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Got my new bike, need some advice

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Hey guys,

This is my first post here but this message board has been great so far. There's so much information I can't even scroll though half of it.

I just got my new bike a couple weeks ago, a 2008 Suzuki DRZ400SM. I've never really ridden motorcycles at all in the street. On sand I've ridden quads but not enough to really say I know what I am doing. So instead of getting a scooter to start learning with, or a crotch rocket and end up dead I figured the street-legal dirt bike was the way to go.

I have been just riding around my streets (like a 5 block x 5 block radius) and can get the bike to shift once it's moving fine. I'm still having trouble getting into first from a dead stop. I'd hate to pull out into traffic and be going as slow as I do while I'm just in the current streets.

I've learned so far that when it chunks or jerks that I'm in the wrong gear for the speed I'm going. Still figuring out the the down shifting which is coming along. I can slip the clutch (by holding it in) and do some pretty tight circles and such. Once I feel the clutch catch and start moving the bike is that the point when I can let it out and start accelerating like normal? Sometimes it seems like the bike will just rev and won't go anywhere and I have to let some throttle out as I'm worried about it taking off or "dumping the clutch".

Just looking for a little help. Once moving I am fine, and shifting doesn't become a problem. I use the clutch on everything (up and down shifting) but I do need to try and learn the 1st gear deal a little more comfortably before going out on the regular streets. I practice 30-40 minutes each day after work, which by now has me getting to up speed fine and stopping and such. Just sometimes it seems like that 1st gear deal gets me.

Thanks again guys for any help/advice on this!

-Chris

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Have you considerred taking the MSF class? I did. It was a little lame for anyone that had some motorcycle experience but at least I got my M1 endorsement and I did not have to take the DMV driving test.

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Okay...DONT be holding the clutch in slightly and doing circles. You want the clutch IN OR OUT unless you are just taking off from a start. By holding the clutch anywhere in the middle you are slipping it and you will wear out your clutch plates fast. When you shift up- lett of the throttle and pull in the clutch right around the same time, you might want to let off for a very short period of time before you clutch so that you dont rev up, shift up and smoothly** let the clutch out. You dont have to do it too slowly, most machines will let you just pop it out and it wont jerk. Let it out smoothly without any quick lever release or puase in lever movement and as soon as it is out you can get right on the throttle.

Downshifting is a little different. Some people dont do it at all when coming to a stop, they just pull in the clutch and/or shift to neutral or first and use the brake to slow to a stop. If you downshift you can prolong the life of your brakes. Let the RPM(engine rev speed or Rotations Per Minute) come down low and then pull the clutch, shift down, and let the clutch out slowly and smoothly. As soon as you "feel" the bike come into gear, you can let it right out and you are in your desired gear!

As for starting from a stop- This may take some practice to perfect. You need to let the clutch out slowly AND smoothly like when you're downshifting. If you are on perfectly flat ground, you might be able to let the clutch out slow enough to get the bike moving without any throttle...but thats only if you need to learn where the clutch "grabs" Give it a small amount of throttle when on flat ground(obviously a larger amount of throttle when starting on an incline) start to let the clutch out slow and smooth and as soon as you feel the clutch grab and the bike starts to move you can completely let the clutch out smoothly and give it more throttle and then you're good to go.

Knowing when to shift- You can practice this while the bike is in neutral. Start by listening to the sound of the engine while you're idling. That is LOW RPM. When you twist the throttle the engine gets louder and its moving faster. When the bike is loud and sounds like it is moving fast you are in HIGH RPMs and this indicates that you need to shift. You will be able to feel when its time to shift according to the power. When you are in really low RPMs the bike sounds deep and slow and sometimes like it might stall. You wont have any power when the RPMs are too low. When the RPMs are too high and the engine is loud and winding out and sound like its working really hard and fast the power might still be there but the engine will be loud and higher pitched and will vibrate more. You dont want the bike to stay in high RPMs too long or you could blow the engine up(ruin the moving parts) Keep it in neutral and twist the throttle a little bit, recognize the sound and feel of the bike as the RPMs get higher. When the bike is idling, recognize the sound and feel of this as well. While riding if the RPMs get lower or the sound gets deeper and slower than the sound of the bike when its idling then its time to downshift.

