how to ride

How Confidence Affects Women and Motorcycling

 Me, feeling supremely confident on my '12 Street Triple R. But it wasn't always that way.

Me, feeling supremely confident on my '12 Street Triple R. But it wasn't always that way.

Learning to ride a motorcycle is certainly about confidence. The majority of mine came from learning to ride the right bikes and increasing my skillset dramatically from bike to bike.

But there was always a small chunk of it that came from me telling myself that I could and "eff it". If something happens, I'll deal with it or call for help or whatever. I'm not going to be afraid of it anymore.

But keep in mind, that absolutely has to be within reason like when I decided to take the Ninja 250 to work instead of my scooter. I just went the 40 minute route to work (avoiding busy thoroughfares like Van Ness Avenue and Steep ass hills like Gough Street). I had already been commuting on my scooter to work for a year. This wasn't a huge jump from what I had already been doing. It was totally realistic given my experience and what I had been doing previously.

 Me in 2006 on my first "long" ride outside of San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, a whopping 50 minutes one way!

Me in 2006 on my first "long" ride outside of San Francisco to Half Moon Bay, a whopping 50 minutes one way!

This article says what I've witnessed and experienced personally in my 15 years of riding and helping other women learn to ride and talking to them about riding. And certainly my work life too. Why aren't we as confident from the get go? What is it about many of us (not all, I know, but more than most I'm sure) that holds us back from succeeding other than some of the most common mistakes new riders make ?

When all of our ducks are in a row, we still feel like we don't deserve it or are that good. I still feel like I'm terrible at riding at times. I'm terrible at nailing my lines every time I go riding, I'm terrible at braking. I'm terrible at cornering. I mean, okay I'm not horrific in that I crash every time I ride, but when I do go out I'm constantly critiquing myself and trying to figure out what I could've done better to take that particular corner better/faster/smoother. Is that just a regular aspect of riding? I'm guessing many of my male readers are going to argue that "of course, I think that too".

But how many of you think that way in your everyday life as many women have experienced per this article?

Riding as many of us know is 90% mental, 10% physical (that's why YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE ABLE TO PICK UP YOUR MOTORCYCLE to ride it).

I recently joined this cool interactive panel of my fellow women riders about how we got into riding and some of the barriers we ran into along the way. There are some really great tips and advice here that I think many of you can relate to:

https://www.cake.co/conversations/HKn99Mb/a-panel-of-women-who-motorcycle-what-it-s-like-in-a-sport-with-a-bad-boy-vibe

So if something is holding you back, what do you think that is?

Riding with CLASS Motorcycle School

In April of 2018, I had the pleasure of doing a track day with CLASS Motorcycle School founded by retired roadracer Reg Pridmore and his wife Gigi. They run an excellent motorcycle school program based in Southern California. I had read about this school a few years ago and purely based on the description of their courses I knew I wanted to ride with them someday. I appreciate a school that focuses on fun, skill development and riding techniques.

What you might be wondering is what kind of motorcycle school? Track? Street? Advanced? Racing? Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes.

 “Still the friendliest and safest place to learn the riding skills we all need” -CLASS Motorcycle School
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So I jumped at the chance when I read that Gigi was putting together an (click here for photos) ALL LADIES track day program. They were going to host it at the Streets of Willow Raceway (“SWR”) right next to the famous Willow Springs Int’l Motorcycle Motorsports Park. The SWR is a smaller, bumpier, more street like track that emulates riding through your favorite canyon/mountain roads; imperfectly paved, bumps, hops, no clear white lines. It gives you more of a real world experience so when you get back onto the streets you’ll have a stronger strategy when you get to your favorite twisty one lane road.

I haven’t done an All Ladies track day in over 5 years so I decided to fly in and met up with my amazing friend. I booked a room at the Holiday Inn Express nearby in Lancaster and stayed there for the couple of nights I was in town with my friend Brittany.

It’s always fun to ride on the track with your friends, but even if you don’t know anyone a track day is the place where everyone loves riding as much as you do (sometimes more).

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I knew I wouldn’t be able to take Goldie with me (my Street Triple) so I rented one of their beautiful Honda CB500R’s.It was a fully stock bike, and the preload was probably set at the lowest point. I didn’t even think that it might be a possibility to raise the preload on this and wish I had thought of it. The bike is pretty low for a sporty and I ended up scraping the footpegs a few times :) But I had a great time on it overall.

Because this was a special All Ladies Day, we only had 2 riding groups: A (advanced) and B (novice). There wasn’t a need for a middle level group. Normally at an open track day you get a third group as an intermediate level.

