The Kawasaki ZZ-R250.

1:29 PM 5/14/2003

So I finally have it. My motorcycle. I've wanted one forever. I went through different stages of motorcycle envy.. primarily for scooters and sportbikes. I never really cared for cruisers or dirtbikes. I still think that scooters have a certain indefinable style that motorcycles just don't capture, but to suit my needs I need a bike. I commute on the highway as well as through the city, and scooters just aren't fast enough... even the 250cc ones. Also, the ones with the kind of style I would like are mostly the old Vespas and Lambrettas. Since they're so old, that means that they aren't all that reliable. I've seen it posted on scooter FAQs that, unless you want to occasionally spend a bit of time at the side of the road replacing a throttle cable or something, a classic scooter isn't for you.
Since I'm mechanically inept, something like that would take ages. Assuming that I had packed the right equipment just in case. Which means that it's not a reliable commuting vehicle. So unless I wanted to get a Silverwing or a Helix or something, a scooter wasn't an option. Not yet, at any rate. Not until I move closer to work, which I do plan to do.
Besides, I've always lusted after sportbikes.. I can't watch one zoom past without going "ooo..." So I really felt the need to get one. In the future I'll probably get a scooter as well, but at the moment, I'm a motorcycle person.

And so now I've finally got around to getting one. I've never ridden a bike before, unless you count my brother's Yamaha Vino, or the Honda Dio I rented once, so I wanted one that would be a good starter. Something light, something not too powerful, something that, if I decided that no, this whole exposure thing isn't for me, I hadn't spent too much on. I also wanted a sportbike. That was what motivated me to get a bike in the first place. The trouble is, I live in Canada. The attitude in North America, which you see in every part of life here, is that bigger is better. That being the case, the most common bikes on the roads are 600+cc. No one takes 250s seriously, which means that the only ones you find are standards and dirtbikes. No. I wanted a sportbike.

So here's my dilemma: either I buy a bike that I don't want because it's the right power, or I buy a bike that's too powerful, but that I actually want to ride. Looking for a solution, I went and tried on a few 600s, but I found that, without exception, they were too heavy and too wide for me with my complete lack of experience. And too much of an initial investment. Not to mention my concerns over the power. So I looked at the lower power range.. the weight issue wasn't much better there. Most of the 250s you find are pretty old, so they don't have the modern technology involved that makes them nice and light. And they were so far from the style that I wanted it wasn't even funny. I did find a Yamaha FZR 250 that was nice to look at, but it was an '88 model, and really very heavy.
It was starting to look like I wasn't going to find one that suited me. Then, I happened across the perfect solution at a dealership.
That's it up there.. the Kawasaki ZZ-R250, in jet black. 248cc, perfect for a starter bike. It's nice and light, so handling at lower speeds will be easy, and it's just the style I wanted. And only $6100, too. Groovy.

2:12 PM 5/17/2003

Ok, bike is bought. It's officially in my name.. it just hasn't arrived yet. Because no one takes 250s that seriously here, they only had one in stock, and it was sold yesterday. So I have to wait until Tuesday for it to arrive. But that's ok.. they didn't have a helmet that would fit me, either, so I had to order that. I got a pretty cheap one.. only about $400 Same reason as the cheaper bike. They should arrive on about the same day. And when I went to the dealer, I got an initial price of $5700 on the bike. Not bad at all.

Even better, I signed up for personal riding lessons with an instructor who used to be the head of the BC Safety Council. Surprisingly, he says that my scooting time on the streets of Vancouver makes me more experienced than most of the people that he sees, and definitely not a novice. So all I really need to learn is how to handle the differences between the scooter and the bike. Gear shifting and weight, mainly. He knocked 10 hours and about $500 off my course time because of it. Woo!

my helmet
My first lesson is on the 31st. It's just going to be in a parking lot, learning to navigate cones, handle at low speeds, etc., but that will be enough at first. I have to wait fifteen days between when I get my Learner's and when I can take the skills test, which removes most of my restrictions except passengers and night riding. The instructor is going to let me use his bike, so that if I drop it, I don't damage my own. Once I have a pretty good level of control over his bike, we'll switch to mine, which is smaller and lighter.

