Monday, April 13, 2009

The original first bike...and how I got the SilverStreak

I don't have a picture of it, but it was ugly. It was a 1985 Honda Shadow 700C, black tins, no ignition switch, dented tank, missing side covers, and totally boogered wiring. When I bought it for $750 (don't tell me, I already know, hindsight is 20/20 remember?), it was on a battery charger 'because it hadn't been started in awhile.'
I didn't have my license, didn't know how to ride, so I bought it unridden. It started and ran okay sitting there in the garage. The guy delivered it to the house with the title and I gave him cash. Done deal.
The boogered up wiring that someone had done to install a toggle switch to start the bike was fouling the charging system somehow, and the new battery wouldn't hold a charge. When it was charged, I couldn't get it started. Every time.
I finally rode it once in a big parking lot, and I hated it right away. The exhaust ran right under my left leg on that side, and the heat shield wasn't enough. The ergonomics forced my knees to flex too much on the midmount pegs. And I hated the buckhorn bars. They had my wrists all twisted up. I didn't ever get the damn thing started again, but my ex-boyfriend did and lost the key to the gas cap, so he broke it and thought it would be fine to open with a screw driver.

He and I parted ways and I sold the bike for $400, good riddance.

Mistake #1--I bought the first bike I looked at.
I wanted a bike really bad, and made an emotional decision. Bad idea with any large purchase. There are lots of bikes out there, I could have learned more about them and made a logical decision.
Mistake #2--I bought it because I could pay cash for it right now.
A bike is a major purchase. Buy right, buy once. Grabbing anything I could afford regardless of condition is ludicrous and asking for a long list of repairs and parts to buy.
Mistake #3--I didn't do my homework on how to buy a used bike and what to steer clear of.

When I finally started bike shopping, I didn't have money, but I had time to look and sift information. I considered many bikes of several types, and Sweetie (he's my squeeze of the last couple years, a great wrench, and an excellent rider with 20 years experience) kept asking, 'What kind of riding do you want to do? The frame design of the bike will affect it's suitability for your purpose." That led to many conversations and illustrations of frame geometry, looking at pictures of people riding different models of bikes, and applied ergonomics. It kept coming back to the same group of likes and dislikes. Then we found models that fit those design specs and began to narrow the field further.
Mistake #4--I didn't really know what kind of riding I wanted to do....
Until I saw a demonstration of precision riding by the Michigan State University exhibition motor officer team. They rode Electraglides in tiny circles, slower than walking speeds, weaving this way and that through the crowd. They stopped with their feet up and just sat there, then moved on, scraping their footboards on both sides as they turned impossibly sharp corners. I didn't care about riding fast, I wanted to ride like that.
Mistake #5--I didn't have a license so I could test ride my own prospective bike.
I took the MSF course and was dismissed before completion by the teacher. It had been 4 years since the Honda debacle, and I was so nervous that I would fail. With a helmet on, I couldn't hear the instructor clearly at times. The controls on my bike were sloppy and I missed shifts. After the first riding course day, Sweetie put his bike on the lift and blocked it steady. He told me to climb on and ride it, shifting up and down through the gears. I did, smoothly. His bike is very precisely adjusted, nothing out of whack. But I couldn't do it on the course the next day.
The other people on the course with me all had riding experience, and I was holding them up with my slow speeds on the course. I was afraid my next step to getting a bike would get yanked out from under me, so afraid that it became self-fulfilling. I went home furious.
Mistake #6--I didn't know anything about riding except what it felt like from the back seat.
Sweetie told me to pay attention when I rode with him, to listen to how he shifted and braked. He showed me the difference between using just back brakes, just front brakes, and both brakes. After the MSF mess, we spent even more time talking about riding and the controls on the bike. He showed me what he was doing and explained it until I understood each time he adjusted something or serviced something on his bike. He looked for another way for me to get better theory instruction on precise riding, and shortly after I bought my bike, he purchased Jerry Palladino's Ride Like a Pro DVD for me. It covered many things that the MSF course didn't, including how to feather the clutch and the rear brake so that I could ride straight and smooth at less than 5 miles an hour. It gave me confidence.
Mistake #7--I expected the person selling me the bike to help me decide what I wanted.
So, obviously I was led to believe that I wanted that piece of crap Honda, and I fell for it. My bad. I should know what I want before I go buying (as opposed to shopping, where you eliminate what you don't want).
When my financial situation began to look favorable to getting a loan for a bike, I talked to my credit union and was turned down. However, the loan officer gave me some information that would help negotiate the best deal I could if I could get financed through a dealer. I checked with my local Harley dealer, and they said they could finance someone with my score (it wasn't pretty <:P). So the search was on.
My criteria:
An upright riding position, probably with mid-mount pegs properly positioned.
I didn't like the forward pegs on the MSF bike I rode.
No buckhorns.
Neutral frame geometry--no extended forks, but not so upright that the bike would be too "flickable." I had to learn about rake and trail, and their affect on bike handling.
About 1000-1200 cc engine.
Rebuildability and repairability with parts easily available.
American made.
Very little chrome. I wanted to ride the bike, not fondle it.
Price within my means.
The bike I found (after hours of searching the net, craigslist, other makes of bike dealers and eliminating models and deadbeats) that fit most of the criteria I had was the Harley Sportster. The particular model I found was the 2001 Sportster 1200 Sport. The dealership had a silver one with blacked out pipes and stuff, and it looked okay, except it was silver. Tins can be painted. I still didn't have a license, or even a permit, so Sweetie rode front when we test rode it. I decided it would have a solo seat before too long, because the pillion was most uncomfortable, and I wouldn't be using it anyway. He took it around the block and up the road a piece without me as well, and pronounced it sound and roadworthy.
Purchasing this bike was not emotional until I was sitting there looking at it across the showroom floor, waiting for credit approval, and another salesperson showed someone else my bike. Sweetie was a bit concerned that I would get up and tell him hands off the bike, but I just muttered curses upon the other customer until he rolled my bike back into the lineup. She sat on another one that was all lowered and boogered up with chrome to wash and polish, and I shut up. We struck a deal. Sweetie rode the Streak home for me, and said it had cajones and handled well when he rode it a bit more aggressively, looking for any necessary adjustments. I got my permit the next day and started riding.

