Thursday, April 23, 2015

A New blog - Motological - Random Musings About Riding a Motorcycle

I have decided to start another blog in the blogosphere.  I love my  Princess Scooterpie blog,  the blog isn't going anywhere, I just want to take the more technical stuff that I like to write and rant about from time to time off of Scooterpie.

So Motological - Random Musings About Riding A Motorcycle is where my more technical and motorcycle coach side of my personality will reside.

I will be gearing this blog more the nitty gritty stuff of riding, gear, bikes, etc.  If you have any suggestions they are most welcome, I am sure I will always be looking for ideas to grow both blogs. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Well on the road to summer

Spring has arrived full force on Vancouver Island, trees are blossoming, leaves unfurling, and flowers that were tucked beneath the earth for winter have poked bravely through the soil and have majestically bloomed.  The Mason bees are buzzing and busy pollinating flitting flower to flower.  Today I watched birds dive and swirl in their airborne courtship.  

Along with spring comes the appearance of the species of elusive Canadian toes that were tucked into winter boots for 7 months.  Hello summer!

My ever hopeful apple tree valiantly blooming, I actually call my tree a mutant, it very seldom delivers apples despite there being several apple trees for pollination purposes in the nearby vicinity.  Here's hoping for even 3 or 4 apples.

 The weather has been stunning this weekend about 15C.  I love it when it warms up on the island, everything seems to come alive and everyone rushes outside vigorously engaging in life beyond their homes.  My favourite walking spot is a two minute jaunt from my house, its the Westsong walkway, it is a beautiful walkway that wraps around the harbour.  It is particularly lovely in the spring and summer.

My Floathome used to be moored over in the far marina.  It was a glorious 10 years living on board my little piece of heaven, maybe one day I will do it again.  I am actually thinking mobile tiny house, I'm used to living in small space and it was 750square feet of functional compact living perfection.  It was an eclectic lifestyle and I loved it. 
The marina owner turfed out the smaller homes like mine and sold water lot leases to big super floathomes. The marina owner effectively dismantled a lovely community in the name of "progress". Luckily though most people were able to move across the harbour, where it is a vibrant thriving community. Who knows maybe one day, I loved the eclectic lifestyle, it so suited me.

On a side note I had to step out of the last two teaching days of the novice course I started teaching last week. On Tuesday I was diagnosed with a mild case of shingles. I started medication early and was lucky it started working so quickly.  But I was told to rest and have spent the better part of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, sleeping pretty much around the clock, and I am happy to report that I am well on the mend.  Now my mission is to try and learn to manage stress better, as it is a trigger and I will be getting vaccinated as soon as I've been given the ok, I do not want to go here again.

Sunday morning I went down and cheered my students on with coffee and donuts before they did their MSAs.  My best friend Deb stepped into my teaching role, and I was happy because I was able to teach with the teacher who was my traffic instructor. Happy motorcyclists!  So the work begins to start doing Tai Chi chih again or looking at yoga and other stress managers.  

Looking forward to some time out on the bike for a little magic restorative helmet time. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Parking Karma - How NOT to park at Costco

Yesterday I tootled out to local Costco and navigated the parking lot of suicidal moto doom to go to the gas bar.  After circling the lot a few times I finally found a 'real' spot and happily parked Scarlett & wandered through Costco looking for nibblies.  Costco has set up temporary cart storage spots because of the garden centre being put up in the usual cart storage area. A motorcyclist decided one of these areas would be ideal rock star moto parking. The cart return fellow was happily filling up the the cart storage doing his job and I guess decided it was time to make a point about where not to park.  So I sat back and waited until the errant parker to returned to his bike and I have to say it was pretty funny, he had a look of disbelief and consternation on his face as he unburied his bike.  The cart fellow had a wicked grin on his face as he watched the unblocking process.  

Friday, April 3, 2015

Spring Riding & what it means to you - Time to shake out the moto riding cob webs

For most of us when winter rolls around it generally means that bikes go into the moto lair for hibernation, leaving the rider with a case of PMS (parked motorcycle syndrome) during the ensuing winter months. For some folks who are fortunate like me due to geography, it's usually a very short time and for others it can be a very, very long time.  Along with our bikes being put in hibernation our motorcycle skills go into hibernation for those few winter months, which means we have to re-activate them when we start up riding again.