I get five hours on skills, five on the road. I'd better hurry up and order my jacket, so that I have it when we're out in traffic. I'm just not certain whether I need perforated or solid. Apparently, perforated is better for riding in warm weather, and I'm going to be riding through the summer. However, when I start for home the sun is beginning to set, and the warmth is disappearing. So will the perforations be too much ventilation then? And the perforated version is missing some armour on the chest, too, which isn't a good thing. Also, it concerns me that the perforations might weaken the leather in the event of a crash. I'm not taking any chances on safety. Normally, I'd just suffer with a bit of extra heat, but I'm going to be commuting to work.. one doesn't want to be icky before even getting there. So I need to find the balance.

10:08 PM 5/20/2003

Just picked up my helmet. It's not very comfortable. It's lovely to look at, but it squishes my cheeks because I have such a round face, and feels quite claustrophobic. Nevertheless, it will probably become more comfortable in time, as the padding compresses and my face slims down from my ongoing exercises. I've spent, on and off, about three hours today wearing it, partially because I'm trying to compress the pads as much as possible before I have to wear the thing out on the road, and partially because, well, dude! It's my helmet!

My bike was in, so the sales guy insisted that I sit on it. He was so enthusiastic.. he patted the seat and said "This is your bike, man! This is your bike!"
Which it is. And better than I thought.. the black has a sort of blue pearl finish to it. Very nice indeed. He said they have to polish it and everything, and they'll deliver it to my door on Thursday. Guroovy.

5:58 PM 5/21/2003

Went in this morning to pick up the keys, etc, and the guy said that they were going to be doing some deliveries today, and that mine was probably among them. So now I can't wait to get home.
The ZZ-R250 was the perfect choice. It's the right height, the right width, the right weight. It's exactly the style that I wanted, but also a perfect starter bike. Small and nimble, I'm sure that it's going to be a lot of fun to ride. I'll find out soon enough.

10:27 PM 5/22/2003

Bugger. I wasn't home today because of work, so the delivery guy wouldn't leave my bike at my house. So I called and made arrangements to go in tomorrow at 9.05 am and insure it, and then the delivery guy will follow me home to drop it off. I'll probably order my jacket while I'm there tomorrow, too. I think I should go with the perforated one. I can always buy the other one too, if I need it. I'll ask about them while I'm there, though.
Tomorrow morning can't come quickly enough. It's going to be very hard to watch the guy drop the bike off, and then have to go to work without having any time to try it out.

11:37 AM 5/23/2003

It was delivered this morning. I started it for the first time. I zoomed up and down the road. Then I had to leave it and come to work.
It's going to be a long day.
Insurance was quite reasonable, as expected. The shop didn't polish the bike, so it still has the dirt resulting from shipping, but I don't care. I'll do that myself.
Riding it wasn't so scary. I expected to be way uptight, but it's easy. I took delivery of the bike. I had to sit on it. And the key was sitting in the ignition, calling to me, so I had to start it. And then I had to try changing gears. And, the end of the driveway wasn't that far to try riding it. And then, neither was the end of the road.
Countersteering feels very natural. It's easy.. I got the hang of it right away. The bike is bigger and heavier than the scooters I've ridden, but once it's moving the momentum counters the weight, and the gyroscope effect keeps the bike vertical. So then to turn. you just lean. What I wasn't sure about was the line between steering and countersteering, as in when you stop turning the handlebars to turn, but it's intuitive, and I got the hang of it without even thinking about it.
Now, I need to get the alarm and the cable lock. I'm also going to carefully observe the break-in period, though that's going to be hard. The break-in period is listed as the first 1600 km, with the following recommended restrictions:
Distance travelledMaximum engine speed
0 - 800 km4 000 rpm
800 - 1600 km6 000 rpm
I was going to take pictures this morning when I got it home, but I was so involved with riding it that I quite forgot. And then I was late for work, so I had to rush out. I'll take some tonight and tomorrow. :)

2:43 PM 5/23/2003

I want to go home and ride. This work day is taking forever!

