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Discussion Starter #1
Hi everyone. I have several questions (I've put them in bold).

I'm not a motorcycle rider. My only experience has been as a passenger. Nevertheless, I had the brilliant idea to write a scene in the current novel I'm working on where the protagonist must try to drive a motorcycle, never having done so.

Basically it's meant to be this big obstacle for her. She urgently needs to get to the neighboring town, and the motorcycle's the only vehicle available to her.

The setting is fantasy based on the WWII era (dieselpunk). I wanted to base the bike on the German Zundapp (without the sidecar) but at this point I just really need it to have the characteristics more common to the era in any region. One thing I read about was that often older models of bikes had the left pedal as the clutch, for instance.

So I've read a couple of websites that describe how to ride a motorcycle (modern ones) and I've started trying to tackle the scene. I feel like I've got a good handle on how she'd start the bike, turning an ignition switch and kicking a starter. Then she'd have to carefully press the clutch. I have her stall the bike at first when she tries to do this. Does this sound right?

From there to shifting gears, I'm stuck. The descriptions I read have you use your left foot to shift gears, but if she's using her left foot on the clutch, how would that be possible?

I intend to have her nearly crash when she tries to steer, as it would be counter-intuitive to someone who doesn't have experience, to push left to go left. Correct? And this would work the same on an older model?

I also plan to have her crash or nearly crash when she brakes at a higher speed, because she wouldn't know to use both the foot and hand brakes. She'd do one or the other, and I gather using only the foot brake can cause fishtailing, while using only the hand break can send you over the handlebars...?

I would so appreciate some help with this. I really don't want to screw this scene up. Thank you in advance!
 

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I suggest you put on helmet, boots and leathers and have someone teach YOU how to ride a bike. At least around a parking lot. An hour or two and you'll be able to write credibly.

Transposing your descriptions of the controls --- from the handlebars to the feet, left to right...will be easy once you've learned how the MODERN arrangement works.

Throttle - right hand. Front brake - right hand.
Clutch. Left hand.
Gear shift - left foot. 1 down, 3 up is the pattern. A novice wouldn't know where to "hunt" for neutral.
Rear brake --- right foot.

Antique bikes had these same basic controls arranged differently but any modern rider could quickly figure out what was where. None of them were "impossible" requiring you use the same hand or foot for two different operations - ignoring, of course, suicide shifters that required you take a hand off the handlebars.

Like you, if she doesn't even know WHAT controls the bike has or where, she's unlikely to ride off into the sunset. She must have at least watched her boy friend "doing things" with his hands and feet to make the story credible. And perhaps not noticing some of the foot action. Falling over at lights for failure to put her feet down. .

Most people who have ridden a bicycle can steer a motorcycle without having to think about it excessively. They tend to ride too upright, not leaning into corners like they should --- motorcycle tires are round, car tires are flat. Bikes are designed to be LEANED to corner faster than 10mph.

Hitting the front brake too hard on gravel is her most likely method of crashing.

Drum Brakes were notoriously weak on old bikes so you NEEDED to use both front and rear or risked blowing right through that stop sign.

Downshifting and using the engine to slow down you could easily throw yourself over the handlebars if you did it badly. Like jamming it into first when you're doing over 40 mph.

Not knowing where to find 1st gear or starting out in 2nd and stalling is also very likely.

Forgetting to pull the clutch in when you stop and stalling the motor is also very likely.

No, I'm not going to answer 64 more questions. Go learn to ride a motorcycle around a parking lot then you can write an entirely credible AND hilarious scene based on your OWN mis-understandings and crashes.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thank you. I should have said that she has observed others so she knows a little about having seen it done.

I don't know anyone with a motorcycle, so I'm afraid getting first hand experience isn't an option for me at least at this time.

I have watched several youtube videos but it doesn't really address the basics. Most websites with steps are working with the modern configuration, so it means I am likely to make mistakes trying to describe driving an older model.

Thank you for tips on likely crashes and stalling and such, that's very helpful.
 

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Also, novices don't know that most people will leave a motorcycle in first gear when parked to prevent it from rolling if there is any slope to the ground. I foresee her falling over or wrecking as she tries to kick the bike to life without understanding where neutral is, or how to use the clutch. Most bikes will still give a healthy jerk if the bike starts in gear with the clutch pulled. I've seen newbies pull the clutch, kick the bike to life only to have it wheelie and lurch from under them, leaving them standing to watch it come to a rest several feet away.

I've also personally made the mistake of trying to start the bike without understanding how to set the choke, or even worse, forget to flip the start/stop control. This resulted in a very tiring, very frustrating amount of time spent "testing compression," which high-displacement motors have in spades. ("Testing compression" in this instance meaning kicking the bike over without successful ignition.) Backfiring on a high-compression bike can break ankles. Feet falling off the kick start lever in mid-stroke can be excruciating when ankle bones bounce off pegs or side-covers. I've had bruised ankles many times.

Trying to ride the bike without putting the kickstart up is pretty painful as well.

Here's an idea: watch some YouTube motorcycle fail videos. Pay special attention to the drunk people, new riders, or people trying to ride bikes unfamiliar to them.

Sent from my SCH-i705 using Tapatalk
 

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A quick Google search and looking at some videos/photos, it appears as though the Zundapp motorcycles have the standard layout that we see today, with the shifter being operated by the left foot. I can only assume the clutch is also the left hand.

Can your character ride a bicycle? If so, she's unlikely to immediately crash. At low speeds you don't really countersteer like you do at high speeds.

It's unlikely an old bike like the Zundapp has brakes strong enough to lock the front wheel, or tires good enough to not skid if the front wheel IS locked. In general it is pretty difficult to find a bike that has both the stopping power and the grip to cause you to flip over the handlebars. Locking the rear wheel is much more realistic.