Changes to my blog...

I've given this some thought and read a lot of blogs. The one's I've liked best focus on the topic of my interest. Looking hard at my blog here, I haven't done that. It's hard for people to decide they want to follow your blog and read what you write if they aren't sure of the subject matter each time they return.
My solution seems simple to me. This blog, Mysilverstreak, will stay here, but it will focus more on me and the Silver Streak, aka my motorcycle. I have some ideas for posts about how I chose my bike, how I learned to ride, places I go, things I learn each time I ride.

My other big interest is gardening, and I've made a new blog to write about that. It's called 'Grubbling Zone 5.' The URL is I will continue the saga of the daylilies there, and what progress I've made with my vegetable gardening.

I think this change will give folks better motivation to come back and maybe comment on progress. Hope to hear from you one place or the other.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Plans A, B, and C

I have three plans to get me where I need to go, to preserve my independence. The first is my 1997 Geo Metro. It's fairly reliable, 3 cylinders, great gas mileage, utilitarian, has heat and defrost and windshield wipers and good tires. It will haul all three dogs and a month's worth of groceries. That's Plan A in the wintertime, Plan B in the summer.
Then there's Plan B in the winter, Plan C in the summer--my 1993 Ford F-150 Pickup truck. It's a supercab, so it will also haul all three dogs and a month's worth of groceries, but the gas mileage sucks, literally. The tires are there, barely. It almost always starts, in spite of long periods of disuse. It has a very useful cargo area and a V-8 engine. It will haul a dead motorcycle in desperation.
And I have summer Plan A, sometimes Plan B, and extreme weather plan C--my 2001 Harley Davidson Sportster 1200S. The piglet. I think I'm pretty well covered for transportation.
On Thursday, I had a pretty important medical appointment about 60 miles away. Had to be there. On time. The Geo, aka "The Mouse" picked that day to crap out. The battery didn't seem to have enough juice. It was parked in such a way that I could still back the truck into the garage and nose up to it to try a jump start, which I did. The truck, aka "the Nightmare", decided to pick that day to not operate it's charging system much. It started, but wouldn't start the Mouse.
I was looking at a clear, sunny and chilly sky, about 40 degrees. I checked the weather hourly graph on Not looking good, but I was running out of options, time, and nobody to call. Sweetie was in Chicago taking care of the P's.
So, I suited up. Extra long johns, woolly scarf, pack the polar fleece-insulated chaps (I made those and they have saved my ass on more than one occasion) for on the way back, and extra shirt. Helmet, definitely the helmet. Thinsulate gloves.
To make a long story short, it was 40 when I left, and 27 degrees Fahrenheit when I got home after dark. I didn't get frost bite, and no, I don't want to do it in that kind of cold again soon. But I got to ride my motorcycle and it felt good to do that!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Rain and Soap

This is our happy place...we took pictures so we could go back without having to pay for plane tickets as often...

