how to ride

Resources for Philadelphia Area Motorcyclists

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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!

 

First Track Day on Our Triumphs

Someone sort of following me... more like really good Photoshop skills.

Someone sort of following me... more like really good Photoshop skills.

After my accident in June, a track day is exactly what I needed. We signed up for a track day with Team Promotion at New Jersey Motorsports Park. 

I've been so terrible about posting these past few weeks.  Learned some new things, gained more of my confidence back and learned a lot about my bike. Team Pro Motion was great, and my husband and I had a blast!

For this track day I didn't buy a 1 piece suit, because I knew that I wouldn't use one again anytime soon but I would be able to use a pair of track leather pants again on the street. So I opted for the Revit Xena Leather Pants to zip to my jacket. 

So is a trackday right for you? I think it really depends on what you're trying to accomplish. There are many of us who are really all about street riding and touring. And we simply want to increase our skills. What's the best way to do this?  

Suspension Shops in WVA, VA, MD?

I'm heading to Deals Gap in September for the Women's Sportbike Rally! I hope you will join me, as I will be sponsoring the bike night event on Saturday. Here's the route I'm trying to take (although it's not set in stone).

If you can recommend any shops along the way that do suspension work, please post a comment with your referral. What I need is someone to help adjust my suspension as much as possible for my weight.

Thanks!

QnA: Finding a Motorcycle to Lower?

2006 Triumph Speed Triple Reader Susan asks me what kind of sportbike should she get in order to lower and learn to ride. 

I am trying to find a bike that is safe to lower... I have a 27 inch inseam... all of the sport bikes are too tall and I dont want a cruiser or rebel.... wanted a ducati 696 but thats too tall and too much power... any suggestions ? - Susan ( love your page too )

Dear Susan,

First, thank you for reading GearChic.com!

A Ducati Monster 696 can be a terrific bike to start on. But it's not for everyone. And it certainly wouldn't have been for me. If you've read about me, then you know I started on a lightweight scooter. No, you don't have to start on a scooter. However, it's MUCH easier to start on something LIGHTER AND TALLER than heavier and taller. My scooter weighed ~250lbs but had a 30" seat height! But it didn't matter since the weight was really low (below my butt) and I could easily pick it up when I dropped it. :D

If the Ducati Monster 696 is the sportbike if your dreams, then I really recommend starting with something smaller and spend the time you need to learn how to ride! Just because you start on something like a Ninja 250 doesn't mean you are going to be married to that bike forever. We can't grow taller, so what can we do? We can hone our riding techniques and skills so balancing a bike with 4-5" of extra seat height doesn't matter!

suzuki drz 400 sm

By the time I started riding a Ninja, it was an easy transition. I was already used to using my left foot first and keeping my right foot on the brakes to keep the bike from falling over. I was already used to something almost 300lbs, so jumping up to ~350lbs was easy.

The other thing to know is that with a 27" inseam, you will probably never flat foot anything if your dream is to ride a taller bike like a Ducati. Also keep in mind that lowering sportbikes means losing ground clearance, meaning when you lean you will be limited to how much you will be able to! Something that you don't understand know, but trust me you will learn to love especially when you ride a sportbike.

A Ninja 250/300 might have a 30" seat height but that doesn't mean you can't ride them. Keep in mind that when you buy a proper pair of motorcycle boots like these you will automatically be 1.5-2" off the ground from the heel to the arches of your feet. You're now close to 29". And when you take your motorcycle safety class, you will learn the proper techniques to brake and use your controls so you don't drop you bike.

2003 Kawasaki Ninja 250

The key to all of this is being willing to learn, grow and make mistakes. It's not easy, it's not quick and it's going to take time. But trust me, when you put the time into a smaller, lightweight bike the payoff is amazing!

But that's what worked for me, and I feel I'm a MUCH better rider because of it. There's absolutely NO WAY I'd be able to ride bikes like these without having invested the time and making mistakes.

Whatever you decide, just know that motorcycling is something you work at, constantly. Even after 12 years, I still struggle every time I ride to do it better and safer each time.