I rode in the A group and I thought the group of women I rode with were awesome. Everyone was there to have fun, ride better and just have fun. There’s a different vibe when you ride with all women, it’s just different. I can’t say it’s better or worse because it’s a different experience. If you aren’t familiar with track days then riding your first one in a Ladies only group can feel much easier, less intimidating and more comfortable. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of options for women’s only track days, and but they do come up every now and then.  

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After you check in to let them know you’re there and ready to attend class, it’s time for bike inspection. Since I was riding their bike, I didn’t have to do anything. But you typically need to let their mechanic take a look at your bike and make sure it’s safe and ready to ride on the track.

Depending on the school, they will have different requirements. With CLASS, they really just required basic safety requirements like proper tire pressure and everything in working order. My bike wasn’t even taped up and I rode on the track with all the turn signals and headlights untaped.

Nothing advanced was required like coolant changes or safety wire, and we had several bikes that weren’t even sportbikes!

Then it’s onto the first meeting of the morning. Generally what happens thru the day is you have 20 minutes of riding then ~20-30 minutes of classroom timing to cover concepts that you can then practice on your next session. It ran this way until lunchtime ~1pm with a 1 hour break. Then we resumed until the last session around 430pm.

 Me and Brittany listening to the great Reg Pridmore

Me and Brittany listening to the great Reg Pridmore

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Reg was injured recently riding down the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca so he was unable to ride with us that day. He provided almost all the classroom instruction instead. Reg’s message was consistent, respectful and thoughtful:

Focus on riding better on the track so that you will ride better on the street. Skills, technique, focus. Not speed, not riding faster or better than anyone else except yourself.

I have found that I am my worst critic when it comes to life in general, but more so with riding.

 

Sometimes, a corner is just a corner whether it’s on your favorite mountain or backroad. What’s vastly different are the risks you carry on the street (i.e. MUCH higher). On this little track, I just had to worry about how I was riding. No worries about cars, oncoming motorcycles, animals, accidents, traffic or any random obstacles.  

We had ~6 sessions that day back to back with a break for lunch in between. After each session, sometimes before the end of the session even, a coach would give you some polite feedback. Because we had a smaller group that day, we had a lot of coaches available to us that day; about a 2:1 ratio. Normally you have more than a 6:1 ratio of coaches to riders on open track days, but they had brought in a few extra coaches to help out.

 PSA: Never try to break in a new suit on the track. It kept me from wanting to lean forward most of the time, it was just so uncomfortable to do anything but sit up straight. :*( 

PSA: Never try to break in a new suit on the track. It kept me from wanting to lean forward most of the time, it was just so uncomfortable to do anything but sit up straight. :*( 

In between sessions we covered additional topics such as body position, where to focus, how to choose your lines, etc. I would say the structure of the class was more relaxed and you were able to practice whatever skills you needed to from session to session. If you needed a coach there was always one available to either follow you or be followed for tips/skills/feedback.

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Initially, I had a couple of coaches who thought I needed a little more assistance than I really needed but I was able to talk to them and let them know exactly what I was trying to accomplish.

At one point, my contacts were drying out (because of alll the fabulous ventilation from my bell race star) and it looked like I was riding like a crazy person. After the session was over I had to explain to him that I was fine, and I was just having trouble seeing!

But after a couple of sessions I was able to ride with Gigi Pridmore, and she gave me the best feedback and helped me with my lines and body positioning which I’m always trying to improve.

One thing I do NOT recommend is buying a new track suit 4 days earlier and then breaking it in on the track :0 This hindered my body positioning greatly. Just getting into the position below was really uncomfortable to where I couldn’t stay over the tank for more than a few minutes without sitting up straight. I was trying to work on body positioning (moving my ass off the seat more) but the suit just wouldn’t let me. (Remember to let customer know this is the worst part of wearing a new suit on the track).

 Photo:  eTechPhoto

Photo: eTechPhoto

When bikes are too low, they’re harder to lean further than you want to. But there’s no knee dragging here, just focusing on my lines, speed and consistency.

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Depending on how you learn, what feels good for you one or the other might be better.

As you research various riding schools (basic or advanced), take the time to read about each one and decide for yourself. I’m open to all track classes, no matter what the format.

No matter what track day you choose, remember that it’s not for racing, not just for sportbikes, no just for fast riders but for YOU.

For more information about CLASS including costs, schedules and more: www.classrides.com 

Check out the list of riding schools on my website here including options for OFF Road Training as well.

Learning to Ride Can Be Really F*cking Hard. But It Doesn't Have To Be.