With the first hints of spring, motorcyclists start getting hopeful that the thing they live for the most has finally arrived - RIDING SEASON!  The first temptation is to grab your gear, fire up your much missed 2 wheeled love and take it for a rip on some twisties to find that long lost moto nirvana, but WHOA! Hold on a minute. 

First things first, before you go zinging off down the road in search of twisty moto zen, check your bike over, do a thorough pre-ride inspection to ensure everything is working as it's supposed to be. Make sure your insurance is up to date. I've met riders who've forgotten this little thing, only to be pulled over and issued a fine because of an expired sticker date on their licence tag - OOPS!  For those using private insurance to enhance their basic insurance make sure it hasn't expired either, because that potentially means no bike or gear replacement value, it happened to a friend of mine and left them not so happy after an incident. 
(You can be sure he was evicted in a hurry)

Now comes the human part of the equation, ask yourself this question: "Am I ready for this?" All the while  thinking, "Well things may be a little rusty and I'll have to take it easy." You've been off your bike 6-7 months which means your body needs to get familiar with the bike and re-engage your muscle memory and kick the proverbial cob webs out of your riding skills to get road ready again.  It comes back pretty quickly, but most riders will tell you their first couple of rides of the season are not their best.  What you can do to help this along is to start out the season easy, go back to the basics, which means taking your bike to the lot and practicing basic skills like; friction zone, slow straight line riding, figure 8's, circles, and uturns. You also have to get used to the weight of your bike again, practicing slow speed skills is the perfect thing for doing that.  Practice your starts & stops, remember "SMOOTH".  Along with all the slow speed skills don't forget to practice quick stops. You never know when an emergency situation is going to require you to stop suddenly and be ready to quickly and efficiently get the bike moving again. 
Handy little tip if you want to practice but need position markers, go to your local dollar store buy a bunch of tennis balls & cut them in half, they are perfect for this, they are portable & take up very little space when transporting. 

Now that you have done the physical stuff of practicing and shaking the cob webs loose, remember to use your senses while out on the bike. Listen to your body, you've been off the bike for awhile, most people feel fatigue a little more acutely on their first few rides, due to environmental stressors of cold or the mental fatigue that comes along with riding in the craziness of traffic. 1000 mile iron butt rides are not the ideal way to start out, make it leisurely and stressless. Take breaks, stretch, hydrate and snack.

People forget about scanning their mirrors regularly, so it's good to get in the habit of checking your mirrors frequently. Shoulder checks often become sloppy and neglected, if not forgotten altogether. Knowing who is in your blind spot before a lane change is life saving. Sightlines are very important to motorcyclist, it's true what they say "look where you want to go" make sure you have your head up and are looking ahead, because if you are looking down that's where you will end up.  New riders struggle with this a lot, but with time and concerted effort they get it. The other day I had a student who said "Wow at first I didn't believe it, but then I tried and it worked!"after that he had great Sightlines.   Another little thing to remember are the turn signals, practice turning them on/off. Nothing is more frustrating than driving behind someone who has left them on, it makes you unpredictable to other road users and leaves them guessing about what you are going to do next.

Road condition is usually not the best in spring, we are potentially still dealing with frosty conditions which require sand/salt/gravel, this combined with cold will effect tire traction. Gravel and sand are biproducts of winter and you may notice a fair amount of it left on the road, particularly in corners and on the shoulder, riding through it can cause loss of traction, so be prepared.  Oil and gunk build up on the road bed, remember the centre grease strip!  

POTHOLES!!!! We've all encountered these nasty little buggers, winter is the breeding ground of spring potholes. Potholes have the potential to either be little nuisances or they can be bike or scooter eating monsters, because you can never tell how deep they are. Hopefully you will be scanning well ahead so you can avoid them. 

Gearing up for your ride is just as important, you'll more than likely be needing a few extra layers because of variable weather conditions and temperatures. I have been out riding recently and gone from warm sun, to hail, to torrential rain in the blink of an eye.  Nothing is worse than being cold, wet, and miserable, it takes away from your concentration and critical thinking, because all you can think about is how cold or wet you are. The same applies to summer riding, in warm weather think mesh gear.  So in essence be prepared for any weather condition because Mother Nature likes to show us who's in charge at the beginning of riding season. 
BE CONSPICUOUS!  In spring car drivers are NOT looking for or expecting to see motorcycles or scooters in THEIR road space. Don't rely on other drivers to be practicing good road skills with shoulder/mirror checks or signals. The first words uttered by drivers at an accident scene involving a motorcycle are, "I didn't see them."  BE VISIBLE! As a rider you are not doing yourself any favours by dressing in dark colours without reflectivity. Yup, you may look cool, but cool means nothing if you get hurt because someone didn't see you.  

