Sunday, October 4, 2015

Setting Up Your New Bike - Be Patient!

You just found the best bike in the world.  It is for you, fits you and is the bike of all bikes.  Why does it ride like crap? 

First, when buying a new bike, I caution against buying direct from Marketplace.  You wouldn't buy a bike in RL without a test ride would you?  The same holds true in SL.  If at all possible, visit the in-world store and look for a demo rezzer.  The best bike builders will have them and will also provide a test track.  There is a reason they are the best.  If you can't find an in-world store, demo rezzer or test track, try contacting the builder to find out if he or she will help you. 

Some designs are just absolute junk.  I'm sorry to say this but its true.  A bike that floats down hills, bounces or has bad animations will be a waste of money.  The solution, ride it before you buy it and you won't be disappointed.

Basic Bike Controls:

To drive forward, I use the up arrow (cursor key) to go forward, down arrow to stop, left to turn left and right to turn right.  Left and down at the same time skids the bike to the left and right and down at the same time, skids to the right.  With some bikes, Up and Down at the same time, lifts the bike up to clear your wheels, body, avatar, hair or whatever is stuck in a wall. 

To slow down, hit the down arrow key or simply lift off the up arrow key and the bike will slow down. This is helpful for sharp corners.  Just like when you ride your RL bike or drive a car, when you lift off the accelerator or hit the brakes to slow down.  Simple huh?

For shifting I learned it one way though there are two ways to shift. I'll talk about how I do it.  Shifting sets the speed of the bike. Low gear means slow speed.  Pressing Shift + (left cursor key) down shifts.  Pressing Shift + (right cursor key) selects a higher gear.  Page up pops a wheelie.  Page down makes the bike go really really really really really fast.  Use that sparingly!

Variations and Options:

There are bikes with custom scripts and there are those using the ACS/KCP scripting.  With the custom scripts, usually proprietary to the builder, you may not be able to modify some of the performance variables.  For the KCP scripted bikes or those using that menu system, adjusting some performance variables will give you a better riding experience. You'll get the bike tailored to how you ride.

When I get a new bike or try a demo, after going through the resizing, changing the shifting key assignments (through the Options/Advanced menu settings) and adjusting the posing, I'll adjust the bike's steering variables.  Most builders will release a bike with some basic settings.  Others will tweak the settings based upon their preferences before it is released.  Still adjusting the settings is pretty easy to do with patience. 

The steering settings can be found by left clicking somewhere on the bike.  A menu will appear on your screen and you can play with all sorts of options from graphics, the horn, lights and other options available for your bike.  Let's talk about steering settings because a properly tuned bike will give you more enjoyment than one that isn't.  Sounds obvious doesn't it?

Steering Settings (a simple example)

The first thing I'll do is to adjust the VehMult (Vehicle Multiplier) to zero or at least check that the setting is at zero.  What I'm told is VehMult is more useful for large vehicles than small vehicles such as bikes.  Perhaps the concept is this setting simulates mass within the SL physical environment.  You can tell me otherwise.

Next, I'll want to know the settings for Bonus and Resistance. 
  • Bonus:  What I've found is that the Bonus value impacts steering the longer you hold the arrow (or ASWD) keys.  Hold the key you use to turn left or right on a sweeping turn, the bike will be assisted by a Bonus value higher than zero.  The right setting for you will be based upon what you want to do.  When I race against time (I'm not that fast) I'll increase the Bonus incrementally.  Some builders have their Bonus setting overly high, you can click down the setting to your preference in time.  Listen to music, watch a movie while you click away. 
  • Resistance: This option controls over steer or under steer.  If you find your bike riding wide on a turn, reduce the resistance.  If you find the bike turns too fast, increase the resistance.  Make your adjustments incrementally.
Now that you understand the concepts of Bonus and Resistance, here is my guidance.  Set these values to a point where you can comfortably ride rather than adjusting them for speed.  There are some other principles I choose for racing (I'm still not that fast).  My definition for "comfortably ride" means you're not trying to have the fastest lap.  You will want to ride the sky tracks with confidence and not bouncing across walls or other riders.


The steering rate is found on the menu via Options, Controls, Steering.  The options are ++ or - - indicating larger variations from the base setting and + and - for more incremental changes.  I'll adjust steering after the Bonus and Resistance.  The reason why is I find a little bit goes a long way.  Minor changes to your steering settings on a bike that has been adjusted for over/under steer and Bonus will be very noticeable. 

Adjustments for Performance Riding:

My experience with the KCP scripted bikes is the faster I want to ride, I need to adjust the steering, resistance and bonus to allow the bike to perform without hitting walls or bouncing across tracks. More importantly, I want the bike to take the corners without hitting walls or requiring a lot of keyboard inputs or letting off of the "gas". 

My approach is to keep the Steering rate and Bonus untouched and to incrementally reduce the resistance (increasing over steer) the faster I want to go.  After that, I'll increase the Bonus just a little bit (a little goes a long way here too) to augment my rate of turn.  Then I'll go for a test ride at speed.  If the bike still isn't performing perfectly, I'll make more incremental changes.  Finally, if I think a little more steering force is needed, I'll increase the steering rate incrementally. 

Now there is a side affect to setting up a bike for performance riding.  At lower gears, the bike will be almost impossible to ride.  Remember that you set the bike up to be controllable at a higher rate of speed making it more uncontrollable at lower speeds.  So, make a copy of your race bike and a copy of your cruise bike.

Other Notable Settings:
  • Bank adjusts the bank angle when you turn.  To my knowledge this is about aesthetics more than performance though I may be wrong. 
  • Gravity has a few settings including "gravity" which controls down force, sticking the bike to the ground (I don't find it that noticeable a setting). VAttrac is how quickly the bike springs back to normal alignment.
  • Gears allows you to adjust the speed for each gear assignment.  Higher values means the bike will go faster in that gear setting.
I do recommend finding a TinyCam HUD as it will help with your camera view when you ride.  The menu driven camera settings are cumbersome and a little frustrating.  TinyCam makes it so much easier. 

As with anything, patience is key when setting up your bike. Once you get the hang of the process, you can have your bike adjusted for your preferences and skill level.  Putting the control of how your bike performs at your finger tips makes riding even more fun.  Anyone can set up their bike and will be happy.  Some bikes are perfect right after you buy them.  If you're happy with how a bike rides without making any adjustments, then ride on! 

If you want a little bit more, click away!

Have fun!