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Learning to ride is something that takes more than a few days/weeks/months. It's 15 years later and I'm *still* learning.

Imagine learning to drive a car for the first time and your mom/dad offers you:

  • Honda Civic 2 Door
  • Chevy Suburban 

Yes, you could theoretically learn on both but which one is going to give you more confidence, self esteem and increase your driving skills? Most of the time when I've thrown a leg over a new bike (either mine or borrowed) I've gone in with some self confidence and some actual riding ability. But riding ability alone isn't enough for me to ride something I've never ridden before. I need the confidence too. I need to feel like I can do it because if I don't, I won't even try. 

I've been getting a lot of questions lately from new riders or potential new ones and I wanted to repeat what I've been telling them here. I know not everyone's experience is the same, but I can guarantee you that learning to crawl before you walk makes a HUGE difference. But ask anyone who started on a small displacement motorcycle or scooter before moving up to a 600cc-1000cc-1500cc option how much they learned. Too much? Not enough? Why or why not? 

Think of learning how to ride this way: 

  • 200-500cc: man, this is a lot easier than I thought. I kick ass. I'm getting the hang of this. 
  • 600-1000cc: shit, this is a lot harder than I thought. I suck at this. I never should've bought a motorcycle.

When my husband took this photo of me back in 2004, we just took our new Ninja 250 for a spin (because that was the *only* small sportbike/naked sporty you could buy in the US) and he basically taught me how to shift up to 2nd and 3rd. I rode around the parking lot a bit to see what it was like. My MSF class was the following month. I never took it on the street, I just did a few laps, nothing special.   

 Me in the Presidio Parking Lot, San Francisco. We didn't have iPhones back then, but we did have Motorola flip phones :0

Me in the Presidio Parking Lot, San Francisco. We didn't have iPhones back then, but we did have Motorola flip phones :0

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But before all this motorcycle business, I rode my awesome 50cc 2Stroke Aprilia Scarabeo Scooter. 

I rode her A LOT in my first year of riding (Sept 2003 - Sept 2004). 3,599 miles all in San Francisco to be exact. 

I loved her for the short time I had her. But as soon as I threw a leg over the Ninja (it was his but I needed something to ride so....) I knew it was meant to be. And I figured out how to ride her to work (across San Francisco) in a couple days. 

If you see my pic above on the Ninja, I'm on my toes. Did I care? Nope. Because I was already riding my scooter on my toes. 

 2006 Kawasaki Z750S

2006 Kawasaki Z750S

Contrary to popular belief, scooters can be a lot taller than most motorcycles. The Scarabeo had a 30" seat height. But my learning curve was far far less steep than if I forced myself to throw a leg over something like my next bike, the Kawasaki Z750S for the first time (instead of the Ninja). It was taller, heavier, taller and heavier. Did I mention how much heavier it was? Almost 500lbs wet. Ugh.

 2003 Suzuki SV650S

2003 Suzuki SV650S

The higher center of gravity on this thing would've been ridiculous. If I had to learn on this or even my SV, I doubt I would've had the skill to move up. 

When I chose that Z750S, it set me back 3 years in my riding development. Everything was suddenly harder: parking, cornering (imagine driving a tall, heavy truck on a twisty road instead of a convertible), uturns. The only thing that was easier was accelerating on the freeway merging into traffic.  

For perspective, this is how much that bike choice affected my riding. This list is in order of when I owned each one and how much I rode them::

  1. Aprilia 50cc Scooter: 3,599 miles in 1 YEAR. woooo hooo! I'm ready to move up. 
  2. Kawasaki Ninja 250: 12,000 miles in 3 years. I learned so much and did a mix of city and highway riding/touring for the first time.
  3. Kawasaki Z750S: a little under 8,000 miles in 3 years. Some city riding, and a couple of long distance rides to LA from San Francisco. But riding the twisties? Forget it. It was annoying, hard, not fun and I was miserable. 
  4. Suzuki SV650S: 6,000 miles in the first 8 MONTHS. YESSSSSS. Where were you all my life? Why didn't I buy you sooner? Ahhh, this is how you corner. That's what it feels like to actually lean. You were so much easier to park and maneuver in San Francisco. And you were WAY MORE FUN to ride. 

Remember, riding is supposed to be FUN! Not stressful, not frustrating and not miserable. When you get off that bike you might be in a little pain from the seat time but you should be HAPPPPPPPY. Ask yourself these questions:

How do you feel when you look at your bike, or think about riding it? How do you feel after? Confident? Excited? 