 

QnA: Can a short woman ride sportbikes?

Riding my Husband's 2006 Triumph Speed Triple

Riding my Husband's 2006 Triumph Speed Triple

Reader Farhana emailed me asking if it's ever going to be possible for her to ride a sportbike at 4'11". 

The short answer is YES. Here's her original question and my slightly longer answer :D

I'm currently in the riding course, and needed input from women rider. I am 4'11, and I need input for bikes. I really want a sport bike, but since I have never maneuvered a bike before, everyone is telling me to start on a Rebel. Do you even think it's possible for me to ever ride a sport bike? I appreciate your time.

-Farhana

Dear Farhana,

Everyone is correct!

To ride the SportBikes of your dreams you have to start somewhere. Motorcycling is a constant learning experience and you have to build skills to jump to the next bike! I started on a rebel in my safety course and also started on a scooter. You won't ride a rebel forever, but you'll learn so much so you can ride a SportBike someday.

Never flat foot, even with  fancy Daytonas . 

Never flat foot, even with fancy Daytonas

Me, riding the tallest motorcycle I've ever ridden. A stock DRZ400SM with ~36" seat height. Yikes.

Me, riding the tallest motorcycle I've ever ridden. A stock DRZ400SM with ~36" seat height. Yikes.

I have learned that because I'm shorter, starting out on smaller motorcycles was the only way I could get enough experience to manage bigger, heavier bikes. If you try to attack a larger bike that's beyond your experience level, it's going to be a much harder learning curve. Gaining confidence and learning to ride something smaller and lighter is one of the best ways to adapt quickly to taller bikes. Since we'll never grow taller, all we can do is master our skills and learn to ride better than someone taller.

That being said, since I don't know your inseam, I'm going to assume it's ~26-27"? Personally, I've been able to ride bikes with 2" higher inseams than my own. Mine is 28.5" and I'm very comfortable on 30-31" bikes. There's a chance you won't be able to physically ride anything larger than maybe a bike with a 29" inseam. It's totally dependent on the individual, really. I think if you can get close to flat foot on your left, then there's no reason why you can't ride something. Of course, building enough confidence to ride something that tall without dropping or falling constantly is going to take a while.

And for inspiration, watch this video:

 

Before you start, check out my post about riding motorcycles when you're short. It'll give you some tips to get started.

Good luck!

Bike Review 2012 Triumph Street Triple R

goldie_sunflowers As you may have noticed from my most recent social media posts, I am in LOVE with my new-to-me motorbike. It's the best one I've owned and ridden so far. 

Background

Before I start, I want to give you background info. It's good to know where the reviewer is coming from, so you can get a handle on what his/her experience is on bikes in general:

  • 5'3", 130lbs. 28.5" true inseam
  • Most recent rides: '06 SV650, '03 SV650S (both stock)
  • My bike ownership history; none of my bikes have been lowered because I value my ground clearance and lean angle
  • All the bikes I've ever ridden but not necessarily owned

So as you can see, this isn't a first bike for me. I would also NEVER recommend this is as a first bike. I'm not saying it can't be done, because some of you are reading this and have already purchased one as your first. What you didn't realize is this bike is not just a 675cc, it's a 675cc triple with 105 hp! That's 30+ horsepower over any 650cc twins or 4-cyl bikes (ninja 650, sv650, fz6, etc).

The curb weight is 416lbs, and the center gravity is quite low since the tank is rather skinny on top. This was my beef with the husband's sPeed Triple. Although I really love that bike it's too topheavy for my taste and as a result I was on my tiptoes and one flat left which even for me doesn't make me feel as good as I do on mine.

I purchased this beauty from good ole' Craigslist with just 4,995 miles on it, which is where I purchased my last SV. Although I was looking at various dealerships, I never saw one that I could afford. I guess it was just meant to be, because I found this one in early February. However, I didn't have the money to pay for it until late March! Lucky me.

