Jul
23
2008

  Second Gear

A storm blew through after my first ride on my new dirtbike, so I moved it into the garage as best I could (the garage is completely full of woodworking tools and piles of wood since the carpenter is working out of there). But it didn't rain for long, and I decided to go out for another ride before dinner. I was curious to see how the bike handled on wet grass. I figured I'd be going slow anyway, it should be fine.

I cruised around making more turns, trying to get comfortable with a smaller turning radius. Not that my turning radius is small, but I've got it down to about the same as a large car. The traction seemed perfectly fine despite the rain earlier, so I experimented going up to second gear. Easy-peasy. I was expecting it to be more difficult. Tapping your toe up to shift isn't anything I'm familiar with from other activities, and I imagined it might be hard. Not so. Although while downshifting I did accidentally downshift into neutral instead of first since I didn't tap the shifter hard enough. But it only happened once. It's not like I have to step on it hard to get it down to first, I just have to make a decisive tap instead of a weak little baby tap.

I was surprised at the difference in speed between first and second gear. I wound up going much faster (well, at least it seemed much faster to me as a first-time biker) without opening up the throttle any more. It was significantly more fun riding in second gear. Really fun. There is some uneven ground in our back field, so I even tried standing up while riding over the bumpiest parts. It was significantly more comfortable at that speed, and not difficult. Again, I had anticipated that it would hard to ride standing up. Street cyclists don't do that. I did find that I would inadvertently open up the throttle a little more when I stood up since I had to shift my weight a little towards my hands, but it was nothing major. I'm still pretty uneven with the throttle even while sitting. I also noticed a tendency as I was looking ahead at the terrain, that when I saw an uneven spot and meant to slow down, I would actually speed up since my natural inclination was to pull back a little with my hands, like pulling the reins on a horse. But pulling my right hand back caused me to roll the throttle back more open so I would actually go faster over the tricky parts instead of slower. Once I realized why this was happening, I was able to consciously lift my right hand a little instead of pulling it back, and that worked fine to get me through the valleys safely.

My hand didn't get as tired this run, but I think it was because I was switching positions more often, standing up vs. sitting down and all. I also tried turning while standing, keeping my body upright but letting the bike lean over beneath me. I practiced slightly tighter and faster turns so that the bike would actually lean a bit while I kept my torso upright. Again, it was fun rather than difficult. It really was just like it seemed it would be from watching movies.

I did decide not to press my luck on the wet grass by going into third gear. Second was fast enough for today. I will probably spend more time getting comfortable with tighter turns before I go into third gear. When you travel faster, you've got to react to turning faster, also, and even a fairly large turn is going to require the bike to lean over more than the same turn at a lower speed.

Terry and I are going to Richmond tomorrow, so I might stop by a motocross shop while I'm there to try on some boots or pants. Not because of the risk of burns, the pipes on the dirtbike are not as hazardously exposed as they are on street cycles, but because of the risk of getting hit by loose twigs and tree branches and stuff I might encounter in the field. Plus I'm hoping that a proper motocross outfit will be more comfortable in the heat than jeans with a heavy work shirt.