As soon as I bought the SV, my learning curve flattened and it was so much easier to ride. So much so that I rode it everywhere/everyday/constantly. I learned so much in that first year and felt like it should've been my second motorcycle. This is a photo of the first "curve" I ever took on the SV when my seller delivered it to my house (from 300 miles away, there are still GOOD people left in this world!). It doesn't look like much but just taking this little bend, I felt a huge difference in what I had been missing for the last 3 years. I felt confident, happy, excited, and most of all HAPPY

All I learned on my Z750S was how to manage a taller, heavier bike. But it didn't teach me anything about advanced cornering techniques. Improper cornering is an extremely common factor in solo motorcycle accidents aside from DUI. I firmly believe that It doesn't matter how long you've been riding, it matters how well you can ride. 

Your bike choice will greatly impact how well, how much, how confidently you ride for the next 6-12 months. So make the EASY choice that benefits you in the long run. 

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Because are you planning to ride the same bike for 50 years? Not me..... I'm 3 years in and will probably get itchy in a couple :D

A quick caveat to this post. Learning to ride isn't easy like taking a bite out of a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. But you can lighten the load a bit and bring down the level of difficulty down from a 10 to a 5. Struggling is definitely part of the experience and you will learn through your mistakes because you have to in order to learn. But when it's so hard that it starts to make you question your ability to ride or the decision to ride in the first place, then it's time to rethink some things. I hope this post does just that, helping you rethink some things. Please post a comment or two below.... 

What Is a Track Day? Common Misconceptions

 Nope, I'm not on the Track. I'm on Broad Street in South Philly ;) . 

Nope, I'm not on the Track. I'm on Broad Street in South Philly ;) . 

I've been talking to a lot of people lately about track days. Especially advanced motorcycle training classes. Here are some common questions/comments/thoughts that I hear on a daily / weekly basis when people ask about "track days". 

It's So Dangerous

  Creative Commons: Photo/ epSos.de

Creative Commons: Photo/ epSos.de

Somewhat False. You're on a motorcycle, yes, it's dangerous. But it's also dangerous when you're speeding 85+mph on the Interstate up and down I-95. Aside from the parking lot, I would argue that the track is the least dangerous place you could possibly be with your motorcycle. Absolutely NO CARS, PEOPLE, BUILDINGS, BARRIERS, TRUCKS, ETC. Nothing in your way except You and what's in your head. The pavement is smooth, no paint/bumps/obstacles/sidewalks in your bike's way. No trees/bushes/blindcorners. No hills/mountains/animals. Nothing! Isn't that what we get excited about on the street? Have you ever discovered a new road that is perfectly paved, smooth and a dream to ride? Well imagine more of that and you can go even faster than you can almost anywhere else. 

But, of course, track days aren't for people who only like to go straight. If that's your style of riding then you'll probably find the track to be even more challenging. But if you *love* twisties, then the track is where you want to be.  

 Okay not all tracks have stars and stripes, but looks how pristine that pavement is at COTA, Austin! 

Okay not all tracks have stars and stripes, but looks how pristine that pavement is at COTA, Austin! 

Plus you are covered head to toe in leather, body armor, toe sliders, back protector, helmet, etc. For many of you, you're wearing far more gear than you'll ever wear elsewhere. More about gear in a bit....  

But I'm Not Racing

Neither was I when I did two track days last year. And same with the one I'm hoping to do this year in April (Ladies Only, with CLASS Rides). My goal and the goal of almost everyone at a track day is NOT to race. In fact, the instructors will probably kick you off the track if you try to do that with your fellow classmates. Anyone riding recklessly without regard for personal safety is usually addressed immediately. Call it proper track day etiquette. You're not there to compete with eachother, you're there to ride safe, have fun and not get hurt. And not hurt anyone else!  

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Recently, Gigi Pridmore of CLASS contacted me to let me know about a special Ladies Only track day coming up on April 11th. She really summed up their track day experience quite eloquently: 

"CLASS is all about being a better, safer street rider. Better at cornering and braking, safer because you’ve practiced on a closed circuit and riding with control becomes second nature. Much more than just a track day, we teach control and technique and make better riders. It’s a great first track day or 100th track day because we help riders of all experience levels." - Gigi Pridmore, CLASS Rides

I totally agree with what she says here. Control, especially how to control your motorcycle in corners is crucial no matter where you're riding. And they can tell if you can/can't. I'm excited to attend in April, I hope you'll join me! 

What's The Point? 