 

Past vs. Present

I often see the question of comparison between this bike and the ever popular SV650/SV650S. Having been a previous owner of both models, I can absolutely tell you without a doubt that this bike trumps anything the SV line ever offered. The additional cost of which took me about 6 months to save up for. But it was worth every.stinking.penny.

2003_suzuki_sv650s_livermoreCA

it's me!

I certainly enjoyed the 6 years I spent on both of my last SVs, but I'm sooooo much happier on this beast. Many folks will tell you that an upgraded suspension on the SV makes it a worthy ride. True, I could've spent ~$1,500 and upgraded the stock suspension. But, after spending ~1,000 miles on my husband's Triumph I knew I wanted one of my own!

Here are a few of the things that I have gained from upgrading:

  • More power (30% increase from ~70hp to ~100hp) at the same weight as an SV!
  • Smoother throttle response especially when rolling off the throttle. The SV throttle is twitchy as hell when you roll on or off, since it lunges quickly if you don't roll off softly.
  • Suspension. Fully adjustable, although it's set up for a heavier man, it still feels much smoother and more stable going over bumps. The rebound is far slower, so it doesn't bounce up and down so much.
  • Seat. Much better for long distance, my flat butt is much happier after a 300+ mile day of riding.

Going from a V-Twin to a 3-Cylinder engine is definitely different as well. This bike needs to rev at higher rpm's so I need to work on delayed shifting since I'm still used to shifting at lower rpm's. Since it redlines at 14,000, it's definitely an adjustment for me to wait a little longer before the upshift. One cool feature is the gear shift indicator lights. Since I can't take a picture of this while riding, I drew a yellow arrow where the gear shift indicator lights will show up depending on how you program them. I find this to be tremendously helpful as I get used to the way this engine powers up.

2012_triumph_street_tripleR_gear_shift

Height

I know many of you may be wondering about height. Well if you've read any of my past articles in the Too Short To Ride section of my blog, you know that I just don't care that the seat height on this bike is 31.7". For me, it's a lightweight bike at ~415lbs so it doesn't feel as tall. The nice thing is that it doesn't feel top heavy to me, and the tank isn't very wide on top. No wider than where the turn signal and engine cut off switch sit on the handlebars. I have to emphasize that it doesn't feel top heavy to Me, because I've been through really annoying top heavy bikes like the Z750s.

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But it feels just like the SV in terms of weight. I can't really tell the difference. I think it's ~0.25"-0.5" lower but hardly noticeable. Since my husband bought his sPeed Triple last summer, I had been taking it for day rides and even a quick overnight to NY. That bike has the same seat height as mine, but since the seat is sloped a bit, it forces me up on my tiptoes. Whereas my bike lets me plant two balls of my feet where I'm most comfortable. The engine is also larger too, so the overall weight is ~470lbs.

2006 Triumph Speed Triple

It's amazing how light a bike can feel after you've been riding something heavier and taller.

Since then, I've also added these insoles from Amazon to my Sidi Boots in order to get more height. Luckily my Sidis are a half size too big, so they fit in really well. As you can see the full insole comes with 2 add'l pieces for the heel. You don't have to wear all of them. In fact I only wear the main insole and one of the extensions. Although they don't make both of my feet flat they simply allow me to put my left foot down flat without shifting my butt off the side, a little more convenient. :)

riding motorcycles with lifted insoles

Twisties

As far as throwing her into corners, it definitely feels more solid and planted. One thing that really drove me to get this bike was that I didn't want to sacrifice the flickability of getting the SV650S into a corner. I feel like the STR drops quickly without me having to do very much work. I definitely need to spend more time with her in the twisties to improve my timing when it comes to entry speed and leaning but it feels so familiar and easy to work with.

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I still need to take her to get the suspension set up for my weight, because it's a bit stiff for my taste in the rear. But I can still feel the difference all the way through the turn from braking beforehand to accelerating out of it. The tires are still stock as well, Pirelli Diablo Corsas front and rear. They feel different from Michelin Pilot Powers (what I'm used to), but not worse.

