By Rocky Marks
This past week, I received a question via Facebook from an old high school friend who now lives in Allentown.
I need some advice...I just got my motorcycle license a few months ago. I love being a passenger but now I'm nervous as the driver and I know that's not a good thing. I have a Harley Sporster and it probably wasn't the best choice for a first bike but I got a good deal and it is in great shape with really low mileage....and it’s a Harley!!!!
So I guess I just need some wise words from an expert!! ;-) its a heavy bike and I think that's one of the things that makes me nervous but I don't want to dump it!!
Can you help an old friend out?
Congratulations and welcome to the saddle. You should be LESS nervous because you’re in TOTAL control. A Harley-Davidson Sportster really isn’t a bad bike to get started out on. Some people make the mistake of starting out on a bike that is too small, get frustrated within a year, and when they go to upgrade, they lose equity in their trade. If you are a fan of a specific brand, and if the motorcycle fits you, then go for it.
You’ll learn something new about yourself and the bike with each trip out of the garage. I’m constantly experimenting on my bike.
I wouldn’t worry about dropping it. It happens to the best of us! It’s nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, last month I dropped my bike twice. It’s a 2009 Harley-Davidson Ultra. It has so many extras like saddlebags, the faring, and the windshield that could get damaged with one slip up in the driveway.
Fortunately, when I dripped my bike, it didn’t cause any damage. One of the great things about the Ultra is that it comes with guards especially made for that. Not only does it protect key components to the bike, but it also prevents your leg from getting pinned beneath your bike when it falls over.
If you don’t have one already, my suggestion would be to get an engine guard for your bike. They aren’t that expensive, and it will more than pay for it self should you drop the bike.
Once you get your engine guard, you may want to take your bike into a flat spot in your yard and gently lay it down… and pick it back up. Practice it a few times. It’s easier than you think. Lift with your legs and use as much leverage as possible.
Once you pick your bike up, you’ll get the feeling that it’s not as heavy as you originally though it was. You’ll also establish a feeling of control (there is that word again)—in your mind, that you can handle the bike whether it’s upright or laying on its side.
Picking up a 300 lb may sound tough, but motorcycles today are very well balanced. Don’t think of it as picking the total weight of your motorcycle off the ground. You’re simply just shifting it to a neutral position to where you can put the kickstand down and assess the situation.
Remember when you first started riding your bicycle how wobbly you were until you pedaled faster? The same rule applies. Dropping a motorcycle due to weight happens due to an unexpected shift in balance at very slow speeds, so the good news is if you do drop it, the risk of injury or damage to the motorcycle will be minimal.
I hope this helps, and enjoy that drivers seat!
This next question came via e-mail from Dave in Crafton.
On my way home from work last week I was following a very large dump truck when I heard a loud bang. The next thing I knew a piece of rubber came flying at me and I had no choice but to throttle up and go over it because of how fast we were going. I spoke to the driver who asked me if I was okay and he told me that it was a re-tread that blew off the tire.
It seems like I see these pieces of rubber all over the highways. Why are truckers still allowed to use re-treads if they break so much.
Thank you for your e-mail. That happened to me once before and I can’t even begin to describe the sound that a blown tractor-trailer tire makes. I hope that you didn’t get hurt.
I think we need to put your concern about the number of these blow-outs into perspective and ease your mind.
The reason we see so much debris on the road is because tractor-trailers have 18 wheels. Our vehicles only have 4 wheels. Every tractor trailer has the same number of wheels that you would find on 4.5 automobiles.
Trucking companies can save up to 60% by choosing re-treaded tires which keep down on the costs of transportation which eventually trickles down to the consumer level. Because the companies can keep transportation costs down, the products we purchase at the store will be less expensive.
Not only is it a cost savings benefit to the operators, but it’s good for the environment. Every re-treaded tire is one less tire that ends up in a landfill somewhere. More than 80% of the airplanes flying today use re-treaded tires. Re-treads are common in school busses, fire trucks, and even every cab in New York City uses a re-tread.
The biggest factor in determining whether or not a re-tread is safe depends on the maintenance of the tire. Re-Treads will continue to be safe so long as the tires are inflated properly the trucks are not overloaded, and if the tire is replaced at the first sign of wear.
As long as the operators of the vehicles stay on top of their maintenance schedule, we’ll see less rubber on the roads, fewer tires in land fills, and safer driving conditions for everyone.
Rocky Marks is operations manager at Hot Metal Harley-Davidson in West Mifflin and host of the radio show "On the Road With Rocky," which airs Saturdays at 7 a.m. on WEAE-AM (1250).