The point is that you are probably riding a bike that was *not really* meant for the street. (ahem: gixxer, r6, daytona, s1000rr, ninja h2/zx-6r owners) You will never be able to ride it the way that it was intended fully on the street. Because while you're trying to push yourself beyond what's safe out there, you are also distracted with having to deal with potential hazards like traffic/cars/people/others (on bikes too).

Ever wish you could push 100-150mph for more than 0.5 seconds because you have to stop / slow down for traffic? And then you have to ride really slow in a straight line because now the 0.5 second of 100+mph you had is over? What if you could make it last longer and then do it over and over again but head into another corner and then another and then another?  It feels SO GOOD to carry that momentum into an actual corner! And don't worry, if you don't know how to do that, a track day is the best place to learn how :) 

But I Don't Know How to Ride The Track

 Me with Coach Misty. She was great, giving me tips after every session. It felt great knowing she was watching me as I progressed. Photo:  /eTechPhoto

Me with Coach Misty. She was great, giving me tips after every session. It felt great knowing she was watching me as I progressed. Photo: /eTechPhoto

Of course not! And no one expects you to. What most track organizations will likely expect from you (I've only taken classes from 3 organizations out of the dozens of companies across the US) is that you know how to ride on the street. You have enough control of your motorcycle to go on the freeway comfortably, maybe you've done some long weekend trips. Maybe you've logged 5-10,000 miles commuting on your motorcycle.

Now you're ready to learn more about yourself and your beloved bike. Or you might be like me and switched over from an aggressive riding position to a more upright, comfortable position. And now your new bike feels different than your old one. i wanted to gain more confidence on my Triumph and figure out what I could do differently to be a better rider with it. 

For me, my first track day at New Jersey was intimidating. I'd never been on that track before. It was HUGE, LONG and the corners were fast. Average speeds were well over ~50mph in some parts. I felt awkward at times and really uncomfortable because I didn't know anything about this track. I also wasn't used to that style of riding. My comfort zone has always been mountain roads, tight, twisty, blind corners. Not fast, sweeping, long turns. So figuring out where to look and how was a completely new challenge. 

 Photo: The  SBImage , Sept 2016

Photo: The SBImage, Sept 2016

It was really hard figuring out how to go faster without getting lost. Many of the corners are long, sweeping like a really long freeway onramp. Sometimes, I had no idea  where I was, or where I should've been.  The good news is, I took a class with CSS and learned exactly where I needed to be. They showed me almost everything I would need to figure out what I was doing wrong. 

I Don't Have Track Gear

I didn't either. Here I am way back in 2011 on my first real track day with Z2 Track Days' Annual Ladies First Track Day in Thunderhill Raceway in California.  I wore my street leather gear, no knee pucks, no race boots. Just really good street gear. 

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Depending on the organization, they will only require 2 piece textile or leathers that zip together, (no mesh). I've seen riders on the track wearing 1 piece Aerostitch suits. It depends on the school, so call around and see what they say. As long as you have a full face helmet, and full coverage boots and gloves, you should be fine. if you have any questions of course, I hope you'll let me know. 

I Don't Have a Track Bike

I didn't either. And I still don't. I took my street bike to the track. Back in 2011 it was my SV650s. Last year, it was my beloved Street Triple. Although the Suzuki was a better bike on the track, due to the aggressive riding position. But I've seen all different types of motorcycles on the track, and ask anyone who's been to one they'll probably tell you that they've seen more than your typical "track bike". 

If you don't know how to ride within your limits, then yes, you'll probably destroy your bike in the process. Most people riding in their very first track day naturally go a lot slower and ride a bit more carefully because it's intimidating and a completely unfamiliar place. It'll take you awhile to get used to the feel / idea of being on the track too. If anything, it'll probably humble you quite a bit and really show you what you don't know how to do. 

But some schools also offer rentals like CLASS, which offers Honda CBR 300 and 500s. And Yamaha Champions offers Yamahas. So you don't always have to ride your own bike. Many track day organizations offer bike rentals, you just have to ask. 

Something else to consider are track days that are specifically focused on street riding like Z2's Road Rider 2.0 Course. The curriculum is totally different from a traditional track day too. There are lots of other courses like this offered from other organizations as well, like Yamaha Champions "ChampStreet" course. 

 Me with my track buddy :)

Me with my track buddy :)

But I Don't Know Anyone

That's okay! The track is one of the BEST places to make friends. You will meet so many awesome people who are there to have fun and share their excitement with everyone there. 

And if you do want to go with someone, get a few friends to go with you! Or, if they won't bite, ask them to just go with you and support your day at the track. Any kind of support whether it's from friends who ride or don't ride always feels great. 

