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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Two books will be excellent: Buy David L. Hough's Mastering the Ride: More Proficient Motorcycling, 2nd Edition. Read it and re-read it. Keith Code's A Twist of the Wrist Vol. 2: The Basics of High-Performance Motorcycle Riding (or A Twist of the Wrist II: The Basics of High-Performance Motorcycle Riding) has Code's Survival Reactions--reactions that are natural, normal, and the wrong thing to do. Good book to own, but OK to see if your local public library can get it, maybe through an interlibrary loan. I didn't find the original, volume 1 TOTW as useful.

Parking lot practice. Not just riding easy on safe roads. Find an empty parking lot with the lines painted at right angles, not angle parking.

1--On the long straight lines, just idle in 1st gear and slip the clutch. Ride slowly. Lightly touch the rear brake only and ride very slowly. Now up to slow. Now down to very slow. Continue this until you feel smooth at straight slow riding allowing the clutch to slip (it's in an oil bath and made to do this) and using only the rear brake when riding very slowly.

2--Make s-turns on the painted cross lines. First make s-turns that are 4 parking slots wide. Very important--turn your whole head to look where you intend to go. Do not look where you're going; look where you need to go. Make more s-turns 4 slots wide. Now make s-turns 3-1/2 slots wide. Do it again. Now 3 slots wide. Again. Now 2-1/2 slots wide. Again. Try for 2 slots wide (usually 14'). If you need to slow, slip the clutch and maybe drag the rear brake. Do not use the front brake when turning very slowly--good way to dump the bike. A bit more clutch stands the bike up. Too much clutch kills the engine while your turning--crunch. A bit less clutch engagement lets the bike drop into the turn.

3--Make circles in the lot. Turn your whole head all the way to the side to look where you want to go. Make circles 4 slots wide, both left and right turns. Expect one direction to be easier than the other--that's normal--but make turns equally both directions. Now 3-1/2 slots wide, left then right. Now 3 slots wide. Now 2-1/2 slots wide both left and right.

4--Make eights. Just like circles & s-turns, but now one circle left and a connected circle right (or vice versa). An eight. 4 slots wide, then 3-1/2, then 3, then 2-1/2 slots wide.

5--Stop. Turn the front wheel all the way to one side. Start ahead and make a 90° turn from the stop. Do it the other direction.

6--Look on the web site for the class you'll take and the riding exercises and the exam. Practice as much as you can.

7--Practice taking off from a stop in 2nd gear. It isn't recommended, but we all have done it inadvertently, and you will too. You must not start off in 2nd in traffic, kill the engine, and dump the bike in front of traffic. Get the feel for it.

8--Make short stops. Nothing scary. Get up to 15 mph or so, then smoothly apply both brakes. Stop straight, smooth, and short. Give the rear brake some pedal, then ease off as the bike pitches forward and weight comes off the rear. In the last few inches as you stop, give the rear more pressure. Give the front progressively more pressure as the weight transfers onto the front tire. Never ever stomp the rear brake pedal. Never jam on the front brake. If you skid the rear (and don't have ABS), hold the pedal down, don't release it until you stop. Hough explains why. If you skid the front, release and reapply less abruptly. When coming to a stop in traffic, concentrate on stopping and getting one or two feet down. Then look at traffic. Or, stop and look at traffic at the same time. Then get out from under your dumped bike, pick it up, hope no one you know saw you, and ride away blaming the bike.

9--Countersteer. Traveling 15 mph or so, in a safe location, press forward just a bit on the left grip. This will make the bike turn left. Pull back on the left to straighten. Press forward on the right grip, you'll turn right, pull back on the right to straighten. Find some tar spots, fallen leaves, or make some chalk marks, and swerve around these. Push on one grip then on the other to swerve and return to your original path. Always countersteer to turn the bike when you're traveling more than a walking pace. Countersteer harder to turn sharper. Countersteer into wind gusts.

Very important--keep your eyes up. Keep your line of vision up toward the horizon. Do not look down. You will go where you're looking. Look down and you'll be more likely to go down. Look at the safe route to ride. Look at a pothole and hit the pothole. Look at the safe path between potholes, and you'll ride the safe path. In a curve look at the turn exit as one of the first movements you make beginning the turn.
 

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Wow, TONS of great information! Thanks a lot, especially for the 9 exercises! There's a perfect parking lot to do all this in that's a nice easy ride from my apartment to go practice all this in. I'll make sure to pick up the books as well. Great recommendations, thanks again!
 

