Sharon's Biking Blog
This is my blog...after 9 years on the back of a bike I'm starting out on my own 2 wheeled adventures...
Slip Sliding Away
In preparation for her forthcoming trip to Scotland Sharon throws the Kwakker 250 down the road. Is this muppetry of just damnable sheer bad luck?
Kawasaki Z250SL or Z650, That Is The Question
Is the Z250SL enough motorcycle for Sharon now she's an experienced rider? The problem is hobbitses have limited choices
A Final One Finger Salute
Sharon is shaking off some biting criticism. It's only been 3 years...
Riding To Find Something Lost
Sharon is in reflective mood pondering just how much motorcycling has changed her life.
The All Female Slapper Day Out
An all female biker meet? Wind and rain? Questionable tyres on dubious roads? Disasters all around? Smiles? Friends old and new? Hot tea? This day out for Sharon has it all and so much more.
Is Sharon skilled in the rain or overconfident? She makes some interesting points regarding experience, ability and riding style.
Sleepless Nights Over Sleeping Bags
Sharon wants to be warm and cozy in her sleeping bag - a sleeping bag that needs to be smaller and lighter than teabag. She doesn't want much.
Confidence - Is It Determined By The Size Of Your Bike?
Even a ninja hobbit with the skills of a sensei master cannot reach the floor on a tall motorcycle. Sharon cuts through the nonsense.
Why Do You Ride?
Sharon demands that you tell here why you ride your motorcycle! It's been a hard few months, help her out will you.
The Trouble With Trouble
So bigger motorcycles are safer as they have the power to get you out of trouble? Sharon ponders this received wisdom. Can you help her work it out?
Rhona said :-
Hi Sharon it's really nice to read your blog as I feel I can relate to how you feel/felt about riding! I have just recently passed my CBT and have just put a deposit down on a CBF 125. I am fairly small and not particularly strong so worry often about dropping the bike or just struggling with it in general. As all the people I know with bikes are male no one else shares this worry! Before going out on roads and using it for commuting to work I am definitely just going to practice as much as possible in car parks etc. How long did it take you to become comfortable with your 125? Any advice really appreciated ! Thanks, Rhona
Sharon said :-
Congratulations on just completing your CBT and welcome to the wonderful fun filled world of biking. Wahoo!!!
One of the reasons I began to write my blog was in the hope that it might prove useful one day to other learner riders going through the same fears and nerves as I did as I began my biking journey. So it is so good to hear that you are making use of the blog.
I hate to say this but I will be truthful with you and the truth is you will probably at some stage drop your bike. This is particular true if like me you are only small. A stronger taller person has a greater margin of error than us little folk. Once we slip we are neither strong enough or tall enough to bring the bike back beyond its tipping point. But I tell you this not to dishearten you but to tell you you are not alone. Nearly every single learner I know has dropped their bike at least once and usually more than that. It even happens to the more experienced ones now and then, they just keep more quite about it hee hee.
The trick is not to feel too bad about the drop. Try if you can to wear it as a feather in your cap, I have been there and done that kind of pride. Turn it into something positive like a fresh chance to learn and practice picking your bike up. Of course if you are like me you may need to have a little sulk about it too on occasion as well. But always remember you are learning and mistakes teach us a lot.
You will over time find that you will get what I call bike fit. Certain muscles needed to manoeuvre the bike and control the bike will become stronger. You will also develop better techniques and once your confidence improves moving the bike about will also become much easier. I used to really struggle getting the bike on and off its main stand, now I can do it with ease.
Do not judge yourself by mine or others ability. Be comfortable with yourself and set your own goals that feel right to you. Sometimes it is good to have a more experienced friend with you who will help you by gently encouraging you to push yourself a little further but only when you have the basics firmly in place.
What area do you live in Rhonda? Maybe there is bike club near you that you could join which has lady members. Nothing like a bit of girl power to give you a boost. There are also some facebook pages dedicated to just the lady rider which are good places to get advice and support.
I know I am lucky in that I have a very experienced and patient ex-instructor for a boyfriend. So I got a lot of great advice and support from the outset. If you know a good rider who will come out with you on rides and whom will offer you advice and support then this will help you enormously. However riding with someone who is either over critical or even wanting to show off is a hindrance, so choose your riding companions carefully especially at first.
