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Well, I live in a good size city also, and I would feel much less safe on a tiny scooter than a motorcycle. So I think if you are brave enough to ride around London on a little scooter, you are one step ahead of most people.
As the two guys above said, accidents can happen anywhere & I'd rather have a larger bike than a lightweight for road use. Bigger bikes these days normally have excellent brakes & secure handling.
City riding presents very different dangers from riding in the countryside. With city riding, you have potential danger approaching from all directions, can be overwhelming in a strange (foreign) city.
In the countryside, some drivers assume there's no one else about & don't bother stopping at junctions etc. There's also the ever present danger of cow shit & farm muck spread liberally across the road on blind bends.
Don't let any of the above put you off, the fun & great experiences far outweigh the risks. You only have to read a few of the trips on sites like this to understand.
I've been riding motorbikes for nearly 30 years. When I was young I crashed a few times, but was never serioulsly hurt ( I never went to hospital ) . Nowadays I only crash when riding off-road and that doesn't count. The best advice, as said above , is to treat ALL car drivers as if they are not only idiots but blind idiots. They won't see you because they don't look, but so long as you're ready for them you should be OK. I commute in and out of London every day and have done so without incident for over 10 years.
Go for it. You'll love it.
I ride both an old Vespa (for the city) and a BMW R 1100 GS (for long-distance travelling), quite different tipes of bikes.
While Vespa is much more agile in the city traffic, it has horrible brakes and it's not stable at all, especially on wet roads.
GS is much safer, except that for the power: if you drive much faster than with the Vespa (and it's usually happen), at the end Vespa is less dangerous...
So my advice is: buy a powerful bike if you are able to drive carefully, if you enjoy the power so much that you can not ride slowly, keep your Vespa!
I have been looking around the web and have come accross a nice Honda City Fly 125cc that looks pretty promising. In any case it will have better brakes than the Vespa and much better handling. I am seriously considering going for it. If I chose to upgrade at some point in the future I will in any case have benfitted from the experience of having manual gear shifting and a more accurate riding posture...
Richard - It's encouraging to hear from a fellow Londoner who's had good experiences!
Does it make sense to go for a 125 and work my way up or should I just bite the bullet and get a 250 or higher?
To put it simply, hundreds of thousands of motorcycles are driven millions of miles every day. It is not motorcycles that are dangerous it is the people operating them. My advice is, do a proper training course and get out there and do it.
The electric monk always has faith.
Paddy, you're right to be apprehensive and that's the best frame of mind to start off with. The single most helpful piece of advice is to do a course in advanced riding techniques. Admittedly some of what is taught is a little stodgy (and some of the people can be a bit tedious) but there is also much excellent stuff, particularly about things like extending your range of vision, road positioning, counter-steering, braking techniques, survival tips, reading the road ahead etc. All this applies equally to scooters and bikes. Once the techniques are explained and practised they seem rather obvious, but they are not necessarily intuitive. I did a course after having ridden for 25 years or so and was surprised at how much I didn't know. It makes your riding safer, more efficient, much more enjoyable - and actually quicker. There are various organisations that do the training - see Motor Cycle News.
All the same, expect the occasional accident because even with constant vigilance and a defensive attitude it's always possible for a motorist to find a new way of taking you by surprise. I have commuted about 15,000 miles p.a. for the past 14 years in all seasons on a mix of country lanes, dual carriageways, motorways and urban streets into central London. I ride reasonably briskly using an FJ1200 or a Thunderace and on average seem to have one accident about every 3 years. I don't know how this compares with others but would be interested to hear.
As far as big bike verses small bike in the city is concerened they are both as dangerous as each other. Alot of peoples (Especially Parents) fears are based on media portrail of bikers and bike accident
Story: Biker on high power 150mph machine fails to avoid colision.
Truth: I was riding at 15 mph on a Fireblade when an idiot in a Merc pulled into me at a staggered junction.
By the way it was my first collision in 12 years of riding and over 70k miles.
