Two key points here.
1) With my M1 I cannot ride at night, or on highways. Specifically, I can ride half an hour before sunrise, and half an hour after sunset. That's my window. Given it's the middle of summer, that gives me a huge window of 5am to 9pm.
Given that traffic is terrible in my area, 5am was the goal. Any other time of day would be too intidimating.
2) I wanted to avoid normal roads so I could get to a large parking lot to practice and get a feel for the bike. Problem is I live way downtown, and am basically surrounded by busy roads and almost no large parking lots.
One great exception is the Ontario Place parking lot, which from some forum research seems to be a great practice spot.
So a 5 minute ride there, a few hours of practice, and then back home with a better feel for my new purchase.
That was the plan, anyways.
Not in my plans: How the hell do I get out of my underground parking lot.
After over a decade of driving a car, I suddenly felt like I was 16 again. Overwhelmed at everything my hands and feet had to do (plus balance) that the idea of any outside obstacles and factors was mind blowing. Pillars? Parked cars? Yikes.
So I had to ride it out. I couldn't push it if I wanted to, it'd be too heavy to get up the ramps. While others in the suburbs can roll it off their large driveway onto a big residential street, I had to wind around dozens of other expensive vehicles, up ramps, stop at motion sensor gates, and finally up a steeper ramp to exit the building.
I was really, really nervous about that.
Riding a bike slowly is generally quite a bit more difficult than going fast. There is just far less balance. Given that I'd never ridden this bike, a huge bike compared to my very limited experience, this was daunting.
All those thoughts, plus my full gear on, meant that before I even started out I was trembling and sweating. But at some point there was nothing left to do but go.
I dropped it backing out of the parking spot. It was gut wrenching and embarrasing, even with no one around. Did I damage it? Am I even strong enough to pick it up? Why do I already feel dehydrated? Oh right, I'm wearing full gear indoors and sweating like I'm on trial.
I hit the kill switch on the bike, and got on the left side to try and lift it.
With my back to the bike (I had Youtube'd bike lifting videos to check form) I squatted down, grabbed the handles on one side and the side bars on the other, and tried to lift.
I got it a few inches before having to settle it back down.
Holy shit, it's really heavy. I wasn't sure I could even do this. And if I can't, what the hell am I doing at 5am on a Saturday in my parking garage? Do I just leave it and ask someone in the building to help?
I really didn't want to do that. So after some fretting, I went back to trying.
A few tries in, I realized I really did have to give it everything, and it gradually swung upwards. At near full exertion I also had to use one foot to knock the kickstand down so it wouldn't topple again. Again, nerve wracking.
But I got it back up. First drop, about 5 feet back from where it was parked.
Spoiler: About 2 minutes after the first one.
After successfully backing it out of my spot, firing the bike up and psyching myself up, I finally got underway. Found the friction zone on the V-Strom for the very first time, and started going really slowly around the parking lot.
I didn't even know where the damn ramp was to the next level, but I was going around pretty well. The balance I gained in training was actually coming back. Found the first ramp, and right after encountered the first security gate. Huh, forgot about that. Rolled up to it, braked too hard, and dropped the bike again.
In front of the motion sensing doors.
Bike on the ground, garage doors slowly opening, and closing, in front of me. Two drops and I haven't even reached a street yet.
But I knew what I needed to do now, so I hauled it up quickly, turned it back on, and got out of the parking lot.
I had planned to be on the road before sunrise, but it was well past when I reached the road.
A quick ride down a hill and onto Lakeshore, the main road going across the waterfront of Toronto. It couldn't be more than 5 minutes to Ontario Place, so despite having zero road experience, I was excited as there were only a few cars on the road.
I know I made a bunch of mistakes getting there already. I was too nervous to hit the first turn signal (fortunately no one was around at all), and my mirrors had gotten shifted when I dropped the bike so they weren't great either, which forced me to shoulder check.
But I got there!
And it was closed.
I pulled up to the gate and sat there dumbstruck. Where the hell would I go now? I didn't want to go far, traffic would only get denser as the morning went on.
Not knowing where another good lot was, I decided to head back and just do loops around the condos in my area, which takes all of 1-2 minutes.
I started to turn the bike around, and dropped it again.
This time it was infront of the parking lot attendant, and 2 guys riding by on a golf cart for whatever event was in the parking lot that day.
One of the guys on the golf cart asked if I needed help, and before I could wave them off one of them was already next to me helping me lift it. Which honestly I was totally grateful for, because I was damn tired already.
Thanked him and just stood there. The parking attendant walked up and started chatting.
"End of a long ride, huh? Must be tired!" "Ha, no. Actually first ride ever."
It was nice of him to go for the "total exhaustion" excuse first, though.
Turns out he rides as well and he gave me some advice, and some book and video recommendations (some which I had seen already, so I knew the recommendations were good). He said he had rode around his neighbourhood for nearly a year before going further. I didn't really have that luxury being in the middle of downtown, but the thought helped.
Having someone explain how difficult it was for them to start made really relieve some of my own self-imposed pressure. And hey, first day.
After I built my nerves up again, we said goodbye, and I headed back home.
Who's honking me?
I did slow loops around my block of condos, just to practice riding the clutch, upshifting to 2nd for one straight away, and shifting down to slow down.
Also got some practice in committing the turn signal switch to memory, which is different in that you have to cancel it manually on a bike by pressing it in.
While doing this, I kept hearing this intermittent honking. I mean there were a few other vehicles around, but not many. What the hell?
Oh wait, the horn is adjacent to the turn signals.
I was honking myself.
And also the few people who were walking around, or sitting at the Tim Hortons on that street, were definitely staring at me.
After about 20 minutes of loops, I headed back inside. I think I spent 20 minutes doing loops because I was nervous about navigating the underground parking again.
Taking my key fob out of the jacket is a pain. Gotta pull up to the sensor, switch to just front brakes so I can put my right foot down, so I can use my left foot to gear into neutral, so I can take my left hand off the clutch to use the keyfob.
This will probably take 2 seconds when I get some practice, but the first time through I felt like I was doing a brain teaser.
Door opened, keys away, and down I go.
Oh right, another gate, I need to use the keyfob again almost immediately.
Brake hard. Drop.
On the otherside of the gate that I had already dropped my bike at.
This time I had it back up in a hurry. I realized that the ground was also uneven here, which took me by surprise. Made a note, and kept moving.
A minute later I parked the bike, and went back upstairs.
It was 6:40am, and I was already toast. I had hit the road about an hour before.
It was a rough first ride. The brightest spot was probably the few minutes I had on a nearly empty Lakeshore, getting up to 60km/h and feeling balanced.
I was second guessing pretty much everything. Should I even be riding? Should I sell this big bike and get a smaller one? Should I just sell it? I feel like a colossal idiot.
But the first ride was done, it'd never happen again.