How long to wait to ride freeway? - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 06:55 PM Thread Starter
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How long to wait to ride freeway?

I've been riding for 2 weeks now. I'm brand new to motorcycling. I got my permit a couple weeks ago and have logged over 300 miles so far. I just got my MSF cert and got my M1 license added yesterday which allows me to ride on the freeways, with passengers and at night.

I take backroads right now to work cause I'm not sure if I want to try the freeway yet. But I thought I'd get your guys' (and gals') input on this. How soon is too soon to ride on the freeway for a new rider? Keep in mind this is Northern California. It'll be 3-4 lanes each way, speed limit 65 (traffic speed of 65-75). From my house to my work is only 3 miles on the freeway, but it shaves about half my commute time compared to back roads.

I want to play it safe and don't want to rush riding on the freeway, so how long should I wait? At what point should I just go for it? Any tips?
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post #2 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 07:06 PM
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Think you are right to be cautious, specially in NorCal. Riding around the back roads is more fun and probably gives you a more diverse riding experience. I've been riding a while and it always takes me about 1000 miles to get comfortable on a new machine.

Cagers are oblivious to us bikers, even more so on crowded freeways, my suggestion would be give it a month or around 1000miles.

There is no rule of thumb, maybe try the freeway at the weekend when traffic might not be so competitive.

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post #3 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by jchristian79 View Post
I want to play it safe and don't want to rush riding on the freeway, so how long should I wait? At what point should I just go for it? Any tips?
I am surprised the MSF didn't include some freeway time. The Canadian equivalent does, and my licence test included getting on and off the freeway.

I would try driving to work on a weekend first - that is what I did. I am not sure when a quiet time would be, but pick the quietest and work up slowly.

Good luck

Although I have had Miss Jaffa (Burnt Orange 2007 Versys) for a while, I still have a lot to learn.


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post #4 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 07:21 PM
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I think you will know when the time is right. If you are still uncomfortable with the idea, just play it safe and stick to the back roads. That's where the best riding is anyway. bigaussie's suggestion of starting out on a weekend is a good one.

I personally HATE the freeway and always take back road when possible. Dallas traffic is probably a lot like where you are.
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post #5 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 07:43 PM
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I think you will know when the time is right.
there ya go. it's a question of confidence. when you have it, do it.

that said, freeways are less hazardous than backroads or surface streets... no intersections, no driveways or parking lots, unidirectional..... but since everything happens so quickly, it may seem intimidating. so, be sure you have your strategy developed when you take that step. speed, lane choice and lane position should not be random. it's all deliberate and with a purpose. think about what you want to do and why. that should increase your safety margin and confidence (assuming you make smart choices!).

good noob!

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post #6 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 08:50 PM
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Originally Posted by bigaussie View Post
I am surprised the MSF didn't include some freeway time. The Canadian equivalent does, and my licence test included getting on and off the freeway.

I would try driving to work on a weekend first - that is what I did. I am not sure when a quiet time would be, but pick the quietest and work up slowly.

Good luck
+1 on weekend riding. The interstate is a pain. Remember your buffer zones from MSF course and after you ride for a while on the interslab you'll get so used to it but it is scary as hell at first.

+1 on the Canadian test! That's intense. Tennessee just requires you wear a baggy t-shirt or leather vest, a helmet, and the ability to sign the organ donor line on your license application.

I would suppose they don't teach freeway riding at MSF Basic Rider course because everybody can go fast in a straight line (*wink*). The goal of the MSF Basic Rider course is to teach you how to control the bike at lower speeds where it's more unstable and you're more likely to have to think/react quickly.

I think the Interstate is one of the safer places for a motorcyclist to ride because everybody is going the same relative speed, there are multiple lanes for emergency maneuvers, no stop lights / intersections and there are less surprises (dogs, kids, driveways). It is however very BORING. I envy you folks in Cali, Colorado, Wisconsin, etc... that have nice curvy roads to ride to work. I get 16 miles of interslab every moring. bleh!

Just remember: 4-6 seconds to the car in front, know your surroundings, keep a buffer zone, mind cagers blind spots and as my good friend with 40+ years of safe riding says "Remember: everybody in a car is out to ****ing kill you."


