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Good for you and well done for making the fun and earth-friendly decision to commute by motorcycle.
I’d suggest getting some more experience under your belt before doing it full time though, as rush hour traffic and the freeway can present challenges that you may not be ready for yet. Maybe commute one day a week at first; Friday is good as you’re more likely to take it easy.
Once you feel confident, and I know it’ll be tough not to, but DON’T try to emulate the “good” (i.e. fast) riders who weave easily through traffic. Think *safety*, not speed; you’re only going to work after all I see one of those “good” riders lying beside a smashed-up bike at the side of the freeway about once every week or two here in the S.F. Bay Area. I’m not trying to scare you, just make you aware of the dangers if you’re not careful (and possibly even if you are). You might also want to fit a loud after-market horn, and use it to wake-up the car drivers who change lanes without looking over their shoulder to see into their blind spot (or don’t even look in their wing mirrors).
On the freeway (or anywhere), try to leave at least two seconds stopping distance between you and the car in front (four seconds on wet roads) because now and again, traffic will come to a dead stop when you’re not expecting it to and that can be fatal. If that does happen and you can’t stop in time (which if you’d left enough distance between you and the car in front you would have been able to), you can always lane-split in between the cars, legal or not, as a ticket is preferable to a crippling injury or death. Make sure you wear good protective gear too just in case. Also make sure that you get your bike serviced/safety-checked regularly. Look well ahead so you can anticipate trouble so that means don’t get stuck behind trucks or vans which obscure your view of the road ahead.
Check-out the following web site which has some decent resources if you hunt for them.
Nice little thumper (single cylinder bike) that is easy to ride; I rode one on my MSF course.
NOT fast enough for the freeway (top speed ~65 mph on the flat with no headwind) but a great little in-town and back roads bike.
The kind of bike you might want to keep as a second bike for running to the stores or a non-freeway commute.
That said, a 250 would be better as some are freeway capable and can carry a passenger at in-town speeds.
One good thing going for the newer textile jackets (apart from the high-vis. colors), is that many of them have a rain-proof barrier so you don’t need to don a PVC rain jacket (which is essential if you don’t want to ruin your leather jacket).
I wear all textile right now but I think an armoured leather jacket would definitely offer better protection.
Lane-splitting is not illegal here in California and is the rule rather than the exception.
In fact it’s often the only way to make progress here in the rush-hour traffic and I often lane-split most of the way on my 35 mile commute; both ways!
It’s as safe or as un-safe as you make it to a large extent (pretty much like riding in general), but you always get the odd cell-phone yakking, coffee-drinking idiot who’ll pull out right in front of you without looking. Man, could that spoil your day…
Yep, as I commute on my bike rain or shine, I’ve thought the same thoughts too with gas prices going the way they are.
My <2 year old 800 c.c. Bonnie will be up for replacement soon as it's got about 24,000 miles on it now, and although it's been completely reliable, the two-year Triumph warranty will expire in September.
Thought about a GS500 maybe, but have also been thinking about a Wee Strom (DL650), Versys (if they’re available in CA yet), or even another Bonneville (I like ’em).
Don’t have a need to go any faster than 110 miles an hour, or a death wish, so liter (sport) bikes are out…
Looks great for $800 and 23K is not high miles; especially for a Honda. The air-cooled Honda Nighthawk 250 motor has been known to run for over 100,000 miles.
It looks like it’s been well kept from the photo’s. It’s my guess that they don’t have a use for it any more and just want rid of it. You can take a lot of cues from the person selling it and the way his/her house, yard, car, etc. is kept up. Ask lots of questions and ask if they have a stamped service record or receipts for service work, repairs etc. Ask for the handbook (for service data) as they might have it in the house somewhere.
If all seems well, you buy it, and it hasn’t been recently serviced, I’d take it to a dealer to have it serviced and safety checked.
Hondas are well made and usually very reliable bikes although as with any older bike, it might be hard to find spares.
I use the Alpinestars Vector 2 backpack which has suited my purposes well and has held up very well in daily use. Thick padded straps and an elasticated chest connector to keep the straps on your shoulders. The Silver-Grey/Black/Red one I have looks pretty cool too with the bold red Alpinestars logo and my red, white and blue AMA patch glued onto it.
