Scared of Highway Riding

Blue_FairySeptember 12, 2006

I am scared of Highway riding, and still, daily street riding in Traffic. I have taken the MSF Rider Safety Course, and have only 212 miles on my new 800cc motorcycle.

I got on the highway last night at 3:30 A.M., and stayed to the right for awhile as I felt scared and then promptly exited. I couldn't get the bike to go faster than 50 MPH because of the fear I felt when the vibration and the wind took hold of me ...this at 50 mph, only, lol. I learned to lean into the wind, which helps, but the vibration and the whine of the bike and wind....everything seems so crazy fast and unstable 50mph, I nuts? I have a death grip on the handle bars and am fearful of blowing away!

I haven't learned how to ride on the highway from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation course, nor have had any experience in "real world" traffic, other than taking it for one hectic rush-hour drive to work and back. The other drivers and I didn't seem to have any issues.

Besides, riding in traffic forces me to do things, quickly, and I don't have time to think about things other than "go and get on with it". But the feeling is forced, not second nature.

When riding late at night, without traffic, it seems as if everything is hard. Right turns from a stop and going uphill is difficult. The streets in neighborhoods are narrower, still, than the streets downtown, making those hard-right-turns difficult from a stop. I find I put down my legs to stabilize the bike sometimes when first starting off and that it takes a long time before I get moving from a stop.

Also, getting my 800cc bike to go s l o w and turn around is much more difficult than it was on the 250cc Nighthawks that I learned to ride on. Even when I slip and engage the clutch to control speed, I can't get my bike to do tight parking lot turns without tipping and me catching it with my legs.

In a nutshell, Is there any advice one can give to any of these silly moronic driving adversities I seem to be having?



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It takes a while to work up to it. Your experiences are very typical for a new rider.

What kind of bike do you have? Some bikes are definitely more stable at freeway speed than others. And some bikes definitely have less vibration than others -- at any speed.

Might this be a Suzuki Intruder 800? (I can't think of any other 800s on the market right now.) That V-twin engine is not going to be mirror-smooth on the freeway. You will get used to it. Also the steering geometry of a cruiser does make it harder to turn than a street standard like the Nighthawk. Again, this will get better with experience and practice.

On the subject of turning, most of us have a psychological barrier to turning sharply in one direction or the other. I am more comfortable heeling a bike over to the left -- like with the peg scraping on the gound -- than to the right. I probably crashed a bicycle in a right turn as a child and I'm scarred for life.

Do you have a windshield at all? I've been riding for over 25 years, and I still am not used to riding on the freeway without one -- and I probably never will be. Without one, your seating position and posture make all the difference. You don't want to be so far back that the wind is trying to rip you off the seat. Even a small windshield will do wonders -- all you need to do is get the wind off your torso and the lower part of your helmet. You don't want one that's too big, either. You have to be looking *over* the windshield, not *through* it for safety reasons. And a really big windshield will adversely affect the bike's handling.

You should also note the horizontal distance between the bars and the seat. If you have to "reach" to far forward to reach the bars, you will never be comfortable and you will get fatigued faster.

So, in short, I think the three things that are going to get you over your hump are: practice, practice, and practice.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 3:55PM
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I don't mean to offend anyone, however, I am not sure that there is anything wrong with your perception of risk. If you were riding a 250cc bike around town, on residential streets, at 20 to 35 mph, then you are absolutely correct, everything is happening much more slowly. You have more time to avoid a dog or child that might run into the street, more time to come to a stop. My home town, Madison, Wisconsin, seems to be overun with mopeds these days, and while I find them to be a bit of a nuisance in traffic, I must admit, they are rarely, if ever, involved in accidents. The truth is that when I hear about a serious motorcycle accident, on the evening news, the circumstances are generally a much larger bike, going over 60 mph, out on the interstate.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 4:14PM
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Another question: which foot do you put down at a stop. Always the left one, always the right, or it depends on the slope of the street/obstructions/lane position, etc?

Some safety instructors teach that you should ALWAYS put your left foot down so that your right foot is on the back brake. I don't agree with this, but then again, I don't teach MSF courses. But having one foot or the other down may be affecting your comfort in making a right turn from a dead stop.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2006 at 7:26PM
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Welcome to the club. I had a similar experience as well. I also took the MSF course a while back, before all the political crap with it.

My bike is a Honda VFR750. I had taken it to the local parking lot quite a bit last year and did the usual practice stuff, tight turns, panic stops, getting used to where the turn signal switch was etc. I did fine with it. Never dropped it. But was just never really sure about going out on the road with it for any distance.

Long story short, my friend who happens to be a long time rider and a woman...AND persistent...was on my ass to get out. So she got me to say ok to a ride one Sunday morning. She picked a route out of town somewhere that did not have a lot of traffic. Once we got out about 10 miles, it was 65mph , one lane each direction.

So that Sunday I did a tad over 100 miles on it. It was ok, but the nervous tension kept me from enjoying it much. I was wayyy to stiff in some long sweeping corners that had a posted speed of 35 which you came upon doing 65. My friend was able to zoom on through no problem, but I had to drop way back. I was too stiff, didn't get the bike leaned properly in parts and swung too close to the centerline...thankfully no approaching traffic. I caught myself looking at the road edge instead of up and through the turn once. It was very unnerving.

On one long straight stretch, I had an ass driving a Mercedes convertible riding two feet off my rear tire. Finally he decided to pass me, my friend in front of me, and a car...and then had to cut back in behind someone at the last second because of approaching traffic.