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post #7 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 09:00 PM
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Hope this is of some help:- http://www.thathomesite.com/forums/l...045603.html?34

Take your time and
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post #8 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 09:02 PM Thread Starter
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Awesome advice, thanks all. I like the idea of weekend riding. I certainly don't want rush hour to be my first attempt. I'll probably give it at least a month before I try it. I definitely don't feel ready now, and I definitely want to play it safe.

Side note: My dad commutes 6 days a week 30 miles each way on the 91 freeway in Orange County. It's one of the busiest in the nation. He much prefers that compared to the side streets down there But then again he rides a two wheeled boat (read Goldwing!) that's lit up like a Christmas tree.

EDIT: Great link above, thanks Fastoman

Last edited by jchristian79; 06-02-2010 at 09:05 PM.
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post #9 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 09:43 PM
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Make sure your speedometer is accurate and compare it to a GPS if possible. Nothing worse than having a new rider thinking they are riding at the speed limit and scared to speed up when tailgated. EVERY motorcycle I have owned that had a speedometer had some error and all showed FASTER than I was actually going. I solved that problem on my '10 Versys by changing the stock 46 tooth rear sprocket to a 44 and the speedo is exactly the same as my Tom Tom GPS.

Another thing to remember when riding is to always have an escape route and try to predict what everyone around you is going to do, ie. cut in front of you, slam on their brakes, etc. You have a great field of view while riding a bike but the cagers don't and most are not looking out for bikes so always put yourself where you can be seen and be ready to react when needed.

Wear proper gear at all times: Helmet, riding pants, jacket, boots, and gloves. Add in a highly reflective vest if you want to really be seen but don't expect everyone to still see you. Just be cautious out there but try to have fun while you're at it. I started riding a brand new '78 Yamaha DT100 on the street when I was 17 years old and had my first minibike when I was only 8 so riding bikes is second nature to me. At 49, I am still learning though and have had some close calls. Experience can save your life! Knowing how to control your bike helps too. Being able to stop fast to avoid something or steering around it is great but be sure to check your mirrors for anything behind you just in case. For some weird reason it seems to me that more people tailgate me when I'm on the bike. I usually just speed up or change lanes if they get too close.

As far as the best time to practice riding on the freeways, you may be able to use Google Maps to look at the traffic in the area you want to ride in. Or check your planned route in a car or truck first just to get the feel of where you want to go before figuring it out on your bike.

Hope this helps and feel free to PM me with any questions.

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post #10 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 09:55 PM
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Freeways are easy once you get comfortable with the speed. Stay between the lines and make sure nothing hits you. Avoid the right lane to stay clear of on/off traffic. Remember that for most situatons your only advantage is performance so dont be afraid to use it. When on the on ramp dont be timid it migth be the only place you can experience full power acceleration legaly. Go on an experimental ride on a Sunday morming and you will see theres not much to it. If given the option I avoid freeways. However here in CO you cant avoid them.
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post #11 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 10:22 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by DBL View Post
Make sure your speedometer is accurate and compare it to a GPS if possible. Nothing worse than having a new rider thinking they are riding at the speed limit and scared to speed up when tailgated. EVERY motorcycle I have owned that had a speedometer had some error and all showed FASTER than I was actually going. I solved that problem on my '10 Versys by changing the stock 46 tooth rear sprocket to a 44 and the speedo is exactly the same as my Tom Tom GPS.
Thanks for the input DBL. I don't have access to a GPS I can use to check my speedo though. Have you guys found a pattern to how off the V is?
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post #12 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 11:08 PM
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The freeways on the weekend suggestion was good.

In the end, no matter where you are riding, it is an active mind activity. Always leave yourself an out.

If you find yourself in a scary situation with no outs, get through it. Then, rather than bitching about others, see where YOU screwed up and got boxed in. Learn from it and move forward.

Good luck and enjoy cranking it out!

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post #13 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 11:33 PM
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Thanks for the input DBL. I don't have access to a GPS I can use to check my speedo though. Have you guys found a pattern to how off the V is?
My Zumo 500 and the ODo has a constant error of 10km immaterial of the speed. The Zumo is -10 while the ODO is + 10.

Keep your eye on the road always. Your bike will go where your eye see's. Riding is purely by sight.

i

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post #14 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-02-2010, 11:39 PM
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Have you guys found a pattern to how off the V is?
subtract 10% from the indicated speed to get an estimate of actual speed.