Some things to do are get some advanced traing after doing your DAS course and also do som eX-counrty riding that will help you handling skills.
dont be scared nor be put off either its all up to the individual yes you allways need to take extra care when on two wheels,allways looking out for the idiots on the road believe you me theres plenty about,but you can get wiped out just as easilly on a scooter as a big bike its all down to the care you take on the road,allways regarding the idiots out there,hell you can get killed crossing the road on foot.
ive been biking for 25 yrs plus and only mishaps i had was in my youth when i was wreckless and took less care.
the bike is as only as safe as the rider,i live in essex where is highest bike fatalities in uk.whenever you read the newspaper article it goes like this.
motorcyclist looses control in high speed colision and hits central resevation, or speeding motorcyclist colides with car,its not allways the motorcyclists fault,most motorcyclists are very carefull and you have to be and take the extra care.a lot of people like to label us bikers as wreckless and thats bullshit most of us are good carefull riders who ride to stay alive,the last thing we want is to cause a accident or be involved in one.
take a bold step foward and get yourself a nice bike nomatter how big it is just be a safe rider,ride to stay alive.
i wish you many happy years of safe uneventfull biking
<font face="" size="2">Does it make sense to go for a 125 and work my way up or should I just bite the bullet and get a 250 or higher?</font>
Paddy, you made reference to 'touring' in your first post. From that, I understand you want to use the motorcycle to travel across the country - whether that be 50 miles or 500 miles doesn't matter, the implication is that you want to leave the city with your bike and travel to another city.
If this is correct, then I highly recommend you consider the larger of the two sizes (the 250 cc) - and even that is kind of small, you would need to plan your routes rather carefully so that you are never on a roadway with a speed limit higher than 45 or 50 MPH.
Keep in mind that if you plan to 'tour', you will be carrying more baggage with you than what you carry back and forth to work each day. To pull this load, you need sufficient horsepower, and generally speaking, about 500cc's is the minimum size that you can safely start touring with.
If you buy a moto that is too small (too underpowered) for the purpose that you intend to use it for, you will be creating your own safety problems. You won't feel comfortable travelling at the speeds that the cross-country traffic moves at, you won't have the power you need to pass slow trucks and farm vehicles, and you will be over-working the motorcycle if you ride through hilly country.
The most important factor you should be considering is horsepower. There is a great difference between the horsepower output of a 250 cc scooter, and that of a 250 cc dirt bike. Not to mention that the dirt bike is probably lighter as well.
I could do a cross-country tour on a 250cc bike, but that would be the smallest size I would ever consider doing it with. I still have bad memories of doing a cross-Canada trip on a Honda 360 thirty years ago. The bike was way hell underpowered for the purpose, if the wind was blowing the wrong way, it was running flat-out all the time just keeping up with the 60 to 65 MPH traffic flow. It was a new bike, too, therefore in good condition.
Hope this helps you with your planning and decision-making.
The stats are clear: biking is dangerous. In NZ the odds of a biker dying or being injured in the course of his lifetime are the same as the troops had back in the wars, and we made great cannon fodder! It's best not to ride unless you are really, really burning to do so, you know, when you find yourself making broom-broom noises and drooling over parked Ducatis, because there has to be a lot of reward for assuming this much risk. I'm a hardcore biker but I've never pushed anyone to have a go, and I really wouldn't want, say, my niece, to start. That said, a 250cc+ bike would be preferable to a Vespa to benefit from the handling and ability to keep up with traffic; it'd be okay for touring.
My two cents,
[This message has been edited by JamesCo (edited 16 February 2005).]
I came out of hospital mid December, there was sand in a turn, lost control totally in 80 km/h and crashed my leg into tarmac, breaking knee, wasn't a pleasure!
When I came out of hospital I told myself "if I ever ride a motorcycle again, I'll allways be carefull" !
Now a week ago, I rode in the city, suddenly as I'm rolling forward on the little city street, a car comes with an incredible speed from the left...cutting my way off, believe me he was within 3 meters from my front wheel, I hit my "excellent" Yam600XTZ back break...blocking the wheel immediately.. and making bike slide forward like a supermoto, the car blew on in front me and I was able to release the break and escape the space behind the car, it was my first matrix like bike stunt a quiet sunny afternoon in city!!
In my mind it still feels like I drive thru a car without hitting it, it was that close !
I thank my guardian angel once again, cause it was unbelievable how I escaped a bad crash.
Do as the guys just said, DONT TRUST ANYONE, and be PARANOID.
Actually fear is not something you should take away..
There's no getting away from it... travel on two wheels is far more dangerous than a car... HOWEVER, it's loads more fun. I am a scooterist first and foremost. I've been riding Vespas in London for 5 years, but I also have a meaty BMW R65. Not the fastest bike in the world, but it has much more road presence, bigger wheels so that your spine isn't jarred avery time you go over a hole, and it's LOUD. I've had two Vespas written off, both times I was hit from behind. If a car does that, it goes straight into the Vespa's bodywork. on the bike, it'll hit the wheel... which I'm hoping will be preferable if (heaven forbid) it happens again. I've also found that cars are much less likely to let a biker out of a junction than a scooterist pootling around on a classic Vespa. However, if need be I can be much more intimidating on my horse-sized bike if I need to shout at some jackass in a car that's just cut me up.
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