Take a look at this list of beyond basic riding classes I put together for you. There are so many options out there, I'm sure I missed a few.

But if you're still not ready for a track day, I hope you'll consider intermediate or advanced training to keep your skills fresh. Motorcycling is something that requires constant supervision, practice and attention to stay proficient. 

Rubber Side Down. 

Mesmerizing Video of a Rider Mastering the Machine

It doesn't matter what you ride. Watch this video and you'll learn a thing or two about riding your motorcycle, I guarantee it. Smooth lines, perfect setups, a wonderful pace and exquisite technique. I found myself sitting on my couch leaning left and right to see if I could keep up with him.... ;-)

Why Motorcycle Seat Heights Are Overrated

 Me, in 2014 riding an almost impossibly tall DRZ400SM. ~36" seat height with the knobby tires and me barely compressing the suspension.

Me, in 2014 riding an almost impossibly tall DRZ400SM. ~36" seat height with the knobby tires and me barely compressing the suspension.

So you're shopping for your first sportbike, or you're thinking about upgrading to a taller, heavier, faster bike? What does seat height really mean? Does it matter whether the bike is a V-Twin, L-Twin, Inline-4 or Single Cylinder engine? What exactly am I looking for beyond seat height? Does the suspension matter? These are all questions you should be asking, and you will want to ask to consider whether or not that bike really fits you.

Stop letting seat height be your only determining factor when considering what to ride! 

When you initially look at seat height, say on a 2017 Suzuki SV650A (which is 30.9"), you need to know that this measurement is taken when there isn't a body sitting on it. It's simply obtained by measuring with a tape measure from the ground to the top of the seat. 

  2016 Suzuki SV650: Seat Height, WITHOUT YOU ON IT!

2016 Suzuki SV650: Seat Height, WITHOUT YOU ON IT!

But when a person (of adult size and stature of course) sits on this bike, the rider may make the rear shock compress, which can result in an overall reduction in seat height (for me that was ~0.75" when I put in a softer spring on my Triumph). Let's go off on a little tangent here for a second.

When you're a small person like myself (130lbs, 5'2"), there are VERY few 600cc-1,000cc sportbikes/touring bikes that are designed for me to sit on the bike and compress that rear spring (if you aren't doing this, then the bike isn't set up correctly for you). And my Triumph definitely falls into that category. The stock rear shock was really meant for a heavier rider, about 150-160lbs to shmush that spring.

This is what suspension gurus (thanks Ken!) call SAG. For a more in-depth explanation of how this all works, read this

 The original rear shock that came with my Triumph before I got a customized Ohlins.

The original rear shock that came with my Triumph before I got a customized Ohlins.

So what did I do to resolve this issue? I married a wonderful man a long time ago who bought me a used Ohlins Racing shock for my 40th birthday that I then had resprung (essentially traded in) with a new spring that was much softer and would compress (sag) under my little weight.

No, that didn't mean I could flat foot my Triumph (and I never will!). But it did mean that when I put my left foot down I didn't have to shift my butt over to the left to get it completely flat. I would say easily, a half inch lower, maybe almost an inch. And having YOUR body sit lower in the seat is far better than having the bike itself lower to the ground (for clearance, especially while LEANING which is the whole point of riding a sportbike! Otherwise, you may want to consider a cruiser because frankly they're just not meant to lean over very far).

 If I had gone the lowering route, there's absolutely no way I could lean over on my bike in a corner like this. As you can see, I'm definitely NOT dragging my knee, as I'm not leaning that far over. Bottoming out is a very real risk aside from the performance issues, that come along with lowering your sporty bike. Photo:  Killboy.com   

If I had gone the lowering route, there's absolutely no way I could lean over on my bike in a corner like this. As you can see, I'm definitely NOT dragging my knee, as I'm not leaning that far over. Bottoming out is a very real risk aside from the performance issues, that come along with lowering your sporty bike. Photo: Killboy.com  

So consider the suspension on the bike, on top of the seat height. How stiff is it? Where did the rear shock come from? Was it added on afterwards? Are there any adjustments that can be made now that you are going to ride this bike? If you don't address suspension from the beginning, it can greatly impact your ability to ride the bike, your perception of what you think you can ride and your overall experience. 

