Greetings and tips for first big bike


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Leto_II
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:56 am
Location: Salina, KS
Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »



Hello goldwingdocs!

After 20 years of riding and wrenching on sport bikes, cafes, and naked/standards, I’ve been struggling with the itch to finally start doing long motorcycle trips. I’ve definitely pushed the limits of endurance on a variety of super sports and old cafes, but I was wanting a dedicated tourer; after a few months of watching classifieds for the perfect deal, I lucked into a recently mechanically redone (timing belt, valves, differential, carb rebuild etc) 83 gl1100 aspencade.

I love the classic looks and the comfort and the prospect of sharing riding comfortably with my loved ones (hard to convince ppl to go more than 30 min on the pillion of r1s and z1000’s haha). But man I’m having a hard time adjusting to the weight and lack of maneuverability. It just feels so big and clunky and unwieldy until I hit the highway, then it’s a dream.

Other than just putting time in the saddle and using it to commute to get the miles in, would anyone here be generous enough with their time and experience to offer any tips to get used to/more comfortable with 700+ lbs of comfort as opposed to 400lbs of scalpel-like maneuverability and agility? I’m on the shorter side, 5’8” but am pretty athletic, I’ve been powerlifting and competitively grappling since I was 12 so physically I should be able to handle it, it just feels like a damn boat trying to get around in town.

Thanks in advance folks.
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OldguyGlen
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Location: Mound,MN
Motorcycle: 1980 GL1100 STD/Vetters
1966 Honda 90

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by OldguyGlen »

I'm 78, been away from riding for a long time.
But now I'm into my second season on a '80 Gl1100. I know what you're saying about a big bike.
But I'm way more comfortable on it now. I no longer panic in traffic. Slow speed operation is the challenge, but confidence comes with practice. Go to an empty parking lot and practice. Look up slow riding video training tips on-line. Head on a swivel, look where you want to go. Don't "grab" the front brakes as you come to a stop... especially if the wheel is turned. Keep the front wheel straight and use rear brake and soft front brake when stopping. Slow turns require some rear brake drag, while using the sweet spot on clutch slip to control speed. I haven't ridden 2-up yet but plan on taking that step soon. But confidence comes quickly with practice. Good luck... you'll love the bike.

Leto_II
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:56 am
Location: Salina, KS
Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Thank you, I appreciate your time and advice.

It has really surprised me how uncomfortable I am on this thing. For fifteen of the past 20 years I had bikes only for transportation and commuted 30ish miles each way through Phoenix traffic. Even when I got my first 180+hp liter sportbike I always had a healthy fear of its capablilities , but man just getting this thing off the side stand is like “oof this is a lot of bike” :o I’m hoping with parking lot/side road practice I’ll get as comfortable as it is safe to ever be on a bike pretty quick.

But I do already just love it. The classic lines and looks, the comfort, the ability to ride all day without an orthopedist appointment, everything is just fantastic other than me being uncomfortable on it.

Anyway, great to hear your back on two wheels, and I appreciate your time.

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landisr
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by landisr »

I suggest that you learn and PRACTICE counter steering (if you haven't already). Don't try to wrestle the bike. It outweighs you by a bunch. Once c-s becomes second nature, the bike will feel more responsive. It will also make for a more relaxed ride.

And as stated before, focus on where you want to go (at the same time checking for road hazards (sand, oil, etc) instead of glancing down and psyching yourself on the size of the bike (fairing, guages, windshield, etc).

Also make sure the bike is properly maintained. Poor, old, worn, cupped, underinflated or unbalanced tires on a big bike can be a big problem. Are the wheel, steering head and swing arm bearings in good shape and properly adjusted? Forks and shocks healthy and adjusted?

I'm 73 but enjoy the heck out of my 1500 in the curves and have surprised a number of riding buddies. You will be amazed at the lean angles these Wings are capable of when properly set up. Even when stock. 👍

Enjoy!

Ron in AZ
I'm not so sure about an inner child, but I have an inner idiot that surfaces every now and then.. :mrgreen:

Leto_II
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Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:56 am
Location: Salina, KS
Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Hey Ron, thanks for the tips. I lived in Phx for 15 years, never had a car the whole time, just bikes - I miss it haha. I’ve got a couple decades of sportbike/naked bike experience under my belt, so countersteerjng and maintenance I’m up on.

It’s stuff like backing out of my garage, and turns from a stop at a stoplight that make me feel how unwieldy it is. If I’m going fast enough for countersteerjng to be a thing, it’s not bad at all - the low center of gravity does make it handle much better than expected for its weight over 15 mph.

