Canadian Motorcycle Rider

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Learning to Ride - Safely!

So you want to learn to ride a motorcycle do you? Whether you're doing it because it's cool, it's something you've always wanted to do, or for practical reasons such as providing economical transportation there are some basics that you'll want to consider.

Licensing - Driver's license are issued by the province of residence and many of them have specific regulations when it comes to getting your license. So you should check the regulations in your province to determine what your situation will be. Some common early restrictions are related to bike motorcycle engine size, traveling at night, on certain roadways and the blood alcohol allowed.

Gear - You're going to need a certain amount of protective clothing if you're going to ride. If you're not sure about whether you're going to get into it at the minimum you're still going to need some proper footwear with some ankle protection - don't bring your running shoes! Steel toe boots aren't the greatest either because you can't feel the clutch very well. Ask the folks running the course and they'll be able to provide some suggestions on this. You'll need a pair of gloves, a proper jacket, and most importantly a helmet. Make sure it's a DOT approved helmet and that it fits properly. If you're going to buy a bike, most dealers will offer a discount on gear when you buy your bike. Don't forget to factor the cost of these very important extras when determining your budget. Your gear might just save your life!

Training - This is important! It may even be mandatory in your province that you take one of these courses. Motorcycles take a certain amount of skill to ride safely - do yourself a favor and take a course on how to ride one. It's not necessarily the best idea to learn from a friend because chances are they are not trained in the latest safety techniques and even if they are safe riders they may have picked up some bad habits over the years. I personally took the Canada Safety Council course and have nothing but positive to say about it. In the program I took they even brought the examiners from Motor Vehicle on the final day to conduct a driving test which we could do on the bikes provided in the course. This was great, especially if you don't already have a motorcycle! You can take the course, and see if you like it.

Insurance: Motorcycle insurance rates vary widely and its something you should look into before making a purchase. Motorcycles are much smaller than cars so they can be easier to steal. When involved in an accident, particularly with another vehicle, they also typically sustain high dollar value damage because of the smaller size and weight of the vehicle. Another reason to make sure you're wearing the proper gear. Pretend you're invisible to motorists!

Your first bike - Some people think that bigger is better when it comes to bike size. This is simply not the case! Think about the type of riding you're going to be doing and remember that when you're learning you're more likely to drop the bike or have accidents. Consider getting a smaller, perhaps used bike that you can upgrade after you've past this initial stage. Sport bikes in particular are extremely powerful machines and they're not meant for novice riders. Some dealers won't even sell these machines to riders who don't have experience but these tend to be the exception. Hayabusa is not japanese for "beginner"!

Everybody has an opinion on this it seems - a bike is only as safe as it's driver but large displacement sport bikes have a power-to-weight ratio comparable to or superior to high end sports cars so you can get yourself in a lot of trouble very quickly. My first bike was a Suzuki GS500 and I loved it! I rode it for four years and the bike got more and more fun to me. It is fairly forgiving if you make some little mistakes. It's powerful enough to ride the highway comfortably (even with two people) and small enough to make it a pleasure to drive around town. You get to use all the gears unlike some large displacement - high power bikes that can break most speed limits in first or second gear. At this point I've driven a lot of different bikes and can say that there is a HUGE difference between a 500 cc bike and a 600 cc sport bike. They are designed with racing in mind and they perform like it - you need to be very smooth, which is something you're not likely to be right away.

If you're a fan of cruisers you could probably safely ride something a little larger displacement and not worry about it too much. These types of bikes have a low center of gravity and produce more torque. They can be a little tricky to drive slow and around the city where you'll encounter a lot of stop and go traffic and turning. If you drop them they can be really tough to pick back up too. Something you might have to do on occasion as a new rider.

Honda is one company that seems to believe in the bigger is not better motto. They've got a 125 cc small displacement sport bike called the CBR125R that they were reportedly selling at a small loss. It looks a lot like the bigger sports bikes but is a lot easier for a beginner to handle and could make a great commuter bike.

Check out local resources such as a local newsgroups of motorcycle enthusiasts. They'll often be able to offer advice on where to get a good new or used bike. Lots of them have a forum with buy and sell area. Check out our Regional Resources section for sites in your area.


Canada Safety Council's - Gearing Up Program (Canada's National Motorcycle rider training program)

The BMW F800GS is coming!

This is the bike a lot of people have been waiting for! BMW currently has the 650 single Dakar model which will be dropped and the 1200cc horizontally opposed flat twin cylinder boxer engine GS's. Adventure bikes can be thought of as the SUV of the motorcycle world but with a lot better fuel economy! They're capable of doing some (or a lot) of off roading; many owners will not truly test their off road abilities but these BMW machines have proven themselves off road on countless global adventures. They're also at home on the street too. So if want a bike that can do it all or perhaps consider yourself a bit of an adventurer this might be the bike for you!

The F800GS is a middleweight bike that very nicely fills the gap in BMW's lineup between the F650GS and the monstrous but highly capable 1200 GS and GS Adventure. The engine of the F800GS is based on the same parallel twin as the F800S and F800ST released as 2007 models; it is 798 cc and in the GS produces 85 hp. BMW claims a weight of 207 Kg (or 456 lbs) with fuel and other fluids. It features a steel trellis frame (to see a description of various frame types this link offers a good explanation ), inverted forks, and a two-sided swingarm. It uses a chain final drive rather than a belt or shaft.

Here's some facts/specifications about the bike from BMW's website:

- Torque 61 lb/ft
- six-speed gear box
- switchable ABS (optional)
- 42-degree turning radius
- 400-watt alternator
- wide foot rests
- 4.2 gallon (16 liter) under seat gas tank keeps the center of gravity low.

* I was at the BMW dealership today (Nov 24/07) and was told that the "650 will start using a two cylinder engine and the current 650 single will be dropped." I've read the new 650 (twin) will have a little less power at 71 hp than the F800GS at 85. But 71 hp is a nice jump up from the 650 single. BMW's website says that the 650 GS actually uses a 798 cc engine - same as the F800GS. But in the 650 it makes less power.

Here are a couple of links you may want to check out for some additional information on the F800GS:

Third party site video's
Link to third party site review (detailed!)

Ducati's New Entry Level Superbike!

Ducati introduced their new 848 at the Milan show in early November. It's a big step up in displacement from the 749. More good news - it's looks almost identical to the more pricey 1098. It also has a claimed 134 hp!

That's just a few horses shy of the 999 and 30+ more than the 749. It's got lower spec brake calipers than the 1098 to help bring down costs but they should still be more than sufficient.

The 848 has the same wheels as the 1098 but the back tire is a 180/50-ZR17 instead of a 190/70. Each panel and bodywork fitting is apparently identical to the larger 1098. Even the exhaust, although engineered specifically for the 848, looks identical to the 1098. The underside of the exhaust indicates an 848 and 848s hinting that a "special" version of the 848 will be produced as well, perhaps next year.

Initially the bike is supposed to come in red with a red frame or white with a gray frame (as pictured). This kind of performance won't come cheap but it'll be less than the near $20,000 Cdn. for the 1098.

I predict it'll be a hot seller!