It is hard to really place a date on when I felt comfortable on my bike. I would say at a guess maybe around the 6 month mark was when I finally began to relax enough to really enjoy the ride. But it has only been recently so therefore about 10 months in that I now dare to use the word confident about how I sometimes feel while riding. More important than time is mileage. Every time you get on that bike, every mile you put under those tyres is knowledge and experienced gained. I now have nearly 7000 miles under my tyres and each and everyone of them has helped me become a more experienced and confident rider. But you as an individual with find your own timescales.
Expect to have good days and bad. One day everything will click and feel right another day and everything just feels wrong. The longer you ride the more good days you will have to out balance the bad. I used to have a pattern at first where a good day was always followed by a bad. I think after a good day I then had an expectation of myself that made me nervous and stressed for the next day. But a bad day usually meant things could only be better next time and they usually were. So get use to the ebb and flow.
If you have any other queries about anything in general or specific question please get in touch and I will be happy to help in any way I can. Please keep me updated about your progress I would love to know how you are getting along.
For now get out there Rhona, ride that bike and do it with a light heart and a big smile because I find riding to be the best therapy out there. In a stressful world my bike keeps me sane and smiling. XX
Alan said :-
I have been reading your blog of the trials and tribulations, highs and lows of learning to ride a motorbike. I just did my CBT two weeks ago after my stepson presented me with a fait accompli. The sod booked me in for one when he booked his own. I haven't ridden since I was around 19 many, many, many years ago and even then it was my brothers Honda C90, not the most challenging bike to learn on, but was fun to ride. My stepson wants a Honda Grom but it's not my cup of tea, plus I can't flat feet the ground. I am not quite as petite as Sharon but my legs are on the short side. I am looking at a Yorkshire/ Chinese bike, the Honley HD01 or HD-3. Made in China for Earnshaws of Huddersfield to their quality specs. I think it may be on a par with Sharon's Zen as being decent in quality. To my untrained eye it looks like a clone of the Yamaha YBR125 at less than 2/3rds of the price so I think a lot of Yamaha parts will fit if I can't get original makers parts, especially accessories. So hopefully in the not too distant future I will become a full member of the biking siblinghood. I am a bit hyper self critical and like Sharon I really hate any kind of oral exam or having someone looking over my shoulder when doing things so reading her blog should help me as I practice for my full license. Like her I hope to get a lot of miles under my belt before I do my DAS. I did contemplate and intensive course but as someone said, theres a reason they are called crash courses. Fair weather and may all your rides be enjoyable.
23/10/2016 7:02:55 AM UTC
Sharon said :-
Greeting to you Alan,
How fabulous that you stepson put you back on the road to biking. Good lad.
I have seen the Honleys, and they look nice to me. If they are as good as my Zen you will hopefully be a happy man. I think as beginner bikes the higher quality Chinese bikes are hard to beat. It was painful enough to see a £1500 bike thrown onto the ground on numerous occasions whilst learning. I never had much trouble getting parts for the Keeway and they have always been fairly cheap.
Everyone will have their own opinion on whether a 125cc is the way to go or to go straight to the DAS course. I can only speak from personal experience and for me the time spent on my 125cc has been invaluable. I certainly do not regret the 2 years on my 125cc. How could I when I had so much fun. I totally believe that miles under your tyres is where you best gain experience and learn the most.
I love to hear stories of people learning to ride so if you ever get a chance it would be great to hear how you are getting along.
Unlike me try not to be too critical of yourself as you learn :-). Our mistakes as I learner do not define who we may be a future fully fledged biker.
Good luck with your biking journey and I hope you have as much fun as I have had. I am glad my blog may help you in someway and please feel free to drop me a line anytime if you need any further help or advise. We are always happy to help if we can.
25/10/2016 11:06:09 PM UTC
Andy said :-
In response too "Are you a terrified learner ?
No match for me.
May I relay a few of my early experiences as a new rider.
It was 1981.
I was 18 and in the Army.
As is natural for any teen, I wanted some form of personal transport, and set my heart on a moped.
So I popped into a little motorcycle just across the road from where I was based, called CBS motorcycles, who are still there.
I'll never forget the old bespectacled bald chap in a long blue coat behind the counter.
In reality though, he was probably younger then I am now.