It’s quite tall and wide but a little limited in depth. That said, I haven’t ever been in the situation that I’ve not been able to stuff anything into it that I’ve needed. It has a large full-width pocket for a laptop inside. It also has other pockets inside, all of which fold flat if not in use, leaving more space in the main “chamber”. It also has a “hidden” full-length and full width zippered pocket, separate from the main chamber, immediately behind your padded back that’s ideal for sliding a laptop and meeting folder into. It also has lots more small zippered pockets secreted all over it and two decent-sized ones that jut-out of the sides (I put my Xena disk-lock/alarm in one and keep a bungee net and flash-light in the other). Another feature that I like is that it has a fair-sized compartment tacked-on to the back of it which is great for storing all-in-one tools and sharp items (thus keeping them away from your back in case of an accident). The cell-phone holder which attaches to one of the straps is small though (wouldn’t fit my old one-piece Nokia). There’s also a pocket on top for a CD Player, etc. with a feed-through hole for the ear-phones.
Unfortunately, I don’t think they make them any more but you might find one on close-out. I bought mine at Cycle Gear.
P.S. Looks like they’ve got some Black ones and Red ones here (no Silver-grey) although these may be Vector, not Vector 2 (?):
See my post under topic “I think I may be lugging the engine….”
Doesn’t that bike use the Ninja 500 engine or a re-tuned version of it?
If so, that’s a pretty common bike and just the kind of bike that squids crash, so there should be a few in the bike breakers.
Ask your dealer if it’s a drop-in replacement.
Maybe your current engine can be repaired?
Q: How do i clean it?
A: You buy an aerosol chain cleaner from your local motorcycle dealer or motorcycle gear shop (or mail order). Make sure it says that it’s safe for O-Ring chains. Some people use kerosene, but I don’t know if that will damage O-Rings or not. Don’t use WD-40 as some people advise, as it’s believed to rot the O-rings in the chain. Also buy a “Grunge Brush” (that’s what it’s called).
First ride the bike for at least 15 minutes to heat the chain up (takes the lubricant better).
Ideally, you will raise the back wheel off the ground to facilitate turning it (bike center stand or external wheel lift). You can also buy something called a Rollastand which is a pair of rollers you can put under the wheel (then rest the bike on the side-stand). Failing that, you could roll the bike forward a little at a time while cleaning or lubricating (a major pain and probably dangerous). Next, put the two halves of an old Pizza Box (or similar) under the chain area (to catch the drips or over-spray).
To clean (assuming you’ve raised the back wheel off the ground), you slowly rotate the back wheel with your gloved left hand while spraying the chain cleaner onto the chain with your right. You want to be spraying where you can easily get to the inside of the chain loop without spraying the back tire; probably mid-way between the front and rear sprockets (the sprockets are the toothed cog-wheels that the chain runs on). About 3 rotations or so is probably about right to cover the entire chain. Next, you use your grunge-brush on the chain at the rear sprocket (which is part of the back wheel) while slowly rotating the wheel. This will clean the outside of the chain. Next, use your grunge-brush where you were previously spraying to clean the inside of the chain loop. After brushing, spray more cleaner on to wash the “grunge” off the chain. You may need to repeat the whole process depending on how dirty the chain is, but usually, once on the outside loop for 3 wheel rotations and once on the inside loop for 3 wheel rotations will do it. The grunge-brush cleans the sides of the chain automatically if you’ve adjusted it to the correct chain width. When completed, clean the chain with a rag to get rid of any excess cleaner.
To Lubricate the chain, you need a spray chain lubricant (which is not the same as the chain cleaner). It’s a similar process (without the brushing) and there will be instructions on your can of (again, O-Ring safe) chain lubricant.
Q: Do i need to lubricate the chain everytime i clean it?
A: If you clean the chain, you must lubricate it immediately after cleaning it.
Q: how do i clean it? what kind of soap should i use on the bike itself? what type of brush?
A: To clean the bike in general (which you should do before cleaning/lubing the chain), you use car-wash liquid soap and water, and wash it with a sponge or cloth just like a car. You can hose it down with a garden hose to rinse. Be careful around the electrics though. You should follow that up by drying it with a chamois leather and/or cloth. Once dry, run the engine for 5 minutes or so to evaporate all the water from the recesses of the engine. You can follow that up with polish. I use one of the automotive “once a year” polishes, which I’ve found, continue to bead rain for about 6 months on the east coast and a year or more on the west.
Buy the book or see if they have one at your local library (or eBay etc). It’s a great resource for everything motorcycle.
This is not gospel, it’s just what I do (I ride a minimum of 300 miles a week).
Check the tires every riding day for nails, glass, cuts, bulges, etc. Check that the tire pressure is as it should be and that the tires have not worn beyond their acceptable limits. I have to adjust the tire pressures a little every two or three days. You should only measure tire pressures when the tires are cold (i.e. when the bike has not been ridden in the last hour or two).
