• Alexandra Nguyen

Adventurous Alex: Motorbike Edition

This blog answers the following questions:

  1. What made you get into motorbikes? Tell us about your first motorbike.

  2. What kind of motobikes are out there and what made you choose yours?

  3. What gear is necessary? What gear do you have?


I hope this blog helps someone learn more about motorbikes and what kind of gear they need to get if they are wanting to get into motorbikes!


Alex's Motorbike Journey

What made you get into motorbikes?

When I was a wee little girl, I watched Kill Bill. This was my first taste of feminism and when I saw Uma Thurman hop on her yellow motorbike gear literally SLAYING, I told myself that I was going to be a powerful badass one day too.

Uma Thurman as Black Mamba in Kill Bill


And that day came the weekend of July 4, 2014. Instead of getting inebriated with the rest of the country and my college friends, I decided to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) course. I was alone in a class with a bunch of burly white dudes. What did I get myself into?


The course taught you the basics of riding and also provided Honda Rebels to practice with which came in clutch (see what I did there?) since I did not have my own motorbike.


In just three days, I was able to get a waiver for my motorbike license after passing the written and practical exam! Badabing. Badaboom. If you want something, you gotta go out and get it!


Tell us about your first motorbike.

I found my first motorbike on Craigslist - a Black 1992 Suzuki GS500E, a naked bike that was literally older than me. However, I needed something that I wouldn't feel guilty if I dropped or laid her (the motorbike) down. I bought my new iron steed for less than $1000.

Harrison Ford (salaciously) said in Indiana Jones, "It's not the years honey, it's the mileage" 😉. Well, I'm talking about literal mileage and though she had a decent amount of mileage, it wasn't enough to be a POS lololol. She did need some TLC - I needed to clean her carbs, replace her battery, fork seal, and fork oil. Luckily, my friend's pops helped me fix my baby in his garage. After a couple of months in the 'shop', we were ready to Rock n Roll!!!


We had amazing times riding and winding through the mountains together. I did drop her TWICE which is all part of the learning process of riding. Though, once I broke my clutch lever and I had to push start and ride home in first gear. Amateur hour, amirite?!


(Check out this poorly made Youtube video of me riding to Blood Mountain in Georgia).


But as always, all good things must come to an end. I fell in love with a South African boy, sold what made me feel alive for an airline ticket to be with the one I loved. That's another story - maybe I'll feel brave writing about one day. (But I made a profit so that was nice.) Don't you worry! My motorbike days were far from over.


Alex's Current Motorbike

Here's a rundown of the five types of motorbikes:

  1. Standard: These are like all-purpose bikes. You can equip them with tank bags and side saddlebags. The seating itself is a more neutral position which is more comfortable. Great for the city but also for longer trips around the mountains.

  2. Sport: These motorbikes are light, agile, have the horsepower to be quick. The seating position is more forward. Great for racing (which Grandma Alex does not condone), city-riding, track days, and shooting from traffic light to traffic light, dippin' and dodgin' through traffic. Though, they are no ideal for long distances.

  3. Touring: Touring motorbikes are large, durable, ergonomic, and made to haul tons of storage because they are meant for cross-country/long-distance riding. Since they are a bit bulky, it's difficult for touring bikes to be a daily commuter in the city.

  4. Off-Road: These bikes are like dirt bikes and are meant to go into...the bush. They have high suspension and taller seating positions to deal with bumps, rocks, roots, you name it! They usually aren't street legal because they are not equipped with lights/turn signals.

  5. Dual-Sport: These bikes are like the best of both worlds - a hybrid of off-road and touring. They are equipped with lights/turn signals but also the suspension of off-road bikes and aggressive tires to get you anywhere.


During the past summer, I rented a Triumph Bonneville T100 and took a solo trip from San Francisco to Monterrey, CA. After riding this girl for 250 miles, I fell in love with Triumphs and was determined to get another bike...but I wanted something a bit more sportier...like a cafe racer.

This is somewhere on the US 1 on a day trip down to Monterrey, CA


I always dreamed of having a cafe racer because...

  • I have an old soul and I love the classic, minimalistic, naked look with low handlebars and a dope seat cowl

  • They are a cross between a sport and standard bike which makes them ideal for the city because they are "lightweight" (even though it's about 550lbs), super-powerful, meant for speed, and they handle really well because of the seat position but also for longer trips with options to add saddlebags.


When I moved back to California for a new job, I sold my car and purchased a Black 2014 Triumph Thruxton with gold stripes from Craigslist, basically in mint condition with very little miles. What a steal. (Thanks Darin for helping me!!!)


This was my first solo ride with my new baby to Point Reyes National Seashore :)


Safety first!

I cannot say this enough. If you want to get a motorbike, please budget for GEAR. Gear is crucial because motorbike riding is inherently dangerous. We all know that. It's not us motorbikers and our skills that we have to worry about - it's the dumb idiots out on the road every single day texting, getting distracted, AND not paying attention to us riders out here. Therefore, since hopping on our iron steeds are already risky - we have to prevent injury as much as possible. That means not only defensive driving but also protecting ourselves with gear.


ATGATT - an acronym that stands for ALL THE GEAR ALL THE TIME. The safety squirrel, Momma Alex in me screams DO YOU WANT YOUR SKIN? How important is your noggin? What about your bones? Alright, enough of Momma Alex's speech.