But I survived. By the time I got back my throttle hand was sore and I officially had bug juice all over my helmet and jacket. The tinted faceshield really helped a lot. I just wore my regular eyeglasses. And I also put in earplugs on the return leg as the wind noise from around the helmet was annoying.

I was actually wishing for one more gear on the Honda. I know it can rev quite high, but pulling 5k rpms at 70mph had that engine buzzing pretty good. Wind blast was ok with the windscreen. I have bar risers on it, so it was a bit more than it otherwise would have been.

It may be just a matter of putting time and miles on it. But I sure did not end the trip thinking, oh boy, can't wait to go back out again. I was thinking more...geez...glad that is done with.

I may be selling it and buying a small boat. lol

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 1:24AM
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pianojuggler - I wonder if there isn't a little misunderstanding on your part. Your MSF teachers probably told you to always put your left foot down first so you can brake with your right when coming to a stop. And it is probably more important to do this for the rookie driver than the experienced driver. Rookies tend to drag their feet a little, pull them off the pegs a little early, and put them up after riding a few feet (or more). I believe they teach lowering the left foot first in the class so they can get the driver to come to a proper stop with both brakes before putting a foot down so you don't panic and try to stop the bike with your feet or lock up the front brake. And your instructors want you to get into the habit of having your foot close to that brake so you can use it when necessary. I doubt that the instructor meant that you should never put your right foot down when you are at a complete stop. You can hold the brake easily with the front caliper and it should not require that you keep your foot on the rear brake when not in motion. When I come to a complete stop, I hold the bike motionless with the front brake and put both feet to the ground. My bike weighs close to 700 pounds and I prefer to balance the weight, not shift it all to one side.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 8:43AM
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Hey Blue! Stop torturing yourself! I've been riding for 25 years and avoid the highway at all costs. I practiced in the old graveyard daily for about 500 miles before I took to the street by myself.
You need more practice in everyday driving, before you take on the highway. I'd suggest going out early on the weekend mornings when traffic is light.
Remember to look into the turns...if you are turning left your chin should be on your left shoulder.
Keep at it Blue!! It's like anything else it's practice practice. One of these days we'll meet in the middle and go for a ride!

    Bookmark   September 13, 2006 at 11:09AM
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Hey Blue:
Lots of good advice here, the best being that practice makes perfect! Find a route close by where you can cruise at your own pace, then gradually branch out, speed up, etc., as you get comfortable. No hurry!

Oh, and you might try a pair of ear plugs. Seriously, they really cut down on the wind noise, and the sensory overload. I wear them every time I ride.

Best of luck to you.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2006 at 11:28PM
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Wow. Thanks for all the great responses.

Yes. It is an 800cc Suzuki Intruder now called plain ole "S-50". Suzuki is now using the "Cubic-Inch" as a means to measuring engine size. I really didn't know, when I was shopping, how big the engine was until I used this Conversion Table and for conversion purposes, one may go to the second row of the second column to determine CC engine volume size. Suzuki possibly should have named this bike "S-49", as 49 Cubic Inches translates into 805 CC's.

Psychologically, I know I have issues with my right turns too, but they were more easily and successfully overcome on the lighter 250cc NightHawks that I was trained and tested on.

I am glad to learn from you that the steering geometry is different for my bike than that of the Nighhawks. Still, I like the Nighthawk's geometry much better, lol, because it's easier to steer and control them. It's good to know that I don't have to reach for the handlebars on my bike, so size wise, that's okay.

I will not expect the engine to run mirror-smooth on the highway. But, question: "Is it normal for motorbikes to have to whine at a much, much higher RPM on the highway, in final gear (5th on my bike), than when running at regular city-traffic speeds"? That, in itself, is somewhat incomprehensible to me, let alone the feelings of the wind rushing on by and blowing my body backwards, the extremely loud whistling in my ears, and the vision of the rapid whizzing by of the pavement beneath my feet. I am so proud of myself that I didn't scream "Mummeeee!!!" during my short stint. I wonder if that highway has rain grooves carved into it, enhancing the rough ride feeling at 50 MPH? It rains alot here in South Florida, but, I dunno.

As far as footwork, I was taught to put the left foot down first after a complete stop, then the other foot. When I am trying to make my hard right turn, up a little hill, that's when I feel psychologically abnormal and physically unbalanced. I am going hard-right, and elevating up, so I think I feel I am going to flip over like a turtle on this hill, it being the height of a speed bump, lol, but nevertheless, the grade of the street goes up steeply, right at this turn, so both feet go into dog-paddle mode, lol, cuz I psychologically feel like the bike will fall to the right and backwards, leaving me upside down, wheels (heels) to the wind, and it inadvertantly adorning me of a 443 pound chastity belt, and, even though my playdough may be arranged somewhat differently, in either case, it would be squashed, and I happen to be very fond of my playdough.

Per your advise, and after I am acclimated and get my steering technique on this bike perfected, I will opt for a small windshield to be installed before I try to go on the highway again. The Suzuki model windshield costs 227 bucks. Yikes!!! As I have never shopped for motorcycle accessories before, I don't know what brands or which items would fit my bike. I am thinking of buying an electrical accessory for the bike, but I don't know what...I just know I have a spare electrical connection at the fuse box to do so.

Yes. I agree with you Eric and you are absolutely correct in your perception of my psyche when I ride on the freeway. I am thinking that I may need to dodge, kids, bikes, or dogs on the highway, and I am scared that I won't be able to stop in time; -even if the object is a tire tread coming off of a truck's wheel that you see so often on the highways nowadays.