I suppose it’s just a matter of putting the time in taking advantage of covid making the parking lots at local stadiums and malls empty and doing cone drills etc.

Thanks again for your time man.

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Viking
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Viking »

Practice practice practice and it will all become natural. I go out every spring early sunday mornings to a local parking lot and practice low speed maneuvers and I ride as much as possible as well. We have winter here, and skills get rusty, as well as our cars and trucks. Your Kansas winters are likely a lot more forgiving and you are probably not six months down. By the time a couple of weeks have gone by, in spring, my comfort and reaction level are back up where they were the previous fall, and I get out an enjoy my great big bike. Attention to detail takes care of the rest.
It ain't about the destination - it's all about the journey

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Leto_II
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Hello gang,

Since making the OP, I’ve spent 3 hours every day after work doing motojitsu parking lot drills and putting up and down Main Street to get as much low speed stop/go traffic experience. So I’ve only got around 10-12 hours, but it’s 10-12 hours of dedicated deliberate practice, and that’s on top of 20 years of daily riding and 5-6 track days a year and 10+ basic and advanced courses over the time.

I truly appreciate everyone who took the time to respond, but I found the answers mainly along the lines of "practice and learn to ride" and somewhat lacking in specific actionable tips - which is a bit unfair as I am asking ppl to read my mind and know exactly what I wanted.

So here are the things that I have learned that would have helped me transition quicker when hopping on a wing after 20 years of supersports and Supermotos:

1) the differentiation between low speed “use handlebars to directly steer” and higher speed countersteerjng is much more pronounced. I found that at low speed when I focused on using the handlebars to turn as opposed to slight countersteerjng and body position with supersports it was much more stable than expected.

2) the rear wheel is much narrower than a supersports, much more like a Supermoto but a Supermoto with another bike tied to each side. So expect it to lean in sharply and feel a bit unstable with low speed poor roads.

3) the acceleration (at least on my 83 gl1100, I imagine the modern 1800s are better in this regard) seems almost non existent above 3rd gear, much closer to a car like than a “fast” bike. So you can’t rely on speed and reactions to get out of trouble - more planning and looking farther down the road.

4) focus on keeping my body position appropriate. I kept trying at first to death grip with my knees and lean forward - and I found my control was much better when I sat back a bit.

5) no slipper clutch obviously means Rev matching is vital

Thanks again to everyone who answered, I do appreciate the time and experience.

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landisr
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1976 GL1000LTD
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by landisr »

The extra 'body work ie plastic' is mounted high so will feel a bit top heavy, but that's what the wider handlebars help with. Keep at it. Your efforts will be richly rewarded.
I'm not so sure about an inner child, but I have an inner idiot that surfaces every now and then.. :mrgreen:

Leto_II
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:56 am
Location: Salina, KS
Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Thank you :D. This being my first flat four engine and having the gas live below the seat , even with the fairings the low center of gravity is remarkable. Appreciate your time and knowledge.

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mterraci
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by mterraci »

My best tip for a much bigger, heavier bike would be to never park facing downhill. I know many of the Goldwing models have a reverse gear, but it's just too hard to back a big heavy bike uphill. I scan every parking lot I go into and do not park facing down at an angle.

Also, be careful moving the bike around the garage or in/out of a parking spot; don't be in a hurry. I've found that's when you'll hurt yourself if you try to fight with it or move it too fast.

All of that aside, you'll love having a bigger, more comfortable motorcycle! Nothing like a Goldwing.

Leto_II
Posts: 11
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Location: Salina, KS
Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Thanks man, yeah that’s an absolute must lol.

Fortunately i have a bike dolly, makes shuffling around the wing MUCH easier in the garage.

Bravo
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Bravo »

Hi, I've struggled sometimes with the weight of the bike ever since I got it, always riding much lighter cruisers until this one, and while all the above advice is great and I might be repeating something, this is what I've found:

It is hardest to control at slow speeds when my wife is on the back - neither of us are particularly heavy, just that it makes it so top heavy when it's already that way and now she's sitting on a seat higher than me. We found that by adjusting the air shocks in the back we were really able to find a good place for them (not sure if you have this option or not). Too high and the bike was much harder to hold up when stopped. Too low and it would bottom out with both of us on it if we hit certain bumps. Our "Goldilocks" setting seems to be to adjust the rear shocks with the on-board compressor (it's a '94 Aspencade) to between 37 and 41 pounds and it's a nice middle ground. Nice ride for us, sits lower so easier to control and doesn't bottom out. Having it ride lower, if you can get away with that, makes a world of difference in how easy it is to keep up when slow or stopped. But too low and it bottoms out and you don't want that. I live in the country with a good number of stop signs on rather steep inclines, some with gravel as well, so that's important for me.

