Getting more “comfortable” | GTAMotorcycle.com

Getting more “comfortable”

MaksTO

Well-known member
Hey all!

Been spending the last month or so commuting to work and doing the odd ride through the city, and I finally feel more or less comfortable with the mechanical aspect of driving a bike (shifting etc is no longer something I have to think about in all the stop and go traffic downtown).

I know most accidents happen in the first 6 months of riding according to some stuff I’ve read online which makes sense in my mind.

I’m just curious what steps I should be taking in my every day riding to avoid doing something dumb. I know it’s a pretty open ended question, but let me explain.

Most riders seem to say that the moment you get comfortable, is the moment you will dump the bike. At the same time, I expect a certain level of apprehension to dissipate once one learns the mechanical functions of their bike into muscle memory.

I keep trying to think about proper (smooth) throttle control and maintaining a good understanding of my surrounding traffic etc while driving downtown (though honestly the 125 is very forgiving to just being pinned off the line, which is fun but is obviously a habit I should not get into for the sake of more powerful future bikes). The only time things felt a little intense was on lakeshore (was taking a trip to the yacht clubs, I believe not far from where there was a large motorcycle accident recently). The streetcar tracks and dividers made for very close quarters and relatively high speed downtown movement, which really put my awareness skills to the test. It went without a hitch, didn’t make my turn and had to do some extra loops around the street.

Right now as I drive my primary focus is on
A) cars turning left, I will often accelerate through an intersection a little more to get out of there fast, even if the driver made eye contact with me
B) blind corners with parked cars on the shoulder. I always aim to be cautious as there is little maneuvering room.
C) cars behind me. People downtown creep up pretty close and I’m getting used to it, but I do my best to have an escape route.
D) lane changing cars. On DuPont (2 lanes) people always flick between the two lanes to get around right or left turning stopped cars. I’ve been getting better at reacting to this more quickly - moving with the flow and checking behind me quickly before making a move across a lane.

I find on these two lane roads with parked cars in a lane that I change my blocking position from outside to inside semi frequently, because I get a better field of view ahead from the left or right side at different times. Not sure if this is a really bad practice and I should just stay in one place. I also tend to move around larger potholes, which there are plenty of on my route to work.


Just some background. Hoping someone could chime in a bit on possible steps to take or if any of these behaviours need to be altered for long term skill development.
 

Evoex

The God
Site Supporter
Riding safe and confidently is all about communicating with other vehicles on the road.

  1. Be visible (lights, blocking position, gear colour)
  2. Stay out of blind spots
  3. Make your intentions as obvious as possible
  4. Everything is bigger then you, it's best to just rage a bit about a situation on the inside for a minute. Get over it and get on with your day.
A 125 likely has fairly narrow tires, be careful around the tracks. They are especially lethal in the wet.
 

r3r3r3

Well-known member
It sounds like you have a pretty good grasp on the common risks and not letting your ego get ahead of your skill level. You'll have a pretty hard time with the 125 getting away from you (too much throttle, dumping the clutch, etc.) but as you mentioned its good to be mindful of bad habits when yo up on a bigger bike. I commute downtown everyday from North York - I'd say the biggest risks you need to watch for riding on the city streets are:

1) lane changers. On city streets that don't have dedicated left/right turn lanes this is a huge risk. People will get stuck behind someone trying to turn and then quickly jump into the next lane - often not checking their blindspots. Anytime you see someone without a turn signal on stuck behind a car assume they are about to merge into you. This happens way more to me than anything else. Do not hang out in people's blindspots - fall back or accelerate so you are beside them.

2) Left hand turners sneaking through a jammed up lane. E.g. 2+2 lane road. the inner lane has a row of stopped traffic. You're in the outer lane which is moving. A driver on the stopped lane will allow a driver going the other direction to try to make their left turn. The turning driver will start entering your lane and will not be able to see if its safe to do so until they have half their car into your lane. Very common during rush hour.

3) overall road conditions in the city suck. IMO lane blocking sometimes has to be ignored to drive on a portion of the road thats not torn up/pothole-ridden. Take this into mind when you are thinking about having to make an emergency stop. hard braking + terrible roads + lack of ABS can easily add up to a locked front wheel. Streetcar tracks are going to be another concern especially with the small profile tires on a CBR125 -very slippery when its wet out. roads around construction sites are usually full of dust/gravel/etc.


When making a right hand turn downtown watch for cyclists. They are legally obligated to pass on the left - maybe 5% of them actually do this. Assume they are going to try to go around you on the righthand side. I always hug the curb as much as possible to force them to pass on the left. If you end up doing the same be mindful of cars in the same lane buzzing around you.

