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Discussion Starter #1
I only have about 150 miles of riding experiecnce. I was making a lot of concious effort to keep my knees in near the tank. I've found that after I ride for 20 minutes or so, as I start to relax I allow my knees to spread out and open up some. Is this a bad lazy habbit I need to stay away from or is it no big deal and ok to ride however feels comfortable?
 

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HAWK
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I don't think it is a bad thing, unless you start hitting your knees on the road:)
 

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Hey en750joe, welcome to riding!

In general, on long straight highways the position of your knees isn't very important.

When the roads start getting twisty and more fun :smiley_th, you'll find that when you keep your knees in and have better riding posture, you'll feel a lot more comfortable and confident taking turns. - Remember to turn your head and your eyes and look through turns to where you want the bike to go.

Sometimes new riders get sloppy with their knees and try to point them into the direction of the turns they're taking. The problems with doing this are for starters your knees don't make the bike go where you want it to go (your eyes and hands mostly do) and secondly, dropping the inside knee actually stands the bike up a bit and makes you take the turn wider -which is probably the exact opposite of what you want to do! :doh:

Always do your best to stay within your limits (of yourself, your environment and your bike) and always stay alert. Being uncomfortable can distract you from the riding task and lead to reducing your limits -basically increasing your overall risks.

Hope that helps. -Sloppy
 

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Growling at the World...
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I only have about 150 miles of riding experiecnce. I was making a lot of concious effort to keep my knees in near the tank. I've found that after I ride for 20 minutes or so, as I start to relax I allow my knees to spread out and open up some. Is this a bad lazy habbit I need to stay away from or is it no big deal and ok to ride however feels comfortable?

If you are wearing shorts, then stop and put on long pants cause you will burn your left leg. But if you must, then keep your legs closed as a bee can and will ruin your day... :beerchug:
 

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Discussion Starter #5
OK thanks,

I was really talking about highway riding.

But since you brought up turns. What are your recommended tips for taking turns at say 50 MHP+? I've found the bike doesn't really want to lean at that speed it kinda wants to stay upright. Do you just learn to lean over a bit harder or does it just kinda become natural with experience? I dont have any adrinaline desires and dont plan to do anyhting stupid. I just want to start the right approach to my riding habbits.
 

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Growling at the World...
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OK thanks,

I was really talking about highway riding.

But since you brought up turns. What are your recommended tips for taking turns at say 50 MHP+? I've found the bike doesn't really want to lean at that speed it kinda wants to stay upright. Do you just learn to lean over a bit harder or does it just kinda become natural with experience? I dont have any adrinaline desires and dont plan to do anyhting stupid. I just want to start the right approach to my riding habbits.
Natural with experence. Don't do anything you are uncomfortable with and try to take a MSF course. What they will teach you will save your life...
 

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OK then .... start by going to www.msf-usa.org and looking for the nearest motorcycle school to you that teaches the MSF curriculum. It's a national curriculum so if you live in one state and take it in another you'll still learn the same basic fundamentals of riding.

On the MSF website you can also download the student handbook. It's the exact same book the students in class get to read, and read it.

As for taking turns at 10+ mph...

1. SLOW before the turn while the bike is still upright and has the most traction available for braking, and set up towards the outside third of your lane. You'll try to take an outside -> inside -> outside path of travel through turns to straighten them out as much as possible.

2. LOOK through the turn to where you want the bike to go. Look at a tree and you'll hit it - that's called target fixation - so look where you want to go :wow: look where it's safe to go!

3. PRESS on the inside grip into the direction you want to go. So it's look right press right go right, look left press left go left. If you can't grasp the concept of "the press" try thinking of it this way: you need to counter steer in the opposite direction you want to go in. So basically you would turn the bars to point the front tire into the opposite direction that you want the bike to go in. The concept of counter-steering spooks most people, so just press on inside grip to keep things simple.

4. Smoothly ROLL on the throttle throughout the turn. Braking in turns is bad for your health so do your slowing before you enter turns. Keeping a steady throttle through a turn or even slightly accelerating through turns will keep your bike steady and it will load up the rear suspension thus slightly extending the front forks giving you a little bit more ground clearance which is very handy for taking turns.

Why is braking in turns bad for your health? -> For starters you have limited traction in turns with the little patches of your tires that are actually making contact with the ground at any time. You need most of that contact patch traction for leaning and some of it for the acceleration. Try to brake in a turn and you can easily ask too much and exceed the limits of traction of your tires, which could possibly stop your front tire from turning and cause a low side kind of accident. Also braking in turns loads up your front suspension, which will reduce your ground clearance and can result in scraping hard parts of your bike on the ground like your foot pegs, side stand, mufflers, handlebars etc...

If you screw up your entry speed and enter a turn too fast and need to brake, a safer way to scrub off speed at that point is to briefly straighten the bike up and brake with the bike upright (where you have the most traction) and then quickly get back into the turn.