I must mention the tires are still Pirelli Diablo Corsas. The previous owner didn't change them from when he purchased the bike originally and I haven't either since they have plenty of tread. I figure I'll need to swap out for my favorite Michelin Pilot Power 3's next Spring. As of September 2015, I've upgraded them and they're amazing! I also took Goldie on her first track day at New Jersey Motorsports Park (my husband came too :D), which I highly recommend. It was great to get to know her a little better and increase my confidence a bit from where it was due to my accident.

trackday triumph speed triple street triple R 

 

Long Distance

This is Not a touring bike. But, some of us aren't ready to call it a day and buy an F700Gs. Frankly, I don't know if I'll ever be ready for that. I'm still in love with twisty riding, and I can't imagine being as happy on a touring bike in my size. I also would be sad to lose the *power*. Once again my husband is right, it's very hard to drop back down to something less powerful when you're used to 100+ hp.

2012_triumph_street_tripleR

For now I'm making it work for me. The biggest impact for me is the lack of windscreen. Although to be fair, the SV650S barely had one anyhow. As with any bike lacking a windscreen or fairing, prepare to be whipped around a bit and with a strong headwind. It was especially tiring when I rode for 3 hours on the highway in the pouring rain (150 miles). That was NOT fun. I was exhausted when I got to my hotel that afternoon, it felt like I'd ridden all day in 100 degree heat.

At least my booty is more comfortable. The seat is a vast improvement over the SV stock seats. Holy smokes, I can ride a good half day without going numb. Granted, I have a very flat one so that definitely doesn't help. But, this seat is noticeably more comfortable most likely because of how much wider it is.

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With the Kriega Packs loaded on the rear, I've got 40 liters of space. This is plenty of room for me on a 4-6 day trip. But I try to pack light and never camp. I love big, comfy beds and hot showers, what can I say?If you're planning on camping, you'll probably need a Givi top box as well. And I never travel far without a tankbag to give me just that extra bit of storage space.

I would also add that overall mileage on this bike isn't that much less than the SV650. I think my record on the SV was 200miles on a tank before it was fully dry. On this one, I can do about 180. I haven't pushed it to the edge but I got 170 miles with ~3/4 gallon left. The tank size is virtually the same, but sadly fuel economy goes down with the extra power.

For even more comfort in colder temps, I've installed Oxford Heaterz Premium Grips and a lead to wear my WarmnSafe 65W Heated liner. A quick warning about installing the Oxfords. You'll have to shave down the throttle tube (it's plastic) so the grips can fit over the handgrip. You only have to do this on the throttle side.  There's plenty of power for these two accessories, but I'm not sure how much additional power is available for fancier headlights or turn signals which might be future upgrades.

sena_smh10R_shoei_qwest

Speaking of upgrades, here's my short wishlist:

  • FP Racing shorty levers
  • Better headlights: not a high priority
  • Sargent seat: not a super high priority
  • Ram mount: most parts ordered, just need to get the proper iPhone holder Done!
  • SW Motech Kobra Handguards with integrated turn signals: WANT this so bad. But there's a questionable issue as to whether it'll fit my bike or not. Must do more research.
  • Reflective rim tape: I loved having the red reflective tape on the SV, so I definitely want some on this bike. I'm thinking black reflective.
  • Rear fender eliminator: I love the look of a fenderless rear but I DON'T want to give up the visibility from my turn signals. So I guess I need to find some bright turn signals as well! Goldie 2.0 has a Rizoma setup.

Phew, that's a long list of farkles. Add to that the sad realization my Shoei is 5 years old this June. Urgh. Time for another upgrade :D

I love my new bike, I can't express that enough. If you're looking for an upgrade from a sub500cc bike prepare for something that isn't quite what you're expecting with the additional power from this deceptive "middleweight".

But if you've decided to end your relationship with your SV650 / Ninja 650 / FZ6, then it might just be exactly what you're looking for.

Update!

