MotoCynic Tip: Keep an Eye on Your Motorcycle

Unless this is your first visit to my blog (if so WELCOME!) you know that my brother recently got his first motorcycle and is out there suffering through the steep learning curve that is riding a motorcycle. One of the things I do at least once a week is look over my bike and make sure my lights are working, as well as checking oil etc. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation calls this Check TCLOCKS and it is pretty important.

I know I mentioned this to my brother, and I was reminded of how important it was the other day. I was riding to work in the predawn light and I was behind a motorcyclist for a while. His tail light was out. He also wasn’t wearing any reflective gear. Making him pretty near invisible. The way people drive this is extremely dangerous, and I made a mental note to remind my brother of the importance of keeping the motorcycle in good form.

Your life really does depend on it.

Checking the chain out.

Checking the chain out.

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New Brakes on the SV650S (First Motorcycle Project in New Garage!)

Strangely enough I’ve never put new brake pads on a motorcycle before…

My brother’s new to him SV650S’ brakes seemed soft to me, but it wasn’t until I had another friend ride it that I could confirm this. Once I knew for sure that his brakes were not as good as we liked I looked into possible solutions. I suspected that new pads were going to be the answer and after a little research I was confident that this was the right first step. I ended up getting some Vesrah sintered pads from my mechanic at Nichols, he has an SV650 and said they were the best he has used. I figured that was enough for me and rode over and picked them up.

All that was left to do was find the time to put them on.

Here we are in the garage with all the boxes putting on new brake pads.

Here we are in the garage with all the boxes putting on new brake pads.

It isn’t hard to replace brake pads on disc brakes, and I’ve done it on my cars several times. It is even easier to do on a motorcycle. No jack needed and wheel to remove, just take off the caliper and replace the pads. My brother and I as complete motorcycle brake replacing novices did it in less than an hour.

It was a nice break from working on the house. Spending some time in the garage (I have a garage!) working on the bike was pretty awesome it would have been even better if I didn’t have to keep running upstairs for tools. Hopefully soon I’ll be done using all those tools remodeling the kitchen and I can get them down into the garage where they belong.

From the Report I got from my brother when he got home the brakes seem better, which is good. New brakes mean he can be safer (and faster).


Working on the motorcycle, one of the simple pleasures in life.

Working on the motorcycle, one of the simple pleasures in life.

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Everyday Try and Be a Better Rider

I am not an amazing motorcyclist, I watch enough racing to know what an amazing rider looks like. I make mistakes all the time. In fact up until recently I might have considered myself a below average rider.

A couple of things in the past few years have changed my opinion on this, the first is that I helped a few people get into riding motorcycles (recently my brother) and I realized how hard it is in the beginning. It’s been a long time and I’ve forgotten how much there is to learn in the first several thousand miles. The second is that I went on a ride with my friend from NYC to Laguna Seca and he remarked how much faster I was than him. I dismissed this at first, but we spoke about the things he was still thinking about as he rode the motorcycle and I realized that so many of them were things I did with out analyzing them anymore.

Despite this realization that I am no longer a novice rider, and in fact after nine years and over 100k miles possibly an experienced rider that I try and remind myself everyday that I can be better, and that I still have things to learn.

My goal is to try and learn something everyday, sometimes this means picking a skill and working on it. Skills that I still need to work on quite a bit are peripheral vision, cornering, trail braking, vanishing point etc.

I try to think about all of these things every time I ride. But it’s best to maybe pick one a week and try and work on that every day for a week or two. Then move on to the next, but I do think that every day we should try to become the best motorcyclist you can be. Your life could depend on it.

One of my goals once I’m done getting my brother up to speed (and I have no idea how long that might be) is to talk about how I’ve been working on these and if I’ve noticed any improvement.

The main thing I want to do is not get complacent, or too confident. This potentially leads to more risks taken and the unfortunate consequences if those risks lead to crashing.

Making 30mph look as fast as possible.

Making 30mph look as fast as possible.


Posted in Life, Motocycling, Riding | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Where do you keep your Cell Phone? (On Your Motorcycle)

Everyone has one now, and there are many different ways to keep them on you when you ride. I was wondering where you keep yours and prevent the thing that happened to me several years ago and now more recently my brother.

Having your phone fall out of a pocket while you’re riding…

I wish I took a picture of it when he got it back… it was pretty bad looking, and well it made me think of how when you ride most people come up with a system, certain pockets hold certain things.

