Brake Discs, Ergonomics And A New Rider - MC Answer

My '85 Honda Nighthawk 700, which I've owned since it was new, has always had a throb in the front end when using the front brake. Honda says the rotors are within tolerance-0.004 inch. What's the problem and how do I fix it? I get nothing from Honda except "change the rotors," and they won't guarantee new ones won't be just as bad.
No name given
Via e-mail

To keep warranty claims to a minimum, the manufacturers routinely set unrealistic limits for things like disc run-out. Our man Jeff at Ferodo Brake Tech (805/376-9565) says you'll feel the pulsation you describe even before three-thousandths of an inch. The cure is new discs, but know when you install them that heat is what warps them, and the new sintered pads produce lots of it. Break new discs and pads in gently. Ride the first 10 or 20 miles as though you're on slippery new tires.

Cogito Ergo Whatever
Love the new layout and content, but I'm curious about the "ergonomics" chart that showed up in the Peep Show comparison (June '00). Isn't there more to how comfortable a motorcycle feels than a one-dimensional triangle?
P. Fornella
Newport, RI

Right you are. The ergo triangles are really for comparison purposes only; your actual comfort may vary depending upon your own body style and other various factors. Not just the position of the seat, but also its width, depth, shape, and cant, make a difference, and the shape of the gas tank as it meets the rider is also critical. The steep, sharp rear of the 900SS Ducati's tank, for instance, makes it feel more stretched-out than it would otherwise. (In contrast, the 2000 Yamaha YZF-R1 feels easier to ride than the '98, mainly from just a change in tank shape.) The cant and angle of the handlebars make a big difference in comfort and steering feel. Also, how tall is the windscreen? One that pours air on your chest makes lower bars more tolerable. Ergonomics is a complex science; think of our triangle as a starting point.

Tough Duty
I'm stationed in Naples, Italy, and I have just started to learn to ride. Every time I tell my friends what kind of bike I want they laugh and tell me to start with something small, like a 250. I would like to know your view; is the Ducati 748S or 900SS too much for a first timer? Would you recommend them? I really want a Ducati. Over here they're way cheaper than in the States, and I won't have to pay for shipping when I return home. Any advice?
Gregory Blaney, USMC
Naples, Italy

Sounds like you're a prime candidate for a 600 or 750 Ducati Monster, neither of which makes tons of power, but plenty to get you around. Seems to us the toughest part about learning to ride was negotiating off-camber, slippery, weird driveways and other awkward parking situations where it's easy to lose your balance. Sometimes you just dump the thing at little more than walking speed. That's where the Monster's lack of a fairing makes it ideal as a learner: Drop it at low speed and there's no expensive plastic to damage-maybe a lever. Plus, the bike's high, wide handlebar gives you much more control and confidence while learning. Face it, you're a U.S. Marine in Italy. You've got an image to uphold. What are you interested in besides motorcycles? A 250 ain't gonna cut it. (Get a U.S.-spec Monster for minimal hassle come Stateside time.)

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