I bought my Honda CB600F Hornet a year ago and I’ve been commuting on average 100 miles per week since then. I wanted to take this opportunity to share my thoughts on what I have learned.
Know the bike
I had a smile on my face all the way home from the dealership. Even though it was raining and I had a Monster disclock and Abus chain lock in my backpack, I remember being very pleased, even managing to swing by my partner’s house to show it off. The 2004 Honda CB600F Hornet was now in my posession!
I very quickly learned bmy first lesson. Having parked the bike outside the house overnight, and attempting to start it in the morning, it quickly became apparent that it had a choke. Unfortunately something I neglected to think about before buying it. The bike has a carboretta instead of fuel injection, so needs a little manual control in the mornings before heading off. That was the first lesson – learn how the bike works.
Once I was using it more frequently, and travelling into work every day with the summer approaching, it got more and more comfortable. It handles superbly well, although with nothing to compare it to, I would say that! I find it very easy to control. Accellerating and decellerating is easy, the throttle and brakes are responsive. In traffic I soon got used to handling the bike, weaving in and out of traffic and obstacles in the way. I’m still learning the control, but it’s amazing how responsive the bike it.
The first thing I have learned is how much petrol it uses and when I need to get some more. I keep the fuel switch on reserve and watch for the fuel light. I know I have about 10 miles after that before I run out. I’ve started to get an idea of how much oil it uses too and what it sounds like so if something does come loose I should recognise it. The thing which seems to need changing most frequently is the chain slack, and it becomes obvious when it needs tightening when the chain starts to grind. And, I’ve managed to do a realistic cost calculation of my London commute, and although it isn’t cheaper, I know how much it costs me to use it.
Know when to catch it and when to get out of the way! - Doble Motorcycles
The best piece of advice I’ve had so far was from the dealership, before I had even bought the bike. The guy said, if you lose control of the bike and it’s going to fall over then make sure you get out of the way. It’s sure come in handy a couple of times! Luckily the crash bungs have saved any major damage. Although the bike is heavy, it’s fairly easy to get back on and head off again.
The second thing I have learned is about myself. The first thing I did was to adjust my riding position. I lean slightly into the front of the bike, gripping the tank with my legs, and keep my shoulders and arms pretty loose. It’s not quite perfect but I’m getting better. I find that the looser my arms, the lighter the bike feels and the more control I have. If I sit back I can get caught a little unaware and find myself hanging on rather than being in control! I have also noticed the control I can gain when putting weight onto either of the pedals.
I’ve also made sure that I am aware and awake. Riding a bike naturally seems to make me more aware and I certainly wake up quicker than if I was getting the train. But I am constantly aware of my energy levels, any comfort, how cold or warm I am and I am also a little bit more aware of the weather.
The other important thing to mention is the gear. The AGV GP-Tech motorcycle helmet has been great. Very comfortable and an excellent choice. The other Hein Gericke kit which I bought has fit and lasted well so far. My Sidi boots are brilliant. My North Face backpack has started to wear out with a small hole in the bottom just waiting to get bigger (but then it is 10 years old or something!!). When I start losing shopping I may upgrade to a Kriega.
The winter has been pretty hard. The coldest part of my body is definitely my fingers. The exposure to the wind and close contact with metal brake and clutch levers means that they get really cold, very quickly! I may look at getting some mits or thicker gloves next Winter!
Know the road
The road is one of the most important things to learn about. When I first had the bike I was pretty much always riding in the light and in dry weather. That was great! I usually took one of three routes to work and so I have started to build up a memory of where manhole covers and pot holes are, especially on corners. This helped prepare me for the cold, wet and dark winter. A little less to worry about!
But it’s not necessarily about one route or road in particular, but the ability to read it better, understand it better and also predict what you might have to deal with at any certain moment. Finding by chance and reading Motorcycle Roadcraft: The Police Rider’s Handbook to Better Motorcycling definitely has helped me learn more about the road and the rules, but also more about how the bike performs under these conditions.
The main thing which I have learned is to have fun. Step the speed down a notch (a lot if it’s raining), take my time into and out of corners and it becomes so enjoyable. Working hard to get the technique as good as I can really makes the effort worth while. I am learning more about the hazards including pedestrians, other road users and the natural flow of traffic. Bus lanes are especially tricky to watch out for!
So after a year of motorcycling, I am completely hooked. Hopefully the next year will be full of more excitement, traffic free commuting and some motorcycling events!