Thanks to the lovely wife for taking this picture.

Thanks to the lovely wife for taking this picture.


I keep my cell phone on my bars in a special holder, it’s been there safely since I got it 2  and half years ago. It works for me and I plan on continuing this.

What works for you? Any suggestions for me or the new rider?


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The Realities of Learning to Ride a Motorcycle

It has been over 9 years and over 100,000 miles so my memories of learning to ride are not the best. However, watching my brother go through the learning process is definitely bringing some of them back.

He’s done about 500 miles so far, and starting this past Monday he has been commuting on the motorcycle. The end of last week and this past weekend were filled with motorcycling for him. A rush of getting as much riding in as his brain could handle. He’s doing pretty well but has had his share of adventures so far. One of the scariest things was that he ran out of gas on his second time out on the freeway… He dealt with it pretty well, but it was terrifying to hear about later. After that adventure at the gas station he dropped the bike and broke the clutch lever. Luckily these things were handled with relatively little stress.

I’m trying hard not to dump information on him, trying not to overload him. While still wanting to make sure he gets all the information he needs to stay safe out there. (For example making sure he was careful about watching his fuel light.)

There is a bright side to all of this, it was pretty awesome though to go for our first ride together on Friday. It’s been a long time coming, and despite the slow pace and my worrying the entire time it was fun.

It was a good day on the motorcycles.

It was a good day on the motorcycles.

Posted in Life, Motocycling, Motorcycles, New Rider | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

On the Road: Watch Out New Rider

This may seem like it’s happening faster than it really is. The post that published Tuesday was being written and worked on for weeks. I just had not gotten around to finishing it. I finally got around to finishing it and posting it since I wanted to get it out before we bought a bike … and I could not have cut it closer, since we bought a bike Tuesday evening.

We could have looked longer, but there is a time and place for just making a decision and buying a motorcycle with out belaboring it too much.

My brother is the proud owner of a 2006 SV650S. We got a good deal on it because of a salvaged title, but it is in good condition, it runs, has no damage to the frame, suspension, engine, or any other part that would effect the function of the bike. The damage it does have is pretty light and nearly all cosmetic or has been fixed. We’re pretty damn happy with it.

There we have it, my brother is out on the road on his motorcycle.

First Day on his motorcycle in the parking lot.

First Day on his motorcycle in the parking lot.

Well not right away, we spend an hour or so refreshing his skills in a parking lot, then he spent several more hours riding around the sleepy neighborhood my parents live in. Today we hope to get it above 55 MPH on the ride home and we’ll see about getting on the freeway by the end of the weekend.

I’m making as much time as I can to watch him and give pointers, but right now it is primarly about getting familiar with the controls of the motorcycle. I think once he gets 1000 miles under his tires we can start moving forward. As always though we are open to suggestions!

Trying to keep it rubber side down.


Posted in Life, Motorcycles, New Rider | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

The Road to Riding a Motorcycle

Riding a motorcycle is one of best things do in my life, I definitely still feel bad that I can’t help my brother get on a motorcycle and start riding faster. If there was anything I could do to help him make riding easier I would.

However, it’s not just the matter of getting your license and a motorcycle… I mean it is, but it’s just that it is sometimes not so easy to do those things.

My brother is in the middle of starting a new career as a teacher which means he just finished more school and is dealing with the fact that his income the last few years has been less than ideal. This of course makes it impossible to just throw down several thousand dollars on a “toy”.

The solution to this is to make it not a toy, but a functional vehicle, and use it as a primay source of transportion. This is less crazy than it seems, since here in Northern California (specifically the San Francisco Bay Area) it never snows and rarely gets anywhere near freezing. Of course lately it also rarely rains making things perfect for riding motorcycles…

I need to get this guy out and on the roads with me!

I need to get this guy out and on the roads with me!

My brother, learning how to ride around in circles.

My brother, learning how to ride around in circles.

The plan was to make the big switch this summer, sell his car and buy a motorcycle. This takes time though, it’s not like you can easily just sell your car in a day and start shopping for a motorcycle.

So we’re in this process and running out of time. School starts next week and we’re looking like crazy for something for him to commute to work on. Hopefully we’ll find it soon and get him practicing all weekend so he’s ready to go!

Update: His car sold over the weekend and we are looking at bikes this week! Wish us luck.


Posted in Life, Motocycling, motorcycle, Motorcycles | 3 Comments