What is the best way to learn how to ride a motorcycle?

We see this question a lot, and although only experience will make you a better rider, there is something that will help you tremendously. Most of us are offered the opportunity to learn things from friends or family members that are also riders, but you cannot honestly know if the information you are receiving is correct. it is also difficult to gauge how much of the information your “teacher” in this case remembers. What if they forget to tell you something that could save your life?

Learning how to ride a motorcycle properly is so much more than just learning the controls. There are finer points to all of it that are best taught by a specialist. Our industry is very unique in that we have an organization dedicated nothing but rider safety. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation is entirely dedicated to teaching the proper way to ride, and react to situations on the road. There are basic and advanced courses that you can take to learn to ride, hone your skills and keep yourself safe. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation also has a twitter where you can follow their news and read about other riders experiences @MSF__USA

You may think there is no reason to do such a thing, but I personally took the basic motorcycle safety course, reluctantly, to avoid taking a road test for my license. In most states, completing the basic course  awards you a waiver so you do not have to take the standard DMV road test. This is a way to get out of taking your road test, take the road test in a low pressure environment, and do it on someone else’s bike; the bikes provided by the MSF specifically for the beginners coarse.

Beginner is a loaded word. it is NOT just for beginners. The basic course is for everyone. Being an experienced rider who decided to take the course I can attest to this myself. This course will show you ways to save your life, it has saved mine on more than one occasion. In fact I can think of four times it saved my life the first year. One of my instructors takes the advanced course every year himself just to “Work the winter bugs out.” as he explains.

The basic (beginner) course is designed to teach muscle memory, and if you have never been on a bike in your life you can go to this and learn everything necessary to start riding.

Any experienced rider that has taken the course, will tell you it is the BEST thing you can do for yourself as a rider. If you are an experienced rider, you will more than likely learn a few new tricks to stay alive during the training, I did. There is no way to properly stress how much this course helps you develop muscle memory, habits, and instinct that WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE, not to mention, how to properly ride.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation website is an invaluable resource for tips, events, and motorcycle laws.

The following video is provided by the MSF and gives you highlights from the course.

I stumbled upon the youtube video where one rider walks you through some of what he learned while taking the basic course. while it is not complete, it will give you a basic understanding of what happens during the training.

Stay safe and keep riding every day you can. If you have any questions about my personal experiences taking the course, feel free to send me an e-mail. ~James

Posted in Recommended products

Building Custom Harley Davidson’s, Part One

It isn’t all too often that you get to follow what it takes to build a custom bike. There is literally piles of blood, sweat and tears wrapped up into every machine from the second it goes on the lift, until it gets reassembled, tested, run and tuned. We decided that, even though there is an intense deadline for Daytona, we should do our best to show you what goes into these builds. There is a lot of things you wouldn’t think about when putting one of these together, and we are going to show you.

In an earlier post introducing a light version of the plan for these two bikes specifically, we outlined a few of the products we will be using, and why we will be using them. There will be a lot more tech with each of those vendors from an engineering standpoint (for the number crunchers out there) and practical tech from the install side of it all.

Most often as a customer you will ask your builder or mechanic “Why?”. (If you don’t, you should. We ask ourselves why something is better than its competition multiple times daily and inform ourselves to better serve our customers, and grow our business.) For Example, We will be answering some age old questions about building. If you are increasing your displacement, is it more cost effective to bore your existing cylinders, add new pistons, etc. or use a pre-matched kit like the ones we are using from Revolution Performance? In some cases you have to consider that you will be thinning the cylinders by machining your own cylinders, using metal that has been beaten for however many miles you have had 0n your ride, adding cost to the job by adding in extra labor and machine time. If a motor is going to last the cylinders must be matched to the pistons. Are you going to have these cylinders coated after they are machined? The Revolution kits come pre-matched, machined and coated for a better seal and longer life. (See photo below, image © Revolution Performance.) When we get to the motor there will be an additional post full of technical tidbits from Revolution, and practical install tech from Kevin himself. In using Revolution’s cylinder head work, you will see more cylinder head tech as well.

If you would like to follow this without having to stop back, subscribe in the sidebar of the blog page by e-mail, we do not use your e-mail for anything, in fact, we don’t even look at the list of subscribers. your privacy is important to us.

Part One: Plan, Disassemble, Catalog

I cannot stress enough how important the planning is when building a custom motorcycle. you need to ask yourself what you want to achieve, and you have to think about it critically. How do we want the throttle to respond all the way through the powerband? How do we want the bike to handle? What parts best fit the desired outcome? If we are on a budget, where will our money be best spent? What do we want it to look like? What style of bike are we building? What is the color theme? How do we plan for and organize that color theme? How do the various Manufacturers want us to handle break in? There is so much more…

Disassemble and Catalog the parts together. This is a simultaneous step. as parts come off of the bike, they must be organized by where they are on the bike, and by what color they are to be powder coated, if they are to be powder coated, and itemized for storage if they are not. The parts that are not used in the rebuild go into a box to be sold later, after the build is complete. You want to wait until the bike is done so you don’t end up going “Oh shit! I sold that part that I needed.” as you are putting the bike back together and tuning everything, or at least trying to.