Along with wearing hi viz or brighter lighter coloured more visible riding gear there are other things you can do to enhance your visibility in traffic. Lane positioning is one of the best tools a motorcyclist or scooterist has in their skill arsenal of safe riding. Make sure you are riding in the correct dominant lane position and are not in blind spots.  Managing your space margins around your bike or scooter will give you that extra edge when in traffic, it gives you a potential escape route or the ability to stop quickly and safely, as well as manoeuvre your bike out of a hazardous situation.  All of these skills when strung together give you a good strong foundation for riding and will save your life in emergency situations and make every day riding safe and fun.

Check out your local riding school, most offer skill building or refresher courses and private lessons, these are excellent ways to tune up your riding skills.  If you are considering learning to ride do it the smart way take a course at a licenced certified school and you will be road ready!

Dust off those skills, sparkle up your bike and put out your "GONE RIDING" sign. Happy riding season, may you have sunshine on your back and twisties in your sightline!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

It's Official I am a fully licensed motorcycle instructor

I am still pinching myself! I finished my Motorcycle Instructor Trainee practicum and am now ready to embark on my teaching career.  The weather wasn't perfect, but honestly I am glad we had a wet and soggy weekend, as I told the students "Rain happens, it's only water" it's good that they are exposed to all kinds of weather because it's not always sunny days.  
I am taming the paperwork dragon before the students do their MSA/MST.
Part of being an instructor is riding the motorcycle skills assessment test as a demo for students. The MSA Test Officer is running through the pre-ride explanation in prep for my ride. 
It's a little unnerving having 2 senior instructors watch and then add 11 students into that and the stress can be over the top. Usually I would stress out, but not today, I just did it and rode it flawlessly. In the end I  actually I rode it for myself and it felt good!
All of the students rode their MSAs and passed!  I feel very humbled by the small part I played, in the end it's like watching baby birds fledge.  Now most are ready for their traffic class and continue their skill development as new motorcyclists. 
This was the most satisfying part of the process, here they sign their course completion paperwork, my job is done at this point.  Well done students! 

I am so grateful to my senior instructor mentors, who guided me through the entire process and hope that I will be lucky enough some day to mentor new instructors.
It's official weekend 2 PM class is done & my successful practicum complete! It still feels surreal! My first official course is in 2 weeks and I am STOKED!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

It's a journey! What a ride!

This weekend was the end and beginning for me, it's almost the end of my training cycle as a motorcycle instructor trainee culminating in the beginning of my instructing career.  It's been a very a comprehensive process packed full of learning motorcycle theory in written form and practical tarmac sessions.  I've gone through over 100 hours of training and now it's all getting strung together and I am applying the knowledge I've learned.  I have discovered the wonder, joy, exhilaration, and challenge of teaching and mentoring. From time to time there is little nervous angst thrown in just to keep it spicey.  I am learning the challenging act of walking backwards and talking students through an exercise before they run the manoeuvre. I still need to work on this a little, darn cones pose issues even when one is not riding, but in all fairness I wasn't looking where I wanted to go, and one of my students pointed out that I wasn't practicing what I was preaching, I quipped back I was just demonstrating the cause and effect of the action. (Touché says the student) It was the proverbial  Grasshopper "Snatch the pebble from my hand" moment. 

The hardest thing I have found is taking reflexive day to day actions breaking them down and teaching it to students. It's harder than you think, because there are so many movements and actions we do as experienced motorcyclists and translating that to students takes deliberate thought and process to relay it to them in a way that they take the lesson and apply the skill.  It is pretty heady stuff and at times when a student finds something difficult it's finding the approach to get the message through, sometimes it as simple as the student overthinking, or lack of belief in themselves, and at times the shear volume of information they are taking in can be overwhelming. In terms of teaching, I am learning that keeping it simple and giving them the information they only need to know is better rather than drowning them in minutiae and motorcycle white noise so to speak.  