Hope this helps!! You'll be very comfortable riding in traffic in no-time. Read and remember everyting that I have written and think about it when you are riding your bike. If you have any more questions or need a better explaination on anything then feel free to ask!

Good luck

Phil

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Have you considerred taking the MSF class? I did. It was a little lame for anyone that had some motorcycle experience but at least I got my M1 endorsement and I did not have to take the DMV driving test.

I have. I wanted to at least not be so new to riding that I felt comfortable on a bike. After all what good is the M1 endorsement if I can't ride to begin with LOL.

I thought about that........so you can get your permit, take the class (never having a minute of ride time), pass the MSF course and go get whatever bike feeling your licensed now. I sorta wanted to go backwards and get use to being on a bike, so then the MSF course should not feel so out of place, pass it, and keep on learning and riding.

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Yeah. Read what i wrote above and practice for a while. You should have more success with practice than anything.

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Okay...DONT be holding the clutch in slightly and doing circles. You want the clutch IN OR OUT unless you are just taking off from a start. By holding the clutch anywhere in the middle you are slipping it and you will wear out your clutch plates fast. When you shift up- lett of the throttle and pull in the clutch right around the same time, you might want to let off for a very short period of time before you clutch so that you dont rev up, shift up and smoothly** let the clutch out. You dont have to do it too slowly, most machines will let you just pop it out and it wont jerk. Let it out smoothly without any quick lever release or puase in lever movement and as soon as it is out you can get right on the throttle.

Downshifting is a little different. Some people dont do it at all when coming to a stop, they just pull in the clutch and/or shift to neutral or first and use the brake to slow to a stop. If you downshift you can prolong the life of your brakes. Let the RPM(engine rev speed or Rotations Per Minute) come down low and then pull the clutch, shift down, and let the clutch out slowly and smoothly. As soon as you "feel" the bike come into gear, you can let it right out and you are in your desired gear!

As for starting from a stop- This may take some practice to perfect. You need to let the clutch out slowly AND smoothly like when you're downshifting. If you are on perfectly flat ground, you might be able to let the clutch out slow enough to get the bike moving without any throttle...but thats only if you need to learn where the clutch "grabs" Give it a small amount of throttle when on flat ground(obviously a larger amount of throttle when starting on an incline) start to let the clutch out slow and smooth and as soon as you feel the clutch grab and the bike starts to move you can completely let the clutch out smoothly and give it more throttle and then you're good to go.

Knowing when to shift- You can practice this while the bike is in neutral. Start by listening to the sound of the engine while you're idling. That is LOW RPM. When you twist the throttle the engine gets louder and its moving faster. When the bike is loud and sounds like it is moving fast you are in HIGH RPMs and this indicates that you need to shift. You will be able to feel when its time to shift according to the power. When you are in really low RPMs the bike sounds deep and slow and sometimes like it might stall. You wont have any power when the RPMs are too low. When the RPMs are too high and the engine is loud and winding out and sound like its working really hard and fast the power might still be there but the engine will be loud and higher pitched and will vibrate more. You dont want the bike to stay in high RPMs too long or you could blow the engine up(ruin the moving parts) Keep it in neutral and twist the throttle a little bit, recognize the sound and feel of the bike as the RPMs get higher. When the bike is idling, recognize the sound and feel of this as well. While riding if the RPMs get lower or the sound gets deeper and slower than the sound of the bike when its idling then its time to downshift.

Hope this helps!! You'll be very comfortable riding in traffic in no-time. Read and remember everyting that I have written and think about it when you are riding your bike. If you have any more questions or need a better explaination on anything then feel free to ask!

Good luck

Phil

Thanks for that reply Phil!