Do older bikes have a manual compression release switch for kicking them over?

Perhaps an easier way to address the scene would be to have a biker ride up and keep the bike idling in neutral while he runs into a shop real quick? She snags the bike while he's got his back turned and rides away.

Or, maybe just not try to be SUPER accurate with the whole thing anyway. After all, a lot of these older bikes also have individual controls for adjusting the timing of the ignition on the fly...
 

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Maybe post your location and if someone is close by you could meet up for a little demonstration? 20 minutes going over the controls on a modern bike would show you enough to understand how they work.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Another thing a novice wouldn't do correctly is let off the throttle between shifts, or rev it up (matching rpm's) when downshifting to slow down by engine braking.

So you would HEAR the engine redlining between gearshifts with a novice attempting to ride it.

If a non-rider successfully started and stole a bike, they'd likely do it by starting out and riding the whole way in 2nd gear without stopping for lights, etc.
 

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As Frau Humperdink ran recklessly through the streets of Berlin, limping terribly as a result of a well placed 9mm round fired by the Gestapo, into her right calf, she spied an old Zundap motocycle on it's stand, idling in front of a post office with no one in sight!

She dared to look back and to her dismay, her enemies were just a few hundred meters behind her and closing quickly!

Frau Humperdink's uncle had shown her the basics on his old 250cc BMW, as far as using the clutch, gearshift and brakes so she knew that she might be able to ride to safety.

Either that or die under torture and she being aware that she was very good looking, trim and athletic member of the British counter intelligence unit, just intuitively knew that her "Torture' would come at the extreme pleasure to the pagan and perverted Gestapo agents so she quickly jumped on the Zundap, pushed it off the stand, gave it throttle and realized it wasn't moving!

She knew they were close when she felt and then heard the sharp report of the Broom handle luger's bullet miss her by just centimeters!

She tried to put the bike in gear but all it did was make a loud noise! Then she remembered the clutch, pulled it in, put the gearbox in gear, gave it gas and quickly accelerated away as she heard the reports of more shots fired at her!

A hundred meters away, she saw that the road narrowed and almost made a 'U' turn and the turn was coming up fast! She hit the rear brake too hard and the tire slid on the wet cobblestone almost like her car had done many times on ice and snow!

She almost made the turn and fell hard on her right side but thank goodness, the engine was still running. She pulled in the clutch, and was barely able to lift the heavy bike and as she accelerated towards a very narrow street where she knew that the Mercedes wouldn't be able to follow, she felt and never heard the 9mm bullet that entered the side of her head, just above her left ear and as the blood flowed all over her neck, she knew she hadn't long to get to her 'safe house,' that British intelligence had in place for her.

Her vision was failing as she escaped by ditching the bike and sprinting across a corn field and hiding as she was taught to do.

She couldn't understand why just trying to kill Herr Hitler had infuriated the German High Command so much since the allied forces were within a stones throw of victory.

She smiled as she prayed that he'd just kill himself instead of surrendering.

As she slowly bleed to death on the cornfield, her last thought was how much she enjoyed that motorcycle ride:biggrin:

Sam:coffeescreen:
 

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To the original poster, If you live in the United States sign up and take the BRC. That will teach you most of what you are wanting to know.
 

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Wot Porky said.

The Zundapp likely had the shifter on the right hand side, the brakes on the left.
Good be a 125 or 250 two stroke. Might have had a magneto with a kill switch.
Lets pretend that the engine was warm and the carburetor required no enrichening.
The lady would likely not know what a kick starter was, but maybe she had seen someone else do it. After kicking a bunch of times the bike would not start because she gave it too much throttle, but pretend it did. She would stall it a lot and not get away, but pretend she gave it heaps of revs and found a gear. She would not know if up or down was first, which was not unusual because no one else did either. It varied depending on the make. Shifting would be a problem because she had no idea. Counter steering was not an issue because the term had not been invented yet. She would need to steer left or right at the slow speed she was going. Would probably have been quicker for her to run.

Porky's narrow street is good because she would not need speed, just enough to be faster than the folks running. She would need to go round a corner as the baddies were exiting the Mercedes. Otherwise a bullet would catch.

A few blocks after she got the bike running, it would quit. She did not turn on the petcock. Oh darn, who knew a bike had one of those.

Unkle Krusty*
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Counter steering was not an issue because the term had not been invented yet.
So you're saying that the way motorcycles turn (one article compared the wheel to a gyroscope) is a newer characteristic and wouldn't exist on an older model? Or just that as long as she stayed in a low gear it wouldn't kick in?

As I have the rough scene written now, I have her turn without issue at slower speed, but when she does finally get the bike going faster, she crashes due to the steering issue. Is that inaccurate?

A few blocks after she got the bike running, it would quit. She did not turn on the petcock. Oh darn, who knew a bike had one of those.
Definitely looking that up.
 

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New motorcycles use the same set of physics that old motorcycles use to turn.

It would be much more likely for a new rider to fall from misuse of the brakes than from a steering issue when riding at speed.

Using too much front brake or quickly grabbing the front brake while leaned over is the most likely thing to happen. Traction is lost at the front wheel and the motorcycle washes out.

This can happen while riding in a straight line as well if the front brake is grabbed quickly instead of being progressively squeezed. While the front brake provides most of the stopping power, weight must transfer forward in order to make use of it. This takes a small amount of time, so using the front brake in a quick stop has to be done smoothly instead of quickly. I use the phrase "Like squeezing a lemon" to describe the proper squeeze of the brakes to students.
 
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