If you don't have the funds to customize your suspension, your bike probably has at the minimum, the ability to adjust the Preload. In this handy guide from Sport Rider Magazine, they have a simple definition.  If you lessen the Preload, that can also result in an immediate drop in seat height! When I bought a Kawasaki Z750S about 10 years ago, it felt a tad taller than I was ready for. But my mechanic was able to drop the Preload and bring it down to the lowest point which immediately made me feel much more comfortable. I'd say it lowered me a good 0.5" overall. (Certainly not near flat footing but at least I got the balls of my feet down instead of tip toes, and almost a flat left)

z750s

So assuming that the bike you want has a shock that's set in the range of your weight, and you have the option to adjust the Preload, you've immediately lost a good chunk of seat height. On that SV650A, I'd say you could easily chop off at least a half inch, if not an inch depending on the combination of Preload adjustment and rear shock compression. 

There's also the issue of the bike itself. Now, look at the SV650 and look at my old blue Kawi above. Look at the engine. What's different? Well, first off the Kawi is a 4-cylinder, also known as an Inline-4. That makes for a MUCH wider engine overall than the SV650, which is only a 2-cylinder! And, see how they lay the cylinders at an angle on the Suzuki? That's why it's called a V-Twin. Now you've lost half the thickness of the bike between your legs. What just happened? Your knees are much closer together than on the Kawi. So when you go to put your feet down, they'll also be a bit closer to the ground because there aren't 2 more cylinders in your way. Also notice how the seats on both bikes are tapered as it gets closer to the tank. This is a good thing because again, now your knees are much closer. It's not just height that keeps your feet from reaching the ground.  

2017 sv650A
 Specs for the 2017 Suzuki SV650A, from  SuzukiCycles.com

Specs for the 2017 Suzuki SV650A, from SuzukiCycles.com

Another thing to consider that you will (yes you really need to) be wearing proper motorcycle boots. Not sneakers, not flip flops, not loafers. Real riding boots. Something that has a real sole, grippy, anti slip and probably ~1-2" higher in the heel. Leverage is one of our most important friends as shorter riders. Without it you are screwed. (Pssst..Stop trying to ride a motorcycle without the right gear. It's a real motorcycle, not a video game :D)

A very good example of this is the Daytona Ladystar. But you may not even need something that tall.

You may just need a regular riding boot like these Sidi Vertigo Leis, (left) which I wear every time I go riding. And even these have ~3/4" heel on them. So add that to your natural inseam. 

I've also added these awesome insoles which give me another 2" of overall height! HELL YES.

 

 Available on  Amazon.com . Just do a search for Height Insoles or Lifted Insoles and you'll find a ton on Google or Amazon. 

Available on Amazon.com. Just do a search for Height Insoles or Lifted Insoles and you'll find a ton on Google or Amazon. 

So all I'm saying is, DON'T GIVE UP just because some numbers tell you that you should! If you've been riding something for awhile and are ready for the next level, then some of these things will greatly apply to what you're thinking about riding. 

Or, as a totally new rider you will also be thinking about what you can or can't ride. So make sure you start AT YOUR EXPERIENCE LEVEL. I can't emphasize this enough. 

I truly think this is the #1 mistake people make (aside from not gearing up). When you start on a bike that is well beyond your level, you have no idea how to compensate for the lack of height. Instead you end up frustrated, stressed out, unhappy and probably someone with very poor riding skills as you drop your bike left and right. 

A couple of caveats however, with all this advice: 

  1. Don't expect to ride a bike with a really tall inseam (~3-6" taller than yours) if you've never ridden before! Because, no, that won't work! 
  2. And there are NO shortcuts to becoming proficient in riding and getting better at riding. When we are short, we must ride better:
    • With more precision than anyone else to ensure we brake perfectly so as to prevent dropping the bike. This means clutch/throttle control, exceptionally smooth braking and cornering, etc. 

Also read this article I wrote about all the bikes I've ridden in my brief career as a motorcyclist. There are a few other things to think about when choosing the right motorcycle as well.  

Good luck, and remember to consider everything when shopping for a motorcycle. Don't let anyone make a decision as personal as choosing YOUR motorcycle or motorcycle gear. 

Advanced Riding Skills with Reg Pridmore

trackday triumph speed triple street triple R  

I know what you're thinking. But I don't need a track day. And you're right, you don't. Instead, you need Reg Pridmore. 

I loved the track day that my husband and I did last September. But as a 'Training' environment, for street specific skills and riding, I didn't feel like it was the best option.

That's why I really want to do Reg Pridmore's Class School. I feel like his homepage says it all:

reg_pridmore_class_motorcycle_school 

"The friendliest and safest place to learn the riding skills we all need."

"At CLASS, Reg Pridmore focuses on teaching you how to become a smoother safer and more confident rider with instruction on more effective braking, shifting, cornering and how to avoid some pitfalls that often occur as a result of bad habits (even those you might not know you have)."