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This is what I get for not reading your post more clearly. Lots of below you already know since you have been riding your bike! I will leave it as is....good luck!


Lots of good info here already. OP, I am a newbie as you are and I also have a DL650 (Non-XT)....

Just my thoughts...

ABOVE ALL ELSE - WEAR. YOUR. GEAR.

1. Don't get on that bike until you get the MSF done. Have them deliver it and put it in your garage. You must know the basics which is what you will get from that first MSF course.

2. The bikes you use at the MSF will be absolute babies compared to your bike. Throttle control is an absolute MUST. Do that rocking back and forth drill with the clutch and the friction zone on it before you even begin to ride forward. You will find the throttle in first is very torquey.

3. I stalled my bike once and almost dropped it. I DID drop my bike in a parking lot when I thought the kickstand was down. Luckily hardly any damage. Now when I go to the side stand, I act like I am still riding and brace the bike with my left leg as if the stand is never down. Getting on and getting off should be really thought about.

4. 1st gear on this bike is a very short period of time and most of the time unless you are completely stopped requires zero throttle. If you are at a stop, you should be in first and you want to give it gas and EAAAASSSSEEEE off of that clutch. You will be jerky and stall if you don't ease off the clutch in first. Sometimes you will find yourself continually squeezing the clutch to just grab a little engine to move forward. Sort of like Engine-Clutch-Engine-Clutch ....just enough to coast. I stalled a bit in the beginning in first. Just prep for it.

5. Careful of scratches on the tank. My jacket (huh?) made a scratch when I had a stall. I need a tank pad. I also had a key that was sharp that scratched the area aou

6. You may hear a "clunk" at times from your brakes when you are going downhill. Not to worry, that is normal. It should rarely happen but does.

7. These bikes do have a wind noise/buffeting problem. Wear earplugs. The problem can be substantially reduced with some replacement parts/add-ons.

8. Related to the above, I have done the following on my bike after having it 2 months. (lol)....Givi Airflow wind screen (best addition), Mirror extenders, Fork brace, Center stand (installing today) and crash guards. I bought a cheapo cargo net which works well in a pinch. I really want a hard case.

9. Consider after market options before buying farkles from your dealer. My OEM center stand was about $100 more than the one from SW Motech. The crash guards too.

Let me know if you have questions....Newbie to newbie. Ride safe!
 

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Discussion Starter #4
ABOVE ALL ELSE - WEAR. YOUR. GEAR.
Critically important. ALL THE GEAR ALL THE TIME. ATGATT.
Full face helmet that fits just right. SHARP Helmets - Fitting Guide
Abrasion resistant riding jacket with armor for the spine, shoulders, elbows.
Abrasion resistant riding pants with armor for the hip bones & knees.
Abrasion resistant riding gloves with armor for the knuckles & palms.
Boot that protect your ankles without laces that can get into the chain.

Here is just one example of why: shattered knee - first crash | Adventure Rider

I DID drop my bike in a parking lot when I thought the kickstand was down.
I've developed the habit of always tapping the sidestand forward with my left foot before I put the bike's weight on the sidestand. A stand that isn't fully opened against its stop won't hold the bike.

Fork brace, Center stand, crash guards
Items at the top of just about everybody's list.
 

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Thanks for the advice! First thing, I am an absolute believer in ATGATT. I don't ever want to *need* my gear, but there's always a chance, and I happen to like all my limbs.

I was out of town for my anniversary this weekend and wasn't able to do any of the exercises that PTRider suggested yet, but I plan on doing them all regularly for a good while (and probably every so often, just to make sure I haven't lost a step). There are a lot of similarities in the learning process between learning to ride a motorcycle and learning to fly a plane (something else I'm in the process of doing). And there's an adage among pilots: "A good pilot is always learning." I feel like the same is going to prove true for riding a bike, and I'll need to always make sure I'm proficient in my basic techniques, and not get comfortable and complacent in normal day-to-day riding.

As far as gear goes, I've got a helmet, jacket and gloves. For now, I've been wearing jeans and hiking boots for riding, but I'm going to a local shop today to get boots, and to look at some pants. Here's what I've got currently:

Helmet: Bell Vortex - Full face, DOT and SNELL M2015 rated. Got a guy at a local shop to help me get the right fit, and he did a great job doing so.
Jacket: Tour Master Advanced - High-vis color. Textile. CE-approved shoulder, elbow, and spine armor. (Going to need a different jacket for summer though)
Gloves: Scorpion SGS - TPU knuckle guards. SPS palm sliders. Kevlar stitching and panels. Very grippy.