It's been raining, I've been soaping, and the Pink Lady sits waiting, as does the Silver Streak. Sounds like code from an old war movie, doesn't it? But it's the story of my life.
Day job work trickles in, a day or two here and there. Sweetie continues to shuttle to the city to care for his parents, and sometimes things work out so I can go too and spend some more time with them. But mostly I'm getting us ready to sell soap at farm markets and the huge market in New Berlin called 7 Mile Fair. 
We have decided to keep our stock more fluid this year and only purchase enough scent for one or two batches of soap at a time of that scent. We will be able to offer new products more often this way, which seems to be what customers want, always something new. Which keeps us always making soap! It also keeps our stock very fresh. I like that.
I made another long teal scarf to practice my already learned knitting skills and use some of my new tools, and they do make manipulating stitches easier. I haven't used any of the new strippers yet. The two scarves have been put to use insulating soap loaves while they saponify (I know, I know--technical jargon. The chemical reaction when oils and lye get together and make soap is saponification, and it creates heat all by itself.) If I lay the wool scarves over the soap loaves, it conserves the heat evenly through the loaves, ensuring even texture throughout the soap. I cut the two loaves I made last night this morning, and found delightfully smooth texture! You can find our soap at  I have a blog there as well that will tell you a little more about my recent scent shopping.

More happy Place

My motorcycle. Oy. It has now rained for 3 days here, thus washing the salt off the roads. That means that on any given day that the temperatures go up to rideable weather, I will want to ride. Because of all of the above, we have yet to go out to the garage and perform the usual springtime tasks of fluffing and buffing the bikes--rechanging the oil, going over all the fasterners, checking fluid lines, checking and adjusting throttle and clutch cables, tire pressure, detailing, etc. Not to mention cleaning and oiling our leather riding gear.  
I noted one thing while taking care of Mom and Dad: Mom has always been a master of organization. At her house, everything has a place. While we were staying there with her, I marveled at how Sweetie knew where to find things in his boyhood home, even though he hadn't lived there for close to 20 years. This is something I have struggled with, and have been reading books about, trying to learn it in vain. Mom's example and simple way of doing things have showed me things the books simply couldn't explain. I brought it back to our house and thebits of  clutter that drive me nuts are disappearing! Thanks Mom!

Someone asked me if I was going to plant tomatoes to transplant this year like I did last year. I asked if it was time to do that already. Last year I was itching to see green things so badly I planted tomato seed in January, and had gangly 2-foot-tall plants by May, a few of which still miraculously produced tomatoes with much pampering after transplanting. Time has really flown by this year, and I'm not sure I'm going to have time to tend a garden properly. Although, I seem to be getting a lot more done than I did last year. It's a paradox...hmmm. Maybe I'm learning time management. Finally.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun

One of my tweet peeps (sjtryon) on Twitter recently talked about The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun, and I had to go look at the link, because, well, they ARE irresistible. They remind me of John Belushi’s devilish raised eyebrow in Animal House, and they aren’t even actual frat pranks to take on.

The Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun entail a manner of living which means you will have no regrets for the path not taken. There won’t be “I wish I had’s” when it’s all said and done if you follow the principles to the utmost that you choose.

If I tell you any more, I’ll ruin your first impression and perhaps change your journey to look like mine somehow. And did I act on it as soon as I read it? No, I did not, because I was still stuck in the habit of not having fun.

But the seed was planted.

Not long after I read it, one of my friends with whom I had had long dreamy conversations about owning my very own iron pony (having given up on being able to have horses again), came to me and said she had purchased a motorcycle that very day. I was very happy for her, and furious with myself for having not followed my own dream to fruition. We talked excitedly about her bike and I told her how happy I was for her, and said I would come to see it.

The next morning I was hunting for my own bike, with a determination that surprised and almost troubled my significant other. I had been looking at motorcycles for 5 years. My own fear of not succeeding had caused such nervousness that I had failed to complete the motorcycle safety course. I had sabotaged myself, sabotaged my own joy and fun through a lack of belief in myself.

I found The Silver Streak at a Harley dealership not far away. It wasn’t the average ladies’ bike, having been upgraded with performance parts rather than lots of chrome and fringe, but I wanted to ride with precision, not to look cool. It was silver, but they called it diamond ice. I’m not particularly fond of the color silver by any name, but I haven’t ever bought a vehicle based on it’s color. It took me a week to dump the bike at a standstill. I picked it up, got back on, and once I had got that over with (my worst fear), I learned to ride with the help of  Jerry Paladino’s ‘Ride Like a Pro’ CD (, and a lot of encouragement, support, constructive criticism and ergonomic bike optimization from my sweetie (who is the ultimate primo wrench and riding veteran of more than 20 years).

Now I’ve gone off topic here a bit, but I wanted to illustrate one way that the Eight Irresistible Principles of Fun worked in my life. My tweet’s link was not the first time I had seen these principles, but I’m so glad he reminded me. I’ve tried to put them into practice since then, but if you don’t go back to the source, the memory fades or becomes corrupted. Time to reboot and refresh. Have fun always!