He was the owner, and after some discussion, he steered me away from a moped, towards a conventional motorcycle, in the form of a Kawasaki KC100 Companion,
Now remember back then, there was no legal requirement for any formal training, but this guy refused to sell me a bike without it, and so threw in a mornings training with a group called Star Rider.
He even delivered the bike to the training centre.
All of that was included in the price.
I owe that guy so much gratitude.
I'm sure a lot of dealers would have just sold me the bike and washed their hands of me, but he really seemed to care about my well being on a bike.
So commenced the training, and all I can say is that I was not a natural on a bike.
Twice I dropped it (without any significant damage fortunately), and at the end of the course, the instructor decided to escort me back to my barracks as he was so concerned about me.
The other students just rode off.
I remember him asking when we arrived, if I had any mates with bikes who could help me.
Actually I did, but the next day, so eager was I to try out my bike, that I just went off my own and promptly crashed into the back of a Volvo within a few hundred yards.
I just panicked as it was slowing down, and forgot where the brakes were.
No major damage fortunately, and a couple of weeks later I was back on the road, with straightened forks and a new mirror.
From then on things started to pick up.
I restricted myself to riding around camp for a week or two, closely supervised by a couple of my biking friends, before eventually taking to the road.
Again on my own, I ventured into a town called Twickenham just up the road.
It was all going well, until I spotted a police car coming the other way.
He gave me a cursory glance as he drove by, and I just panicked.
Why I don't know, but I sped off, and turned into the first side road I could find, got off and hid.
I peered around the corner to see if the copper was coming back, but he didn't.
To this day that makes me laugh to myself.
I wasn't doing anything wrong.
I was insured and taxed, on a brand new bike, but still, the site of a Police car just sent me into meltdown.
I think maybe deep down I felt that I just wasn't competent enough to be on a bike, and if stopped, I might get sussed and taken off the road.
Weird, but being on the road on a motorised vehicle was such a daunting experience for me then.
As time went on, and I got more miles in, I finally got to the stage where I wasn't a liability on the road, and that Summer over leave, I rode the little 100cc Kawasaki 250 miles to my parents house in Devon.
What an expedition that was.
I took me most of the day, but remains one of my most memorable biking experiences, and the A303/A30 remain my favourite roads to this day because of that.
Oh yes and it was on that trip I learned something else.
Bikes coming the other way kept flashing their lights at me.
By now I think you'll realize that I was quite paranoid on a bike, and I was thinking what am I doing wrong now.
I got off a few times, checked everything but couldn't see anything wrong.
But other bikes kept flashing at me.
Of course eventually I realized that they were just acknowledging a fellow rider.
Today of course it's a wave or a nod, but back then it was a headlamp flash.
Not that todays bigger bike riders would dream of acknowledging the rider of an L plated bike.
How different attitudes were back then.
Anyway, by now I had the bike bug, and whilst I was on leave in Devon, I traded the KC100 for a Honda CB250N Superdream, because that's what the cool guys back on camp had.
One last anecdote whilst on the subject of that bike.
I went for an evening ride up on the Moors the third day I had it, when I had to brake hard for a sheep that ran in front of me.
After that the bike wouldn't start.
It was late and deserted up there, and I'd broken down.
After a while I saw a car approaching and flagged it down.
The lady driver very kindly stopped, which is something I would advise my Wife never to do.
Anyway, I asked her to call out the AA for me and gave her my membership number.
My parents who I was staying with were both out for the night, and I didn't have the number where they were.
Luckily that lady called the AA out, and about an hour later the man turned up.
He was baffled, and had to go back to base and arrange for a recovery vehicle to come and take me and my bike home.
By now it was about 9pm, and I had to wait nearly two hours for the other vehicle to get there.
Dartmoor is a very scary place to be late at night on your own.
How did we manage in the days before mobile phones.
The next day I phoned up the dealer to tell them my new bike had gone wrong.
And that was the day I found out what the handlebar kill switch was.
I must have knocked it when I was braking for that sheep.
I was hopeless on a bike in my early days, but as time went on I developed into a competent rider.
The organisation I did my initial training with, also offered "advanced courses" which I did.
I think the secret to riding well and gaining confidence, is experience, training, and never believing that you are beyond learning.