I think I am shifting too early, because when I shift sometimes the bike sorta chugs........so say from 2nd-3rd it might jerk like it's trying to move but doesn't get there. Even though I am breaking in the bike I have only gone as far as 1/2 throttle no matter what, maybe I just need to do that, but let it get more RPM's built up before shifting it. A lot of the times I just fly though the gears going up.

I have tried both ways so far, down shifting and just going into N and coming to a stop. I like the idea of down shifting, I know it's just like a car and can save your brakes + lets you stay in a gear in case you have to get on it. When I do the shifting and putting the bike in N I come to that same problem of being able to get out into 1st quickly.

I don't do the circle deal for too long. That was how I figured when the clutch would engage. I guess it's just learning to slowly let out & at the same time slowly give it gas. I have this tendency to be all or nothing (working on it) as picking up speed isn't a problem, it's controlling it slowly :) I know I have to figure it out with practice.

Thanks again for the pointers. The engine RPM thing I'll have to pay more attention to. I'm sure that right there will tell me when I should be switching gears. I just need to go to a big parking lot and practice my take offs. I think riding with cars I'd do fine, but it'd be embarrassing to stall the bike or go like grandma with a line of cars behind me.

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It's cool to be new at something as awesome as streetbike riding. The DRZ400SM is a very capable twisty road burner that can embarrass many sport bikes. It's light, has sticky tires and you can use all of the power on tap (36hp or so).

The MSF class is not as simple as getting a permit and magically getting an M1 and be free to get whatever bike you want... yes, this is one scenario. The realistic part of the MSF class is it allows you experience real-world scenarios and drills in a controlled environment on small displacement motorcycles. You won't be riding your own bike for most of the MSF classes.

Down-shifting into first- I think it sounds like you can get into 2nd, or even neutral, but you are having problems getting the bike all the way into 1st at stops. Sometimes the gears are not lined up all the way, and it requires very slightly releasing the clutch when you are banging the pedal down. Basically, you will just barely feel the clutch engage, and this will help knock the bike into first gear. It also helps to downshift into first while the bike is still moving, but not letting the clutch out to actually engage first gear before stopping. It's a simple technique you'll get used to. Once everything breaks in more, it won't even be a problem.

When it comes down to handling practice, it's great to find a stretch of road a few miles long with some good corners and just repeatedly ride it, back and forth. You want to learn and develop in a controlled environment, the best way to control the environment is to keep it consistent.

The DRZ SM is not an off-road bike as it is set-up. It has small diameter, sticky street tires and big brakes... If you are planning on taking this into the dirt you'll want to find yourself some off-road wheels and tires... there are some rain-tires that will fit your bike, but they are not dirt tires.

Other than that, I applaud you for making a smart choice and getting and awesome first bike. It won't go 160, but you're likely to ride better and longer starting with the SM than any kind of sport bike. :)

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Yeah just practice where you are comfortable until you are ready. If the bike chugs and has no power when you shift, then you are shifting way too early. You will learn the RPMs and about when to shift. After a while you will know EXACTLY when to shift to stay with the power of the bike.

First gear is always the hardest. You wont hae to do it slow and you can be all or nothing the second you learn the amount of gas and the speed of letting out the clutch. Remember that there is a lot of "dead zone" in the clutch lever pull. Each bike is different and it depends on when the clutch starts to engage. Say the clutch starts to engage RIGHT in the middle between the clutch fully out and the clutch pulled all the way into the handlebar. The space between fully out or fully in at the bar and the middle where the clutch engages is considered a dead zone. You might be taking your time with the clutch in the wrong spots. You need to get a feel for exactly where the clutch engages and know it well enough that its second nature and you dont have to think about it. I dont even pull the clutch all the way into the bar, I just pull mine with one finger until it touches the rest of my fingers on the grip. This eliminates some of the dead zone where the clutch lever movement has no effect. Your clutch might engage in a completely different spot but its adjustable. When i'm letting out the clutch I can feel when it starts to grab and then I can just give it some throttle until I start moving a little and then I just let it out and GO. Dont be afraid to slip the clutch a little when you're learning to take off from a start. When the clutch starts to grab, give it any amount of throttle(not TOO much) and let it out slowly. Dumping the clutch is when you just let it snap out from fully pulled. You dont need to worry about this, I'm sure you wont do that accidentally and if you do it will just stall. If you give it throttle and dump the clutch...it will either take off like a rocket, or pop the front end right off the ground. Those are the only worries...and they are to an extreme, its not something you can do accidentally so dont be worried, just try and try again.

