Little Red Ride

Or, My First Bike

Yes. I did get a bike. No. I have not yet passed the MRC:RSS.

Hmmm. How do I approach this? My original goal was to get decent gear, pass the MRC:RSS, get my license and then buy my first bike. I still want to do all those things. Only the order has changed. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, though I can provide a bit more detail.

After several months of not being able to take the MRC:RSS, I was getting tired of waiting for a chance. I could just try to wait it out, but I didn’t want to wait another year. I had started waiting last year for this year. I didn’t want to put it off for another.

I still believe in the value of the education provided by the course. I am thankful for the knowledge I did receive from the portions of the course I was able to take. If I did not have at least some foundation, I wouldn’t have altered my path the way I did. But, I did and I’m not sorry either.

I had taken a look at a local bike that would fit me fairly well. It was a Suzuki Bandit 600S, and it was red. But, I didn’t get it. During the discussion with the owner and a friend of his, I became a bit apprehensive about it. It had been sitting for a while, several months in fact. I asked about what he did before storing it and he told me, but a specific piece of information I was looking for was missing. Later in the conversation, I asked if they ever put StaBil in the tank. The owner mentioned that the dealer might have done that. It was obvious that he didn’t know what it was for. His friend clued him in.

This was to be my first bike and I was looking at it, alone but for my wife. What did I know about evaluating a used bike? Nothing. That’s what. While it may have been minimal, I didn’t want to risk carmelization and a possible carburetor overhaul. There was quite a bit of fuel that could have carmelized, too. It sloshed quite a bit when I rocked the bike sideways. Also, I haven’t heard of a dealer doing something that wasn’t asked for. Since the owner hadn’t asked, I doubt it had been added.

Progress on finding the right bike was slow. As I didn’t know what type of riding I would be doing, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted. Reading various reviews and comments on web sites gave me a few more choices. I knew I wanted a standard. That would give me a good balance between a crotch rocket and a cruiser, neither of which really attracted me. My readings pointed me towards either a Kawasaki ZR-7, a Suzuki Bandit 600S or a Suzuki SV650. I went to look at another Suzuki, an SV650 this time, a new one.

I visited a couple of dealers, each of which had a new SV650 in stock. One was blue. The other was red. I didn’t get either one, though a slight change in pricing might have changed thing. It wasn’t the price actually that caused me not to get it. The difference in prices allowed the circumstances to play out. Both dealers had given me out the door prices over the phone. I won’t debate the value of that practice here. Suffice it to say that the red one was slight higher priced than the blue. Blue is my favorite color, too. But, I digress.

After speaking with the dealer selling the blue SV650, I managed to get some time off work and went for a visit. The sales person I had spoken with was busy with another customer, along with their significant other. During a quick break from them, he asked if I would wait a bit while he finished with them. No problem. I could wait a little while and went to look at the bikes. I found the blue SV650 parked outside around the corner. I sat on it and tried out the fit. I walked around some more and tried it out again. I had been there a little while now and went back to check on the sales person.

My salesman was still busy with the original customer; I could wait a little more. After a bit more waiting, I heard something a customer should never hear. The original customer had walked outside to look at the bikes again and my salesman was in a heated argument with someone that I guessed to be the sales manager. They were cussing up a storm, in the showroom no less, and in front of several customers. This complete lack of professionalism really turned me off. Then, to top it off, my salesman started talking to another customer right in front of me. They obviously didn’t want my business. So, I left. Besides, the lean angle on the SV650 bothered my back a bit. I wasn’t sure I could take that for a long period of time anyway. I needed to look at something different.

Earlier in the year, back when the motorcycle show was in town, I managed to attend it. I attended another one when I went to Minnesota to pick up my Aerostich. Of course, I’m going to sit on some bikes at the show. That’s what we go for. Right? There always seemed to be one brand that I was more attracted to than the others. They’re a class act for sure. Quite a few people think so anyway. I did too, though I wasn’t sure I could swing it.

As with many motorcycle manufacturers, there are larger models and smaller models. My preference was for a particular larger model. My long-term goals would have picked a different model, but for a first bike, this one might work ok. The smaller model was nice, too, but I liked the larger just a bit more. Though the motorcycle shows had been months earlier, I started thinking about these bikes again. I should go take another look.

After a perusal through the manufacturers’ web site, a search of the dealer locator page and a few phone calls, I found a local dealer who had the model I was interested in. Though late in the day, I arranged to go take a look at it and try it on again. This I did. I tried it on and had a good conversation with the salesman. Again I heard something I had not expected to hear at a dealership. The salesman told me that I should not buy this as a first bike, but should buy a smaller Japanese bike to learn on. Unexpected? Definitely. But, it made me want to give them my business just on principal. The dealer was Laurel BWM in Westmont, IL and they only sell BMWs. He was telling me to give my money to another dealer. That’s unheard of, to me anyway. Rafe said that the R1100RL was just a bit too large for me to start on. He had an F650, but wanted to keep that as a loaner. It was hard to believe that they would sacrifice a sale for the good of their customers. Needless to say, I was impressed.

