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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I got a 2008 Ninja 250 two weeks ago. My helmet has finally arrived too (I'd used a friend's a few times), I have gear, and I want to ride.

On the first day, I just took the bike around town on simple roads I was very familiar with ; I felt pretty confident,
had no problems turning, or stopping/starting at intersections. I had problems shifting gears, not everything was smooth.


At the end of the day, when it was dark, I went to a deserted parking lot and practiced doing U-turns in really tight places (width of 8-9 steps), swerves and quickstops.

The U-turns were a mixed success. When I didn't think about it too hard, I could pull it off sometimes, but when I thought too much, I would end up going a couple of meters wider. I found it hard to find the balance between the proper angle of lean and the throttle. A few times I'd lose control a bit to the point where I had to put a foot down, while moving;

Quick stops were amazingly quick. I noticed that the rear tire left some marks on the asphalt, which means I locked it; I will try to go easier on it in the future.

Then I practiced shifting gear smoothly:
From low to high, I let the RPMs go down a bit before releasing the clutch, which I concluded must be done smoothly.

From high to low, I had to bring the RPMs up in order to prevent that odd phenomenon which happens when you downshift: the jerk in the bike, which I take is related to a rear wheel lock up. Not good.


I intend to practice the above skills some more. But what would the riders on this forum recommend that I practice? How?

Thank you.
 

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If the rear wheel is locking up on downshift, you are in too low of a gear for your speed. Slow down more before shifting down. Also it helps to let the clutch out slower during the downshift; don't pop it out.

You can make the best U-turns by looking as far as you can behind you. Turn your head around as far as it can go. You should not be looking at the front wheel, but where you actually want to go.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
If the rear wheel is locking up on downshift, you are in too low of a gear for your speed. Slow down more before shifting down. Also it helps to let the clutch out slower during the downshift; don't pop it out.

You can make the best U-turns by looking as far as you can behind you. Turn your head around as far as it can go. You should not be looking at the front wheel, but where you actually want to go.
Thank you! I will use your tip on downshifting. Do the RPMs have any say in this? I always thought shifting gear is about finding a solutions to a 3 variable equation: speed, rpm, gear


About the U-turns: I tried following the MSF taught techique: slow, look, roll. I would look about perpendicular to the direction of the bike. I tried both leaning the body with the bike, or keeping it away from the curve, supposedly to balance the bike easier.
What I found is that looking at the wheel is definitely bad; keeping the body away from the curve (while leaning the bike) results in a milder lean, which increases the radius of the turn. Should I lean the body with the bike?
 

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Sounds like you are doing good, remember you get your traction in a turn from your speed so if you are having trouble staying upright, give it a little throttle and it will straighten right up.
 

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Thank you! I will use your tip on downshifting. Do the RPMs have any say in this? I always thought shifting gear is about finding a solutions to a 3 variable equation: speed, rpm, gear


About the U-turns: I tried following the MSF taught techique: slow, look, roll. I would look about perpendicular to the direction of the bike. I tried both leaning the body with the bike, or keeping it away from the curve, supposedly to balance the bike easier.
What I found is that looking at the wheel is definitely bad; keeping the body away from the curve (while leaning the bike) results in a milder lean, which increases the radius of the turn. Should I lean the body with the bike?
Are you talking about downshifting to speed up or to slow down? When coming to a stop and slowing down, you can keep the throttle at idle and downshift when the bike is at the proper speed for the gear.

If you are shifting to a lower gear for more horsepower or if the engine is lugging, again let off the throttle, clutch and shift, then add throttle to speed up.

You shouldn't have the throttle up when downshifting.


Try looking farther back than perpendicular when making U-turns. If you look 90 degrees, that's where you are likely to end up. The bike will tend to follow your eyes, and you will make more of a 90 degree turn than a 180. Crank your neck all the way around. Body lean really won't do much. You may get a little tigher turn by sliding over in the seat and stomping on the outside peg, but unless you are turning tight enough to scrape metal, odds are it won't help too much.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
Are you talking about downshifting to speed up or to slow down? When coming to a stop and slowing down, you can keep the throttle at idle and downshift when the bike is at the proper speed for the gear.

If you are shifting to a lower gear for more horsepower or if the engine is lugging, again let off the throttle, clutch and shift, then add throttle to speed up.

You shouldn't have the throttle up when downshifting.
The point of my downshifting is mostly to match speed with proper gear, and thus have as much power available at all times. In my understanding, a good gear shift is smooth.
To prevent the jerky feeling (what is the proper term for this?) while downshifting, I tried adding throttle while before and while releasing the clutch. I think this worked well. Above however, you say I shouldn't add any throttle.
Won't a lower gear have more engine breaking than the higher gear at the same rpms? Isn't this what causes the jerky feeling?

And I have never yet seen a chart or any guidelines on what gear is appropriate for what speed. I suspect this varies from bike to bike. A quick search reveals this for my 2008 Ninja 250: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090226221507AAd34Rx

Does that make sense? Actually, it doesn't talk about matching gear with speed at all. Just gear and rpm.
I find myself in much higher rpms (and lower gear) than the link suggests.
A friend of mine told me the max power output band on the Ninjas is 8-10k rpms; that's about where I find myself most of the time.

