Passenger to Rider

I’ve been learning a lot. As a passenger, I summed up my responsibilities as looking good on the back of a bike, tapping a shoulder when I needed a break or wanted to take pictures, and keeping an eye out on the road. As a rider, I knew I was going to be doing more, but at first, it seemed like so much at once!

The first lesson was after I bought my 1981 Yamaha 185. It’s small, so it is the perfect bike for me to learn on. In fact, it’s so small, I feel like I look like the circus bear riding on a miniature bike! So, for my very first lesson, I set my goals low: figure out first gear, how to stop, and don’t leave the soccer field that offers a nice cushion for my inevitable first biff!

I always payed attention to how the rider leans on turns, but they make it look like it’s a natural instinct we are all born with. Well, I lack that instinct. As I went to round the first turn, I ended up going extremely wide and debated if the chain-link fence would really stop me. So, for a second, I imagined busting through the fence – you know, like in cartoons, when you just leave a perfect outline of yourself and your bike – and forgetting how to stop, rolling down the hill, still going through the ditch, and landing on the highway. Yeah, I know, I overthink a little.

So, I quickly identified I need to work on turns and how to get comfortable leaning and not feeling like I am going to just fall over. I killed it trying to get going in first a few times, but I expected nothing less. Once I got the hang of it, it was time to try second and third. If I usually shift to second around 15 miles per hour, does that mean I need to be going 100 miles per hour for third?! Completely dramatic – yes, I know.

After what seemed to be 1,000 laps, it was suggested I was ready to take it on the road. What?! Yes, I know it’s the road by the cemetery in Monroe. I know it’s straight and usually no one is around. But, what if?! What if this is the first time that Chicago-like traffic shows up in Monroe, and I am surrounded by bumpers? What if there is a 5k to raise money for timid girls on motorcycles (soon to be known as the T-GOM 5K – you can pre-order your shirts now), and they are swarming around me and I forget how to stop?! Again, dramatic – yes, I am fully aware. But, I won’t sell you on some bad-ass chick who got on her bike and just rode it like she was born to do it. I am going to shoot you straight – I was postured in a very uptight manner, I was gripping so hard my hands were sore just after an hour of practice, and I was running through every worst-case-and-most-unlikely situation.

Well, I promised myself to say “yes” more, so I trusted I was ready for the freeway – by “freeway” I mean rock-and-tar road with a 25-mile per hour limit. So, I did it. And, it was great! I learned how to shift up, down shift, stop, and tightly turn around in first gear. I must have looked like a young child riding their bicycle without training wheels for the first time (I looked for training wheels for my motorcycle, last year, no joke). I was so happy to feel the wind on my face and through my hair. I was so proud to know this bike was gliding with me in complete control of it. I was motivated to keep learning more and more!

I have practiced a lot and realize that it doesn’t matter that my make-up is on point, but that I am watching the road for everything while I use both hands and both legs to make sure I am ready to stop, go, etc. It seems like a lot at first, but then it starts to feel almost second-nature. And, that’s the progress I love the most!

Lessons continue to progress, and I am now somewhat proficient when it comes to sudden stops, sudden starts, starting on a hill, swerves to avoid hazards, and leaning for turns. I practiced the test course to get licensed more times than I can count – so that is going to happen very soon (although I am not ecstatic about the chance of 8 well-versed motorcyclists watching me for their own entertainment and judgement – yes, again, I know that is unlikely)!

What’s next? I am going to try out my Fat Boy! It will be slow with baby steps, just as I have with the Yamaha. But, I am going from a circus bike to a 700-pound beast. So, that’s been my motivation for keeping on my workouts. While my core is in top-shape, I have been working on my legs and glutes! I don’t want to look like a dainty flower pushing with all her might to just try to get the bike out of the garage.

So, that leads me to my next blog entry. I promised to talk about great food and what fuels me. So, I will be sharing a bit about the awesome food I eat, and my workout progression. So, if you’re following more for that, rather than hearing about an awkward girl learning how to ride a motorcycle: stay tuned!

May your ride be smooth and your drinks stiff!  Cheers!

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