Kevin rides hard as hell… if you think you ride hard, multiply it by two, add three and you have an idea of how Kevin rides. Since he is not only the mastermind behind the design, but also the one who will ride this beast daily, it was pretty easy for the plan to come together. There were a few Key elements that absolutely had to be in this build, and other things that could be flexible. The existing Ape hangers had to come down a touch to make them street legal, the 19′ apes were set aside in favor of a classically styled 16″. The rear tire had to be a 200mm, and the front had to be a wide 21″. The chassis had to be stretched a little bit so the stock FXR swing arm is going to be removed in favor of an FL unit (shown below) and the front end raked 4 degrees.

Photographic documentation of Kevin’s build started a little late. Sometimes he gets focused and doesnt think about taking pictures. This is never a bad thing for our customers, I would rather my tech forget to take pictures because he is so focused on my bike. Here the bars, top end of the motor, rear wheel and tank have been removed, parts cataloged and set aside to go to Sumax.

James rides pretty hard himself, but he tends to spend a touch more time in urban settings where 3rd gear is king of the road. His plan was just a little different. James had a desire to maintain the factory wheelbase and outer rolling diameter; the FXR chassis as it comes from Harley is the best handling bike they have ever produced. When you are dealing with super tight passes in between cars and quick twisty side roads, why mess with perfection…

This girls was a little bit of a basket case when we picked her up. One forward and one mid control, no muffler, rear frame rail chopped, carb way out of tune but none of that matters when you are going all the way to the frame and coming back up into a totally new machine. shown above with the rear fender, sissy bar and pillon removed.

Shown here with the tank and fenders removed. This is the point at which you inspect everything that may or may not be in need of replacement, and review your color choices. It is very important to keep parts and bolts together in marked bags. Note the chopped (albeit hacked) rear struts and rusty frame. This bike (affectionately named “Velvet”) is very happy to being torn down and given a new life.

Stay tuned for more, coming soon. Subscribe by e-mail so you don’t have to keep checking back in. Have a good day and stay safe.

Posted in Kevin's thoughts

New Shop Demo Bikes for 2013

For those that know us, you know we try to sell things we believe in, and in doing so we have to believe in what we use. This year we are building two shop demo bikes. Due to an unfortunate fender bender, Kevin’s bike is one of them. Over the next few weeks we will highlight the progress of tearing these machines apart, massaging metal, and rebuilding them into some serious custom machines.

We like to ride, a lot, so naturally the shop builds bikes to ride, not simply look pretty on a stage or at a show. The idea is to build two bikes that are blisteringly fast with a low hitting linear torque curve; light in weight and highly responsive to ride hard, and ride daily. They still had to look good however.

With so many great companies in the industry today, it is impossible to fit all of our favorite things on one bike. We picked our favorites for each bike and laid out a plan. Both FXR’s will be running 85″ kits and stage 2 head work from Revolution Performance with 10.5:1 Wiseco domed pistons. The revolution kits are well made from the finest materials, increasing displacement and compression at the same time in one kit that is a direct bolt on. Quick, easy, smooth power.

Increased compression requires a little extra torque to start. cranking power will be handled by All Balls 1.4kw starters. We have been selling All Balls starters for years and they are by far the most reliable, and built solid as a rock.

Kevin is running a Bob Woods W6 cam for raw power at high speeds, James is taking the urban route and running an Andrews EV31 for an ultra linear torque curve from low end to 5000 RPM. The W6 has more of a high end and suits the way Kevin rides; super fast.

Higher lift cam shafts require an increase in airflow to full perform as they are designed to. We decided that stepping up to 42mm carbs was the best idea, and Mikuni has the quality we need to make sure they stay tuned solid, and last as long as the bike itself.

Keeping cylinder pressure inside is none other than the legendary Cometic Gaskets. With decades of race experience and a solid design, Cometic was the logical choice for the new builds.

To make sure we took full advantage of the increased air flow from the 42mm Mikuni carb, oversize valves and high lift cams both bikes received Daytona Twin Tec single fire ignition systems.

Higher speed riding and quick shifts require a little transmission reinforcement, both bikes received shiny new Delkron cases. the factory cases could handle the stress, but it is always better to error on the side of bulletproof when you can.

Holding onto the curves is another crucial component to riding hard. Kevin will be keeping his tried and true Progressive 440′s on the rear, and using a Race-Tech front suspension including the gold cartridge emulators. James will be using the same front end suspension adding Race-Tech G3-S rears. The G3-S suspensions are custom built for each rider and bike ensuring it is perfect for each individual.