I'm also careful to keep the bike from leaning too much when stopped, and found that I have to sometimes remind myself to be careful with that when my other bike is so much lighter and easier to handle - especially with someone on the back but even alone it's easy to let it tilt just a little bit, and I've found that after 4-6" or so of tilt either way it really gets top heavy and starts having a mind of its own.

I also stay off the front brake lever when getting really slow, just using the pedal, and make sure I keep the front wheel straight. Not doing either makes it want to tip over faster. That's a good practice with ANY bike, but with a heavy one it can bite you faster if you don't - every other bike I've had was much more forgiving.

Practice and leg strength certainly help, but I've found that unless I do what I mentioned above it still wants to do its own thing - the only issue is what I can get away with easily, how far it can lean and I can still hold it up, etc. It's just not made for parking lot speeds so if you always have to wrestle it some just stay positive and remember all the good things when you speed up a little!

I've only had it "take a nap" twice. Once I just didn't have the kickstand down far enough and the other time I was changing the oil and it just got away from me - no damage either time and more importantly, no one saw it! But I've had a lot of wrestling matches with it that I've won, some barely. Hope some if this might help you out a little, but don't give up! I've flown planes for years, both military and civilian, and the same is true of both planes and Goldwings - they are wonderful to ride but not as forgiving as some other machines, but if treated right and you stay focused they are great!

imacfunk
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Motorcycle: 2014 Honda GL1800

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by imacfunk »

As another 5’8” guy, the GL1100 does put demands on a short inseam, especially if the road tilts from side to side. Resistance training is a plus, especially “maximum contraction training” to maximize leg strength when your leg is almost straight, which is where you’ll need it. Moving up to the GL1800 solved the seat to road distance issue.
For slow speed maneuvering I can’t recommend enough the Ride Like a Pro dvds from Jerry Palladino, a retired police motor officer. Practicing those drills with the information on use of clutch and a bit of rear brake, and you’ll be looking for opportunities to ride slow.
For handling, I found even the 1800 had a bit of jello, especially when trying to do figure eights within four parking spaces. With the addition of Helibar handle bars, a fork brace, and Traxxion suspension, the change in slow and faster handling was incredible.
So to get past slow speed handling your best friend is knowledge, and daily practice. A few minutes when you start out and a few minutes at the end of your ride. We have a fire station nearby with a freshly paved parking lot and it was like a Christmas present for practicing advanced handling. Emergency braking, going into a turn from a dead stop, slow riding for extended distance in a straight line, circles, U-turns, figure 8s, etc.
Without any suspension mods though, you will find the GL1100 a “taller” bike than the newer Goldwings, and an ongoing challenge that requires thinking ahead about road condition and orientation.
Hope this helps, and enjoy the comfort.
- Ian at Cape Saint Marys.

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julimike54
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by julimike54 »

You don't state, but do you stand flat footed when at a stop? A lot of 'ease of handling' will start with that ability. If you don't, look at the rear air pressure setting to see if lowering it will help to get flat footed. Next would be to modify the seat padding to get the seat lower and/or narrower. The last adjustment would be lowering the bike, but it comes at the price of reduced ground clearance (this reduces the capable lean angle),

At very slow speeds don't look down, you look down and you go down, as others have stated look where you want to go.

Make sure the suspension is up to specification, especially the steering head bearings, too loose or too tight will make the bike handle poorly.

You mentioned a firm grip on the bars and corrected, and gripping the tank with your knees (not at slow speeds), you want to balance yourself on the bike and if coming to a stop (or very slow riding) using the rear brake and feathering the clutch will cause the bike to stay more straight up and down. Slow speed is like a balancing act and anything to help the balance will help in the confidence that comes from practicing and learning.

Best of luck...
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guybguy
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by guybguy »

Hello and welcome to the big bike world. My suggestion would be to practice slow manuver in a parking lot I'm 5'6 do I don't have much room to spare when backing up or sitting at a light especially when the road is uneven but I can manuver the bike pretty well at slow speeds. I even try to see how long I can go at a stop light before putting my feet down just to get used to the bulk of the bike when I'm going slow so I would again day get much practice at the slower speeds and the bike will feel like an extension of you love my 1500

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bruce swaybill
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by bruce swaybill »

Welcome to the big boys club!

I have an 83 gl1100, I found that 40psi in both tires and max air pressure preload on both ends helps the low speed handling (below 15mph). Don’t let the rear sag too much as that increases the steering rake angle and makes the handling slow to respond at all speeds.