I'm not 100% sure about boots, so I'm going to try on a bunch of different kinds to make sure I get a good fit, with good ankle stability and protection.
As for pants, I'm probably going to try to find a good pair of over-pants, because I ultimately want to do a decent amount of commuting on my bike, and I work in an office where slacks are expected Monday-Thursday.

Any suggestions for either boots or pants would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks again for all the advice so far! I'm trying to soak up every ounce of knowledge I can, and you have both helped me greatly!
 

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A lot of good advice offered in this thread. Perhaps it should be a sticky to help any new to V-Strom riders? If not the whole thread, then a summary of the important points. Maybe old news to most but to the newbies and those returning to biking, can learn / re-learn from these valuable pointers.
 

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Newbie to newbie

This is great advice. I had never even ridden a motorcycle until Sept. 19 at my rider course. I have read all of the books and have been working at the drills mentioned. I dumped my bike twice. Once at a stop sign; I was in second gear instead of first. And once and once during parking lot practice; I believe I grabbed the front brake at slow speed.
Here are my additional newbie suggestions: Read Total Control by Lee Parks and to read or view Ride Like a Pro as it focuses on slow-speed handling skills. Also, I downloaded version of A Twist of the Wrist II online. You can also view a 95-minute video version of it on YouTube.
 

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On a parking lot:
DO NOT do no throttle/clutch only bullshit on takeoffs. Start has to be energetic. Not the wheelie style but energetic enough to straighten bike up (that's what it will do every time you apply throttle)
Learn immediately not to do a duck walking. When bike is at full stop foot goes down and when bike starts to roll foot goes up. follow first advice and you won't have to drag foot on the ground.
Learn emergency stopping ASAP. Use both brakes. It's ok if rear locks, do not let front lock. Front brake always with two fingers only. This is your default already installed ABS. If you grab front brake with full fist you're going down. You'll get a feel how hard can you brake.
Do parking lot in rain. Do it. You have to get at least basic feel on tires and brakes in wet.

On the streets:
Go after you master parking lot and gain confidence, not any sooner. In traffic you have to be concentrated on all idiots around you and you do not have a time to think how to do basic maneuvers with bike.
Read Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider's Handbook. Great book made by best traffic riders. Bible for people who want to live long on motorcycle. Watch roadcraftnottingham instructional videos on YT.
Have a friend with you, let him ride behind you and let him point out your mistakes, advise you how to behave in traffic, teach you how to survive. He has to be over 40 yrs old with some practice, you don't want some hothead testosterone filled street racer to teach you. That will come later.
 

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V-Strom brakes are designed for occasional dirt use so are not very powerful. Four fingers may be needed for maximum braking.
 

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I have one kvetch.

Do not look down. You will go where you're looking.
When coming up to a stop sign especially on cambered surfaces.
Look down just as you come to a stop and concentrate on keeping wheel straight and braking smooth.
THEN look for cross traffic.
Trying to do both at once often results in a turned front wheel and/or jerky stops. Once the bike is stable and stopped....then gauge the traffic

( yeah yeah we all do rolling stops ). This is especially critical where the bike is tall for the rider and even more so with luggage.
Concentrate on the smooth stop and straight front wheel..then concentrate on traffic.

I have to be very cautious of this when I'm tired on the Strom. The lower CBF1000 is forgiving....a loaded Strom not so much.

Indeed you do tend to go where you are looking and if you watch cross traffic you end with a turned front wheel and a recipe for a tip over.
 

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You don't need to look down when stopping. Look at the horizon or where it would be if a structure or foliage is in the way. Your peripheral vision can handle where you stop. The bike will be much steadier with eyes ahead.
 

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Been around the block for a while GW
...on a cambered surface - you need to see - it's only just at stop point a couple of seconds at most....it also counters the tendency to look at traffic before the the stop occurs.