12:10 PM 5/24/2003

Pictures. Not very good pictures, I'll be the first to admit, but pictures nonetheless. What do you want from me? It was dark-ish by the time I got home last night.
Oh, and by the way, they're huge. 1760 x 1148,
The bike by my car
The bike still by my car
The bike by itself

You can really see the blue pearl finish in the last picture, just because of the intensity of the flash.

Talked to my riding instructor guy last night, and he confirmed what I was thinking about the jacket. Perforated is better, because you can always put something on under it if it gets too cold. If you have a solid jacket, you can't really do anything to cool it down. So perforated it is. Which is kind of unfortunate.. solid looks better. Ah well. Still, with that helmet, it should look pretty good regardless.
For my back protector, I got a Knox KC 2000 X1. Apparently the best on the market. Hopefully, I won't have to put that to the test.

2:27 PM 5/24/2003

First feedback on the bike from a fellow biker. (woo, I get to say "fellow"):

That's a sweet looking ride!

Woo hoo!

12:03 PM 5/25/2003

I took some new pictures of my lovely new bike, so I added a pictures page.

4:06 PM 5/26/2003


Today was the first day I'd been off work since I got the bike, so it was my first chance to actually get out there and ride it. At first, it was a little tricky. I went up and down my road a few times.. it's a dead end, so there's virtually no traffic. Since I've never ridden a bike before, I had no experience shifting. The scooters I've ridden have all been automatics. So I rode the bike up and down the road a few times. It was nice and easy.. easier than I thought. It would be even easier if I weren't having to observe the 4k rpm limit, but I'm not taking any chances with the break-in period. Which makes life very difficult on the road, but I'll get to that in a second. So riding up and down the street. No problems at all.. it's easy. After I'd done it a few times, I peered out at the main road, and noticed that it was pretty empty. It's a Monday, and it was about one o'clock.. everyone was at work or at school. So I decided to venture out onto the road, just long enough to get to the nearest gas station, which is about thirty seconds away when I'm in my car. My t-shirt wasn't good enough for that kind of adventure, and since I don't yet have my jacket, I wore my leather bomber jacket. It's pretty thick leather, though fashion rather than protection, and it's well padded. Better than nothing. So I put that on and off I went. Traffic isn't much of a worry, as long as you aren't holding anyone up. At least around here. I was very careful about shoulder checking, but it's amazing how much of your vision is restricted by the edges of the helmet. I have to turn my head way further on a bike than I do in my car. Also, motorcycle mirrors seem pretty much useless. There's no way that you can see what's directly behind you. Your arms get in the way. The best that you can do is point the mirrors slightly outward, and then maybe you'll be able to see if someone is behind you in a different lane. You're totally blind back there, and several times today there has been a car right behind me and I had no way of knowing.
So anyway, going to refuel my bike wasn't hard. Of course, I'm not certain whether you can use the fuel pump the same way on the bike as you can on the car, since it's perfectly vertical and has a neck at the top. I don't know whether you just shove the nozzle in and wait until it stops pumping or what. That might be a problem with the overflow. I'll figure that one out through trial and error.
Having successfully made the trip to and from the station, I decided to be more adventurous. Where I live, there are two directions of the main road: city and country. If I come out of my road and head right, I go into the city. So I decided to head left. I thought that if I went out into the country, there wouldn't be a lot of traffic, and I could take my time, get used to the bike, etc.
Unfortunately, by this time it was getting a little later.. about 3.30, which means that people are coming home from work, bringing their children home from school, etc etc. There was traffic. And, to my unpleasant surprise, 4000 rpm means about 50 kmph. Not very fast. Technically, it's the limit on that road, but it's still freaking slow. Anyway, I hit a few intersections, had to take my turn at a few four-ways, and just generally had a good ride.
Bad points:
  • 4000 rpm. I'm really slow. I obstruct traffic, and everyone passes me. I'm comfortable going faster, but I can't because I don't want to bugger my engine. So right now I'm the slowest thing on the road. I was even passed by a big nasty touring bike. I could leave them all behind, but not without screwing my engine, which I'm not willing to do. So for the moment, I'll be an obstruction.
  • Gloves. You need gloves. I was aware of this.. I know the protection that they afford, both in a crash and from the cold, but I thought hey, it's a nice sunny day. I'm not going that far. Why worry about it? Let me tell you now: worry about it. 50 kmph isn't very fast, but my fingers are all stiff and hurting now because of the cold wind constantly blasting them. And I wasn't riding for long. But that's not all. There's also the weight. When you're riding a sportbike, you lean forward. There's a lot of weight on your hands, and the gloves would have made that more comfortable. The other big one is the vibration. Even while my hands are hurting, they're numb from the constant vibration of the handlegrips. There are a few solutions to this: gloves, gel grips, etc. But the gloves would have made a huge difference today. All of these things add up to that ouch above. I'm going in tomorrow to get my gloves. I'm not riding again without them.

