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Nervous on open highways

Posted: Tue May 14, 2013 7:14 pm
by taxman1965
Was anyone else nervous as a beginning rider on "open" 2 lane highways with more traffic? I'm assuming that it will get better with time and practice. On less traveled country roads with less traffic, it doesn't bother me--even at 50-55 mph. But, if I'm on a 2 lane state highway, as I was tonight, traveling at 60-62 mph with more traffic, I was nervous and started to tighten up on the handlebars, etc. I did maintain my speed throughout the segment that I was on, until I turned off onto a small country road. I've only been riding for 1 year and my wife and I did take the MSF course last June. I'm much better on the 750 Shadow that I just bought 2 weeks ago than I was on the CRF230L dual sport bike that I traded in. That bike was very nerve-wracking on the highway because of its light weight and instability at higher speeds.

Hopefully, I get over it with time. Did anyone else have this problem and have it subside over time?

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Tue May 14, 2013 8:36 pm
by BRUMBEAR
Give it time keep your head on a swivel and be as ready for anything as you can it'll get easier.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Tue May 14, 2013 8:42 pm
by jstark47
taxman1965 wrote:Hopefully, I get over it with time. Did anyone else have this problem and have it subside over time?
Yes and yes.

My first motorcycle was a Triumph Bonneville. It has a very flat seat, and at speed it felt like the wind blast was going to blow me straight off the back of the bike!

I'm in my 9th year of riding now, having done about 85,000 miles of street riding on a variety of bikes. I commute by motorcycle every non-raining, non-snowing day, 31 miles to work, half of which is on I-295 with an average speed at rush hour of 80 mph in heavy traffic.

You get used to it..... :mrgreen:

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 5:24 am
by taxman1965
Good...thanks for the help. A buddy of mine, who got me into motorcycling in the first place, knew a fellow from where he works who never did---and still doesn't--ride on the highway. It almost seems like I was told that he never did get the nerve to do it, so he sticks to back roads. I don't want that to happen to me, so despite my feeling uncomfortable at present, I'm going to keep practicing. I'd like to try it at a speed that I feel comfortable with then slowly increase my speed and get used to that. Trouble is, the 2 lane highway where I would practice tends to be busy with traffic that doesn't tolerate anything below 60 mph and they tend to tailgate, which makes me even more nervous. I may have to try it on a Sunday morning when there's less traffic.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 11:28 am
by gsJack
Never bothered me too much, time and miles will help most. Hard to beat experience. Then by the time you get good and comfortable with it you'll find yourself getting old and skipping the freeways and Interstates taking the slower back roads mostly anyway. LOL

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 12:34 pm
by Haeberle
The heavier bike the better for me. The wind gusts scare you on the highway at 70 or 80.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 2:30 pm
by BobK
I prefer a heavier bike for the same reason.

I'm much more comfortable on a restricted access two or four-lane highway than I am on a town or country road. Everybody is going the same direction and nobody is pulling out of a driveway or intersection right in front of you. I get hyper-alert entering an intersection. :eek:

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 2:39 pm
by taxman1965
I can see why anyone would feel more comfortable on a open highway vs a country road. I guess it's the sensation of speed that freaked me out yesterday, and I ended up thinking too much about what could happen if there was a blowout, if I lost control, etc. Plus, there were tar snakes all over the road, running perpendicular to my bike. Not a very good feeling.....

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 5:46 pm
by jstark47
Possibly two things affecting you: sensation of speed, and proximity to traffic. You can work on them separately. Speed is the easier one.

Find an interstate or similar access-controlled multi-lane freeway. Freeways are important, because everyone is going the same way, and nobody is going to cut you off from an intersection. Make sure your bike is in good shape, proper tire inflation, no steering issues, etc. Pick a time when traffic is light (early Sunday morning), on a windless day. Get on the freeway and accelerate to a medium cruising speed (55-60 mph). Keep everything in your body from your waist up light and loose - no death grip on the bars. Keep your point of vision up - this is important. You should be scanning out 1/10 to 1/4 mile ahead of you. It helps minimize the sensation of speed and also alerts you to any developing traffic situation. As you gain comfort, slowly increase your speed. If your bike is of reasonable size and weight (not a 250cc dual sport), it will feel quite "planted" when going straight at speed. Consider - there's two powerful gyroscopes (your wheels) helping stabilize it.