Horizon is fine for smooth surfaces tho many will tend to track traffic so not look straight ahead
...not so useful on multiple camber. IMNSHO
 

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I've been around a long time too. I've never had to look down at the road when coming to a stop unless there were holes or deep ruts where I wanted to stop and needed to see where to put my feet. Camber can be seen well before reaching the stop area. Newbies can get in trouble looking down so I'm against advising them to do that.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
When coming up to a stop sign especially on cambered surfaces.
Look down just as you come to a stop and concentrate on keeping wheel straight and braking smooth.
THEN look for cross traffic.
Trying to do both at once often results in a turned front wheel and/or jerky stops. Once the bike is stable and stopped....then gauge the traffic
Instruction for a beginner can be tricky. Telling them how much of an action to take can result in more of that action than one intended. And, some people seem to have tunnel vision able to think or do only one thing for what seems a long time. In general, keeping the eyes up toward the horizon is always best. Nothing wrong with using the peripheral vision, or an advance view of the stopping point shortly before arriving there, or sneaking a very quick glance down. But, how does one give a instruction to an unknown person and not have them look downward only? That is the problem with "Look down as you come to a stop." As a more advanced instruction after the person has some riding experience, yes, look down if there is oil on the pavement where you need to put a foot, or a rut in the pavement, etc. With a beginner we cannot tell them too many things; they cannot process more than one thing at a time. The straight wheel and smooth braking are probably better done with the eyes up toward the horizon. For the true beginner though, it is probably a better blanket instruction to keep the eyes up, and get the person to develop that as their automatic movement. The same thing applies to concentrating on the stop, get a foot down, then look around at traffic as you have mentioned. We're trying to build basic, reliable, automatic movements that will work in almost every situation. With some experience the rider will put the enhancements on the basic movements to cover more situations.

The brain has multiple levels. Something new has to be thought about. This processing is slow and tiring, and only one thing at a time can be thought about. There is no such thing as multi-tasking, only slicing concentration into thin slices of time, one item at a time. After a movement has been repeated several hundred times new neural connections form in the brain and these movements don't have to be actively thought about. These movements are "learned." This is faster, less tiring, and automatic. This also leaves the thinking now available for other things, perhaps new movements the next step along the process to be competent at what we're trying to do. It is harder to replace a learned incorrect movement than to learn a new movement. I've coached skiing and sliding seat rowing. Someone new to the sport is easier to coach and develop than someone who has done it wrong or a different version. A rower with a lot of dinghy rowing experience with the circular hand movement will have a harder time to learn the flat hand movement of sliding seat rowing than someone with no rowing experience. Ditto for the skier with horrible, deeply ingrained movements who now wants to learn to do it right. They'll learn, but it can be a long slog. We want new riders to learn the basics of riding with the best versions of the most fundamental movements. Bad habits are tough to break.
 

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Take the motorcycle safety course.

-Then-

Ride! A lot.

Do it in as unchallenging a situations as you can, in parking lots and at low traffic times of the day, practicing the basics: stopping, going, up shifting, down shifting, panic braking, counter steering, get a little mild dirt road time so you know what crappy surfaces are like, gain strength and confidence and be humbled but not hurt badly. -Learn the mechanics of it until they are not prominent in your thoughts.

Then build your street skills, watching the drivers' eyes in the turning lane and on the side streets and their front wheels for the hint they are about to move. Learn to ride the dirty air around semis or across bridges on a windy day, and learn to actually enjoy the challenge of it. Ride in the wet, at least a little, to build your abilities, because that day it rains cats and dogs while you are in the store out of nowhere always happens someday and that is not the time to learn how.

You never stop learning, because it is great fun and danger always lurks, and after a while you experience more of those moments when the deep winding turn at speed feels exactly right and those golden moments come when the bike simply disappears from your consciousness. I tried to explain it to my beautiful bride, saying that it is the nearest thing to flying without wings. That, of course, only increased her resolve not to ride the infernal thing... (She is the brains of the family.)

Ride as much as you can and ride well and safely.
 

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When approaching curves I always look down and not so much through the curve. I learned to ride by myself and mostly ride by myself. So I taught myself wrong in the start and it is hard for me not to look at the ground in the curves. What if there is some gravel in the turn or a couple of small rocks, that's what I always think. I been doing this wrong for so long I don't think I can change! Now I just slow down for lack of ability. In a group ride I am normally at the back of the group or I ride by myself. At 62, I don't think I will ever change!
 

