeling of independence that few people ever experience. I love the adventure of it. You never know what you will encounter along the ride.

Along with my new love for motorcycling I have many other interests. Who knows when some of those might creep in from time to time? Female bikers are independent women who love life and enjoy it to the fullest. I will be mostly writing about my personal opinions, observations, and information relevant to female motorcycle enthusiasts.

So many roads to travel
Not enough time