A short divertissement, I love your Alpine Valley Amphi-Theater in Wisconsin, btw, and that's where I saw the rock group Aerosmith perform. Thanks for your views and your wonderful outdoor theatre. I had a blast!

I am sorry that your throttle hand was sore after your 65 MPH trip with your girlfriend. You sure did rack up the miles on that trip. I like your tinted visor idea alot on the helmet and glad it helps you. I have to keep remembering to tug and pull my sunglasses off first before removing the helmet and then squeezing the earpieces between the helmets cushion and the side of my face once the helmet is on.

I am glad to know that you have to rev up the RPMÂs pretty darn high on your Honda like I do on my Suzuki, but unhappy that you are in the same predicament as I in the feeling that you could easily use another gear. You make me feel like my bike is somewhat normal. Whew! I donÂt know why they donÂt have a 6th gear as a standard feature. The fact you got your bike to go 70 MPH is awesome I donÂt think IÂll ever achieve that at this point, and I am so glad you have a windshield and earplugs.

I hope next time you are out that you remember the earplugs from the git go, and arenÂt out on the road so long. I found myself getting embarrassingly exhausted all of a sudden, to the point that, while I was at a stoplight, and even after I had already rested a bit, I thought to myself, the following: "Gee, I hope the person in the squad car next to me doesnÂt think I am drunk because I am so tired, my head is wobbly, and this bike is feeling so heavy while I am trying to maintain a stationary pattern with my feet." I think I can relate to the feeling you had about your trip. I hope you can discover a short trip that is fun. My short, fun trips last 20 minutes, lol, but they are enjoyable. Your "Getting a Boat" comment is funny, lol, and I hope you donÂt because you will be missed.

Thanks for the inspiration and the "Looking through the Turn" tips. I may be looking at the ground when trying my hard-right turn on the hill because I want to see where I might be landing and the texture of the gravel that I may be spitting out of my mouth, lol. I will practice planting that chin on my shoulder. Thanks so much for your kind words. I am so glad you donÂt go on the highway, as riding seems so much more enjoyable and safer at a slower pace. It may be that when we meet in the middle for our ride, that our bodies may have had enough for the time bein and that we may need to nap a bit before riding again, lol.

Remodeler Matt:
My earplugs, rainproof motorcycle jacket and pants will be arriving next week.

Thanks for the understanding of the "sensory overload". That is exactly what I have been experiencing, in a nutshell.

And.. the verdict... well...

It looks like IÂm hooked. Thanks so much, everyone. You all are such treasures and you all definitely know what you are talking about when it comes to motorcycles!

For the first time, I washed the motorcycle just the other night, polished & dried what I could, and took her for a ride @ 11:00 P.M. without doing practice exercises being engaged in heavy traffic, or being out on the highway.

I smiled when I rode this time because the trip across town is nice and easy to where the road winds back and forth a bit and you sway the motorcycle gently to get it to turn. And, as I press and lean, it turns on these gentle curves as easily as rocking a baby.

Ohh, Thank you all for making the trip so nice and calming. I thought about you and will be thinking about you every time I ride.

And, I will practice the harder turns and the more difficult riding with all of your wonderful advice in mind, as well.

Thanks for letting me unwind from the sensory overload. I will report my progress on the parking lot practice, the sharp, over the hill turn, and highway riding. (It may be awhile before I can afford a windshield for this.)


    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 1:12AM
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Blue, it was nice of you to respond to the various replies to your initial post. This is an interesting thread. In my experience, no amount of practice will lessen the risk of riding on the open highway at speeds over 35 mph. You might feel safer with practice, but you won't be safer. Even if you had the quick reaction time of a 20 year old, riding on the open road is still risky. Twenty-somethings in these parts prove that again and again, every summer. When World War II ended, there was a boom in motorcycle sales in Great Britain. Bikes were cheaper to buy and operate than autos, so they were popular. At that time, the 100cc bikes were the most popular, with 250cc bikes considered mid-sized. Back in the 1970's, I rode a BSA 250, which was stolen, and later replaced with another BSA 250. I am currently riding a Peugeot, but, it has no engine, so I must supply the power. This bike is also from the 70's-I seem to be stuck in the 70's at times....With regard to which foot goes down, I like to put both down, and only vary which one goes down first. It is easy to stop a bicycle with the front brake only, and it is easy to stop a motorcyle with the front brake only. Of course, I use both brakes when heavy braking is called for. I belong to the "over the handlebars" club, but it wasn't my braking abilities that led to my becoming airborne. One day, on the way to work, a very large car ran a stop sign, and I soon found myself on the pavement, having flown over the Cadillac.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2006 at 8:17PM
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Ohmmm: "By the time I got back my throttle hand was sore."

Here is a product that may help you with your sore hand, Throttle Rocker for Extended Trip Riding Comfort.

I've recently learned that one may be able to install Highway or Crash bars to the motorcycle that will accomodate an additional set of foot pegs for one to put their feet up, a bit.

50 MPH is probably as fast as I'll go for a long while. My most enjoyable riding has been between the speeds of 5-45 MPH.
It's good to know that your motorcycle was replaced after it had been stolen. Sorry to hear about your over-the-handlebar experience during one of your street commutes on your bike. What a bummer. I nearly clipped someone running a stop sign in our neighborhood while in my car. Thank goodness the speed limits here are only 25 MPH, and I slow down at all intersections and try to plan an escape route if a car should unexpectedly run into my path again.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2006 at 1:38PM
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There are plenty of aftermarket windshields available. I have had good luck with National Cycle brand. The Suzuki one might look a little better if it is made specifically for that bike, but the more generic adjust-to-fit types work just as well, and probably cost a heck of a lot less.

