By October 16, 2007

Happy (belated) birthday, Cylon!

Two years and two weeks ago an almost completely novice and very nervous DrFaulken brought home Cylon, my brand-new 2005 Yamaha FZ6. I survived a guy stepping out in front of me and highway traffic my first day and have never looked back. I’ve said this to a few of you in person, but motorcycling is one of the very few things in my life that has greatly exceeded my expectations. I have learned a few things in the last two years and 11,000+ miles, and hopefully they’ll help new or potential riders avoid the same mistakes I have, or benefit from the same things that have helped me. I have avoided collisions of all kinds, including dropping my bike, despite being told in person and online that new riders ALWAYS drop their bikes or have a crash. Knock on wood, but nothing yet.

  • Wear your gear, all the time. I have seen some seriously fucked up wrecks, in person and online. Even “mild” wrecks like road rash are serious business. The real trick with trauma is reducing the number as well as the severity of your injuries. A broken leg is bad enough, but a broken leg + dislocated ankle from not wearing riding boots + road rash over your whole left side = a potentially life-threatening series of injuries. Shock could be a big problem.
  • Ride your own ride. Riders use this saying for riding within your limits while motoring with other cyclists. I also apply it to whatever kind of motorcycle you like, and the amount of gear that I wear. I get a lot of shit for wearing full leather around town, but it’s worth it. There is a lot of peer pressure in motorcycling, so keeping both wheels on the ground when people want you to wheelie can be a challenge, as well as the subtle pressures of getting a cruiser because all of your friends have one, or vice-versa with a sport bike. Ride your own ride, do what makes you happy.
  • Take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course. I did two years ago (day three write-up here) and I still use the principles I learned every time I ride. Little things can make a big difference, like understanding that when you use your tires for traction, you can’t use them as much for braking, etc. So braking in the middle of a turn is EXTREMELY bad, and has helped me avoid one of the top ways riders crash when by themselves: a high-speed turn gone wrong that results in panic braking and sliding off the road.
  • Dare to do something you wouldn’t normally do. For me, this was taking longer and longer distance trips. This year I’m going to ride into colder temperatures and try to bust my winter miles challenge this year just by brute force of a few miles a day. I didn’t think I would enjoy rolling on “the slab” as much as I do, but damn I love taking middle-distance trips to places like Tybee Island, Georgia.
  • Watch your luck bucket and your skill bucket. I read this phrase online and I love it. The concept is simple: when you are a new rider, your luck bucket is full, and your skill bucket is empty. The trick to safe motorcycle riding is to fill your skill bucket without running out in your luck bucket first. This philosophy will be applied every time you ride. Sure, I could bomb down Route 5 at 25+ MPH over the legal limit safely at night, as long as the deer stay out of the road. But what if they don’t, and I have to brake hard and avoid a deer? It’s a lot easier to avoid a smashup at 55 than at 80. In another situation, I could probably squeeze around to the left of a car as it’s turning right onto another street, but what if they change their mind as I pass them, and come back into my lane? In a residential/two-lane road, avoiding the car would put me into oncoming traffic. As much as I trust my gear, I don’t trust it that much.
  • Be fucking paranoid. I believe one of the main reasons I haven’t been in an incident is because everyone is out to get me. I think that every car is going to turn out in front of me, every car will try to merge into me, and every one is basically out to kill me. I don’t trust any driver for shit, and if you keep in that mindset I believe you’ll be a safer rider. Being paranoid extends beyond cagers, too — a lot of the road I enjoy traveling on may have gravel, dirt, or yard clippings on them. Anticipating road trash, especially on turns, may mean the difference between shaking your head at the shit that’s left in the road, or taking a trip to the hospital.

So, happy birthday, Cylon. You’ve been an excellent companion and a tremendous value. I’ve spent a lot of money on you and gear, but it’s been worth every penny. Here’s to another 11,000 miles or more in the next two years.

Posted in: motorcycling

2 Comments on "Happy (belated) birthday, Cylon!"

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  1. Stomper says:

    Yeah Cylon! and congrats Dr. on your luck and skill buckets carrying you through tough situations unscathed! Here’s to many more years of enjoyment and safety!

  2. fishsprout says:

    One day you should make the long journey out to Cali and ride with me… and uh, help me pick up my bike if I dump it. 😉