18/2/2017 11:02:56 PM UTC
Ian Soady said :-
Nice tale Andy, and made me smile.
But "cool guys" riding superdreams? Hmmm......
19/2/2017 10:55:36 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
During the late 70's the 250 Super Dream was for some strange reason, the must have bike if you didn't have a full license. It was a decent looking bike but I believe it wasn't as good as the competition, but it seemed to have a cult status. If you were even cooler you had a 400. My mates and I weren't cool, we shared my brothers C90.
19/2/2017 2:46:04 PM UTC
Andy said :-
I think it was because the 250N was a decent size bike for a 250 and resembled the CB750F
I made mine even slower and ill handling by fitting a Rickman Tempest fairing, which completely ruined it, but that didn't matter because it looked bigger and more grown up.
That was all that mattered.
19/2/2017 5:31:26 PM UTC
125Tony said :-
Hi Andy, yep nice post. Two things stuck a chord with me, my first epic journey which I did many times after and on lots of different bikes but like so many things in life you never forget the first time. Then total paranoia at the sight of a police car. I was a quivering wreck.
19/2/2017 7:10:06 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I had a 1976 250 Dream which was the forerunner of the Superdream. Big. Heavy. Apparently worth a fortune in Japan now because some cartoon character rode one. Honda took an already overweight 400, sleeved it down for the UK market and created an overweight and underpowered 250. Still, considerably more reliable than the XS250 and GS250. I used my Dream for despathching. At 50k it started to eat the occasional follower and at about 65 or 70 thousand miles it's crank clattered into oblivion.
20/2/2017 8:27:37 AM UTC
Andy said :-
The 250 was originally designed as a 400 for the Japanese market where they have stepped licensing.
They sleeved it down to 250 to make it learner legal in the UK.
A much better bike was the CB250RS.
20/2/2017 1:41:21 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
The CB250RS has been discussed on this site before Andy. They're much loved but also known for eating their engine...
20/2/2017 1:54:53 PM UTC
Andy said :-
I did not know that.
The Superdream engine was bullet proof at least.
I did 35,000 miles on mine and never changed the oil.
20/2/2017 2:16:48 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
35,000 miles without an oil change?? That's not just poor maintenance that is motorcycle cruelty at its worst. I hope you are ashamed of yourself.
20/2/2017 4:02:41 PM UTC
Andy said :-
What can I say.
I was young, always skint, and irresponsible.
I only changed the pads when the brakes squealed in metal on metal agony.
The engine though still purred like a kitten up to the day I sold it to buy a CX500.
20/2/2017 10:17:25 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Young and skint. Yes I know where you're coming from. I too committed crimes against motorcycling when I was a youth. Taking a link out of a chain because I'd run out of adjustment. Snapped chain soon after. DIY spoke tightening equalled even more buckled wheels. Leaving a motorcycle unlocked equalled one stolen bike.
I look at the youths these days on their bikes and despair. Then I recall what I was like at that age. Oh dear, how embarrassing.
21/2/2017 4:24:45 PM UTC
Kenny said :-
I read your excellent review of the Z250SL, and have bought one myself.
I noticed that you listed on the review that had purchased the Givi tanklock ring. Do you by any chance know which one it is, as I checked both the official Givi site and various other websites (i.e. sportbikeshop.co.uk) none of which actually tell me which to go for!
24/4/2019 4:24:10 PM UTC
Sharon said :-
Always good to hear from a fellow Kawasaki Z250SL owner. Hope your new purchase will give you miles of smiles too. Let me know how you get on with it.
My tank bag and givi tankring was a rare think indeed, rarer than hen's teeth, in so much it was a gift bought for me by Ren.
So I will double check with him but I am pretty sure it was the BF14 model. This is usually listed for the Ninja 300.
24/4/2019 6:29:59 PM UTC
That is great, ta for that. Have used the Givi tankring on other bikes so swear by em, just gave up with being able to use one on the Z250SL as couldn't find the model listed. You have given me hope! Have to say only had the Z250SL for a few weeks but love it, your review was spot on. What a great bike! Destined to be a future classic me thinks
25/4/2019 10:34:19 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Sharon has checked Kenny, yes it was the BF14 model, same as the Ninja 300. And I don't know if it'll be a future classic but it sure is a good machine ain't it.
25/4/2019 2:08:10 PM UTC
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