Simple. Listen to the RPMs and learn them. Find where the clutch engages, get to that point where it starts to pull and then you dont have to let it out slow, just smooth and give it throttle.

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Oh and as for DOWNSHIFTING into first...Personally I dont even think that is necessary. First gear is just a starting off gear. In all of my dirtbikes, my streetbike, and my 6 speed manual car...I have never needed to downshift into first. My car wont even let me downshift into first unless I'm going 5-10 MPH or probably less. By then it doesnt even make sense to downshift since it only takes a dab of the brakes to stop me. I NEVER downshift into first on my dirtbikes unless I'm barely moving and trying to accelerate or I'm trying to accellerate up a sudden hill from a very slow speed and 2nd gear starts chugging. I downshifted on my streetbike every once in a great while but with no benefits over holding the front brake from slow second gear. Once you are in low RPMS in second gear just dab one of the brakes until you stop and then the bike will shift into first with ease.

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I have. I wanted to at least not be so new to riding that I felt comfortable on a bike. After all what good is the M1 endorsement if I can't ride to begin with LOL.

I thought about that........so you can get your permit, take the class (never having a minute of ride time), pass the MSF course and go get whatever bike feeling your licensed now. I sorta wanted to go backwards and get use to being on a bike, so then the MSF course should not feel so out of place, pass it, and keep on learning and riding.

I rode my bike for about 4 weeks with my permit only before taking the MSF class. I even rode it to work on back roads for 10 miles each way. No freeways or busy expressways.

Passed the MSF class on a Sunday. Monday morning I traded the certificate for an M1 endorsement. Monday evening I had my first crash, in the dirt at the local park. I suspect I was a little cocky, having become an expert 'cause I took that class.

The MSF class did not discuss off camber downhill dirt turns. I was out of riding for about a wek or so.

Regarding the clutch. I try not to slip the clutch when riding on the street. In the dirt, sometimes you can not quite get the throttle control that you need, so I rev the engin up a little and sip the clutch. This is for specific situations at low speeds.

In the MSF class one of the tests is an S turn within a specific box size. They teach you to slip the clutch when you want to go that slow. Anote special situation.

Once when up shifting I forgot the clutch and all was well. My son tells me that a lot of riders do that. It doesn't seem like a good idea to me. I certainly would not do that in my truck. Unless the clutch was broken and I had to drive it to the shop. I did learn to crunch shift about 40 years ago before synchros, so I know how, but I don't normally.

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my only reccomendation, is get in the dirt and have fun. it will come naturally

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I rode my bike for about 4 weeks with my permit only before taking the MSF class. I even rode it to work on back roads for 10 miles each way. No freeways or busy expressways.

Passed the MSF class on a Sunday. Monday morning I traded the certificate for an M1 endorsement. Monday evening I had my first crash, in the dirt at the local park. I suspect I was a little cocky, having become an expert 'cause I took that class.

The MSF class did not discuss off camber downhill dirt turns. I was out of riding for about a wek or so.

Regarding the clutch. I try not to slip the clutch when riding on the street. In the dirt, sometimes you can not quite get the throttle control that you need, so I rev the engin up a little and sip the clutch. This is for specific situations at low speeds.

In the MSF class one of the tests is an S turn within a specific box size. They teach you to slip the clutch when you want to go that slow. Anote special situation.