That being said (shouted?), I have some moto gear that I would like to share - specifically to you motorbike ladies out here in the wild because it's rough. Women's motorbike gear looks like it was designed by old white males...because they were literally designed by old white males. Additionally, there aren't enough motorbike ladies in the US, so gear is not in high demand and it's COSTLY. Therefore, it makes it difficult for moto ladies to look good but also protected....that doesn't cost you an arm and a leg...that we are literally trying to protect 😂


Let's talk protective gear

I recently upgraded my gear so here are my goodies! Also, this is a list of necessary gear that you should be wearing all the time, just FYI. (On top of all these things, I also have rain gear - jacket/pants just in case of inclement weather!)


Jacket

I bought this beautiful Moto Girl UK (run and designed by women!!!) Valerie Yellow Leather Jacket (Sz Small) at a local motorbike shop a few blocks away from me in the Mission in San Francisco, CA called Scuderia Moto. It costs ~$300 BUT it has shoulder pads, elbow pads, and back protection. Leather is also the most protective fabric, other than kevlar. AMAZING price because most leather jackets with all of that gear run for about $500. I bought a size larger so I can fit another layer underneath for cold days. The best part is that it is YELLOW!!! My Black Mamba, Uma Thurman dreams come true!



Pants

It is important to have knee and hip pads with your pants so in case you fall, your bones/joints are protected. As I mentioned before, kevlar & leather are the best protection! I have two pairs of moto pants and normally wear: Size 0/25 in jeans as a reference


1. Alpinestars Vika v2 Leather Pants, Sz 36 online from Cycle Gear ($390). Pros: These are leather with CE protected knee pads only and are pre-shaped for riding. Cons: Leather is tight but leather stretches and conforms to your body. A little bulky but still pretty stylish though you def look like you got off a motorcycle.




2. Moto Girl Plain Black Leggings, Sz US 2 in-store from Scuderia Moto ($100-150). Pros: These are great for in the city for shorter rides because they aren't as bulky as my leather pants. They are fully lined in kevlar with included knee pads. The best part is that they are stretchy, comfy, and warm enough for California rides! The price is also very affordable because they are made in the UK where there are more women riders. Cons: They did not have hip pads so I purchased them separately, my calves are a bit too big for them but I have weird, massive calves, so not their fault.





I am also interested in purchasing Twiggy K Kevlar Black Jeans, Sz 26 ($325 with $25 email signup coupon) because they are also fully kevlar-lined BUT they don't seem like they are made for women with a little junk in the trunk. I feel like if I ride, my booty crack might want to say hello to the world. However, what I do like most about them is that they have removable knee pads that you can access OUTSIDE from the pants so when you get to your destination, you can pop those babies out and look like you're wearing normal jeans. Alright motorcycle jean companies, take my feedback!!!




Helmet

This is crucial for protecting your noggin!!! Brains are important right? Here are the six types of helmets:

Reference


My first helmet was a modular helmet with a removable chin piece. Weird? But I liked that the face screen was big vertically but it wasn't super safe. Recently, I bought a Matte Black Shoei RF-SR Helmet, XS ($390) from the sweet boys at Munroe Motors, another motorbike shop in the Mission that is the oldest motorbike shop in San Francisco! Full-face helmets are the SAFEST helmets. I chose the Shoei because it fits comfortably on my tiny head, reduces noise, and has great ventilation (like many helmets but this brand is reliable). Mainly, I chose it because the design is simple and doesn't have those crazy swirly designs.



Gloves

Gloves are necessary to absorb vibration but also protect your fingers!


  1. Bilt Freeze-Out Liner Gloves from Cycle Gear to slip under my everyday gloves for cold weather

  2. Bilt Black Leather Gloves (too old for link)

  3. Blackbird Boston Gloves ($100) but will be returning because of awkward fit. Lesson learned, try gloves in-store!




Boots

Boots are incredibly important because they make or break your ride. When purchasing boots, you need to make sure they protect your ankles. For me, since I was too short for my motorbike to touch the ground, it was crucial for me to find good boots with heels.


I purchased Freebird Cavalier Leather Boots, Size 8 ($295 but I got them on sale for 20% off!) online from a small business in Denver.


The heel is high enough for me to touch the ground when I ride my bike. The heel also lets me comfortably tuck them against my foot-pegs. They also have good grips on the bottom for traction on the road. Probably my favorite purchase because I can also wear them day-to-day.


Technology



My friend kindly gave me a Cardo PackTalk BOLD JBL Headset ($290). This Bluetooth headset seamlessly slips into your helmet. It plays music and you can listen to navigation while you ride (if you do not have a phone mount). I do not think this is entirely necessary but I would highly suggest purchasing, especially if you are riding in a group - you can chat together :)





Most importantly....what do you listen to?!

Feel free to follow my motorbike Spotify playlist called Spokes and Yolks and get ready to cruise! (There are some oldies in there - judge me all you want.) Would love some suggestions to add to my playlist. Let me know :)


In terms of gear, if you have any questions, I would highly suggest that you go to a local motorbike shop! They are usually so knowledgeable and very welcoming & kind! Special shoutout to Kyle at Munroe Motors and Julia at Scuderia Moto for helping decide on gear!


Thanks for reading! See you out on the open road!

Have any questions? Comment below or reach out to me directly :)

Created with SOUL by Alexandra M. Nguyen