Unfortunately, a month after I wrote my review, I totaled Goldie 1.0. But the really really good news is that I was able to acquire an identical Goldie 2.0 which is the exact same bike, same year, same color. The pictures of me on the Dragon above and doing my track day is with Goldie 2.0. 

I wanted to mention that in August 2015, I was able to drop 18lbs of weight from the bike by adding a Competition Werkes low mount exhaust:

2012_triumph_streettriple_competitionwerkes gp cobra black

 

I also removed the rear footpeg mounts and subsequently have a lighter bike along with a much cooler butt! Those high mount exhausts were blowing so much hot air on my thighs/butt, they were killing me. After just 5 minutes of engine warmup, they would be blowing so much height underneath my seat. Not so bad in the Fall/Winter but miserable in the Summer. I felt a huge difference in warmer weather and it's far more comfortable to ride with especially on longer trips. I highly recommend it!

 

Ride Review: Suzuki DRZ 400 SM. That Was Tall!

Suzuki DRZ400SM Last week I rode a DRZ 400 SM. Wow, I learned so much and rode the tallest bike I've ever ridden. Yes, You Can.

I learned that a Suzuki Drz400sm isn't in my near future. Not because it was really tall (35"+!) but I didn't like the way it rode. I'm still very much a sporty girl and love the handling, feedback and stability that modern sportbikes offer. If you know me at all, you know I'm a sucker for twisties and don't care much about straight lines either. This bike was definitely a demon in the twisties, but in a different way.

I only had the chance to ride it for one afternoon, down to Alice's Restaurant from San Francisco. We took a very simple ride route, a little slab to get to the twisties!:

  • 280 South --> 92 West
  • 35 South (twisties begin)
  • 84 West
  • Quick stop at Stage Road in San Gregorio, then South on Stage Road
  • Left on Pescadero Road to 84 East back to Alices

Although short but sweet, it was heavenly. We left around 12, so it was too late of a start to head further south towards Boulder Creek as planned. Oh well, that's what Christmas vacation will be for! So my friend generously let me borrow his DRZ 400 SM and my husband rode another friend's KTM RC8 (we have awesome friends!!), and my girlfriend joined us on her DR650.

I definitely wouldn't have ridden a heavier bike of the same height. Since it was skinny and lightweight, I felt fairly confident that I could handle it. But to be completely honest, I probably would've said no if I took a minute to think about what I was going to ride.

I'm glad I didn't think about it too much and just rode my brains out. I also didn't wear my big girl boots which didn't make it much easier but I guess I like a challenge.

2005 Suzuki DRZ 400 SM

Here are some specs for the one I rode:

  • Dry Weight: 295lbs
  • Wheelbase: 57in
  • Seat Height: 35in; with a Gel Seat for a 1" shorter seat height
  • Ground Clearance: 10in
  • Unlowered suspension
  • Shinko Trailmaster Tires; these tires are taller, so they counteracted the gel seat
  • Click here for a full list of specs 

If there's one thing I love about riding different bikes, it's that I usually learn something new. On this bike, I had to relearn how to make my lines. I was having trouble through corners and my friend reminded me that I can't ride it like a sport bike because it isn't one. It's a supermoto! After she gave me a couple tips, it was a lot easier to stay smooth through the corners and increase my entry and exit speeds.

I quickly learned that in the twisties, I still love the way street bikes perform and am not sure if a smaller supermoto is in my future. I definitely love how mid weight supermotos like KTM's 690 SMR and 690 Duke feel and would love to have one someday.

I'm a bit on the fence about this bike, I mean besides the fact that it's annoyingly tall. I loved the riding position and how far I could see up ahead. You're almost the same height as SUVs so it's really easy to see down the road. Of course, the riding position was really comfortable. I did have to jump on the highway to get down to Alice's but doing 75mph was easy.

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When you ride something that's barely tall enough to throw one leg over, curbs suddenly become your best friend. As soon as I'd see one at a stoplight or freeway offramp, it was always convenient to pull up next to one and rest my wayward foot. My right leg is typically rather useless because I can only get my toes down, but on this one it was *completely* useless! I also avoided dirt and uneven pavement and always got off the bike to park it. Luckily I was able to balance it just perfectly to hop right and get my right foot down to kick the sidestand down with my left foot. Whew!