Once when up shifting I forgot the clutch and all was well. My son tells me that a lot of riders do that. It doesn't seem like a good idea to me. I certainly would not do that in my truck. Unless the clutch was broken and I had to drive it to the shop. I did learn to crunch shift about 40 years ago before synchros, so I know how, but I don't normally.

Its called speedshifting. Motorcycle transmissions can handle it on upshifting. It does have some risk...and I dont do it very often unless I'm in a sticky situation at the racetrack. Car and truck transmissions are setup differently. The gears are in different places. On a motorcycle you just move the lever up and down and the transmission is spaced in a way that it isnt difficult. Car and truck transmissions have a different placement hence the up,down,up-right, down, up-right, etc. Its still possible and if done correctly it wont hurt the transmission but its still risky. My friend does it ALL the time in his Acura and his transmission is still flawless. You have to have the RPMs in JUST the right spot. Upshifting witout a clutch on a motorcycle isnt as risky as long as you dont give it throttle...but I dont recommend it unless its imperative. On a race bike...it will save you a fraction of a second here and there and it adds up so a lot of people with MX bikes do it all the time for racing. If it happens accidentally...I wouldnt think twice about it and theres nothing to worry about unless you hear any deep grinding.

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I would suggest taking one of those courses first. Besides not having much motorcycle experience, you don't have any on the town streets or anywhere else. The last thing you want to do is be focused on trying to ride your bike and not be paying attention to the cars around you.

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Its called speedshifting. Motorcycle transmissions can handle it on upshifting. It does have some risk...and I dont do it very often unless I'm in a sticky situation at the racetrack. Car and truck transmissions are setup differently. The gears are in different places. On a motorcycle you just move the lever up and down and the transmission is spaced in a way that it isnt difficult. Car and truck transmissions have a different placement hence the up,down,up-right, down, up-right, etc. Its still possible and if done correctly it wont hurt the transmission but its still risky. My friend does it ALL the time in his Acura and his transmission is still flawless. You have to have the RPMs in JUST the right spot. Upshifting witout a clutch on a motorcycle isnt as risky as long as you dont give it throttle...but I dont recommend it unless its imperative. On a race bike...it will save you a fraction of a second here and there and it adds up so a lot of people with MX bikes do it all the time for racing. If it happens accidentally...I wouldnt think twice about it and theres nothing to worry about unless you hear any deep grinding.

So on a bike you have to rev it up, let completely off the gas-shift-then get back on the gas from idle speed(engine revs)? That seems a lot slower than revving it up, close the throttle about half-way-pull in the clutch, shift-let go of the clutch and get on the gas right when it starts getting powerful. While it is more steps involved it keeps your rpms and power built up with only a fraction of a second lost.

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Yeah you dont have to let off the gas completely and you certainly dont have to let the engine come back to idle speed, this method is a little slower but its easier to learn with becuase its less to think about and you need to be paying attention to your surroundings. When riding the bike becomes second nature you wont even have to think to know when and how to shift and clutch to get the most power out of the bike. But good point "The Breeze".

I have taught a LOT of my friends how to ride motocross and a few how to road ride and 99% of them didnt even have experience with how to clutch or shift. I break it down into "hurdles". I get them spreading out their "hurdles" to jump one at a time instead of stacking them and trying to jump them all at once...meaning I break down the steps in order as easy as possible and place them in order until they learn what they are doing, then they usually teach themselves the fastest way once they are confident.

I get them repeating the steps in their head.

"let off throttle"

"pull in clutch"

"shift up"

"ease out clutch"

"get on the gas"

This may not be the fastest way but its really easy to learn and you can tweak your methods after you start riding the bike without repeating the steps in your head or actually THINKING about the shifting and clutching.

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I would suggest taking one of those courses first. Besides not having much motorcycle experience, you don't have any on the town streets or anywhere else. The last thing you want to do is be focused on trying to ride your bike and not be paying attention to the cars around you.

