You Just Think You Know How to Fill a Tank

For day 2 I rode around Redwood Shores — great place to practice shifting, as there are few cars and a LOT of stop signs — Belmont and Emerald Hills.

I learned first-hand how motorcycles are invisible (they are, even when a driver makes eye contact with you). Not by a near miss, but by being passed by another biker whom I did not see behind me, despite frequent mirror checks. Interestingly, he didn’t do the secret wave as he went by. Then again, he was weaving among cars, splitting lanes, etc. Clearly a moral degenerate :).

I also set a new personal speed record, hitting 45 mph on one stretch. Not that I’m trying to set records — believe me, 25 mph on a bike feels very fast! — but because that was the speed limit, and it was the speed at which the traffic was moving. And if you’re going to ride roads, you have to be able to keep up with the flow.

The gyroscopic balancing effect of the spinning tires was much more pronounced at higher speeds, making the bike more stable. But it also became more resistant to turns, requiring “formal” countersteering rather than just leaning.

Unfortunately, I also picked up a shard of rock on my rear tire which is going to have to be repaired. The tire’s not leaking, or if it is it’s doing so very slowly. But it’s not safe to ride with a tire that may go out on you. I have no desire to practice the emergency procedures they taught us in the Basic Skills class.

One truly comic moment from today’s ride: Having run the gas tank down to about 1/4 full (I left the dealership yesterday with half a tank) I wanted to fill up before going home. No big deal, right? I’ve filled gas tanks on cars thousands of times.

Only it turns out motorcycle gas tanks are different. You can’t stick the nozzle in particularly far. Certainly nowhere near as far as you can with a car.

Which is a problem in any state, like California, which requires vapor recovery systems at gas stations.

After a few frustrating minutes I gave up and rode home. A quick goggle search showed that the easiest solution is to pull back the vapor recovery sheath — which normally happens automatically when you press the nozzle into your car’s filling tube — by hand. Simple, but not obvious.

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