A chronology of bikes, roads, rallies and anything and everything motorcycle related

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Sunshine State

It’s the end of January and sadly winter has finally hit Ontario.  With the constant pattern of snow, slush, and freezing rain that seems to be on repeat (thanks a lot mother nature) I think everyone is craving a little bit of sunshine.  Going along with this theme it only seemed appropriate to make my first riding destination a hot one.

The Florida Keys are the perfect holiday destination for beginner riders, or anyone who desires a relaxing scenic stretch of highway.  The Keys are the most southern part of Florida and all of the major inhabited islands are connected by a portion of U.S. Route 1 know as the ‘Overseas Highway’. 


The highway is 205 km long and will take you from Key Largo all the way to Key West.  It’s a good road for beginners because it provides the tropical experience of palm trees, a warm breeze, and blue ocean as far as the eye can see, but doesn’t require a high level of skill that would overwhelm someone new to the riding scene.  The speed limit on this road never exceeds 45mph (72km), there aren't a lot of bends or changes in elevation, and its short distance makes it an easy ride.  For the ultimate thrill seeker the lack of challenge may make the Overseas Highway seem like a bit of a boring ride.  In reality though, if you relax and take in the scenery that is completely surrounding you on this stretch of ocean highway, you probably wont mind the fact that for the majority of the ride your driving in a straight line.                                    

If you do make it all the way to the end of the highway and stop in Key West for a while, renting a scooter may also be something to consider.  The island has a very lively ‘New Orleans’ feel to it and the common transportation trend, with both tourists and locals, is a scooter.  The nice thing about this island trend is that it won't break the bank (scooter rentals are fairly cheap) and its something that can be done in large groups because you don't need a motorcycle licence to rent one.


Monday, 23 January 2012

Choosing Your First Motorcycle

Before making any big touring plans you need to find the bike that’s right for you.  While some people may not think twice about hopping on that 1524cc Harley Davidson ‘Road King’, large bikes are not always the most practical option for first time riders.  Both physical and engine size are just two of several important things that need to be taken into consideration before you make this important purchase.

The first thing to consider is the combination of your ability and your riding needs.  Asking yourself how comfortable you feel with the various engine sizes available (starting at 50cc) is important because it is common in North America for dealers to offer a new rider a 700cc and say this is a good size for beginners.  In reality smaller engine sizes around 250cc are much lighter and easier to control when you’re just starting out riding.  While 250cc’s are somewhat uncommon in North America, where the general trend in the riding world seems to be ‘bigger is better’, several brands (shown below) do offer smaller bikes for beginners.


Along with engine sizes you should also be asking yourself where you will be driving your bike most and how long the duration of your rides will be.  Once you’ve narrowed these things down you can start looking at different categories of bikes and find a fit that’s right for you.

Other things that should also be considered are your budget, buying new versus old, things to go with your bike of choice and your body type (ie. height, weight, strength etc.).  For more in depth details on picking your first bike, here are a couple links I found that expand on topic:
If you're still feeling a little lost (the list of things to consider can feel a little overwhelming at times) it could be helpful to attend a trade show such as the North American International Motorcycle Supershow.  I've attended this show a few times and it never disappoints.  You're provided with the opportunity to see all the current bikes available on the market and each company has a trade booth with representatives to answer any questions you may have about the important purchase you're about to make (plus theres usually lots of free swag).