I did end up buying a BMW, but the smaller one. I am now the proud owner of a 1998 BMW F650, red, of course. Chicago Cycle had it in on consignment. The prior owner was moving to the West Coast, riding his GS, and couldn’t take the second bike. His loss is my gain. This will be the bike I learn to ride on. With less than 2000 miles on the odometer, a year left on the warranty and a price to match the SV650 I had looked at previously, it looked like a winner. That it was a dual-purpose and could handle whatever type of riding I might decide to try was a bonus I couldn’t pass up. The salesman, Mike Abt, made the purchase a very pleasant experience. Have you heard of low pressure? This was no pressure. He made me feel totally comfortable and I thank him for that. I can look back on the experience with fondness instead of regret.

My wife is not what I would call enthused about the idea of me riding a motorcycle. She is, however, supportive of my endeavors, even this one. I had called many of the dealers listed on the BMW dealer locator page, asking about what they had in or might be expecting, but found nothing. I was ready to call it quits and wait some more, when my wife suggested I try a few more. My call to Mike yielded the winner. He had received it just two days before I called. Thanks to my wife, my Little Red Ride is now parked in our garage.

To come full circle, I do still intend to pass the MRC:RSS. In the mean time, I will learn to ride and get my license. Either this year or the next, I will take the course again and fully expect to pass, even if I do get more bad bikes. Following that with the ERC will get my motorcycles adventures off to a good start.

A Long Time to Nowhere

Or, Still Missing the MRC:RSS

It has been several months now, but yes, I am still missing the MRC:RSS course. However, that is not to say that I didn’t pass the course. Well, I haven’t done that either. The thing is, I still haven’t retaken it. I know. I know. I wanted to take the course before doing anything else, before getting the motorcycle or my license. It’s just not working out that way.

I did have confirmed reservations in two courses in addition to the one I had first taken. But, circumstances conspired against me. That seems to be happening a lot lately. I hope it is not a sign of how most things related to motorcycle experience are going to go.

The first course I was scheduled to take was the single weekend version, Friday night and all day Saturday and Sunday. Well, I had something else that needed to be done that Sunday. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Yes. Yes. I know. Where are my priorities? Anyway, I didn’t bother to show for Friday night to check in. It wouldn’t be fair really. Someone else might be able to use the spot to actually pass the course. The most I would get is some more practice. Besides, my elbow wasn’t quite healed yet.

The second course was of the two-weekend variety, with afternoon sessions on Saturday and Sunday two weekends in a row. I really wanted to take the course. After all, I had missed the previous one and I did still want to pass the course before proceeding. But, then I did have something that needed to be done the following Sunday afternoon. You know. It was the Sunday afternoon when I would be taking the exam.

Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to make the following Sunday for the exam, I tried a different tack. I showed up as a walk-in for the morning session. The next four weekend mornings were open, no conflicts. Getting the registration would mean I wouldn’t have to worry about attending the afternoon session. I would be able to take the course and keep to my original plan of passing the MRC:RSS before taking the next step. Can you guess what happened?

The morning session wasn’t quite full. At least, not all of the confirmed registrants showed up. I was the second person there that morning, which gave me a good chance of getting in, or so I thought at the time. Then a few other people showed up. No, they were not confirmed registrants. But, for me, the effect was the same. They were confirmed walk-ins. And there were more of them than spaces available. No morning sessions for me.

While waiting for the instructors to arrive for the first session, I talked a bit with the person ahead of me in the queue. He was a young guy. Well, younger than me anyway. I think he was in his late teens, still a kid. His father had just bought a local motorcycle dealership and he wanted to help out around the shop. In order for him to do that, he needed to get his license. The best way to learn to ride and get your license at the same time, at least in Illinois, is to pass the MRC:RSS course.

I felt sorry for him, actually. He really needed the license, more than I did anyway. He needed it to work. I wanted to ride for the fun and enjoyment of it and to commute to work, though for my three-quarter mile commute, my truck did suffice. Besides, I did have a conflict that would prevent me from taking the exam.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m too nice. I gave the kid my registration card and told him I wouldn’t bother showing up for the afternoon session. And, I had a confirmed registration, too, not a confirmed walk-in, but an actual registration. But, I still wouldn’t have passed the course. And, he did need it more than I did.

It turns out that the registration card didn’t help any, though my not showing up did. He was able to attend as a walk-in and managed to pass the course. I found this out from an interesting source. I received an email the Monday morning after that first weekend. A fellow worker had attended the same course, heard my name called, and wondered if they were referring to me. They were. Oh, and she passed it, too.

The end of the season is nearing. Soon, there will be no more courses until next year. I still have a goal of passing the MRC:RSS and eventually the ERC also. If I find some courses scheduled that I might be able to attend, I’ll try for another walk-in. In any case, there is always next year.