Both the California DMV and California Highway Patrol have removed any language pertaining to motorcycle lane splitting from their websites and printed materials, in what appears to be an effort to distance themselves from any perception of endorsing the practice. California is the only state that allows (or rather, doesn’t disallow) lane splitting or lane sharing by motorcycles. For the record, I still split lanes on occasion but do so rather conservatively. You can read the article I wrote about it a few years ago here:
In an effort to battle Kawasaki’s excellent Ninja 300, a battle that’s producing great things for beginner sportbike riders, Honda has increased the engine size from 250cc to 300cc in its starter CBR model. It retains its single cylinder configuration, producing a slightly different power delivery than the parallel twin of the Ninja. This is great news for new riders, as one of the knocks on the CBR250R was that it lacked a little power on the highway. The new motor has topped 100 MPH in early tests, making it easily imaginable for commuting duty while still retaining very beginner-friendly power. Add it to your checklist if you’re looking for a new starter sportbike.
I’ll be posting a full written guide to riding a motorcycle on Angeles Crest Highway soon, but in the meantime I was able to put this video together to help the uninitiated get an idea of what The Crest is all about and how to ride it safely on a motorcycle.
My trusty R6 at Streets of Willow Springs last weekend.
Oh man, track days are so awesome. Sportbikes are made for the track, so there’s no better place to experience one than in its native environment. There’s also an incredible side benefit to improving your skills; professional photographers are present at most track days. Looking at photos of yourself in action is an underrated tool for improvement. I’ve poured over countless photos of myself at various track days through the years, comparing my body positioning to those of professional racers and highly skilled riders to see what I could do better. I’m still trying to get things right, but having photos of myself at the track went a long way in improving my skills.
If you’re a newer rider looking to get into track days, you can check out the Track Day Starter Guide to see what it’s all about. (Hint: It’s not that hard to get started.)
That said, I am not a fan of street photographers that hang out at busy mountain roads to take photos of motorcycle riders or people in their cars. I respect their entrepreneurial effort, but have seen so many people crash trying to show off for the cameras or make u-turns in ill-advised locations to get themselves onto camera repeated times. It’s my opinion that a photographer’s presence can make an already dangerous road even worse. If you want to see what I’m talking about, just search for “mulholland motorcycle crash” on youtube and grab a drink… it’s gonna take a while to get through them all.
Twisty roads are something many sportbike riders look forward to every weekend, myself included. Here in Los Angeles we have an iconic mountain road right in our backyard called Angeles Crest Highway (aka ACH or The Crest), endless canyon roads in the hills surrounding the Malibu coast and various other excellent mountain roads within an hour’s ride. Perhaps you’ve heard of Deal’s Gap and The Snake, an infamous stretch of curvy forest road in the Smoky Mountains along the North Carolina / Tennessee border. These roads attract motorcycle riders of all kinds; some looking for fresh air and scenery, others looking for the thrill of running turn after turn at speed. These roads can also be dangerous, so it’s important to enjoy them safely by following a few simple guidelines. Continue reading →
This year’s best beginner sportbike is the Ninja 300. Seriously, just look at the thing. Kawasaki has done a tremendous job of making the Ninja 300 a thing of desire; experienced riders (including me) have trouble distinguishing it from its bigger brothers. It can top 100 MPH making it more than suitable for freeway duty while retaining very beginner-friendly power. It’s light, inexpensive, available with ABS, has good ergonomics for a beginner and its high demand means it can be easily resold once you’re ready to move on to something else. Winner. Now that I got the easy part out of the way, on to the rest.
For beginner motorcycle riders, suspension isn’t usually given too much thought. Considering how much it affects a motorcycle’s performance and riding characteristics though, it should be given a lot of thought. The bikes on my recommended beginner’s list typically have low-tech suspensions with only one adjustable feature, but even understanding just how that one feature affects your riding will make a noticeable difference in how the bike feels. When you’re ready to move onto a true sportbike, their suspension components become more complicated, more expensive and more important to set up correctly.
Ah, the good old engine debate. Ask any motorcycle rider what kind of engine they think is best and you will get some surprisingly heated opinions. Our cruiser riding brethren will of course talk up the virtues of v-twins and their torque, while sportbike riders might be somewhat divided between inline fours and v-twins. Single cylinder engines (“thumpers”) are usually reserved for dirt and off-road bikes, but one of the better beginner sportbikes happens to use one – the sharp looking Honda CBR250R. Engine type should not be taken lightly when choosing a first motorcycle and I’ll try to make some sense of the differences here.
Anytime I see someone riding a motorcycle without gloves, I’m about 98% certain they’re a noob. They probably haven’t ridden long enough to experience what happens when road debris hits the hands, or worse, what kind of damage can be done to the hands in a crash. Think about how important your hands are to your everyday life… then get yourself a good pair of gloves to protect them. Sportbike riders should look for full gauntlet-style gloves that have padded palms, extra padding on the outside of the pinky finger and hardened knuckle armor.