I also found the bike enters a stable weave mode below 15 down to about 8mph. This is common with touring bikes. If you let it go, the bars will oscillate on its own causing the bike to travel left and right a few feet. That’s why it seems to have a mind of its own.
When you start at a light, you need to accelerate up thru 15 quickly and stopping you need to decelerate down thru it quickly. In stop and go traffic, I make the commitment to stop often instead of tooling along. On lighter bikes the weave mode happens at lower speeds, say 10-5mph. This low speed region is where you need the handle bar turn vs the counter steer above that speed.

I also found the bike is more stable when there is forward acceleration or deceleration. So, entering a corner down near 15mph, it is best to trail brake to the apex and roll on after. No coasting. You’ll enter the weave mode if you coast thru a corner and it’ll feel like it’s falling over. Long off ramps at a constant speed say 30-40mph you may notice the weave. Again deceleration in and acceleration out. No coasting.

The earlier suggested Jerry “Motorman” Palladino Videos are excellent. Motojitsu videos are good but they don’t focus on heavy bike low speed quirks. Friction zone (softens the throttle on-off), proper use of head and eyes (turn you head to where you are headed), and drag the rear brake (gives the engine something to push against). This helps prevent the low speed weave mode I mentioned earlier.
Oh, and don’t touch the front brake unless you are straight and stopping.
In a slow speed handle bar turn it will drop you like The Hand of God!

I practiced these techniques for a while before I took the MSF ERC class. On my 35yo rice burner I got the only clean score on the test at the end of a class full of Harley’s and Indian touring bikes. And I got a lot of hand shakes after that.

The bike can be rode very well with the right skills. But it is not as forgiving as a lighter bike, like the 500lb Bonneville I have. I can ignore most of what I said on that bike and still stay upright. On the GW, you have to plan ahead and handle it like you MEAN it. I alternate weeks between them. If I ride the Bonnie too much I can become sloppy on the GW.
As fatigue sets in on longer rides, my stops can get sloppy. The cylinders in front of your feet cause you to drop your feet to the side instead of slightly forward and that can take some adjusting to.

Practice is not enough. You have to practice the right skills.

Good luck!
Bruce S.
Last edited by bruce swaybill on Sat Aug 01, 2020 11:46 am, edited 4 times in total.
Have a nice day! :)

elementfe
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by elementfe »

Hope you're enjoying that bike! I took 30 years off to raise kids and then bought an 83 GL1100. I really get you, it was a lot of bike to start over with!

Nothing helped me as much as the ride like a pro videos, you can buy them but most of his instruction is available for free on his YouTube channel. The parking lot exercises are a life changer with a big rig like that. Very specific techniques that make handling a big heavy bike at low speeds pretty much instinctual.
The 1100 really is kind of a cow when it comes to acceleration, but it's super comfortable and in most situations a joy to ride. Keep in touch!

Leto_II
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Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Wow, I’m very grateful for everyone thst took the time to give such thoughtful detailed advice.

A freak incident (I swear to god this really happened) on my z900 - at a stoplight a 100lb German shepherd tackled me from the left side and knocked me over 🤬🤬🤷‍♂️😂 - means while I get my body work repaired the goldwing is my only transport, so all the practice has really helped. It’s like learning to swim - seemingly in an instant it’s hard to imagine that you ever had trouble with the task.

I think the biggest thing, and this is almost embarrassing, was that the weight when standing it up off the center stand was so much more than other bikes I’ve had thst it really intimidated me. Honestly once you start riding, it’s such a well engineered machine that with the deliberate parking lot practice and just daily use, it’s become very natural.

I bought it for a song with the usual crotch rocket aficionado idea of “oh hey older bike I’ll cafe it out”, but man, it’s just so fit for purpose that I think I’ll keep it as is and put thst time and effort into getting it back into showroom condition.

I am extremely appreciative of everyone’s excellent advice and generosity with their time in helping me out. Thanks again!

elementfe
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by elementfe »

That is nuts. I hope the owner of the dog treated you right.
I got to the point pretty quickly where I can do slow speed maneuvers at full lock in the parking lot, because of the longer wheelbase it's actually quite forgiving once you come to terms with the sheer weight of the bike.
It really comes down to feathering the clutch and throttle and using just a little bit of foot brake, never the front at low speeds unless you're doing a straight line stop. Hope all comes out okay with your 900!
And incidentally, when you do roll it over on its side at a stoplight or in a driveway, it's much easier than other bikes to stand up because it just doesn't go over that far, and nothing gets hurt. There's a great video on this forum about standing up a gold wing, proper technique makes it simple.