    I went way out into the country, and when I couldn't go forward any more, I turned right and kept going. I ended up on a nice winding road.. a bit much for a first ride, perhaps, but I didn't have any problems with it. No traffic in sight out there, so I could slow down and take the corners at my own pace. After the first two, I went back up to 50 kmph, and stayed there for the rest of the curves. No problem. I find that once you try something, it takes no time at all to get used to it. The road straightened out, and I was just cruising straight again. And while I was riding along, I spotted a cruiser heading toward me. Big Harley thing. And as the guy got closer, the hand went out. Woo! My first wave! So, of course, I waved back, all too aware of what he must think of me.. moron riding without gloves. But I waved, anyway. Over the course of my ride, I passed about seven motorcycles, five of whom waved. The other two, big tough guy Harley riders, must just be too cool for me. But whatever. It sounds silly if you haven't experienced it, but seeing the bike coming toward you, and seeing the rider lift his/her hand in a wave that only bikers get.. it's funny how it can make you feel part of something special. I've never been one for that whole need to belong that seems to be so common among people, but there's something really cool about that special little wave that we give each other while we're out there. Even that big touring bike. As the rider passed me, he stuck out a hand as he moved back into my lane.
    Heading home was more of a problem. The later it got, the more cars were out there. The road was getting pretty full of cars, with everyone in a hurry to get somewhere, and so I got passed many times because I was going so slowly. But that's ok. I'll just go out earlier tomorrow while no one's around.
    I mentioned above that someone in my area had already bought the same bike the day before I did. I saw him today, on my way back. What a lovely bike. We stopped at a 4-way, and he looked at me, and I looked at him. Both on the exact same bike, both wearing black, each waiting his turn to go. He nodded. I nodded. His turn came, and he took off like a rocket. He wasn't observing the break-in period. From everything I've read, he's really going to regret that.
    I can see that I'm going to have to learn about motorcycle engines and things. Not because I need to work on the bike.. hell, that's what the waranty and the mechanics are for. But when I got home today, and parked in the driveway and sat there going over what I'd just done, my neighbour came over. He's an enormous Scottish bastard, Celtic tattoos everywhere. McGregor is his name. "That's a beauty you've got there! Look at that! What's that, two cylinders? Four? Really? A 250? I'd a thought it was at least a 600. What a beauty! Look at that paint! Good for you!" I heard all about how he used to ride a Kawi 550, and about the various crashes, and about how I was doing it right, starting the way I had. But I'm going to have to learn about engines just so that I can answer when they ask questions like "how many cylinders."
    I showed some pictures to a friend who said that the way this bike looks is totally me. :)
    So, all in all, a very successful first ride.