The last one I bought was $20. Oh, but that was at a garage sale! I see a National Cycle "Streetsheild" from for $80. And the "Deflector" is $70. Either of these would be fine for casual freeway riding, and will not adversely affect the handling of your bike. The Streetshield is a little taller and will provide a little more protection.

And, in my humble opinion (based on a couple dozen years of riding), dog-paddling your feet is very dangerous. One little object on the ground, or an uneven pavement joint, and you will be wearing the bike on your playdough, and probably hobbling around on crutches for a couple weeks while your foot is in a cast.

One of my gauges for identifying an experienced rider is how soon he or she gets his or her feet off the ground when starting off, and how late he or she puts his or her feet down when stopping.

I would suggest ten minutes in the parking lot every day practicing turning right from a dead stop AND picking your feet up as soon as the bike starts rolling and keeping them on the pegs until you are at a complete stop.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2006 at 10:24AM
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pianojuggler: Wow. Thanks for the website/streetshield info. I think I may be getting a windshield sooner than I expected!

Thanks for the advice about the feet. I will keep practicing.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2006 at 3:08AM
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I've been riding for 36 years and two things still scare me: night riding and riding in heavy highway traffic.

That fear helps keep you alert and on your toes and aware of the safety buffer zone between you and autos. In time that fear turns into more of an adrenaline rush.

I too advise getting a windshield. Cutting down on windblast and bug strikes goes a long way towards enjoying higher speed riding. And it's correct that you want to look OVER the top of your windshield (barely) and NOT thru it. The wind will bend and go around the top of your helmet. Slick!

You might not be cut out for a bike as big as 800cc. In today's megabike world that doesn't sound like a big bike, but weight-wise I'm sure it's no lightweight. Sounds like you could handle the 250 better and enjoyed it more. This 800cc job might not be a good "fit."

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 12:07PM
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This evokes memories of my first time on the highway. After not riding for 20 years, I bought a bike and took the MSF course 3 years ago. My challenge is low-speed driving, so I practice regularly on cemetery roads. For highway driving, I can offer the following suggestions:
1. Invest in a windshield if you regularly travel on highways, or plan a long trip.
2. Get used to highways during daylight hours rather than after dark.
3. At night, don't drive ahead of your headlight. Use the high beam whenever possible.
4. When passing a tractor-trailer, drive the outside of the lane. Don't linger alongside the truck - gas it. NEVER pass any vehicle on the right!
5. ALWAYS believe the other driver doesn't see you.
6. ALWAYS wear a snug-fitting jacket on the highway.
7. If it starts to rain, remember that is when the road is most slippery, until the oil and crap wash away.
8. Drive slower on unfamiliar roads, especially in areas prone to pot holes.
9. Be aware of vehicles around you in case you need evasive maneuvers.

You most certainly are not "nuts." I think every biker has gone through what you describe! Keep at it, and you'll be seasoned in no time.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 9:00AM
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herbwi: "This 800cc job might not be a good "fit.""

I agree with you in that I may have bitten off more than I can chew, engine size wise, 805cc, and weight wise, 443 lbs.

In order to help close this gap, I have started going to my health club and am working out with weights which I haven't done in years. After my first workout, I hurt like the dickens, however subsequent workouts aren't nearly as bad. In addition to practice, muscle toning/building may help me achieve my goal of becoming a more confident, stable, and more sure-footed rider.

However, currently...
My bike doesn't have a center stand, only a left-side kick stand which causes the bike to lean a good deal to the left when at rest. In order to check fluid levels, the bike must be perpendicular to the ground, and I must be positioned on the "other side", the right side of the bike. Since the bike is naturally leaning left a good deal, and I am on the right, I have to stretch, yank & pull this heavy bike up off its side stand while overcoming the lean angle, and hold it at a vertical position. Then, I must bend down with my head almost between my legs and look at the fluid level windows located at the bottom of the machine. (I swear I think of the lady on the "Ed Sullivan Show" who balanced a pyramid of precariously placed sparking champagne glasses on her forehead while bending completely backwards, touching both shoulders to the floor and then rising up again without spilling a drop.) Anyway, I can't do this without great fear of the bike falling towards the right, directly on me, major ouch, or that it will fall over the other way with such momentum and force that the kick stand will just act as a pivot, pole-vaulting point that the bike will overcome and topple completely on over, -and me with it.
(It would be easier if I could just park it in a pair of electric vise grips, drive between the jaws, push my button, have the grips close, bike is perpendicular to the floor, and I can get off, happy camper smile and all. When I come back and before my next ride, I can check my fluid levels of oil and battery, while completing my safety checks, then.. off I go into the wild blue yonder.) Or...not.

hrajotte: Thanks for the Traveling Tips checklist. I will worry when I pass that first truck on the highway. I will wait until I have become a more seasoned rider and have installed a windshield on the bike as you have suggested.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 5:59PM
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Blue, email me direct. Don't go through GW their email doesn't work. I think I can give you some help!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 6:08PM
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Thanks, Marion! You are wonderful!

I have practiced hefting the weight of the bike, a 2006 Suzuki S-50, off of its sidestand while standing on the left side of it, facing the rear of the machine. It's the only way for me to check the fluid levels on this baby.

As Marion knows, while living in South Florida's heat, I am especially concerned about the evaporation of water from my battery, (even if the bike is not used all that much, yet.) My bike did not come with a maintenance-free battery.