Leto_II
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Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:56 am
Location: Salina, KS
Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Man, never found the owner. In reality it probably just jumped up and put its paws on me, but coming as a total blindside surprise it felt like a linebacker hitting me lol.

Worst part - two months before I had moved my folks in for covid, and my stepdad was just trying to be nice while I was at work and decided to clean my garage. Well he has macular degeneration, and didn’t see my nicely laid out bodywork for the z (I was having the ecu flashed so she was stripped down) and dropped a 40lb box of dog food on the fairings and crunches them up. So I bought a full set of super sweet carbon fiber bodywork, and two weeks after getting it installed the damn dog happened. Bad luck bike lol

StuSch
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by StuSch »

You said

3) the acceleration (at least on my 83 gl1100, I imagine the modern 1800s are better in this regard) seems almost non existent above 3rd gear, much closer to a car like than a “fast” bike. So you can’t rely on speed and reactions to get out of trouble - more planning and looking farther down the road.

My thoughts...Remember what you are riding. The old GL's are doggy and have minimum torque. They do not rev high and they lumber through corners. You have a tour bike not a sport tour bike. Eventually you will find your bike's sweet spot, but it takes some time.

Also, the suspension is adjustable and it needs to be. With my wife, front air at .5psi (1/2 #) and rear at 45 psi. Today, by myself, front at 0psi and rear at 28psi (recommended in manual). Throwing it around today in the Driftless area around Lacrosse Wi. It was too loose. Feel the bike. Know it. Ride it.

Solo So Long
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Kawasaki Coyote (early 1970s)
Honda 350 (mid 1970s)
Kawasaki KZ900-PS (1977)
Honda Super Cubs (various years)
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Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Solo So Long »

The biggest problem with transitioning to a bigger bike is all the junk -- radio, cruise, gear indications, all of the gauges and idiot lights, etc. In other words, WORKLOAD.

The solution:

Put the bike on the center stand.

Go sit on it for an hour, engine off, WITHOUT ATGATT. During that hour, play the radio, change channels, fiddle with the vents, decide where you want the windshield height, work all of the controls. Read Da Book, look at the pictures, get used to the layout.

Now get OFF the bike. Open and close the storage a couple of times. Stand back and just look at it for a couple of minutes. Make it SMALLER in your MIND. After all, you just spent an hour doing all of the pilot stuff, so you know what does what, and it stopped feeling so big from the seat -- now you get the whole thing in perspective. It's JUST A BIKE, it's not a Boeing 787.

Go take a break -- get lunch or a drink or something -- then come back and spend another 10 minutes sitting on it and playing with all the controls. Notice how much more comfortable you are this second time. It's starting to feel like the bikes you're used to.

When you're comfortable with the new mindset, ATGATT up, and go for a ride. I promise that you will be amazed at the different way you feel.

Leto_II
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:56 am
Location: Salina, KS
Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Thanks , I appreciate the advice, and for a new rider that could be quite useful. But compared to any modern sportbike with throttle by wire, traction control modes, electronic suspension, the goldwing is caveman level tech with almost nothing to think about.

Never a bad idea to familiarize yourself with any machine, but i think if you are used to modern high performance machines the workload of an 83 tourer is pretty minimal.

Solo So Long
Posts: 185
Joined: Thu Mar 26, 2020 4:07 pm
Location: Northern Nevada
Motorcycle: 1989 GL1500
1983 GW Interstate (ready to repair)
A pack of Super Cubs
Formerly (in order):
Honda Super Cub (bought 1968, sold ?)
Kawasaki Coyote (early 1970s)
Honda 350 (mid 1970s)
Kawasaki KZ900-PS (1977)
Honda Super Cubs (various years)
Kawasaki KZ1000C (1978)
Kawasaki KZ1000P (various years, 1980 - 2005)
Honda 360 (1983)
BMW R1150RT-P (2001)
BMW R1200RT-P (various years 2007 - 2018, NEVER AGAIN)

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Solo So Long »

It's not a matter of complexity, it's a MINDSET issue. In the back of your mind, you are still thinking of how HUGE this is compared to your other bikes. By just sitting on it and playing with the controls at whim, you shrink it down. It becomes YOURS, you become comfortable with it, in a way that you just can't do when you have to pay attention to the world around you while riding.

Leto_II
Posts: 11
Joined: Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:56 am
Location: Salina, KS
Motorcycle: 1983 GL1100A Aspencade

Re: Greetings and tips for first big bike

Post by Leto_II »

Gotcha man. Hey I asked for advice and you were kind enough to take time out of your day to help a stranger from the internet, so I'll give it a try.

Appreciate the clarification, safe riding man.



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