    7:01 PM 5/30/2003

    Been riding a lot. My first actual lesson is tomorrow, but I've been riding all over the place anyway. Partially to get the kilometers up so that the engine's broken in, and partially just because I enjoy it so much. I've ordered my gloves and jacket, but they have yet to arrive. They'll probably be here on Monday. It's going to be a long weekend.
    I've had no complications at all with my riding.. not as much as a close call. I seem to have taken to it smoothly. The only thing I wish is that I had more speed, since at 50-60 kmph I'm holding up traffic. I also can't go on the highway, so my range is quite limited so far. I wouldn't go on the highway without my jacket and gloves anyway, but it would be nice to have the option. So I'm already looking at my next bike, though not seriously, since I'm not experienced enough for a 600 yet, and haven't given my 250 a fair chance. It isn't even broken in yet. But now that I'm comfortable starting and stopping, I'd be fine with the dimensions of the bike. I'm looking at the Kawasaki ZX-6R. It's gorgeous.
    I find one or two complications with learning to ride: I'm having a little difficulty keeping track of which gear I'm in. That's because I have to keep the rpm below 4000, and when you shift it only drops to about 3000-3500, which means that as I accelerate, I'm shifting like mad. It will be less of a problem when I don't have to keep the rpm so low. My dealer says that I can let it get a bit higher, as long as I vary it, but I don't think I'd like to take the chance. I've read bad things about not breaking your engine in properly.
    Also, I've found that sometimes I'm in too high a gear for my speed, particularly when I'm going into a turn. Going to have to watch that. I can shift mid-turn.. that's not a problem. I just have to watch because shifting can cause the bike to jump a bit, and if it does that during a turn, the back wheel might lose traction and dump me. That would suck.

    11:14 AM 6/3/2003

    For those who don't know, motorcycle licenses in BC are granted upon successful completion of three tests. Knowledge, Skills, and Road.
  • The Knowledge test has to be completed before a Learner's license will be issued. It covers things like road position, vehicle controls, conditions.. all of the text book stuff. Once you pass that test, you get an interim license that allows you to ride your bike, but only during daylight, without a passenger, and under the supervision of a licensed rider.

  • THe Skills test covers your ability to operate the vehicle. It deals with U-turns, stop turns, rolling turns, acceleration and braking, low speed riding and maneuvering, and balance. They also check to make certain that you know the handsignals, and where everything is on your bike. I'll go into more detail in a minute. Once you pass the skills test, all of your restrictions are removed except the daylight hours limitation.

  • The Road test is the last test before you become a licensed rider. You're equipped with a radio, and they follow you in a car, giving you instructions and testing your ability to ride in traffic. Once you pass this test, you have your license.

  • On the 31st, I went in to take my Skills course. The instructor took me to an empty parking lot and laid out a huge number of cones in various shapes. He covered everything on the skills test, as well as quite a bit of other material.

    I took my Skills test this morning. It goes like this:
    The cones are set up like the black dots on the right. You start between the two vertical dots at the bottom, and demonstrate a stopped left turn following the blue arrow, coming to a stop between the two black dots at the end of the arrow. Then, following the examiner's instructions, you travel along that blue arrow at about 6 km/h while the examiner watches your balance, and checks your ability to speed up and slow down at low speed.
    When you've reached the four black dots at the end of the blue arrow, you stop. You then perform a tight U-turn following the blue arrow, and going immediately into a low-speed slalom between the vertical black dots. They might have you do this twice.. they did with me.
    Once that's over, you're back to the two dots on which you started, and demonstrating a stopped right turn. Following the orange arrow, you accelerate to between 20 and 30 km/h, slowing at the next set of dots, and going into a slow U-turn along the orange arrow.
    Passing through the four dots again, you increase your speed to 25 to 35 km/h, and hold it there. The examiner stands in the slalom course, and as you hit about that red line, (s)he will signal you to brake. You need to brake as hard as possible without locking the wheels and skidding. They might make you do this one twice, too.