Since I am a newby on a tight budget, and in preparation for a 3 minute jaunt on the highway, (at moderate speeds), this is what I've accomplished, in preparation, so far, thanks to y'all's recommendations.... btw, I appreciate you, very much.

An S-10 Viper windshield will arrive soon, as shown here, Viper S-10.

Because it's inexpensive, it may wobble as it is handlebar-two-point-mount model, not a four-point-mount model the more expensive ones seem to have. My headlight is 7" in diameter, and that should fit the curve of the windshield just fine. Since I've learned my engine already vibrates quite noticeably at high rpm, I hope that the wobbling of the windshield doesn't distract me too much, or that it is too tall so that I'll have to look through it, (I already have to look through the plastic on my helmet's face shield). Additionally I hope that the top edge of the windshield is NOT at a distracting point in my field of vision as I look down the road. (While sitting on the bike, I used a tape measure to measure from the top of the headlight to the top dimension of the winshield) ...but I am still concerned because of the angle and how it's positioned when mounted, this can make a big difference in the height. So, I don't know!

I now have purchased the least expensive and lightest weight protective gear, which is waterproof, that I could find, which is...

a Tourmaster Jett jacket with elbow, shoulder and back protective inserts, Jett Jacket

and, a pair of Tourmaster Jean Pants with knee protection inserts, Jean Pants.

So, I try on this stuff, unexpectedly....

Showered for the next morning, I wake up with a sinus headache the other day at 3:00 A.M., took my non-drowsy headache meds, dressed in the gear, mentioned above, with just a pair a sweat shorts and a t-shirt underneath...and, - decided to take a motorcycle ride heading north on A1A, (Florida's coastal route). (No windshield on the bike.)

With a northerly wind blowing at 20 MPH, the temperature at 77 degrees, and it being nighttime, I am still very, very, HOT!!! This with the insulated liner removed from the jacket and the jacket's built-in vents zipped fully open.

When I got home, my skin was hot & wet and the lining of the clothing (gear) next to the skin was very wet, (not absorbent at all). Worried, I checked for body odor in the garments as I never was so sweaty-wet before, and there was none, just the smell of a new garment. Anyway, I suppose I'll have to get used to frequent washings in cold water with these protective garments, and I hope to enjoy wearing them more often in South Florida's cooler winter months.

In a nutshell...

I would advise anyone not to be afraid to spend money on protecting yourself while making yourself as comfortable as possible for the ride.

Currently for me, this motorcycle riding is still heavy, hot, and serious stuff yet it is something I am enthused about mastering.

Note the different fabrics used in protective gear and listen, listen, listen to the professionals in this forum!

Your knowledge of motorcycling is appreciated, very much here, and has, at minimal, increased my safety and mentality for the ride, 500%.

Please ignore what you will, but I hope that some, if any of this, helps at least one other person.


    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 12:59PM
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Looking at the dimensions of the Viper SS-10, I think you will be able to see over it just fine. I don't think you ever told us how tall you are. Plexiglas windshields can be cut down, but you need a very sharp saw and a fine file to round off the cut edge. You should be able to adjust the angle within a certain range to make it sit a little taller or lower.

To be honest, my line of sight is barely over the top of the windshield on my Gold Wing. It was even lower on my old bike since the seat was lower than stock. So, if I slouch a bit, I am looking *through* the windshield. If I sit upright (with the good posture I should), I look *over* it.

The issues are: if it's raining or you get mud or road spooge on your windshield, you need to be able to see over it if it becomes obscured. And if you have a plexiglas windshield and wear polarized sunglasses, the windshield may appear dark or have rainbow-colored stripes across it.

So (he said quietly) the real issue is that you *can* see over the top, not that you always will.

Maybe you need to find a riding buddy who can hold your bike up while you check the fluids.

Or, see if there is an aftermarket centerstand available.

Or, see if you can find an mirror on a long telescoping wand like house inspectors use that would let you sit on the bike and hold it upright, and hold the mirror down at the sightglass and check your fluid levels. It might work.

Note to others: when shopping for a new bike, a centerstand is a very good thing to have. Unfortunately fewer and fewer bikes have them, especially those in the cruiser genre.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 5:38PM
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Hi Blue....
I've been following your thread with interest. As the others have told you, you are going through the normal learning curve for someone new to motorcycling. Please remember, each person learns at their own speed, not someoone else's. When I took my MSF course, the last words from one instructor were " you are now qualified to ride in the parking lot ". I didn't realize how true that was until I took my inaugural ride on the side streets where I live. Just like you, it took me a while to gain the skill and experience to be able to physically relax on the road. Once that happened, then it was time for increasingly longer periods of riding to accustom my body to the bike. If for some reason I've had to stop riding for a while, before I do any serious time in the saddle, I take increasingly longer rides to get used to it again.

Some things I've found that help me are:::

Gloves with gel pads in the palm, reduces the vibration effect from the handlebars.

Armored mesh jacket and pants for long trips, mesh jacket around town with jeans and boots.

Tourmaster cordura jacket 3/4 lenth for cold weather riding, with removeable liner.

Riding in Fla, even at night, stay hydrated, I came close to heat exhaustion once, it ain't no fun!!!!

I second pianojuggler's suggestion for using a long handled inspection mirror to check your oil level. I've done it myself.

Try not to have a death grip on the handlebars once you're away from a stop and moving, relax your grip and hold the bars, don't squeeze then.

