From "Where does the key go?" to "I have my motorcycle license!" in 3 days...

My first bike was the Suzuki, aka Suzi. I grew up riding on the back of my dad’s Honda Goldwing. We would take off and ride to my grandparent’s house 3.5 hours away and I remember how much I loved feeling the wind in my face, the freedom of being IN the environment, and the soothing effects that motorcycle had on me, even back then. I remember falling asleep and waking to my helmet whacking the back of my dad’s helmet – total relaxation (aside from the unexpected and likely unnerving sound and force of one head whapping off another with a layer of hard plastic in between). I’ve been on the back of others’ motorcycles too, but none of which were the best of choice in that moment, so I won’t go there (hint: college). 


*I apologize in advance for the weird font change midway through... if anyone knows how to fix this issue please let me know! I have changed it to match and as soon as I hit publish, it goes back to super small at the end.* 


I decided to take the motorcycle class – where, in MN, there is a 4-hour classroom portion, followed by two full days of actual on the bike-riding skills training. I was beyond excited and petrified at the same time. I had never actually DRIVEN a motorcycle, and I found myself in class with 2 people who were in the same boat as me, and then 5 guys who were all hyped up because they rode dirt bikes and clearly didn’t want to be in the class. They didn’t think they would learn anything and felt like they should ‘just pass’ because they already rode. I still remember the first day of skills riding course. Fear sweating down my face and back as I drove into the college parking lot and saw motorcycles all in a row, just waiting for us. There was a moment where I second guessed myself, and had it not been for the money I already paid to be in the course, I might have driven right back out of that parking lot. I would have regretted it, I am sure, but I was that fearful. Our first ‘assignment’ was to walk the bike to the other side of the parking lot/roped off course area. This felt very odd – like, am I here to learn how to ride or am I learning how to push the bike because they don’t think I can handle riding it?? The second task was to turn the key on, but not start the bike. I laugh now because it seems surreal that I was such a novice at one time.. so much so that this task almost made me cry. I didn’t know where the key went. And I didn’t know which way to turn it so that it turned the bike ON. What if I turned it too far, would I accidentally start the bike? Panic. All around panic. Then there was the instruction to "turn on the gas". What do you mean TURN ON the gas? Isn't gas 'always on?' The concept of turning ON a flammable liquid seemed way out of my league all of a sudden. Yes, this is how basic of a level the course starts at, and yes, that is how novice I once was to ride a motorcycle. So, anyone who thinks “There is NO way I can learn to ride” is talking themselves out of one of the MOST AMAZING hobbies in the world. I survived the task of putting the key in the bike. Followed by sitting on it and putting the kickstand up and walking the little 125cc across the same span of parking lot I had just pushed it across. Little by little, new tasks were added on and next thing I knew, I was riding figure 8’s… upright!!! The skills course is the same across the board for everyone – they start at the very basics and work their way up. First pushing, then the key, then sitting on, then turning it on, then figuring out where the clutch and the brake are. Then a LOT of practice on how to work the clutch. This was another super scary part for me, as the few times I attempted to drive a manual vehicle were epic fails… while no one suffered a severe neck injury, they had to have been close to it.  I was convinced I would never figure out how a clutch works. I think I stalled the bike out at least 100 times in the matter of 2 days, but I learned how to restart without panic, and I learned that it was OK to kill the bike. We learned and practiced quick stops (which were the hardest part of the course for me). As silly as it sounds, it was more than ‘just hitting the brakes hard’. I struggled tremendously with ‘not anticipating’ when the instructor was going to wave the flag, indicating time to quick stop. This was the only skill I did not pass on the first time… anticipation got the best of me. Which, when I think of it now that I have several thousand miles under my belt, anticipation is one skill that likely keeps me alive while riding. We went on to learn and practice figure 8’s, using our eyes to turn the bike, how to pick up a bike, and everything in between. The instructors were amazingly helpful and encouraging. So, after two full days of riding instruction and skills testing, I left the course a licensed motorcycle driver. I had passed all the tests!!! Crazy how in a matter of 12 hours, I went from sheer panic of where to put a key in the bike to obtaining my license to ride! (And those macho dirt bike boys? 3 out of 5 of them failed… because while they could ‘ride’, they didn’t ride ‘safely’ and per ‘instruction’- so I guess walking in as a 100% amateur was more of a benefit to me than I ever would have guessed!). Two days after getting my license, I walked into a dealer on a mission to buy a bike. All I knew was that I wanted a new bike (so I could focus on learning to ride vs learning how to fix a bike), under $6,000, and at least 650cc’s. I took the course on a 125cc, but that wouldn’t cut it on the highway. So, I walked into (unnamed) dealer, and the first sales guy wouldn’t give me a second look.
The second 
  salesman asked what I was looking for, I told him, and he patted me on the back and said (I will Never forget) “Oh honey, you shouldn’t be on anything bigger than a 250cc”. I went from being over the top excited to over the top furious. I immediately did a reverse turn, walked towards the door and thought,” screw this dealer”. I went on to have this same general scenario play out several times. Discouraged, but not defeated, I just kept going to dealer after dealer. After 3 days of bike shopping, I arrived at Cities Edge in Shakopee. The dealer asked what I was looking for, I told him, and he told me to sit on every bike that ‘suited my fancy’. WOW!!!! A dealer who BELIEVED me and WANTED me to find the bike of my dreams. I was in heaven!!! I sat on Suzi.. a brand new 2006 Suzuki Boulevard M50, 803cc, silver.. and I fell in love. I shifted my weight back and forth and said “SOLD!”.

He laughed and asked if I wanted to go on a test ride. I can only imagine my face went from “YESS!!!!!!!!” to “OH SHIT” in a split second. I hadn’t thought this through. I did NOT want to test ride it. In front of people. I just wanted to buy it and take it away and then make a fool of myself. So, I called my uncle to come to the dealer…it was fall and the weather was getting quite cold. It was drizzling, bordering snowflakes, and my uncle showed up at 8pm, in his work attire (including dress shoes), to ride my brand-new bike to his house because I was too afraid to ride it myself. The next day, I got a ride to his house, and he and I rode from the Twin Cities to the countryside where I had lived – through at least 20 stoplights, of which I killed the bike at every single one. Nothing is more nerve-wracking than suddenly losing faith in all the riding skills I had just learned and now having a line of cars behind me, honking, while I frantically try to restart my bike at EVERY single stoplight. But, I made it! And I was so proud!! I didn’t get a lot of miles in that year, as I bought the bike literally just before the snowy winter season approached. But having her in my garage made my heart happy and I eagerly awaited spring, where I would pick up where I left off… and hopefully remember HOW to ride after a few months in hibernation.





Comments

  1. You are so freaking inspiring! Any person considering riding should be reading your blogs, cuz you have me sold. I'll be taking the class next year for sure!

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