    However, on the skills test, there are no arrows, and the dots are cone, which you have to avoid knocking over.
    Fortunately, my instructor got me used to a course that was similar to that one, but much tighter. That being the case, the skills test was a walk. I passed it without any difficulty. I definitely recommend a course, though. I wouldn't have been prepared at all had I not taken the course.

    On top of all of that, the instructor also covered the best way to change lanes, the right time to shift gears (that's important), steering vs countersteering, etc.
    The next day, we went out riding in traffic. Generally, it's best to ride on the left side of the lane, since that makes you most visible to oncoming traffic, as well as cars in your own lane. There are little things about which you don't think, too, until you're out there. Like the grease strip. Many cars leak, even just a little, maybe even just from the exhaust pipe. What they leak builds up on the road, and it becomes very slippery. It's enough to send a rider over. And since most of these deposits build up in the middle of the lane, you want to be on one side. Also, many roads develop ruts from the repeated passage of car tires, so the middle of the lane becomes crowned, and you might slip down into the rut. Particularly if it's wet. So it's best to stay in one of those ruts, away from the grease strip, and as visible as possible.
    Experienced riders know all of this stuff, but it's something that many people have to discover the hard way. I see people every day riding down the centre of the lane, but the more experienced people all take the left rut.

    5:16 PM 6/21/2003

    Picked up my jacket today. What an ordeal. Not the actual picking up of the jacket, but the whole acquisition process. Let me 'splain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up:
    So as I decided above, I was going to get the Joe Rocket Blaster in blue, white, black, and perforated. All well and good. So I went in and ordered it about three weeks ago from the same place I bought my bike. I ordered a pair of gloves in the same colour scheme, at the same time. The guy said about two days for the gloves, a little longer for the jacket.
    I waited. They'll call me. I waited. After a week, I called to see what was happening. Looks like the gloves weren't ordered because they were trying to chase down the jacket. Perforated Blaster jackets are apparently hard to come by. Sorry about that, they'll place the order for the gloves right away. Ok, fair enough. So I waited a bit more. Another week, over the course of which I called and went in several times to find out what was happening, and was met with people who didn't know what was happening. Eventually, I got an answer. The Blaster isn't available in perforated until Autumn. The gloves won't be in stock at the distributor until July second.
    Bugger this.
    So I bought a cheap-ish pair of gloves (Joe Rocket, because I like their stuff) to give me at least some protection in the interim, thinking that they could be my passenger gloves when I get my good ones, (Highside.. nothing fancy) and I went out looking for someone else who could get my jacket. No luck anywhere. No one can get the perforated Blaster. Until I found a place that said "sure, we can get it. Will two days be too long?"
    Hell, no. So I ordered, and waited, and it arrived, and I went in this morning to pick it up. It's the solid, not the perforated. [sigh]. I guess the girl who ordered it didn't hear me say "perforated" when I asked for it, but what can you do? So I took it, paid my $500, and wore it to work.
    Actually, it's not that hot. It has a removable insulated lining, which zips out, and then zips up the front so that you can wear it by itself if you want, and zippable vents in the sleeves. The inner elbows are made of an elastic material that lets the air flow freely, and there's a vent at the back to let the air flow back out. So really, it's not hot.. it was actually kind of cold on the way to work. Of course, I've only worn it on the highway, and on a day that was kind of overcast, so we have yet to see. If it does turn out to be too hot, I'll probably buy something like the Phoenix to supplement it. Now there's a jacket that offers no protection against the cold whatever. But combine that with the vest liner from my Blaster, and I should be ready for all weather.

    Meanwhile, I've found some other gloves that I think I prefer to the Joe Rocket. They don't match the jacket and helmet, but that's ok. They come in blue, too, but they look lame.

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