Putting rubber to asphalt on James’s bike has been trusted to Ride Wright Fat 50′s colored to match the frame and Kevin Is running a set of DNA “13″. Rubber as always is none other than the Metzeler ME880′s.

Performance is a wonderful thing, but the bikes have to look the part as well. Motorcycle Medic has a history of turning out some amazing color melody’s. These bikes are no different, and we are trusting the worlds greatest powder coating company to the task; Sumax.

Look forward to more details as the projects develop, and see them first hand for the first time at Daytona in March.

Kevin’s Bike was much farther along than James’s bike before we started. Believe me, it will have taken on a transformation beyond your wildest dreams by the time it is complete.

James decided to start fresh with a basket case FXR found in central Massachusetts. She wasn’t all that bad, it was at the very least ride-able, compression tested well and had phenomenal pinion shaft run out.

Posted in Kevin's thoughts

What’s happening at Motorcycle Medic right now…

Charlie Decker, owner and artist of One Arm Bandit pin striping is working on a bike before it is shipped overseas to Holland where it’s new owner patiently awaits. You can see Charlie’s work on his website, which is more than worth a visit. Http://www.banditpinstriping.com

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Posted in Kevin's thoughts

Spring is coming, don’t get stuck waiting in line for your bike!

This time of year the weather starts to warm up in patches and we all start to get the itch. We know that riding is just around the corner and simply cannot wait to get on our bikes. Every year in the spring we have a tremendous amout of people come in at the same time to have spring work done. Sometimes this influx causes delays and takes away from riding time.

We want to remind everyone about the springtime, and the sooner your bike is in, the better your chances of avoiding the rush. We would be more than happy to get all the scoots that come through the door ready now, so you can hit the ground running as soon as the salt is off the road, and not have to wait one second for your springtime service, tune up, tires, or custom work. Need help getting it here? Give us a call and we will do our best to help.

~Medic

413-442-1616

Posted in Kevin's thoughts

Fall is Just around the corner, time to stay warm while you ride!

With the colder weather coming, most of us are digging out our boots and full fingered gloves, but often we neglect our legs. The staff at Icon work and live in Portland Oregon, so they are no strangers to cold weather. Necessity being the mother of all invention; they created these jeans for those of us that also ride in colder climates. Available in traditional Denim as shown, or in “stealth” Black Canvas these jeans have a removable insulated lining, reinforced knee and hip panels, and come in a loose fit design. If you want to ride in the cold, but don’t want to wear your ski pants, this is the only solution necessary.

Available in sizes from 28-44, denim or black canvas $125.00

Posted in Recommended products

Kevin Bean’re book signing this Tuesday August 21st

World renowned professional traveler Kevin Bean’re will be signing copies of his book at Motorcycle Medic Tuesday August 21st. It has been more than a year since Bean’re has graced the shop with his vibrant energy and we cannot be more happy to have him visiting. Stop by and say hello, Kevin will be selling copies of his book, “Bean’re, Motorcycle Nomad” during the visit, or you can pick one up ahead of time.

Kevin’s book is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and from Kevin himself here at Motorcycle Medic

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Follow Kevin on Facebook, http://www.facebook.com/beanre or subscribe to his blog, http://everythingbeanre.blogspot.com/

Posted in Events

13 hours left until the garage sale…

It should be a beautiful day tomorrow, can’t wait to see everyone. Ride safe until then. Have a great night.

Posted in Kevin's thoughts

Roll Out to Springfield bike night!

It’s that time of year again, time for is to round up our customers and do a rally to Springfield for bike night. It’s time to get together and romp on the throttle together.

Meeting at Motorcycle Medic between 5 and 6 pm, Thursday July 26 and leaving for Springfield at 6pm sharp! Come one, come all, you don’t even have to ride a Harley. If your on two wheels, your welcome to ride with us.

Motorcycle Medic
555 Fenn st.
Pittsfield, Ma 01201

Meet between 5 and 6, leaving at 6 sharp.

Posted in Events

Why Redline in your Transmission?

Bikes are very picky animals, and they tell us when they are not happy. As much as the right oil is very important so is the right tranny fluid. Harleys by nature have a heavy clunk or thud when shifting into gears, especially from neutral to first gear. A recent customer not only had a much harder than normal shift noise, but also had an occasional grind between gears and his bike was very difficult to shift to neutral. our distraught customer thought he was in for a new transmission, or a new clutch. After a quick inspection everything seemed to be ok, so we decided to drain the tranny and replace the “recommended” oil with Redline… Within minutes on the test ride the grinding/clacking between gears was gone, and the bike shifted into neutral much easier. Our customer did about 40 miles worth of riding that night and called the next morning to report that his “Thuds” had turned into quiet clicks and the tranny is accurate, gliding into gear without issue. Redline not only makes transmission operation easier, but it truly extends the life of your drivetrain as well.

Posted in Recommended products