My school has a team centred partner approach which is awesome! You work with another instructor and team teach, I am being mentored by my instructor and other instructors and the bonus is I am mentoring new riders.  I was a little anxious at first because it's something new and I've only taught the course in chunks to my fellow instructor trainees and passively observed a full complete course.  I've learned very valuable techniques and had great feedback from my practicum supervisor.  The novice students are growing in confidence and skill, and through this my confidence and skill set is also growing. I will always be learning and striving to do it better and more efficiently, I think it will always be an evolving process of growth and change.  It was pretty cool discussing teaching methods and results with my instructor mentor and using that insight to fine tune and find my teaching style and groove. The practicum is very intense because I'm delivering the bulk of the lessons, but that will change and it will be a little less intense when I'm teaching subsequent courses. So far I am loving this, it's pretty amazing and I actually can't even put it into words, the best feeling to compare it to is that moment when you find the perfect twisty road on a sunny day, it's BLISSFFUL.  Sorry for the lack of pics, but honestly I was too busy! 

Wish me luck as I finish my practicum next weekend.  

Sunday, March 8, 2015


This weekend has been AMAZING!  We are in full-on blooming spring mode with stellar temperatures being in the low teens (Celsius).  For the last 3 weekends I have observed a group of students learn to ride through my riding school's novice course and traffic course.  'Incredible' is really the only way I can describe the process.  I am awe struck by the tenacity of these fledgling riders and their age diversity from very young to very life experienced.  They remind me of little chicks learning to fly testing their wobbly wings.  

The traffic fleet is diverse in style to cc's and generally there is a bike for everyone.  Last year the school added a Honda CB500f and I was lucky to get to take it for a spin. I was pleasantly surprised that I liked the CB500 so much, it is the furthest style away from my cruiser. Our school encourages students at the end of their traffic course to experiment and try all the bikes, as most haven't bought a bike this early in the game and it gives you a good opportunity to try different riding styles, cruiser, dual sport, and sport bike.  

My friend Deb is an instructor and this weekend we were observing a traffic course.  Yesterday when I left it was just the beginning of sunrise, today because of daylight saving time it was still dark & cold, what a difference an hour makes! (Sorry for the grainy pic)

My instructor mentor suggested I ride one of the schools newest additions to the traffic fleet, the Harley Davidson Street 500.  So not only do students get learning opportunities, fledgling instructors do too.  Harley has two new bikes a 500 & 750 model, which are water cooled, low slung cruisers.  I think the 500 is going to be a very good entry level cruiser for everyone. They don't look like the usual HDs and surprisingly don't sound like the traditional throaty potato potato low rumble.  They sound like some of the Japanese cruisers, very quiet and soft, there is no signature rumble.  That was a little disappointing, but I quickly got over that.  I could not believe how light weight it was, in fact, it was lithe.  The 500 weighs in at 489 pounds. Getting on and off was easy peasy I am only 5'3" and my feet were securely planted when sitting on it, no acrobatics happening here like I usually have to do when getting on and off some bikes. 

I was also surprised at how agile the bike was and how manoeuvrable.  The bike is fuel injected and started up with ease.  Then the fun began!  I rode the bike for 8 hours and I have to say I had so much fun.  It goes like the wind and the acceleration is fast & easy.  The steering is agile and when I was carving corners and twisties it was so much different than Scarlett, it was absolutely effortless.  Going down the highway was easy!  The 500 was so easy to ride, but if I was getting one I'd probably get the 750 for the extra cc's. The seat was comfortable and I wouldn't change it to a custom seat.  I really like the bubble housing on the headlight and the fender, it reminded me of cafe racers.  I like the understated elegance and lack of chrome, don't get me wrong I like bling, in fact I'm the princess of bling, but sometimes less is more.  

*nudge* David Masse,  I think you should have a look at this if you are considering a 'shifter', I think this would rock as a daily commuter and as a distance bike and it was easy and comfortable to ride.

At the end of a very happy weekend of riding I also took the new Honda CB300 for a spin, I really liked this bike, albeit it is more of a sport bike styling.  So now I am even more confused about my future moto love.  I guess  motorcycles are a bit like a box of smarties, so many to choose from and 1 smartie is never really enough!  

I am happy, exhausted, and ready to do my practicum.  Today the group of 4 students I followed from novice class to traffic all passed and are doing their road tests in the next few days or weeks.  I know they are going to do great and it is very exciting being part of the process.   I think I am going to like this instructor gig!