I don't know if I want to write about my last ride as I now have more questions than before about riding techniques. But it's better to have questions knowing that the right answer is out there some where, than to have questions without understanding, right?

Saturday night, BF and I decided to ride to our friends' house for a get-together. We live in the Northwest area and they live in the Southwest area. I figured it would be a good 'practice' ride, long enough to get experience riding in light to medium traffic and dealing with traffic lights.

(Wait the story gets better.)

We took off from the house and I was in the lead. BF wanted to ride behind me incase I had problems. It would be easier if he were right there instead of having to turn around. So off we went. I made the turn onto the main street near the house and rode down Unser till we got to Ladera/98th street.

And this is where question one popped up - As I am coming to a light and I know I have to slow down and eventually stop (because the light is red), do I downshift completely to first gear? Or do I simply slow down (and downshift as much as I can) and when I come to the stop downshift completely to first gear?

Why would this be an important question? Well, suppose this scenario. You are riding down the street, coming up to an intersection. The light turns yellow or is already red, but by the time you get to the intersection, the light is green. So to get going, you have to start shifting your gears up again. Or by the time you get to the intersection you have already downshifted to second and now need to get going as you are not coming to a complete stop.

How is that for a messy question?

Okay, so we are 98th street. I turn west onto 98th and all goes well. We come up to the three-way stop, (the street now changes direction) and I turn south. Still, all is going well. No stalling this time on my left hand turn! We are riding towards the overpass for the interstate. As I look ahead, the light is green and I begin to gage how far away I am from the intersection. I begin to downshift, slowing down in case the light turns yellow and then red before we can reach it. In fact, I am hoping that the light will turn yellow and red instead of preparing to pass through the intersection. Before I knew it, the light quickly turned to yellow and I panicked. Now that the moment is here where the light is turning red, I quickly decide that I need to stop - right now! So, in my panicked state, I start to break - I pull in the front brake lever and my foot hits the rear brake pedal.

And this is where I locked my back tire, causing a whole bunch of smoke and fish-tailed towards the intersection. But...but...I didn't drop the bike! I got the bike to stop completely by the time I reached the intersection and I stayed in my own lane. Although I locked up my rear tire (bad me!), I was able to stay in control (if that is what you would call it!) while the bike skidded about 150 feet. I recall pumping my rear brake (lifting my foot off the pedal), feathering the clutch to control my speed and praying.

BF pulled up next to me, worried and scared, and yelled What the hell was that?!

I have no idea what the hell happened! I yelled back. At that moment, all that mattered to me is that I stopped, not in the intersection, but right at it! And I was glad that no one else was behind me. Honestly, I have no idea why I panicked. I have no idea why there was such a ping of fear within me. I had passed many intersections before where I slowed down correctly. In hindsight, I miscalculated how far away we were from the intersection. What made this intersection so different?

I think know what happened. I panicked when I saw the light turn yellow. I knew I wouldn't make it through, although BF thinks we would have. In my head, we were further out than we truly were. And we probably could have made it through the light, if only I had not started to slow down, preemptively.

Now there is this sloppy tire mark on the road. In a way, I guess I marked my territory! *lol*

And this is where question two popped into my head - How did I control the bike during an uncontrollable time and what the hell was I thinking?

The rest of the ride was uneventful. We made it to the party in one piece. Yay! Now all I had to worry about was the ride home, in the dark!

And even that ride was uneventful! I stalled twice, but not a biggie. I was able to start the bike up quickly enough and got though intersections without panicking.

Some observations from this ride -

1. I need to practice speeding up and changing gears quicker. I take my time, coming from a stop, to get into second gear. I know I could go quicker, but I am a lazy rider. We already know that BF isn't. And so together, I felt like I was going fast enough and he felt like I could go a bit quicker. And most likely, he is right. I need to be a little quicker.

2. As I came to a rolling stop at an intersection knowing that the light was going to turn green, I began my downshift to slow down. But if my speed was still too fast for first gear by the time I got to the light and traffic was moving, then I while my hand was still holding onto the clutch I quickly shifted up in gears. But is this correct riding technique? (Hence question one.) So basically, without releasing the clutch, I went from third to first gears back up to second gear. (I'll have to ask BF what he thinks as well...it's a question that has been bugging me all day!)

3. I need to gage my distance to intersections a little better. I need to be aware of the cars on all sides of the intersection. This way, I can gage when to start slowing down. I tend to begin my slow down a little too late, which means I have a shorter distance to get my speed and gears down. My stop is then sloppy.

4. My perception of the road, the distances, the environment is so different on the bike versus a car! I need to learn to make the appropriate adjustments when I am on the bike.

5. I must have a guardian angel, because my earlier panic could have cost me dearly.

Ah...the lessons of riding.

Views: 24

Comment by Neonnoodle on June 16, 2008 at 5:59pm
Hey GG - Nice save! You're experiences are not unlike mine only a few months ago. There have a been one or two instances when I haven't left enough room or time for myself coming into an intersection. I realized that both times were my fault for either not paying close enough attention, or simply going a little too fast for traffic and conditions.

"As I am coming to a light and I know I have to slow down and eventually stop (because the light is red), do I downshift completely to first gear? Or do I simply slow down (and downshift as much as I can) and when I come to the stop downshift completely to first gear?"

For me is totally Dependant on conditions, traffic, my speed, etc. I generally try to have the bike in a gear that is appropriate for the speed and will give me some power should I need to maneuver out of there. However there are plenty of times when I cruise up the intersection, coasting in a high gear until the engine is close to stalling before I pull in the clutch in down shift. I wouldn't advise having the clutch in and down shifting to first while you're still moving at speed. Stuff happens and you need to be ready.

But I'm still a newb, and I'm sure you'll get much better answers than mine :)


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