Looking through the owner's manual I find: For smooth riding, each gear position should cover the proper rate of speed:
  • 1st to 2nd @ 12 mph
  • 2nd to 3rd @ 15 mph
  • 3rd to 4th @ 19 mph
  • 4th to 5th @ 21 mph
  • 5th to 6th @ 28 mph
This is quite surprising. Does this mean that whenever I am above 28 mph I should always be in 6th gear? Really? And switching from 2nd to 3rd should be done around between 12 - 15 mph. This is a tiny window.
 

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The RPM will vary quite a bit from bike to bike. The V-twin I ride likes to shift up at about 3500 and cruise at about 3000 RPM. The redline is 6000 RPM. Coasting/braking and downshifting, I'll take a lower gear at about 2500 RPM to use engine braking. Your bike will be different, but you can see the relative proportions to cruising speed and redline for smooth shifting. Letting out the clutch smoothly during engine braking will stop the bike from jerking hard as long as the gear range is correct. You will feel some deceleration because the engine is working to slow the rear wheel.

The manual will show minimum speeds to shift gears. You will get more power shifting up at a higher RPM.
 

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Got some vids at: http://www.HowzitDoneCrash.com

(Ok, and I'm checking to see if the link works too...)

And I would suggest that shifting is going to be a personal thing. You may find that you're comfortable riding at 25mph in 3rd gear because it places the bike right at the base of the "powerband"--that range of revs that give you snappy response without lugging.

I'll bank that 30mph in 6th, if you twist the throttle, the bike doesn't respond quickly. On the other hand, at 30 in 3rd a twist will give you better response.

OH--(man I just can't shut up today) motorcycling is part art/part science. IF every bike responded the same there might be one 'right way'. A lot of riding is 'whatever gets you through the night'. For example there are people that will sneer at you if you drag the rear brake during low speed manuvers...and another camp that swears by dragging the rear brake. Both work, niether is particularly BETTER, it's what gets you through the night.
 

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OH--(man I just can't shut up today) motorcycling is part art/part science. IF every bike responded the same there might be one 'right way'. A lot of riding is 'whatever gets you through the night'. For example there are people that will sneer at you if you drag the rear brake during low speed manuvers...and another camp that swears by dragging the rear brake. Both work, niether is particularly BETTER, it's what gets you through the night.
Isn't also the skill of the rider? That adds to the science portion, the art is making the bike and rider work together...or at least that is how think of it...

This is a useful thread - I so struggled with the U turn exercise!

FOM
 

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Isn't also the skill of the rider? That adds to the science portion, the art is making the bike and rider work together...or at least that is how think of it...

This is a useful thread - I so struggled with the U turn exercise!

FOM
There's a guy on out there in cyberland who'll argue all day that you can't take a 40ft 90degree turn at greater than 23mph or you'll crash.

That's because that's what the PURE science tells him. The APPLIED science is different, some bikes will, some bikes won't, some riders can, some riders can't.

The science is brutally important. The ART is in the application.

If you try to ride a bike scientifically--well, you're not going to enjoy yourself nuts because a lot of riding is feel. Since no two situations are the same trying to apply a fixed rule will tend to make you crazy.

Take rain. Rain compromises traction yes? Well, when it starts it'll lift dirt and oil up and things can be really snotty. After a while INTENSE rain will scour a surface CLEAN...so rain made it snotty/sloppy and then made it a better traction surface. The available traction changed. AND after the sun comes out and dries the remaining water, the surface is potentially the best it can be. Good rule yes?

What what about different kinds of asphalt? Chip Seal? Delaminted Chip Seal OVER a concrete base? New/fresh asphalt v. old crumbly asphalt.

What about vision and visibility? Hard rain = lower visibility, impaired vision so back off 2 seconds? Meduim rain = not so bad so back off 1 second? How do you determine what's Hard rain and what's Medium rain?

My head hurts.

We're overthinking things aren't we? We're getting hung up in science and detail. Wouldn't you rather be riding? With a simple rule that allows you to apply your art? A rule like:

Rain=potentially compromised traction, vision can be impaired and visibilty is lower. SLOW. Increase your time to react. No sudden inputs, ride smooth. Signal earlier, flash your brake light at stops and when slowing.

Riding is Art & Science. Don't get too caught up in the science.
 

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And I would suggest that shifting is going to be a personal thing. You may find that you're comfortable riding at 25mph in 3rd gear because it places the bike right at the base of the "powerband"--that range of revs that give you snappy response without lugging.
CaptCrash is right... most of my commute on my 250R is done at 30-35 mph, and I'm usually flipping between 3rd and 4th. When I was first learning I would indeed ride that stretch in 6th, but that'd usually leave me at about 4k RPM (good for "by the book" break-in, bad for acceleration).

Once you get used to the bike you'll get a feel for when to shift... But you will be whipping through the gears on the Ninjette. Great fun! Spectacular choice of first bike, too.
 

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If you want some great tips and exercises to practice...get the Ride Like a Pro V DVD and pay attention to the measurements they give for the courses. Get some cones at a sporting goods store, a nice 100' measuring tape at your local hardware store, and have some fun!
 