These two things are what make this kind of class totally different from a track day in my opinion. If you read through the FAQs, you'll see what the format is and how the class is set up.

My husband and I will probably shoot for the October class and by then we hop to have a different car that we can tow our bikes down to. Although, I'm still trying to convince him to ride down but, it's generally safer to drive your vehicle to a track class.. Hmmmm.

Whatever you do to increase your skills, just make sure it's a safe learning environment and not designed to outspeed eachother. There are quite a few different advanced courses out there if this is too far away for you. I've collected a few on my resources page for you.

Record Number of Women Own Motorcycles

philly moto girls revit dainese tourmaster pants jacket leather marryl gear2  

According to the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) more women are not only riding motorcycles today but Owning them as well! 

More Female Riders Than Ever According to Latest Motorcycle Industry Council Owner Survey

IRVINE, Calif. Dec. 16, 2015 –Female motorcycle ownership is at an all-time high, according to the latest data from the Motorcycle Industry Council. The MIC’s latest Motorcycle Owner Survey found that women account for 14 percent of all U.S. motorcycle owners, well up from the 8 percent reported in 1998.

“Women continue to embrace motorcycling like never before,” said Sarah Schilke, national marketing manager of BMW Motorrad USA and chair of PowerLily, a group consisting of female motorcycle industry professionals. “Of the 9.2 million owners, more are women than we’ve ever recorded. And, among the more than 30 million Americans who swung a leg over a motorcycle and rode at least once in 2014, a quarter (25%) of these riders were women (riders aren't all necessarily owners).”

Among younger generations of owners, the percentage of women is even higher. More than 17 percent of Gen X and Gen Y owners are women (I definitely see younger and younger women riding these days). Among Boomer owners, women make up 9 percent.

“It’s encouraging that we’re seeing more women among the riders who are coming up,” Schilke said. “Motorcycling is for everyone, and that’s being recognized by younger generations.”

gearchic_sarah_schilke_bmw_motorrad

The Owner Survey also revealed what type of bikes women prefer. Cruisers are the choice of 34 percent of female riders. Scooters rank a close second at 33 percent, followed by sportbikes at 10 percent (we still have work to do, fellow sporties!).

In the survey of some 48,000 American households, women were asked to share their top three reasons for riding motorcycles. They answered “fun and recreation,” followed by “sense of freedom” and “enjoy outdoors/nature.” When it comes to purchasing a motorcycle, women rate “Fuel Economy” and “Test Rides” as the most important factors.

The study revealed that female riders are safety-conscious (Hell Yeah!). While 60 percent of women took a motorcycle safety course, only 42 of men had any formal training (are boys letting their egos in the way?). In some state motorcycle safety training programs, women make up 30 percent of the student population.

Other key survey results:

  • The median age for female motorcyclists is 39 versus 48 for males
  • More than 49 percent of women motorcyclists perform their own maintenance or have a friend or relative do it, instead of taking their bikes to a shop
  • New bikes are preferred over used by 57 percent of female riders (I guess I'm in the minority, used all the way!) 49 percent of female motorcyclists are married 47 percent of female motorcyclists have a college or post-graduate degree

****

The MIC Motorcycle Owner Survey is free to MIC members, but can be purchased by non-members for $12,500. 

The Motorcycle Industry Council exists to preserve, protect and promote motorcycling through government relations, communications and media relations, statistics and research, aftermarket programs, development of data communications standards, and activities surrounding technical and regulatory issues. As a not-for-profit, national industry association, the MIC seeks to support motorcyclists by representing manufacturers, distributors, dealers and retailers of motorcycles, scooters, ATVs, ROVs, motorcycle/ATV/ROV parts, accessories and related goods and services, and members of allied trades such as insurance, finance and investment companies, media companies and consultants.

The MIC is headquartered in Irvine, Calif., with a government relations office in metropolitan Washington, D.C. First called the MIC in 1970, the organization has been in operation since 1914. Visit the MIC at mic.org.

Resources for Philadelphia Area Motorcyclists

trackday_njmp_triumphs.jpg

Often times I'm asked about riding resources in the Philly area. Everything from rider training to social riding events, so I put together this little page to help my fellow riders out.  If you live in the Philadelphia area, you might be trying to figure out where to ride. Or maybe you're wondering where to meet other folks who ride. Or maybe you're wondering where can I get properly fitted for a helmet?!

I'm going to try and collect as much information as possible and put it here, so please add a comment if you have suggestions. I can't promise everything will be posted but I'll certainly add stuff if I think it's useful, appropriate and content friendly.

Thanks!