Don't know what kind of helmet you use, but I personally find a full-face almost mandatory for comfort at highway speeds. Bugs and pebbles hurt at 70 mph. YMMV.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 7:12 pm
by taxman1965
jstark47 wrote:Possibly two things affecting you: sensation of speed, and proximity to traffic. You can work on them separately. Speed is the easier one.

Find an interstate or similar access-controlled multi-lane freeway. Freeways are important, because everyone is going the same way, and nobody is going to cut you off from an intersection. Make sure your bike is in good shape, proper tire inflation, no steering issues, etc. Pick a time when traffic is light (early Sunday morning), on a windless day. Get on the freeway and accelerate to a medium cruising speed (55-60 mph). Keep everything in your body from your waist up light and loose - no death grip on the bars. Keep your point of vision up - this is important. You should be scanning out 1/10 to 1/4 mile ahead of you. It helps minimize the sensation of speed and also alerts you to any developing traffic situation. As you gain comfort, slowly increase your speed. If your bike is of reasonable size and weight (not a 250cc dual sport), it will feel quite "planted" when going straight at speed. Consider - there's two powerful gyroscopes (your wheels) helping stabilize it.

Don't know what kind of helmet you use, but I personally find a full-face almost mandatory for comfort at highway speeds. Bugs and pebbles hurt at 70 mph. YMMV.
You're probably spot-on with your suggestion---I think it's definitely the two things combined. Now, tonight, I went for another ride on another open stretch of 2 lane highway with less traffic than last night and I was fine. I started out by traveling between 50-55 mph and I was fine, so I moved it up to a steady 55. I was still fine, so I moved it up to 60, then back down to 55 and I had no problems at all. I even moved up to 65 and was still fine...but there wasn't as much traffic tonight either, so I think that helped. It's probably the combination of the two that's making me unsure.

I will try your suggestions. My bike is a 750 Shadow, which is around 560 lbs I believe--a far cry from the 267 lb Honda CRF230L that I traded in. That thing was horrible on 2 lane highways...especially if I met a tractor trailer. I avoided highways with that thing if I could.

I do have a question---I've heard of guys suggesting that I keep my legs tight to the bike and keep my upper torso loose and relaxed, as you suggested. What does hugging my legs to the bike do for me? Stabilize it?

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 9:09 pm
by jstark47
taxman1965 wrote:I do have a question---I've heard of guys suggesting that I keep my legs tight to the bike and keep my upper torso loose and relaxed, as you suggested. What does hugging my legs to the bike do for me? Stabilize it?
Stabilizes it without the potential for unintentional steering inputs. Consider if your whole body is tense and you hit a bump: the force of the bump is transmitted through your body to the bars, creating a steering input and thus causing additional motion of the bike. This frightens you, causing you to tense further, magnifying whatever uncontrolled movements the bike is now making....... etc, etc, etc.

Now with a cruiser I don't know how much potential you have to keep your legs tight to the bike. Been years since I rode one, all my bikes are standards. It works well for standards and sport bikes.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Wed May 15, 2013 10:15 pm
by scooter12
I was abit nervous riding on 70 mph highways, because max speed on my scooter on level ground is 69 mph.. But I rode behind my son's pickup and it was no problem. It actually was fun.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Thu May 16, 2013 12:01 am
by MmeMagpie
Keeping your knees snug to the bike, for me, helps with control. I can darn near steer the thing with my butt on a brand new set of tires.

As for your bike (I have the same, one year older), it handles excessive highway speeds like a champ. I've ridden it through some of the worst traffic you can imagine (I-95 corridor from DC to Jacksonville, anyone?) and torn up large swaths of the Appalachians with nary an issue. It'll get up to a little over 90, in case you're wondering :) 70 is my happy place.

Do you have a windshield? The difference is night and day, comfort-wise.

Give it time. The Aero is a very well behaved road bike, if a little piggish. I ride mine every day like I stole it.

