Though a “newer” rider, I feel pretty comfortable on motorcycle. I’ve been very fortunate to have logged over 15,000 miles in 26 months of owning my bike. Lots of gravel, u-turns, tight parking, traffic jams for miles, rush hour traffic and construction zones, from Milwaukee to San Diego to Kansas City to Orange County, have given me some good miles and experiences. Rain, wind, thunderstorms, flooded roads, extreme heat, cold-cold, semi-trucks cutting me off (was a blind spot issue, I’m sure), have all added to, what feels like to me, a strong riding skill set.
So, just when I think I got some chops, I decide to take an Intermediate Rider Course. This is the second time I attend the class (took the same class last year). My goal since I got my endorsement, and every year going forward, is to take at least one safety class. I figure there is always more to learn.
Boy, is there ever.
I go into the class with a simple plan to refine. Polish. Add some sheen to my otherwise relatively solid skills. I feel good in the saddle, and I’m thinkin’ it’s prudent to just “refresh.”
“Refresh” it is not. Every exercise is a lesson in humiliation, frustration and failure. I run over cones, go outside the lines, am way too slow on the “quick stop,” and can’t do a decent tight maneuver to save my life.
But that’s why it is so good. Because the minute I think I know what I’m doing on my bike, the minute I feel too comfortable, too lax, too chill, is the minute where I loose concentration and focus and miss something.
It’s not to say that I can’t relax on the bike – oh, I do. It’s a haven for me, both emotionally and mentally. My bike is one of the few places in this world where I feel safe and secure – where I feel at home.
But it is to say that there’s the need, as motorcyclists, to stay ever vigilant and mindful that every move we make – or don’t make – is the difference between a great ride and a disaster ride.
There are a few other women in the class who feel like I do. While there are a few women who boss their bikes and nail every exercise (love it!), there were a few of us who collectively shake our heads, wipe our brows and simply hope for better results on the next exercise.
And then the a dark confession comes from the bright, curly blonde-haired beauty who rides a 2008 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic:
“I’m a clutch addict.”
How do I respond?! My new friend is a clutch addict, and she has finally come to terms with it.
Me: “You better talk to the instructors. That’s pretty serious.”
We run nine exercises*. Some are fun, even if not executed perfectly. (Limited-space maneuvers.) Others are not fun, but, like housework, just need to be done. (e.g., Quick-stop in a curve.) All the while, our instructors Laura and Cat cheer us on. They aren’t shy, however, about giving honest feedback (“Well, now you know what NOT to do. Try again.”). Their candor makes all the difference in helping us learn.
All the same, we keep our good humor because, after all, we are riding motorcycle, and we all feel glad to be doing so. Most importantly, however, we are learning. We learn our weak spots, where we can improve, and where the risks are.
When it comes to riding scoot, learning must be non-stop and forever kind-of-thing. In Minnesota alone, preliminary numbers indicate 24 motorcyclists have died in 2018 compared with 22 last year at this time. Riding is risky business, and it’s incumbent on us to be as safe as we can.
If you haven’t brushed up on your skills lately, I encourage you to do so. I know all the women in our class would encourage you as well — even if we did sweat and swear our way through the class.
*Ex 1: Control at Low Speed
Ex 2: Control Skills Practice
Ex 3: Stopping Quickly
Ex 4: Limited Space Maneuvers
Ex 5: Cornering Judgment
Ex 6: Negotiating Curves
Ex 7: Stopping Quickly in a Curve
Ex 8: Avoiding Hazards
Ex 9: Multiple Curves