One thing I've found apparel-wise for me, are the moisture wicking t-shirts from duofold. A synthetic material that mves the moisture off your skin to the outer side of the fabric. Really reduces that sticky t-shirt feeling . I find most of mine in the website.

If your bike has a metal fuel tank, think about finding a magenetic secured tank bag. It comes in handy for stashing
spare gloves, glass cleaning stuff for face shields, windshields and eye glasses too. Paper towels at a gas station tend to scratch faceshields and windshields. probably a hand towel for wiping the sweat off your face when you're at a rest stop also. Depending on how big it is, you can also squeeze in a spare shirt or sweater. Sunblock stick for the nose and cheeks, chapstick for the lips. The sun and wind will dry them out. If at all possible, don't use liquid sunblock on your forehead, it will mix with the sweat and run into your eyes if you're not careful.

Hope these ideas give you more to think about, good riding and keep the shiny side up.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 4:56PM
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Flsunrider, thanks for the sunblock tip I never gave it a thought but now I know why my eyes sting. I'll pick some up. I keep a supply in the rest room for our customers (we own a bike shop in Jensen Beach). I'm like a mother hen.

    Bookmark   October 9, 2006 at 1:27PM
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One more bit of free advice: Read and heed the cleaning instructions that come with your new windshield. The windshield on my old Gold Wing was pretty scratched up by the time I sold it. When I got my new one, I noted that a lot of people on the Gold Wing boards were adamant NOT to use Windex on the windshield, in fact no cleaners that contain either ammonia or alcohol (Windex contains both). Both of these chemicals tend to soften Lexan and make it more prone to scratching.

When you need to clean your windshield use water -- plenty of it, and if necessary a few drops of dish detergent.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2006 at 1:47PM
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Hi Blue, Thanks for starting this thread. Lots of good, thought provoking information. I'm also a fairly new rider, (less than two years) so I've spent a lot of time dealing with my own fears. Learning to ride has been an eye opening experence for me on many levels. I decided to learn to ride my own bike when it occured to me that I wasn't getting any younger and I'ed better get on with it soon or scratch it off my "to do" list. I took the MSF class and bought a 250 bike and for the whole first year I was terrified every time I rode. Thank goodness I have a very supportive DH that is also an experenced rider. Once I became comfortable with the bikes controls we would ride together every weekend, back roads at first and then areas with more traffic as I gained more skill. I learned so much about how to handle the bike and how to deal with traffic by following him and watching what he did. Don't get me wrong, I was still very scared most of the time. I've realized that feeling fear dosn't have to stop me. As long as I have my bike and myself under control, or know what to do if things go wrong, then I can work through a situation that frightens me.
IMHO we teach our young boys to deal with their fears early. How many times are boys told "Buck up! Don't be a sissy!" But often for girls it's "Oh honey, don't do it if it scares you" with a comforting pat. Maybe in our more enlightened age things are changing and todays young girls won't have to wait untill they are in their 40's (like me) to learn to feel the fear that is natural with any new endeavor and push through it anyway.
I've just returned from Biketoberfest in Daytona where I rode my Kawasaki 500 all over town for two days. I got to demo several bikes including the Yahama 1100 (a grin machine) the Yahama 1300 (too big) and the best of the bunch, the Kawasaki 900. I had a blast! There were a lot of situations that scared me but somehow I couldn't wipe the grin off my face.
So to wrap up this long winded post Blue, my suggestion is to find an experenced riding buddy, wear your safty gear, and go put lots of miles on your bike. Soon you'll find that your fear will start to feel a lot like exhilaration.
Ride Safe Cindy

    Bookmark   October 22, 2006 at 4:40PM
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Blue, congratulations on your commitment and tenacity! It sounds like you're experience much of what many new riders have experienced during the initial part of their learning curves.

One poster wrote: "In my experience, no amount of practice will lessen the risk of riding on the open highway at speeds over 35 mph." While I think I know what he/she may have been getting at, the fact is the more you practice, the safer you WILL be. And many (including me) will argue that highway riding - even with its speed - is safer than riding around town where cars routinely turn left in front of you, kids dart out from between cars, etc., etc., etc. I'm not sure what the statistics are, but I'd be willing to bet that fewer motorcycle accidents happen on the highway than anywhere else.

Play mind games during your rides. "What if that car swerved in front of me?" "What if I came into that turn too fast?" "What if I spot a pot hole or debris in my lane?" Riding is as much a mental activity as it is a physical one - the more you understand how to ride and the challenges facing you, the better you'll be able to handle situations when they come your way. Things are going to happen fast on a motorcycle, whether you're going 35 mph or 65 mph, so teaching yourself how to react mentally before the real thing may end up helping you to react physically without thought.

One piece of advice that I don't recal reading in any of the fantastic responses that were posted here was to try to relax. If you're tight and hanging on to your bars with a death grip, you likely won't be able to respond smoothly in any normal situation (like turning right!), never mind an emergency maneuvre. Plus, as you mentioned, you end up not being able to enjoy yourself!

I know, easier said than done, but you'll get there. In the mean time, be safe and have fun - keep us all posted on your progress.


    Bookmark   October 23, 2006 at 9:16PM
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I haven't yet read this thread...only your OP, but in terms of your 'tipping' in a turn...are you applying the front brake, cause that's a BIG NO-NO!
You'll drop that bike faster than a fart in a windstorm...LOL

It's gonna take you some time to feel comfortable with your new's alot different from your Honda.
...and 50 mph is fine until you feel "at one" with your bike.

