I started riding 24 months ago. I've found this Forum to be extremely helpful in so many ways, I thought I'd try to return the favor by giving a report on my experiences - with an emphasis on safety-related experiences.
I first bought a KLX 250 S, to ride on backroads and dirt trails in northern WV. I'm 5' 8", 29" inseam, so I had to "tip toe" to reach the ground. The dealer who sold me the bike was an experienced racer and told me that the bike wasn't too high - that I'd get used to it. So, I rode around the store (on asphalt) a few times and headed to my cabin. When I had to make a sharp turn on the dirt road going up the mountain to my cabin, I had to slow down - and then when I reached down with my foot to maintain balance, the bike leaned over, and down it went before I could catch it. I got it up, got it started again and managed to get it home. I took it out four or five times on nearby (unpaved) backroads over the next several days. Each time I went out, I laid the bike down, usually from a dead stop on soft ground. I was pretty discouraged, but so far not hurt, although my left leg was getting a little sore from pulling it out from under the bike. I was also a bit confused, because I had ridden "quite a bit" when I was a teenager (many, many years ago) and never had a problem.
I needed to get a riding license, and decided to take the MSF course in NJ where I normally live, since they provided a bike, and I lived close to where the course was given. I took and passed the course, learned way more than I had anticipated - especially about safe riding - and I never came close to dropping the bike. The big difference was that I could easily "flat foot" the bikes the MSF course provided. And, so, I realized that my KLX 250 S seat-height was simply too high for me.
When I got back to WV, I lowered the bike 2" with lowering links, and another 2" by softening the rear-spring preload. Then, I was able to flat-foot and ride without dropping the bike. Confidence restored, I started riding reguarly and put a 1000 miles on the 250, including lots of miles on dirt and gravel roads, and a few mountain trails.
Meanwhile, in NJ, my wife and I had decided to move from eastern NJ (very heavy traffic) to western NJ next to PA (to be near our grandchildren). Now, the NJ/PA area is made up of beautiful rolling hills in the middle of farm land, with curvy paved roads, and not too much traffic. So, I convinced myself I needed another bike to ride in NJ, and eventually settled on a 2009 green Versys (with guidance from cycling magazines). This time I was smarter and checked the seat height, before I made a purchase.
I found that the 34" Versys seat-height was too tall for me. But Kawasaki had a (pricey) gel seat that lowered the height by 1 5/8". And, Speedy Gonzales had a lowering kit that dropped it another 1 5/8". Softening up the front and rear springs dropped the seat height another half inch, giving a total drop of four inches and let me flat-foot the bike. I had so much fun with the early rides on the bike, I could hardly believe it. (Oh yes, I had to add Speedy's Flat Foot to shorten the kickstand, to match the drop from the lowering kit.)
During the winter months, it was too icy and too cold for me to ride, so I added several "farkles" (a new word for me, from this Forum). At the top of the list was H&B Crash bars, and Barkbuster Hand guards.
I read David Hough's "Proficient Motorcycling" book and learned more about riding techniques, accident statistics, the psychology of personal responsibility for safety, and the importance of really good riding gear (helmet, jacket, pants, boots, gloves).
When spring came, I was riding in Hunterdon county NJ with Cycleport lime-green armored kevlar jacket, pants and gloves; a full face helmet and riding boots. By late summer I had about 2500 miles on the Versys, and was making longer rides. I had worked up to around a hundred miles - nonstop - and was still feeling pretty good when I stopped to rest.
During these trips, I tried to be sensitive to what the MSF course and Hough's book suggested: be especially careful when near intersections, left-turning traffic, crossing traffic, etc. Don't ride when tired or emotional; no alcohol or drugs when riding, etc. And, make sure you're comfortable with what's going on around you.
At this 2500 mile level of experience, I was fairly comfortable riding the V; confident in my riding ability, confident in the bike, having a good time on the bike. But, as I was continuing to extend the length of my trips, I was making a mistake without knowing it: I was getting fatigued both physically and mentally. On long car trips, we ususally change drivers every two hours, but for some reason, I had lost track of the need for rest when riding long distances on the bike.
So, one day I decided to take a trip up to Greenwood Lake, NY. It looked like about a 2.5 hour trip each way, on some beautiful mountain roads. I thought I'd ride to Greenwood Lake, stop and rest, then return. A five-hour round trip, plus rest time.
As it turned out, a good bit of the route was through resort areas that had heavy traffic, on two lane roads through small towns. I had ridden over three hours and still had at least a half-hour to go. For some time, I had been following six cars, several more following me, all of us going around 45 mph. Traffic was coming from the other direction, so no one was trying to pass.
The area was hilly, the roads curvy and we were coming down a little grade. There was no apparent danger, and I think I simply lost my focus and started thinking about something else. I don't remember exactly what happened, but it was a little like getting home from work and not remembering the drive home.
Anyway, someone several cars up decided to nearly stop, to make a near U-turn off the road. The turn was not anticipated, so everyone stopped pretty quickly, and I did not see them (or don't remember seeing them) turning. The first thing I mentally acknowledged was the front brake locking, the front wheel jerking left, the bike throwing me hard to the right on my right side, and the bike sliding off to the left on its right side. I hit the ground hard at 40 to 45 mph, and slid about 20 yards on asphalt to the side of the road.
I do not remember seeing or knowing the traffic was stopping, and I do not remember squeezing the front brake (and locking up the wheel). One moment I was riding along feeling very comfortable - I can't remember what I was thinking about - the next instant I had started a snap roll off the bike.
The good news was that the Cycleport riding gear saved me from serious injury. I was initially stunned, was able to shake it off, roll over and sit up, then stand up and walk to my bike. The crash bars and hand guards saved the bike from serious damage, so I was able to get it up and with a little work get it in shape to ride back home.
I've thought about the accident a lot. I know I was tired, and I know I had lost my focus on what was happening around me. If I had been alert, I believe there would have been no problem in stopping without a spill, since I had been keeping a pretty good following distance.
I've learned that I never again will allow myself to get to a point where I am so tired. I've set a personal limit of at most 1.5 hours of riding without resting; and will plan to stop and rest after riding one hour on longer trips.
This is my personal limit. I'm sure thers are able to ride further without getting too tired. But I know that each of us has a limit. I hope that everyone will discover and respect whatever it might be.
It took nearly three weeks to get my riding gear repaired, about a week to get a new foot-peg bracket and have my Versys back ready to ride.
I've since ridden another 500 miles and am pretty comfortable back in the saddle. However, I'm much more sensitive to keeping my mind focused on what is happening around me. When the ride gets very comfortable, and my mind start wandering onto other things, I think about my "snap roll" and get refocused.
I think it might be useful if each of us shared experiences that we NEVER AGAIN care to repeat. I'm sure I would learn something from your experiences. I hope some of you may have learned something from mine.
Maybe we should even start a NEVER AGAIN Thread.