PS. Don't ride like me. I'm a crazy person :)

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Thu May 16, 2013 5:27 am
by taxman1965
MmeMagpie wrote:Keeping your knees snug to the bike, for me, helps with control. I can darn near steer the thing with my butt on a brand new set of tires.

As for your bike (I have the same, one year older), it handles excessive highway speeds like a champ. I've ridden it through some of the worst traffic you can imagine (I-95 corridor from DC to Jacksonville, anyone?) and torn up large swaths of the Appalachians with nary an issue. It'll get up to a little over 90, in case you're wondering :) 70 is my happy place.

Do you have a windshield? The difference is night and day, comfort-wise.

Give it time. The Aero is a very well behaved road bike, if a little piggish. I ride mine every day like I stole it.

PS. Don't ride like me. I'm a crazy person :)
Yes, mine has a windshield---and it does help with the wind noise and buffeting, which was a major problem on the bike I traded in for this one (Honda CRF230L dual-sport). And I was wondering what the top speed was, although I don't plan on testing it anytime soon! :wink:
How many miles on yours?

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Thu May 16, 2013 6:07 am
by BRUMBEAR
I can't commute on my bike anymore but just as well. I hate NJ interstates, the lane seems are always ripped apart there are potholes you can lose small cars in and the debris varies from dead animals to tire gators to mufflers. This combined with the fact that if you leave room in between you and the car in front of you so you can see whats coming under the car someone jams themselves right into that spot. I just don't enjoy it anymore. Give me a tree canopy and a twisty little mountain/lake/stream/meadow or farm road and I am on it like stink on poop :mrgreen:

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Thu May 16, 2013 8:12 pm
by scooter12
I rode 10 miles on the expressway today, registering my scooter. Oh, it was so much fun.. Rode to Larry's Honda, where they inspected it. Riding 70 mph or close to it, is exciting to me. :cowboy: It isn't bad as people think. The wind wasn't bad, it was a 4 lane expressway. The wind on a scooter, is pretty scary- when you are riding on a 2 lane highway, wind is blowing at 30 mph and you approach a semi trailer going in the opposite direction- boom- you feel like you ran into a brick wall. lol.. I usually brace for the impact.. I mean, thank God, we had no wind today, nice ride at 9:30 a.m.. Great riding weather..lol...

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Sun May 26, 2013 10:41 pm
by blues2cruise
The first time I went on the freeway on my bike I had to have someone go with me. After that there was no problem. I'm used to the freeways here around home, but there are occasions like around Seattle in rush hour that I have to get off the freeway and use slower roads.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 7:16 am
by taxman1965
blues2cruise wrote:The first time I went on the freeway on my bike I had to have someone go with me. After that there was no problem. I'm used to the freeways here around home, but there are occasions like around Seattle in rush hour that I have to get off the freeway and use slower roads.
We don't have freeways where I live (Upstate/Northern NY), but I would have 6 lane interstates at some point that I would have to deal with when I feel I'm ready. I'm getting better with practice.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Mon May 27, 2013 9:07 pm
by blues2cruise
taxman1965 wrote:
blues2cruise wrote:The first time I went on the freeway on my bike I had to have someone go with me. After that there was no problem. I'm used to the freeways here around home, but there are occasions like around Seattle in rush hour that I have to get off the freeway and use slower roads.
We don't have freeways where I live (Upstate/Northern NY), but I would have 6 lane interstates at some point that I would have to deal with when I feel I'm ready. I'm getting better with practice.
I used the word freeway because that's what we call them here in BC. Seattle is interstate. I 5. Sometimes it crazy.

Re: Nervous on open highways

Posted: Thu May 08, 2014 5:45 pm
by orlin.anderson
I am a beginner an had my own issues with highways. I would get up too speed and then would start to get nervous as I was thinking too much. I found a great way to minimize this, chewing gum. It may sound weird but being able to chew a stick of gun really brought me out of my head. I still have those moments when a gust of wind or a big truck sends a gust of wind at me and I get nervous but its no where near as bad. I am finding myself more and more comfortable at speeds of 60+ and now the trick is not to get pulled over for speeding :mrgreen: . I've only been riding street bikes about a month so I have a long way to go. Good luck out there.