Any vehicle with an uber sticker in the windshield is actively trying to kill you.

Start thinking in 360 degrees - know whats behind you, keep an eye on your mirror if you're braking, be aware of the lights and don't rush through yellows, if you're changing lanes check that you aren't about to ride into a pile of gravel, etc. learn the game of "car chess" - see things before they actually happen.

If I had to pick one skill to practice it would be emergency braking. Most streets in the core are tight and packed - sometimes you won't have an emergency exit and the brakes are your only option. Every two weeks or so I find a parking lot and spend 10-15 minutes doing hard braking. Hopefully you haven't had any "oh ****" moments yet but unfortunately it is inevitable. The one thing I found surprising is how fast everything happens - your subconscious makes the decisions before you have a chance to think about it. You can read all the books and forums out there but if you aren't building muscle memory through practice its not going to matter when something does come up.


and don't forget to have fun once and a while ;)
 

JavaFan

gringo diablo
Site Supporter
you're in a good place if operating the bike's controls are no longer in your mental fore-front
you seem to have a good mindset for staying safe

a lot of newer riders get complacent too early though
it actually takes a few years until you are beyond the risk phase of a new rider
so be patient, and vigilant, and don't get complacent, ever

and stay defensive, always
right of way means nothing if you're on 2 wheels
swallow pride and all that BS and be prepared to give up right of away
 

MaksTO

Well-known member
Thank you for all the responses!

Road conditions was one that hit me last week actually. I was in a huge rush to get home and make a bus to London (got held up at work, that day of all possible days), and I was turning onto Bloor (slowly, but in a rush mentally). They are tearing up the road and I accidentally almost turned into the closed off lane because it was marked poorly, hit brakes and locked the front up a bit in gravel. Was only going 5 or so kmh so it was all ok, but I realized that the mental headspace was lacking that ride and I should've taken the bus to work that day. Didn't feel in danger because the intersection was clear and traffic crawls through there right now anyways, but it was a good reminder for me.

I try to be very vigilant about road conditions otherwise, especially given my tire size.

I always leave for work super early to leave myself enough time to take my time there, and possibly stop for coffee somewhere before too. Leaving to work early actually feels so nice when I know I have a fun way of getting there.

Cyclists are a good point as well. Will hug the right a bit more to make sure they don't pass on the inside if possible.

Complacency is really the theme of this post - it is what I want to avoid. Good to know that this phase lasts a few years though. Just always gotta stay on. Seems to be a constant balance between having fun and being ultra safe.

Really need to find a parking lot close by to practice my emergency braking. Will be easier when I can pick up my M2 soon and I can go at night when it's less busy.


Another thing that is stressful about downtown, is waving to a MC rider every 5 seconds haha! When in stop and go and riding the clutch, sometimes I feel bad for not waving to someone, this happened a few times already. I just try to nod visibly or something as consolation.

Also very annoying how much cars ride their brakes. They all seem to follow so closely to one another that if the car in front lets go of the gas (without brake lights going on), the car behind it / in front of me will constantly pump brakes making me wonder if they are slowing down or stopping to turn somewhere.
 

Trials

Well-known member
...
Also very annoying how much cars ride their brakes. They all seem to follow so closely to one another ...
Welcome to Toronto, everybody tailgates way too much, been that way for as long as I can remember.

I assume you have no dirt bike experience, the thing that will usually catch you out first is either coming into a corner too hot,
or going just a little too wide coming out of a corner. Don't do that.
You slid your front wheel on gravel, that's pretty good(y) that would freak out a lot of people.

lol if waving is stressful just nod your head, if the other guy doesn't wave I just assume they were too busy.
 

MaksTO

Well-known member
Welcome to Toronto, everybody tailgates way too much, been that way for as long as I can remember.

I assume you have no dirt bike experience, the thing that will usually catch you out first is either coming into a corner too hot,
or going just a little too wide coming out of a corner. Don't do that.
You slid your front wheel on gravel, that's pretty good(y) that would freak out a lot of people.

lol if waving is stressful just nod your head, if the other guy doesn't wave I just assume they were too busy.
Owned a dirt bike for a summer when I was about 16. Fond memories of dumping it into sand pits with the front brake clamped shut haha.

Cornering too hot isn't an issue for me yet, Was more so that I was expecting to turn into the right lane on bloor, got halfway into it, realized it was closed but no pylons were stopping my entering and there were no signs, so I just slammed the brakes to not drive into a construction zone (an empty one albeit). And so I wouldn't have to back up to get onto the actually usable portion of the street.

If I was going 2-3kmh faster I would've probably dropped the bike, but now I just remember that streets with construction are hazards x100 and to not be too eager on them.