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Riding is Art & Science. Don't get too caught up in the science.
Yes I would rather be riding - but stuck at work :(

We have a saying about dogs "Handling is and art & science" too ;)

So I hear ya. There are many ways to teach a dog the sommand sit - the science is there, but it takes some art to teach multiple breeds, different personalities how to sit....

So I hear ya....I find the science interesting, but not a end all be all....I'm new to riding, so my art is a like finger painting right now, I depend more on the science to keep me safe, but as I learn my bike and learn/improve my skills I hope to get beyond finger painting ;) Always keeping the science as a foundation of course to keep me safe....

No head hurting here....

Ride Safe,

Lainee
 

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About the U-turns: I tried following the MSF taught techique: slow, look, roll. I would look about perpendicular to the direction of the bike. I tried both leaning the body with the bike, or keeping it away from the curve, supposedly to balance the bike easier.
What I found is that looking at the wheel is definitely bad; keeping the body away from the curve (while leaning the bike) results in a milder lean, which increases the radius of the turn. Should I lean the body with the bike?
Going back to answer one of your first questions....

For tighter U-turns, try counterbalancing instead of leaning with the bike.

Let's discuss a left hand U-turn. First, set yourself up for the turn. Slide your butt so that your right cheek is hanging off the right side of the seat (counterbalancing). Then turn your head all the way around to the left as far as it will go. Focus on something far away, and don't look at the ground. Then turn the handlebars, and ride the friction zone all the way around.

That's the technique that worked for me. Hopefully that helps.
 

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The point of my downshifting is mostly to match speed with proper gear, and thus have as much power available at all times. In my understanding, a good gear shift is smooth.
To prevent the jerky feeling (what is the proper term for this?) while downshifting, I tried adding throttle while before and while releasing the clutch. I think this worked well. Above however, you say I shouldn't add any throttle.
Won't a lower gear have more engine breaking than the higher gear at the same rpms? Isn't this what causes the jerky feeling?

And I have never yet seen a chart or any guidelines on what gear is appropriate for what speed. I suspect this varies from bike to bike. A quick search reveals this for my 2008 Ninja 250: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20090226221507AAd34Rx

Does that make sense? Actually, it doesn't talk about matching gear with speed at all. Just gear and rpm.
I find myself in much higher rpms (and lower gear) than the link suggests.
A friend of mine told me the max power output band on the Ninjas is 8-10k rpms; that's about where I find myself most of the time.

Looking through the owner's manual I find: For smooth riding, each gear position should cover the proper rate of speed:
  • 1st to 2nd @ 12 mph
  • 2nd to 3rd @ 15 mph
  • 3rd to 4th @ 19 mph
  • 4th to 5th @ 21 mph
  • 5th to 6th @ 28 mph
This is quite surprising. Does this mean that whenever I am above 28 mph I should always be in 6th gear? Really? And switching from 2nd to 3rd should be done around between 12 - 15 mph. This is a tiny window.
While I'm at it, here's some advice that helped me shift smoother.

For smoother upshifts, try pre-loading the gear shifter. Pull up just a little on the shifter with your toe before pulling in the clutch. Just enough to put a little pressure on the shifter. Then shift as normal. That seemed to help me.

For smoother downshifts, let out slower on the clutch through the friction zone. That should help a little. If not, you're probably choosing a gear too low for your speed. Try slowing down a little more before downshift to see if that helps.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for the advice guys. I found the rear brake quite useful in slow tight turns. Working with the clutch too, but that's for *really* slow turns.
Turning my head as far back as possible seems to have helped, so now I can make a U-turn in 9 feet about 3 out of 5 times.

Today I went to on the highway for the first time. I felt pretty comfortable. I was quite aware of the traffic, kept checking my mirrors, tried to stay out of cars' blind spots and checked mine when changing lanes. It was much louder than I anticipated, so after 15 miles I had to stop for a break.


Oh, and I also had my first crash today. Not on the highway. On my way home, literally a minute away, at a turn that I had made at least 10 times before, I dropped it.
Now that I look back there were several reasons: 1) speed; i was going a little too fast. 2) when I realized i was too fast, i pulled the front brake; bad! 3) i don't have enough experience apex-ing, so I initiated the turn from the wrong part of the lane, and found myself heading towards a car before I had turned half way.

Luckily, the bike only slid on the ground for about 15 feet and stopped short of a car. I was wearing my helmet, gloves and a protective jacket. I had regular sneakers, jeans and a pair of extra pants under them. Jeans got torn, my leg is bruised, but otherwise I'm fine.

My right blinker is shattered, the right fairing scratched. The rear break pedal is missing the rubber on it, and may be slightly bent (not sure yet).
I had trouble starting the bike right after the crash, but it worked a few minutes later.

Do you guys think I should take it into the shop for an inspection?
 

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As long as the bike still rides fine, you shouldn't have to take in in to get it inspected.

It's a good thing you didn't get hurt too badly. You can really lean into corners probably farther than you think. It's best to take corners slower, but if you use the head turn thing, you can cut them pretty tight most of the time.
 
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