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If you find yourself in a scary situation with no outs, get through it. Then, rather than bitching about others, see where YOU screwed up and got boxed in. Learn from it and move forward.
well said, mate. this is the difference between true riders and guys with bikes. they're easily sniffed out in casual conversation. good to know, don't wanna ride with those schmoes.

In a world full of people, only some want to ride. Isn't that crazy?
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post #15 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-03-2010, 12:59 AM
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I live about 8 miles north of Tijuana & people think nothing of tailgating you at 80 to 85 mph. There are tire alligators, ladders,lumber & furniture that fall off of trucks . Last week two cars merged into each other at about 70 mph four cars in front of me. My advice take it slow try the freeway in the off hours when traffic is lighter. Just remember you don't get too many second chances on a bike.

PS
if you do decide to ride the freeways now, I like the fast lane & try to stay between the knots of heavy traffic, I prefer watching out for cops to riding along side people yakking on their cell phones.

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post #16 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-03-2010, 06:11 AM
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I am surprised the MSF didn't include some freeway time. The Canadian equivalent does, and my licence test included getting on and off the freeway.
The basic MSF class is done on a closed course or parking lot. They really just teach the basics and low speed handling. Most people go to complete the riding portion of their license. You get a good bit of classroom instruction. In some areas they offer on the road courses but they are harder to find. They even have some for two up riding.

Steve

I bought a motorcycle because my wife said that I couldn't! Now I have two and she still says I can't have another one!
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Sounds like a challenge to me!

Now I have four!
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post #17 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-03-2010, 06:17 AM
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Ride on the freeway when you are mentally ready. Stay away from 18 wheelers, stay out of people's blind spots and I would personally stay in the right lane until you are more comfortable. The important thing is to try and stay where you can see the faces of all the drivers around you in their mirrors. Just do your best to be seen and stay as far from all other vehicles as possible.

Steve

I bought a motorcycle because my wife said that I couldn't! Now I have two and she still says I can't have another one!
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Sounds like a challenge to me!

Now I have four!
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post #18 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-03-2010, 08:26 AM
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Error is around 6% with stock sprockets. Just ride about 5 MPH faster than you want to go. I doubt a cop would ticket you for a few MPH over the limit. However, be careful in a school zone. 20 MPH on the speedometer is probably close enough to actual speed.

GPS - - - - Speedometer

30-------------32
40-------------33
50-------------54
60-------------64
70-------------75
80-------------85

I put a 44 tooth on the rear and the speedometer is even with my GPS at all speeds. You can also change the front to a 16 tooth and get the same effect.


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Thanks for the input DBL. I don't have access to a GPS I can use to check my speedo though. Have you guys found a pattern to how off the V is?

Last edited by DBL; 06-03-2010 at 08:29 AM.
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post #19 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-03-2010, 08:43 AM
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This a timely question. My wife and I are new to motorcycling and have so far stayed off the freeways. I know statistically they're safer, but we want to be sure we're ready for those speeds. We've done moderate speeds on some more open roads, but not highway speeds yet.

We might be ready some time this fall. So far we're just having (a lot of) fun building our basic skills.
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post #20 of 48 (permalink) Old 06-03-2010, 09:02 AM
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Congrats on taking the MSF - you are well prepared for riding on the highway!

Riding on the highway is like hitting a golf ball. You must hit down on the ball to make it go up. If you try to lift the ball with the club - you hit it poorly. Riding on the highway is the same type of situation. Most first time highway riders want to go the speed limit to be safe. To be safe - I ride faster than traffic. The only times I have gotten into trouble has been when I am riding the speed limit in the right hand lane.

Since the right-hand lane is the high-turnover lane with off and on ramps, a motorcycle going the speed limit is a sitting duck for the cages who are shuffling on and off.

I ride in the left hand lane going 5 mph faster than traffic as a rule of thumb. The left hand lane is the lane with the least amount of shuffling. You get cars merging from one side only.

The only issue in the left lane is the faster than you tail-gator who appears out of no where and rides your backside. I follow MSF guidelines and do not try to out run them. I get over a lane let them pass, then get back into the left lane and cruise.

That's my opinion. I have only 1 close call in the left lane after 5 seasons of riding. A Semi tried to come over on me at the last second. In this case it was heavy traffic and we were all doing the speed limit.

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