I never noticed the tailgating downtown in my bicycle because I always went 15-20kmh faster than traffic, but now that I don't have my own free lane I am much more aware of it. Just something to get used to. And if I keep a safe following distance I am just gonna have to get used to having people constantly trying to fill that gap lol.
 

Trials

Well-known member
Try and find a riding partner, preferably somebody with more experience.
&/or take up dirt biking again, it really does help.
 
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MaksTO

Well-known member
Sounds like you might need to look further up ahead too ;) is another common problem.
Yeah. Easy to remember to do so when going straight. Not so much when turning right for some reason. I usually look for parked cars. Not so much closed roads 😂. Though downtown this time of year that’s probably as common as seeing parked cars.
 

JavaFan

gringo diablo
Site Supporter
by now you've probably seen mention here of spidey sense
it is a real thing
over time you get better at spotting, and predicting
which of the cagers are about to do stupid sh*t

it's not conscious thing
but your spidey sense will pick up clues
and you can get prepared to act beforehand

like when they are LOOKING RIGHT AT YOU
then pull out anyway
over time you will be able to spot these brain addled MFers
 

Blackfin

Well-known member
Site Supporter
Sounds like you're doing fine.

I think you'll find as you progress that you move from looking for discrete things to a situational awareness "continuum" where there's a "process" running the subconscious background that's looking way ahead, scanning and assessing potential threats while also monitoring what's going on nearby. JavaFan used the term "spidey sense" which is a good term; I think this sense is that process up and running.

In the fullness of time you'll transition from trying to itemize the things you're looking out for to automatically looking for everything.

It will come along as does your mechanical riding skills. Soon clutching and throttle, shifting up and down etc will become second nature; this is the stuff to which you won't need to devote a lot of conscious thought (e.g. "okay, RPM climbing ... clutch in ... upward pressure on shifter ... clicked into gear ... slowly release clutch and roll on some throttle..."; this stuff might be the sort of thing you're thinking about when you first start riding or during an M1X class but soon after, with experience, just find it happening without a lot of thought.

Take your time. Comfort will come with experience.
 

sburns

Well-known member
Any vehicle with an uber sticker in the windshield is actively trying to kill you.
hahah..This is very true. I've seen a few dumb dumbs with these stickers, some have both uber & lyft.. yes watch out for them!
 

Baggsy

Well-known member
Site Supporter
In the second and third years the likelihood of an accident goes way up again, and then gradually declines. Don't get complacent or cocky. If your mind has second thoughts about riding that day, then take a day off riding. Get some miles in and then go see cutekill for a course. A lot of what people say about traffic/riding in Toronto is b.s. It's evolved over the years, becoming more diversified and busy, but you can't concentrate on on type of vehicle, driver or situation.
 

Mad Mike

Well-known member
I've managed to keep my bikes vertical for over 4 decades, most of the credit goes to practice and extremely defensive habits. I ride daily through one of the most dangerous vehicular jungles in Canada, if I don't keep 100% awareness 360 degrees I'd be a deadman.

I like the Daily Commute thread, I think I'm gonna start recording and sharing my short daily commute.
 

MaksTO

Well-known member
I've managed to keep my bikes vertical for over 4 decades, most of the credit goes to practice and extremely defensive habits. I ride daily through one of the most dangerous vehicular jungles in Canada, if I don't keep 100% awareness 360 degrees I'd be a deadman.

I like the Daily Commute thread, I think I'm gonna start recording and sharing my short daily commute.
It nice to hear stories of people like you who've managed to stay RSD for so long. Clearly pays to learn properly and maintain that discipline.

I've been following that thread closely. Nice to see that footage and "what if" scenarios real time. I've been debating on getting a camera and recording, just hard to figure out which device is right. Read that GoPro/Drift thread, so many options out there.
 

justride

Well-known member
Maybe this translates. I'm a machine operator (forklife,,etc). The machines are like an extension of my body. Probably nothing new to learn in terms of the "technical" operation. But being lazy, taking needless risk, lack of focus, and fatigue are the real danger now.
 

Mad Mike

Well-known member
It nice to hear stories of people like you who've managed to stay RSD for so long. Clearly pays to learn properly and maintain that discipline.

I've been following that thread closely. Nice to see that footage and "what if" scenarios real time. I've been debating on getting a camera and recording, just hard to figure out which device is right. Read that GoPro/Drift thread, so many options out there.
I'm going to adjust my phone mount to capture video. There are even apps to do this -- cheap and easy.
 

Trials

Well-known member
If you are going to put a camera on your bike, try and forget about it while you are riding. Concentrate on riding the motorcycle, not on making a good video, trying to make a good video can get you into trouble.
 

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