Remember this though...........Never ride faster than your angel can fly, girl. :)

Practice...practice...practice what you are having trouble with...and stay off the roads at night until you ARE're already unsure of yourself, for now, and you don't need any of those 'hayseed drivers' to create a perilous situation while they're multi-tasking, right?
You've gotta stay focused until it becomes second nature to ya...and IT WILL.

Now...I'm going back to read this thread.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2006 at 4:19PM
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Blue...when I read your screen name, I assumed your were female.
Darn it! My Dad always told me never to assume! LOLAM

I apologize, boyfriend...hehehe...'s the riding coming along?

You know, there's just so much you hafta think about while you're riding, but one of the most important things to remember is what hrajotte stated:

5. ALWAYS believe the other driver doesn't see you.

I see you're from am've got one thing on your downtime in winter...lotsa time to practice!

Good luck...and keep us posted!

    Bookmark   November 3, 2006 at 4:44PM
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Will do. I will keep you posted.

Thanks so much. Y'all are totally awesome!

    Bookmark   November 11, 2006 at 8:18PM
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WOW, I am sooo surprised that it took a girl only one time of reading these posts to figure out what your prob is!! LOL!

You asked: "Is it normal for motorbikes to have to whine at a much, much higher RPM on the highway, in final gear (5th on my bike), than when running at regular city-traffic speeds? ...wonder if that highway has rain grooves carved into it, enhancing the rough ride feeling at 50 MPH?"

Top speed, 50 mph, there's your problem & the reason for your vibration! As a general rule of thumb, top gear is only for high speeds. Use this gear if you are traveling at 75 mph down the freeway, not 55. You will want to figure out what your bike is happiest with, either 3rd or 4th.

lellie - Yikes! I'm not sure where you rec'd your info, but only using your rear brake during a regular/high speed turn can cause you to loose control over the bike. At slow speeds using only the rear brake is acceptable, such as during a u-turn.

I am not exactly sure what the MSF course teaches now a days on this. They occasionaly seem to change their teachings with the times... (They used to teach how to do wheelies in class, so that if there was a large object in the road you could raise the front end over it and ride the rear tire over it. What?!?!) To my understanding they are now teaching that during a left or right turn you want to first apply the front brake followed by the rear. Your front brake holds approx. 70% of your braking power.

Perhaps Blue Fairy could enlighten us on what is taught?

Good Luck & let us know how those lower gears work for you!!

Cheers - Sarah

    Bookmark   November 20, 2006 at 2:06PM
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Miss Sarah...didn't say to only use the rear brake in a high-speed turn, Girl.

Blue was talkin' about SLOW turning problems...
"Also, getting my 800cc bike to go s l o w and turn around is much more difficult than it was on the 250cc Nighthawks that I learned to ride on. Even when I slip and engage the clutch to control speed, I can't get my bike to do tight parking lot turns without tipping and me catching it with my legs."

I stand by my statement...with your front wheel turned sharply, using the front brake only while trying to maneuver the bike CAN cause it to needs to straighten out the front wheel a bit...(the voice of experience from many, many years ago...LOL)

    Bookmark   December 11, 2006 at 10:17AM
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I recently started riding and had many of the same problems you do, especially controlling the bike at low speeds, making hard rights, using the correct angles while turning.

Once I learned to counter-steer, my control and confidence improved 100%, especially at low speeds.

Did they teach counter-steering at the MSF? THey didn't at mine, that's why I'm asking.


    Bookmark   January 26, 2007 at 10:22AM
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Well, I was wearing a kilt when I showed up on that windy day for Motorcycle Safety Training. Basically, they just told me to ride very, very slowly.

Anyway, while riding today, I was too brave. I still only have 368 miles of experience on my new bike, the only bike I've ever ridden other than the Nighthawk's used for MSF training purposes. It will almost be a year and I haven't changed the oil, yet. Anyway, I cut in front of 3 cars! Well, one car, in particular was behind me as I was readying to make a right turn...from a stoplight which had just turned green. Anyway, I turned into my right lane and immediately prepared to get into the left lane to make a left hand turn. Well! That car thought that they were going to pass me in the left lane and we, well I didn't give it up and I fought to get in the lane! The car yielded, thank goodness, or I'd have looked like goo-gum or a doodie on the bottom of one's shoe!

But, I am getting more confident riding the bike on the streets!

I still have to get on the highway, again. That first time scared me so bad, well, ....I'm still getting over that ride. I haven't even tried the highway ride with my new windshield yet. I will try to heed your valuable advice.

Yes, we learned how to move our weight off of the front wheel as we rolled over the two by four in the middle of the road. Yes, we learned counter-steering. I just haven't learned to counter the weight of the Suzuki S50, even though it is only supposed to be 443 lbs.

I am trying to hang in there. Thank you for the info!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 10:58PM
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I felt the same way you descibed yourelf a few hours ago
the wind was blowing strong and I got up to 65 mph and drop down to 55 mph ,it was at 11:30pm and the little head light wasn't giving me enough light for me to look ahead .I tighten the grip on the bars myself and lowered my head alittle. BUT AFTER I GOT OFF THE HIGHWAY I FELT GREAT! and each time it get's alittle easier,I read this book called total control and it help me alot so keep pacticing .

    Bookmark   May 6, 2007 at 2:56AM
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Hey Blue I haven't been back here in a while. I wanted to know how you are enjoying your bike rides now?