 

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It's just too bad I didn't have time to throw a leg over my friend's RC8!

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At the end of the day, I feel like I accomplished a lot and rode something I never expected to be able to ride. If someone told me that someday I'd be able to throw a leg over a bike with almost 35" seat height I would've told them they were nuts.

I guess the moral of the story is, don't think about it, just do it. (Of course, after you've perfected your braking and balancing techniques :D)

Learning to Ride All Over Again, Almost

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There's nothing like riding a taller, heavier bike to help you remember what it was like to learn to ride a motorcycle for the first time...  A few months ago, my husband bought this beautiful bike; a 2007 Triumph Speed Triple. It's completely stock, as far as the suspension and it's totally set up for his height and weight (5'10", 210lbs). Definitely not designed for someone of my size!

When I set out for a long day ride on Sunday, I had to forego riding my trusty steed, because it wasn't holding any air in the rear tire. I found a couple of cuts on the surface of the tire so I was worried that it wouldn't be very safe for an 8 hour ride. I was a little worried about taking his bike out since it was only my 3rd time riding this Speed Triple. The first time I took it I only rode to work which was a 15 minute ride to and from home. The second time was a few miles further to the Suzuki dealer for an oil filter. Piece of cake compared to an 8 hour, 270 mile day ride.

2007_triumph_speed_triple_green2

This bike is 1/2" taller than my SV (31.5" v. 32.1") that I have to wear my Daytonas, which give me maximum vertical height. It also weighs another ~30lbs so it's more top heavy as well. I definitely wanted to have as much stability as possible since I hadn't ridden his bike this much before. Due to the way the bike's engine is situated, I find myself sitting up much higher too. It reminded me of driving my dad's '82 Suburban back in college when I was used to driving my little '90 Honda Accord.

It definitely reminded me of the first time I rode our first motorcycle, a 2004 Kawasaki Ninja 250. It felt heavy, awkward, and tall. Ha! If only I could travel back in time and tell the woman in this picture what she was was in for:

2003 Kawasaki Ninja 250

I found myself doing things a little differently so that I could maintain control of the bike at all times. (I was terrified of dropping it, I just knew that my husband would be *very* sad if that happened) So I tried to be extremely strategic and conscious at all times of how I was riding, stopping and parking. Since I can only flat foot with my left ( I can barely get two toes down), that meant extremely smooth braking and making sure that I didn't stop on any weird slopes that my left foot couldn't reach. I also found myself using curbs to my advantage, especially at the gas station for filling up. Left foot on the curb, right foot on the rear brake. For some reason, I kept forgetting to kick back my sidestand before shifting into 1st gear. Rookie move!

2007_triumph_speed_triple

I also had to jump off the bike every time to park it since it was a little harder to back up with one foot due to the extra height. Fine by me, since I do it all the time with my SV unless the pavement is perfectly flat. There were also a couple times where I couldn't just follow my friend Brian into the parking lot. The first pic above, for example, I parked the bike there after he rode into the parking lot to the right which was *all* gravel. Although, later in the day we met a brief gravel road and I miraculously made my way through it.

So my natural inseam is 28.5". This bike is 32.1" inches; almost 4 full inches of additional height than my own inseam. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone was SO worth it, I had a blast and CAN'T WAIT to go riding again with it. (although my husband may disagree.... heheh).

After awhile, I felt far more confident, and more importantly I was having SO MUCH FUN. Damn, this bike is evil. Because all you can do the whole time is scream in your helmet; "Wheeeeeeeeeeeee!" I can't be trusted on a liter bike, so I'll definitely be getting new tires on the SV soon to make sure I keep my driving record as clean as possible :D.

If you're looking for a fun, semi twisty route outside of Philly, take a look at the route my friend and I took to Shamokin, about 275 miles round trip.