Taking turns under 10 mph is just a little bit different. Slow, (set up towards the outside of the turn), look, turn the bars (yes turn) and roll/ease out the clutch. At slower speeds you don't counter steer.
 

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I've found the bike doesn't really want to lean at that speed it kinda wants to stay upright.
Also, yes. As you have noticed by now, the faster you go the more stable your bike becomes and the more it wants to stay upright and go straight. The slower it goes the less stable it becomes. At 0 mph it's so unstable it'll just fall over if you let it. Up to about 7-10 mph your personal sense of balance is very important and keeping your head and eyes level will go a long way towards keeping you upright. At speeds above that you'd be amazed at how stable bikes can be.

Keep your head and eyes level when you come to stops. Just before you roll to a stop your bike is briefly very unstable until you finally stop and put a foot down, so be sure to keep your head and eyes level at that critical time. Target fixation takes over, look at the ground when stopping and you'll be very tempted to tip over when you come to a stop.

It's common for MSF instructors / rider coaches to shout "EYES UP!! EYES UP!!" 1,000+ times at you on day one of the class with good reason. :drool:
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Thanks for the tips. I read some of it already from reading and studying on finding the right line, I also read on look at the tree hit the tree, and coutersteering does indeed seem a little awkward in practice but in concept it makes since.

I've looked into the MSF and Rider's Edge courses (by harley) several times. Both courses are $120+, over an hour away in drive time, (one way) and take place all during my work hours. I cannot get off. Also the regular MSF course requires you to supply your own bike and must be under 500cc.

I have a buddy who rides a VTX1300 and he's been a big help when he's available but it's mostly me, on my own, self taught. I hope I dont have a fool for a student. My first ride ever was actualy on the VTX1300 so this is a bit of a step down in size, wieght and displacement. That hardly qualifies me as an experienced rider I know.

Right now I cant ride but 30 min or so at a time before I need a break because my butt is starting to burn and my fingers are tingling so bad they are going numb. I imagine my butt will get a bit more used to it and I've learned a few different hand positions to help relax my grip.

Not sure why I spilled out all that...... I was really just wondeirng if relaxing my knees was a bad thing.

Anyway, I am soaking up your info like a sponge. Thank you for taking the time to explain whatever you can.
 

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and the Adventure Cycle
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Right now I cant ride but 30 min or so at a time before I need a break because my butt is starting to burn and my fingers are tingling so bad they are going numb. I imagine my butt will get a bit more used to it and I've learned a few different hand positions to help relax my grip.

Anyway, I am soaking up your info like a sponge. Thank you for taking the time to explain whatever you can.
You seem to be on the right track for wanting to learn good riding skills. :smiley_th
Keep practicing at safe speeds, and it'll come to you. It just takes time.

The finger tingling is often referred to as 'arm pump'. It's usually from being tense and having too tight of a grip on the bars.
When I start feeling that, I'll move my thumbs from under the grips, and just set then over top of the grips, with my fingers.
Ya gotta be careful doing that though, 'cause ya don't have the same amount of control if a quick maneuver is needed. If you're going to try that, do it with just one hand at a time.


As for the knee position, I started motorcycle riding on dirtbikes. On those, ya pretty much always have your knees tight against the tank. You can get alot of your control from more than your hands on the handlebars that way. But when ya really try to keep them there, it does get quite tiring.
Again, it's practice that helps. Make an effort to keep them there, but not with a death squeeze, just like with holding the grips.
One thing that may help is keeping your toes pointed slightly inwards.

And for turning a faster speeds, I make sure to lean my entire body with the bike, putting pressure on whichever footpeg is on the inside of the turn. All the while being as smooth as possible with the throttle. Beside not braking in a turn, ya also don't want to mash on the throttle, or let off it really quick. Be smooooth.

Now I'm not a professional instructor, so if any of this is really off from what they may teach at the MSF classes, someone please speak up and I'll edit my post.
Just 'cause it works for me, doesn't mean it's right or safe.
 

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All good responses so far and I don't have anything really to add except that countersteering is couter-intuitive, but it works. I never took the MSF class either and have been riding for almost a year and have a little over 3000 miles.

I've learned a lot from http://www.beginnerbikers.org/. Check it out when you get some time. Several of their members are rider coaches and they're great about answering newbie type questions. I had never heard of countersteering until I read about it there, I was doing it but I didn't know what it was and why it worked.
 

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Giggity!
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I'm just over 4000 miles since my mid may purchace & these where my first "Bike Miles" ever! Getting use to that whole leaning, pushing, Looking, stuff took me about my first 1000 miles to "start" feeling comfortable with it. Give it time & listen to what experienced riders have to say. They've been there & their advice is priceless!
 

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Drive less, ride more...
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I see you've looked into the beginner MSF course.

What I would suggest, if the MSF class is a stretch for you, is to consider taking it during some of your vacation time.

Also, consider taking the Harley Davidson "Rider's Edge" version, also.

They supply the bike (most likely will be the Buell "Blast"). Their version of the class is more spread out in time (so you learn more), and the class atmosphere is much more relaxed, and fun (it's designed to be that way, so you'll be more inclined to buy a bike from them, later).

