Hello everyone, as a new rider I've learned a lot just from reading everyone's accounts of their learning processes, close calls, smart decisions, stupid decisions, and everything else. What really got to me the most was reading about new riders who were having the jitters, which I can relate to very well! I felt it would be best to share how my first times on a motorcycle go and maybe it might help show a new rider that they're not alone in making very dumb mistakes or bring back some fond (embarrassing?) memories for the experienced riders.
So my first big mistake: Getting a motorcycle BEFORE the MSF.
Late summer of this year, I got the itch to ride a motorcycle. It wasn't the first time it happened but this was different. This was the type of itch that you know you can't hold out against and will eventually scratch. I'm not even sure where I got the notion from, just that I would eventually find myself on a crotch rocket.
Fortunately, I couldn't take the plunge right away since I was on a tight budget, I couldn't find a motorcycle I liked, and I was truly intimidated (a close friend of mine was in a fatal motorcycle crash a year or so back). So I did what anyone who wants to do anything in this day and age does: I googled. Lo and behold, there was a plethora of information online including this website and forum.
I knew from the get-go that motorcycles are machines to be respected and that starting out on a 900cc superbike would get me killed or too scared to ride no matter how I approached it. Not to mention the price of one absolutely puts it out of the question. Eventually I, like many other beginners, settled on the Kawasaki Ninja 250. Everything about it fit me - the small size, low seat height (I'm only 5'8"), sporty look, and great MPG.
After a LOT of reading, I went to get my permit in early September. Passed with flying colors, though some of the questions were admittedly a little tricky. With license number in hand, I registered for an MSF course in mid-October.
During this whole time, I had been scouring CL for a Ninja and two or so weeks ago, I found a deal I couldn't pass up and lightened my pockets. This was about two weeks ago. With motorcycle in hand (or on ground that is), I had no idea what to do and just left it sitting until four days ago, when I took it out for the first time.
Now here's why I know I made a mistake in getting the motorcycle before the course. Even just sitting on it, everything felt so foreign to me that I really had no way to tell that this was "the" bike for me with no experience at all. The only thing I had going was other people's testimonials and a brief run on a Honda CBR600 a few years back (now that bike scared me to death and veered me away from motorcycles until now). Really, I should have taken the course and then figured out just what I wanted in a motorcycle. Fortunately, I believe the Ninja fits me well. After those first awkward sittings everything became a little more relaxed and the motorcycle felt comfortable under me.
The reason why I didn't take it until four days ago is another mistake I made: I killed the battery.
After the seller dropped it off at my street and all the legal things were taken care of, I pushed it over to my driveway without turning off the ignition (not the engine). In fact, I didn't even know about turning off the ignition. So I walk it to my driveway and go in to rest my arms (forgot I was holding the brake lever in half the time I was trying to push
) and get some coffee. By the time I come outside to start it up for no reason other than to hear it, I get it to crank once and then stalled it by closing off the choke completely. I reach over, press the starter, and all I can hear is *clickclickclickclick*. Damn. I had read enough on ninja250.org to know that I drained the battery. Motorcycle cells really are tiny!
So in I went to order a Battery Tender Jr - they work great! - and figured I might as well use the shipping and delivery time to get my gear all set. Down to the local dealership I went and picked up a nice Arai helmet, Joe Rocket mesh jacket, textile pants, and riding boots, and a pair of Teknik gloves. The total price came up to be more than half that of the motorcycle! That one fact alone built a lot of confidence in me.
And now we're up to four days ago. I've got all my gear, the battery is charged up, the bike is inspected and problem free (missing a lower fairing bolt on the left side but that's it), and I'm good to go. Except I still hadn't taken the MSF course and had only my reading to go by.