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When approaching curves I always look down and not so much through the curve. I learned to ride by myself and mostly ride by myself. So I taught myself wrong in the start and it is hard for me not to look at the ground in the curves. What if there is some gravel in the turn or a couple of small rocks, that's what I always think. I been doing this wrong for so long I don't think I can change! Now I just slow down for lack of ability. In a group ride I am normally at the back of the group or I ride by myself. At 62, I don't think I will ever change!
My friend, you have made it to this point in one piece (that counts as a victory) and we are all hopefully improving our skills every day that we ride. I have a couple of ideas you might try, to help to learn to look through the turns towards the exit as you ride. Give them a try, if they appeal to you and they make sense, but please do not attempt them if they make you uncomfortable. When we ride in a manner that feels unsafe, we stiffen up and that does very bad things to our ability to control the bike.

By the way, I made a turn at low speed while accelerating from a stop at a light in traffic and hit a patch of sand and gravel the other evening. It is an unnerving sensation when the back end kicks out on you in a lean, but the rules are simple: remain loose, don't hit the brakes or chop the throttle, ease off the throttle if you are accelerating, let the bike respond (as it will if you let it) -correctly, and ride it through. -Always looking where you want to go and 'down' is NOT where you want to go.

Think of it this way: You have already hit the slippery stuff, mate, now it is time to ride it through!

At high speed at deep lean angles the rules are the same but the stakes are higher, things happen faster, and it is possible that you won't be able to make the catch. Heck, even the pro racers drop their bikes sometimes. That is why we all wear our gear, right?

Now, I am not a great rider, so I am sure someone will have maybe better advice than I, but I have a couple of things to suggest to help your cornering and to increase your confidence. First, design and ride a circuit in good lighting consisting of several good but not too challenging curves that returns you to your starting point in less than 3 to 5 minutes and that has no stops in the route, if possible, or only at the start/finish line. -Riding around a block will do, if there is no stops.

While you are riding, take it easy. Examine the road, and imagine what a good safe line would look like through each of the curves. Make sure you examine the road surface and know that it is good. You should not get too into the mechanics of it, just do what you normally do and be safe in traffic if there is any.

Ride it again, feeling how the bike handles the turns and working to make your riding smooth and changing nothing in your technique. Do the same thing again. -One more time; ride it until you become almost bored with it. You should start to develop a rythmic, almost dancing sense to the ride.

Once you have that feeling, you will find yourself riding with more confidence and probably faster than you should. Watch your speed and don't get too fast. Pick the curve that you are most comfortable with and then try to look up just enough to find and drive through your turn in points and following that line you have in mind. If you become uncomfortable, change your focus to a more comfortable direction, but don't give up. There is always the next time through.

Once you are able to drive through your turning points in that turn, do the same on the next, until you feel comfortable doing this through the course. Chances are you are going to get tired pretty quickly because learning is hard work. Once you can do this with confidence, you will see the turns in a new way.

Now, you are going to try, in the easiest turn, to not ride simply through the turning points, but from point to point. Always smoothly shifting focus to the next point in transition before or right as you reach the current point. This will feel odd, and you may be a bit jerky at first. Do not be worried, frustrated, or take any chances. This should be done at relatively low speed and not in traffic in case you run wide.

You can do this in an empty parking lot that is big enough to allow you to get up to a speed sufficient for you to begin to counter steer, if you have any difficulty and feel that is best. It can be a big oval, and you can ride it in one direction only during the session, and changing to the other direction another time. Having a set course is the key, and becoming conscious of the rythm of the ride. This is the crucial element in establishing the confidence to be able to look deeper into the corners than you did previously. Just don't let yourself speed up too much or ride until you are too fatigued. If you do, all the work will become invalidated because you will start to make mistakes or enter a corner too fast and undo the good work. You can do big figure eights instead of an oval after you have mastered the technique, as this will really increase your training level and imprint the lesson.

An empty parking lot may be best, with graduation to the street only when you feel more confident. After you have practiced a while, though, you will begin to feel the fluid nature of the turns as you become more comfortable with looking for the exit. Your feel for the bike will improve, your enjoyment will increase, and so will your safety because you will be able to see all the possible hazards around you, not just those on the pavement.

Remember, too, where the eyes go, the bike goes. Looking at a gravel patch actually increases the likelihood of hitting it and you should really be looking for the route around it if there is one. This applies to almost any danger on the road.

I hope that some of that is helpful, and that you ride safely and well.

Dennis
 

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Thank you Dennis for taking the time to write that up. I do know some curves close to work on and I'll practice there. Maybe this will help someone else also. I also looked into the advanced rider course around here. They either have no funds or not enough people signed up for it!

Dave
 
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