exitrampUp (grade) Yours!

by Kristin Leary

I recently attended the Cycle World Motorcycle Show at the Minneapolis Convention Center. I had no intention of purchasing a new bike. My Yamaha XS 400 Special provides me with reliable transportation to work and enough thrill for this third-year rider. I did, however, want to see the ‘flash’ the latest and greatest bikes offer. Flash is the one thing my ride could use more of.

As I walked around the show and sat on a variety of bikes, I began to think about upgrading. What should I get? When should I do it? And, more importantly, why should I do it? While the gleaming chrome and beautiful paint jobs tugged at my check book, my Norwegian practicality kept the vault door closed. There would be no bike-buying that day. Instead of buying impulsively, I sought advice from several experienced riders who had already done the upgrade thing. Their responses varied widely.

The far ends of the response spectrum were equally offensive. One rider in the “Tough Chick” category told me not to be a “chickenshit” but to get the biggest bike the bank would loan me money for. I tempered that advice with the fact that she’s happy living in a trailer home…and it’s not even a double-wide.

The other end of the spectrum was actually occupied by an interesting combination of personalities: a “Weenie Boy” and a “Macho Man.” Although Judgment Day is probably the only other time you’d see these two guys agree, on this day they both told me not to push my luck; they thought the bike I had was already big enough for me. Not surprisingly, neither one of them knew what the word ‘condescending’ meant.

The majority of the spectrum consisted of riders whose advice overlapped consistently. Most told me I would know when the time was right to upgrade. I would experience key symptoms like wanting more stability at highway speeds, wanting to drive farther but not trusting your present bike to get you there, wanting better performance and handling, and, quite simply, wanting a bike to be proud of.

These riders also advised me to only step up to a bike that I’m comfortable with mentally and physically. Unbeknownst to them, their advice echoed the instruction given during the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Program. Motorcycling is 80% mental and 20% skill&emdash;if you’re riding a bike that you’re not comfortable on, you’re increasing your chances of having an accident.

In addition, many of the respondents suggested that I consider the type of riding that I’ll be doing on the new bike. A great bike for short day trips or popping around town may not be the best choice for long hauls. A relaxing weekend trip can quickly turn into a fatiguing battle if you’re on the wrong motorcycle.

I was also advised that, if and when I did move up in bike size, I should enroll in an advanced safety course. This will give me the opportunity to get used to my new bike in a safe, controlled environment. Many motorcycle accidents involve riders who are unfamiliar with their new machines.

So if you’re thinking about upgrading, take the advice I got from experienced riders. Don’t get caught up in the “Gotta-Have-It” or the “You-Should-Get-It” whirlwinds. Take the time to evaluate which bike is going to fit your body, your mind and your type of riding. Oh, and if you happen to see a Weenie Boy on a CX500 Custom, tell him that the blur he saw was me on a new V-Star Classic. 

M.M.M.

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