Check the oil level every riding day (or before every ride). Check all your lights and brakes before every ride and after filling up with gas.
Clean and lubricate your chain every 200-300 miles (usually about once a week for me) and also lubricate after riding in the rain or any time it does not feel tacky to the touch. You might get away with cleaning every other time you lube it (depends on how dirty it is and how much you ride). When cleaning/lubing the chain, check the chain tension and adjust if necessary.
Keep the bike clean as far as possible for in the act of cleaning it, you might come across loose bolts, loose or broken spokes, etc.
Every now and again, specifically check that all bolts are tight (not by snicking them up a little tighter though, ‘coz eventually you’ll strip them doing that). Lube the cables occasionally, check hydraulic levels (clutch and brake) and brake pads (linings) now and then too.
That’s the routine stuff, other than that a bike needs serviced every 3000-6000 miles (depending on the bike); you should have this done by the dealer unless you’re confident of what you’re doing.
Read your bike’s handbook where this should all be outlined. Failing that, there are a few books on the market that go into it in a general way.
I suggest reading the “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motorcycles” which is a great primer on all things motorcycyle and includes basic servicing.
Maybe not a pre-requisite, but if you haven’t been on a bicycle for years, it would do no harm to re-aqaint yourself with that mode of transport for balance.
You probably know some of this already but anyway…
It’s all about matching your gear to your speed.
An engine can only work efficiently within a specific RPM (revolutions per minute) range; too slow and the engine will labor or stall, too high and you could blow-up the engine (taken to extremes), or at least be wasting fuel for no appreciable gain in acceleration. Your task as the rider (or at least one of them) is to make sure that you always have the appropriate gear selected to keep the engine running within it’s power band (which varies from bike to bike).
1. If coming briskly to a stop (red light), just pull in the clutch and down-change, click, click, click… until just before stopping, you click it into first gear; no need to let out the clutch between downshifts. You may then want to put it in neutral (without letting out the clutch) and let the clutch out when in neutral. Alternativily, you may just want to sit there with the clutch still pulled-in (in first gear) until you get the green light.
2. If just slowing down, you should be able to tell by the engine “note” (sound), that it’s reaching the bottom of its power band and needs a down-shift. If the bike slows dramatically when you let out the clutch, you’re changing down too early; let the bike slow a little more before down-changing.
You might also want to try pulling the clutch in and raising the engine revs a little as you down-change; then gently let out the clutch. If you still dramatically slow down, you have changed down too soon and/or have not given the throttle enough revs (just a little mind), or, alternatively, if you speed-up when letting out the clutch, you’ve given it too much revs. What you’re trying to do is to match your engine speed to the power band allowed by the lower gear.
I hope you followed that, it’s kinda difficult to explain…
Some dealers just make a price up and it’s based on how wet behind the ears they think you are…
I remember when I was buying my first bike, a well known dealer in Fairfield, CA wanted to sell me a new Nighthawk 250 for $5,500.00 (msrp was about $3,600) at the time I think.
Purchase Tax and Registration fees are about the only legitimate fees. Many/most dealers charge a “set-up” fee as well. This is supposed to be for the labor involved in un-crating and assembling the bike.
‘ Haven’t checked recently, but these guys (www.otdcyclesports.com) used to have the lowest OTD (all found) prices in California; by a long chalk.
I actually bought the NH 250 from another dealer (not the one in Fairfield I hasten to add), who, after giving me an inflated quote, price-matched the otdcyclesports price. OTD used to (and probably still do) advertise in Cycle Trader magazine.
Oh yeah, guess who’ll never be back in that dealer in Fairfield again…
Good advice from Ben as usual.
If I’m going with the Wife on a day-trip type of thing, I lock my helmet to the bike’s helmet lock (you can buy these as accessories if your bike doesn’t have one) and I have a short (~2 foot) cable lock that I use to lock the Wife’s (full-face) helmet to the handlebar area; the helmet just sits on the tank with the cable running through it.
I have a longer cable lock that I thread through the jacket sleeves and overpant-legs (which zip/unzip up to the thigh) and then cover it all with a bungee net to keep it from falling off. Remember to loop the cable through the net and your over-pants belt buckle (so neither can be easily removed). You could also supplement this with a lightweight bike cover to keep it all hidden. The bungee net and bike cover can be carried to your destination in a small tank bag (like the Cortech Mini Tank Bag), which you can carry on your shoulder when you leave the bike.
Never had anything taken yet.
Would I rather have a top box and hard saddle-bags? You bet, but for now the above suffices.
Oh yes, park the bike somewhere conspicuous.