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 8:17PM
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My fellow riders,
So glad I stumbled on these articles! I am a newbie. I have only logged about 400 miles so far. I was thinking I was the only one dealing with this fear factor thing. I am 55 years old and just started to ride at the end of last season here in the North East US. I knew the fear of doing the tight circles and tight figure eights was more less normal but I have been bugged by the fact that the first couple times I rode the interstate back and forth to work, (about 17 miles each way) the fear thing did not seem to be much of a factor, THEN around my 3rd journey to work I began feeling uneasy. Instead of running at 55 MPH or a little over I found myself slowing down to between 45 MPH and 50 MPH. There is also a bridge over a bay for about ¼ mile and I got very tense going across that, again on the 3rd trip. I have been going through this inner struggle, telling myself that I am nuts, that my fear is unwarranted because I know that I can handle the darn bike. Its not a monster. It is only a Suzuki Savage 650. Thanks so much to all of you for your comments and advise because you have given me the faith I need to know that with time and practice, I will tame this beast!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 2:46PM
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I was searching for 'riding a motorcycle on the highway' and found this thread. I rode my Intruder 800 home yesterday for the first time and couldn't bring myself to get on the highway either. I circled past the entrance like 3 times before finally stopping and looking up an alternate route. which wound up being a fun, albeit scary, twisty turny ride. 45 or less is my comfort zone for some reason. I have no problem in traffic, around town, or at lights but even on empty country roads when I see the speed limit sign say 45 I get a knot in my stomach and my hands sweat like crazy. I start my MSF on Friday but I don't know if that will help with the highway. I hope I get over this as I just bought the bike to be a commuter fr work this summer. Thanks for this post, at least I'm not alone.
I can ask the other riders I know (which are the owners of where I work) as I'll seem like a wus. They are both riding from Portland Oregon to the southern tip of Argentina in September. You can check it out at it is to raise money for Dornbeckers Children's Hospital. They are only 22 (I'm 33) and they are riding cross continent for 3 months and I can't get on the highway to get home!!!! Oh well thanks for listening.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 6:31PM
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totally a side topic but
The kids keep stealing our stop signs. Would it be bad if I just bought a couple of these signs. i found these guys as a resource for signage. anybody have a cheaper source??

    Bookmark   August 19, 2011 at 4:55PM
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I was just searching for tips on highway riding and came across this thread. I just took MSF course a month ago, bought my first bike (Harley Sportster 883) 2.5 weeks ago and have put on a little over 100 miles on it.

The bike was intimidating at first, after only having experience on 250cc in the course for a few hours on the parking lot. So I took it to the parking lot to practice what I learned in the course.

A week later my buddy and I agreed to go for a ride. Even though I was very nervous about riding on the roads, I decided to just go. My thought was "I would not be more ready later than I am now." It was very challenging and I made a few scary mistakes at first at very low speed, but I was getting better as the ride went on. We ended up riding about 30 miles with speeds up to 45 mph that day. I rode once more with him and then made a 30 mile trip on my own. It was even more challenging than it should have been cause it was drizzling and the roads were wet. It feels great to be on the bike, although challenging for me.

So now I am contemplating to challenge myself a bit more and go on the highway on saturday morning, even if its just for a few miles. Of course I'm nervous about it.

I also have advice to people who are very nervous to ride: First, read the tips that are found on this site:

Second, if you think motorcycling is for you, then let go of the fear and just relax and ride. If its not fun for you and you're glad when the ride is over, such as one poster posted on this thread, then I highly advise to stop riding.
I just bought my bike 2.5 weeks ago and can't wait for a good/warm weather so I can ride it. I even take a ride around the block if I don't have time for anything else. I LOVE it.
Yes, I'm scared, yes, I'm nervous, but I do my best to leave it behind me while I'm riding.
I'm not telling people to go on the highway if you're not comfortable with it, but you must enjoy it and ride without fear. As this site on safety says, riding with fear will get you into trouble.
Ride safe and enjoy!

p.s. As I've mentioned, I'm a beginner rider with almost no experience. So this is my opinion from my short experience and from what I've heard from experienced riders.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 5:48PM
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So I went on the highway for the first time today and it felt great. (scroll up for the first part) At first I had a plan to take the exit in about 3 miles after getting on the highway. But once I got to the exit, I realized I feel comfortable enough to stay on until it was time to exit to get to where I was going.

I went on saturday morning, with very light traffic and stayed in the right lane most of the time. I typically stayed at speed limit, 65 mph. The wind was definitely different than riding at 50 mph, but my bike (Harley Sportster 883) had no problem pushing through. I actually even felt safer on the highway than I did on a parallel road through local towns. I felt like there were a lot less unknown on the highway. I.E. a lot less pot holes, no cars making left turns across my way, etc. I just had to make sure I didn't ride in anyone blind spot or next to any car in general.

This is how it was for me, it doesn't mean its how it is for others. Bottom line is you must be comfortable at whatever you're doing on the bike. Otherwise you'll be too scared/nervous to be as safe as you can be.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2013 at 11:34PM
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I'm so glad to hear that others are scared on the Highway.
I'm in my early 50's and thought why not, after carefully decided which bike to get, and with the guidaince of my partner - who rides a 1600 Yamaha Cruiser, I got the same but a 650. I can't get over 50mph, I wonder if this is too big. After a short trip, I don't think that was great, I think thank god it's over. The bike looks great, and I love the thought of getting out, but the fear at times is overwhelming. People are saying give it time, and I know I need to relax, and look ahead, I just wonder if this is for me. I will try and find a track that I can practise on, this would be a better option than getting into traffic so soon. I would like to stick it out a bit longer, and make sure that this is not for me. After looking at a lot of videos, I had a go at counter steering, and to my surprise it works.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2014 at 5:13AM
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