A New Bike, A New Lean Angle
by Jim Kerg, New York
I've been riding for over 20 years, and have owned four different bikes. They've all been cruisers, and I've been going steadily and gradually up in displacement from one bike to the next. I found out recently, though, that the jump from a 750 cc to the current range of 1500 cc is huge.
I bought my brand new 1500 in early April 2001 and had just a couple rides in. I could tell the handling was quite a bit different from a 750, but hadn't gotten the nuances down yet. Coming off a freeway exit ramp that I had done countless times on my 750, I leaned into the sweeping left turn as I always had. This time though, I discovered that the floorboard brackets scrape the road a lot sooner than the footpegs of my other bikes had. Whether that actually caused the bike to unsettle or I reacted badly I can't say. Let's assume the latter. Despite having taken the MSF course many years ago and reading all the safety articles in the magazines, I probably still reacted incorrectly. Instead of staying in the turn and just riding through the scraping, I straightened up and munched the front brakes. I slowed down pretty well before hitting the retaining wall and suffered relatively minor injuries.
Here are the important points to consider. I was properly attired, and everything came into play. My full-face helmet, leather jacket, jeans, leather gloves and boots all took hits but saved my body. I had intended to get to a MSF course to get more comfortable with the bike, but hadn't "gotten around to it" yet (I am now!). And finally, if you're one of the many moving up to a large displacement bike, understand that its handling will affect your capabilities no matter how experienced a rider you are. Remember, as you become used to your new motorcycle, respect the differences in handling that will initially make you ride your well-known route home with much more deliberate actions and likely at slower speeds. Good luck and good riding.
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