Their instructors are not only MSF-certified, but they also receive additional training from Harley Davidson, so you get more experienced instructors coaching you and scrutinizing your moves.

There is no substitute for professional instruction as you are learning to ride. It can later save your life! Passing the beginner MSF class also makes you eligible for discounts from certain bike insurance companies.....and other places, as well.

Just some food for thought.....:smiley_th
 

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The best rule of thumb in my experience is start off slow. If you are not sure how to handle a 50+ mph turn; DO NOT TRY IT! The longer you ride the more in tune you will become with how a bike moves and how you need to move with it. Simply start with straight aways. Avoid sharp turns and practice your skills someplace empty of other moving vehicles and where you don't care about killing the bike, or looking like a goober. As you progress you will become more confident, but always remember that if your heart skips a beat while you are trying something...There is usually a good reason for that. It probably means you shouldn't be doing that maneuver just yet. Take your time, be very careful and safe and you will have many, many years of very enjoyable riding ahead of you. If you rush it and be stupid, then we will be seeing you on the news...:( :doh:

P.S. I have ridden a lot of different bikes and you picked a very good one as far as maneuverability and nimbleness is concerned. I love riding my VN750. It may not be a speed demon, but it is one of the best rides in the crusier class. At least your not starting on a crotch rocket!!! That shows you have intelligence!:smiley_th
 

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I forgot to give you my thoughts on knees in or out. If I try to hold my knees in very close to the tank the inside of my legs will get tired real fast. If I try to spread eagle them like some guys I have seen cruising around I realize that I have only really seen them doing that in town and I see why as the wind tries to make me do the splits. There is a happy medium you will have to find that will allow you to eat up the miles in comfort. I also couldn't find any advantages in gas mileage with either position. Go with what is comfortable for you!
 

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It will be two years in October since I took the MSF course and owned my first bike. The course is invaluable to a beginner, and many seasoned riders have said it really changed the way they ride. I can't imagine trying to learn on my own, knowing what they taught me. For one thing, you practice and practice taking turns over and over, to the point that I was dragging pegs on the course on that little 250cc bike like I had been on it for years. Not that it didn't un-nerve me a little, but that shows to a point that you learn to ride and understand that the bike will do what you ask it to, in a controlled atmosphere. It really does apply to any bike you ride. Of course, there's a period of adjustment to a bigger bike, but the basics you learn in that course apply to all street bikes. I remember after the course, when I got my license and took my KZ550 out on my first ride, going 60 felt like I was strapped onto a rocket! I felt totally out of control. I was out of my comfort zone. Stay in your comfort zone, and keep learning what you can. Your comfort zone will expand as you learn and ride. But, what ever it takes, find a way to get into the MSF course. You and the world around you will be soooooo much safer for it!

For instance, if you brake at the wrong time, not knowing the physics of it, you will dump your bike and be flying over the top. Not trying to scare you, but it's way too easy to do what seems like the right thing, and find out later that you should have done the opposite. They drill these things into your head like you wouldn't believe, and they are the things that will save your life!
 

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I completely echo what Fergy said. I bought my bike in Sept. '05 and it was my first bike too. I had read up on how to operate the bike and understood in principle how they worked. But, getting on the bike and doing it was a different thing. So, I took the riders safety course around October '05 and it was absolutely worth while. Regardless of cost or distance, it's worth it.

Since Sept. '05, I've put over 20k miles on my bike, riding it year round.

Based on what you were saying about the bike being too upright around corners, it sounds to me like you're not countersteering enough and trying to put the bike into a lean with your body. Once you start really grasping the countersteering you'll see that the lean comes automatically and all you have to do is not fight the lean with your body.

On the other hand, I may not be the best guy to take advice from because I just dumped my bike last week.

One bit of advice I CAN give you though, with absolute credibility and speaking from the experience of a crash at highway speed...get good safety equipment and wear it on every ride.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Thanks everyone. I am soaking up what you say.

Even if I could afford MSF and I could make the trip, I cannot get off work untill at least January or Febuary of '08.
 

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I agree with all of the above and also recommend keeping your knees in - but it sounds like you also need to relax. HAving your knees up against the tank can help you manoeuvre the bike round a corner, especially if you have misjudged it a little. Grip the tank with your knees and tilt the bike over with your body as described above - this can happen in town traffic too if you are too near an obstacle. Its vaguely like controlling a horse. You should have done all your braking before you go into a bend - if you have to brake you are too fast - and remember if you have misjudged a bend and need to brake, do it principally with the back wheel. You are in serious danger of losing control if you brake hard with the front wheel round a bend. And if you are going to lose control make sure you do it on a left hand bend and go off the road - on a right hand bend you will slide under the wheels of oncoming traffic.
 

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Now what
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Check out http://beginnerbikers.com/ -Everyone there is geared towards beginners. You'll get "take the MSF course" about a thousand times, but there's still lots of other good information too.
 
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