EXACTLY! When you learn how to control the engine you will literally just do it automaticly wihtout thinking (as I have said) Thats when riding a motorcycle gets FUN. You really need to practice in safe places until you're comfortable. I have seen people get in accidents becuase they are thinking about shifting and clutching. A friend of mine(while I was in the car) was learning to drive 5 speed and we got into an accident. Its a whole different story on a motorcycle, an accident is NOT AN OPTION. We both saw the accident coming and he had enough time to react but he was so flustered trying to think about clutching before he hit the brake(which is never necessary if you're about to get in an accident) he ended up clutching and moving the stick to neutral and we hit before he even touched the brake. I have also seen other people on the road get in rolling accidents. Cars and motorcycles parked on an up-hill and rolling backwards into the car behind them or tipping over the bike becuase they jammed the back brake instead of the front. Learn everything before you get into traffic or obstacles. There are enough things on the road to worry about even if you're out there in an automatic car, and other drivers ARE NOT paying attention. You WILL find yourself in situations where you need to think fast and use some skill. People often dont see motorcycles on the road and you need to have your headlights on at all times. Most bikes have lights that stay on constantly but a lot of people run with their brights on in the daytime. Say you go on a trip in a car... You see MOSTLY cars on the road and motorcycles are a lot harder to spot and most people are only looking for other cars. My neighbor pulled out in front of a crotch rocket(not speeding) and he was in a "collision trap" There was nowhere for him to go and he hit her car and was in critical condition for quite some time fighting for his life. I dont mean to scare you but you need to be HIGHLY aware of your surroundings and any danger that might arise and this isnt possible until you are comfortable on your bike.

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Once you can ride and daydream at the same time, then it's time to think about getting out in traffic. So then, you will be riding and focused on the people around you.

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MSF MSF MSF MSF MSF. When you do the begginer course you get to ride their bikes, and they teach you basics of riding, and accident avoidence. So that when it comes down to you having to make a split second decision, that could save your life you don't have to think about how to handle the bike. Good call on not getting a sport bike, good to see people with brains. Good luck have fun. And like someone else said spend some time in the dirt. You'll be Hooked in no time. Ohh and be sure to get some gear, pavement can do some serious damage.

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I just wanted to ask how you're coming along with the bike? Make sure you're really careful. Take the MSF is necessary. I dont want to scare you but again..you need to be REALLY careful on a motorcycle and have every bit of attention you can on the road and other vehicles becuase they do not see you. Last night a good friend of mine was killed on his motorcycle. He was going under the speed limit and was following behind another car at a safe distance and there was an SUV waiting to turn across the oncoming lane onto another road and she didnt see him. She waited for the car to pass and she pulled right into him. He was rushed to the hospital but died of his injuries shortly after. I ALWAY assume that I'm invisible on the road and take every extra precaution since I expect other vehicles to be driving as if I'm not there. Rest in peace Joe. My thoughts are with you...

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Well I figured some time has gone by, will give a short update. Sorry to hear about your buddy Teflon 👍

Been taking the bike out each day after work, for 30-60 minutes riding around. I've moved up to traffic now. I've stalled it a couple of times and hit Neutral a couple of times by accident, but so far so good. Hit some long strait a ways and got it going in 5th gear. I have my moments when I am still new to shifting, and when I seem to have it down. Riding with cars it's harder because sometimes you only can get into second because of the speed of traffic and have to sorta baby it around the 25mph or less speed. When things start moving it's not a big deal at all.

I've just hit 60 miles, so I'm trying to ride around 3-5 miles a day in just getting on it and riding. I figured that's one of the only ways to get better at it.

I picked up some cortech leather gloves off of a local guy on craigslist and have a textile jacket coming Friday. I should be good for gear once that stuff comes in. My Arai XD-3 helmet works great, though it can get a bit loud above 45mph. I got such a good deal on that piece I couldn't pass it up.

So there's a update, I am still learning. Getting better slowly but surely. Thanks for all the support and advice guys!

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