Sunday, December 29, 2013

Let the Riding Begin...

...& begin, it did. I made it through the 2 days of riding to get my MSF card. It started with me being late to class because I got behind someone who decided to drive the school zone speed limit.

At 0630 in the morning.

On a Saturday morning.

And I had an eye problem, because it's tough to drive in the dark after LASIK.

Not exactly an auspicious beginning.

I think I rode well. The first day is pretty easy; it's about getting comfortable & taking it slow. Since it wasn't my first rodeo, I didn't have too many issues. Mr. Ancient, however, fell off the bike. Ms. Germ was "too good for us" & kept walking away from the group...which made the 2nd day, when she handed out her business card to recruit new chiropractic patients particularly hilarious & hypocritical.

The second day was rough for me; I have an issue with Figure 8s (otherwise known as "the box"). For me, it's always about that feeling of falling. But what I simply loved about The Instructor is his reality; Figure 8s are not going to save your life...knowing how to swerve will save your life. Braking saves lives. Navigating curves properly saves lives. So why freak out about the Figure 8?

Doesn't mean I got any better at it, by the way; I absolutely suck ass at Figure 8s. But I did well enough to feel like I earned my MSF card this time...I'm convinced that in 2009, when I took this class the first time, I only passed to help the teacher bump his numbers up with Harley Davidson & its branded "Rider's Edge" course.

Speaking of passing people who shouldn't get the MSF card, Mr. Ancient was sent home about 1.5 hours into the second day. And that action alone made me trust The Instructor 100%...because it's one thing to be a teacher...but sometimes you have to make the tough call & keep the roads and riders safe. Mr. Ancient would never be safe on the road. And after watching him for just a moment, I don't even understand how he drives a car, let alone a motorcycle. And I liked knowing people wouldn't necessarily pass...that The Instructor wouldn't give the MSF cards away. We had to be good enough to earn them.

My favorite part of the entire 2 days was after we passed the course. One of the secondary instructors asked us if we were tired, if we were nervous about getting out into traffic...& then gave us great ideas about how to get comfortable & log miles in the saddle.

I love the idea of "target mileage." As a runner, I find it very helpful to know there's an end in sight. To know what the goal telling me "try to log 100 miles a week" is a great way to put a target in place for anyone to hit. I loved it. I really loved how "real" these instructors were about absolutely everything.

All in all, I thought it was a great experience & I don't have a lot of snark about it. I learned quite a bit, thought the instructors were great about instilling confidence & making tough decisions, & I feel like I deserved to pass the course.

More snark to come, I promise.

If you're in the Gainesville FL area & want to ride, check out Fun to Ride. I can't recommend them enough.

Friday, December 20, 2013

School is back in session...

This is what happens when you've been off a motorcyle for 4+ years: you have to go back to school. Well, I guess you don't "have to" go back, but it'll definitely help your insurance rates if you do. And it starts with an entire night in the classroom. Ugh. Nothing worse than missing dinner to sit in a classroom & be scared half to death about doing anything at all... ...there's a reason I didn't watch a LASIK procedure on YouTube until after I'd already had the surgery.

But in the MSF course, they make sure to scare the bejeebus out of you, making sure you understand the risk you're about to take & how car drivers are the work of the devil & that riding in a suit of armour is the only way to avoid getting hurt..except that being overdressed in hot weather can cause heat exhaustion.

Is it any wonder that people are shaking with nerves before they ever even mount the damned thing? I'm all about safety & never ride without a plated jacket, but maybe the whole thing would be less intimidating if we didn't treat like certain death will occur by just looking at a motorcycle.

After making my way to the classroom, I look like an idiot using eyedrops before class...sorry, I had LASIK Wednesday & can't help it that I look like a habitual drug user right now.

The Cast:

The Instructor: He's very nice & I can tell he's going to be good...he teaches from a "bottom-up" perspective, so I think I'm going to learn a lot! Feeling very good about this guy.

Ms.Germ: Coughing everywhere & probably should've postponed. Instead, she decided to spread her germy love to all of us. And she's bitchy to The Instructor. Honestly, how can you be surprised that we all think it's a bit crazy that you don't know what a throttle is? She did not know what the word meant. I'm not saying she doesn't know how to use one...after all, this is Motorcycling 101. I'm saying she doesn't know what it is.

Holy crap. Even I knew that the first time around...& I sucked at it. And something else: it's hard enough to be a girly-girl in the motorcycling world. Don't make us all look bad by not knowing what a throttle is. Just a little bit of research, people.

Mr. Germ: I think this is Ms. Germ's husband. He's an academic who wants the mathematical equation on how the traction between the tires & the road works.

Mr. Ancient: To my left & he looks to be about 90 years old. I have no idea how he's going to have the strength to get the bike off the kickstand.

Nice Guy: To my right & has a background in motorcross. He's like me...we kinda know what we're doing already. We're probably both hoping to not embarrass ourselves.

Anti-Government Guy (AGG):
Complains that every law is a government conspiracy to take our rights away. And wants boots with spikes so he can hit car doors of drivers that offend him...which is his response to every single time we're asked what to do in a given situation. Also one of "those guys" who only cares about the size of the bike... a smaller bike makes you less of a man. And in fact, you probably are less man, meaning you're small enough to fit on a Sportster...which AGG cannot. Because AGG is a walking stereotype. Sorry, but it's a fact.

The Optometrist: Surprised that I'm there just one day after LASIK. Nice guy, though. Doesn't seem intimidated by the class & will be interesting to see how he takes to the motorcycle.

The Kid: Doesn't even have a drivers license yet. His parents dropped him off...which make his parents awesome. Because if your kid is going to do something risky, make sure he gets a proper education about it. Better he learns from The Instructor than one of his friends on a Saturday afternoon.

The Learning:

It's standard MSF stuff. The Rider Handbook has not changed in the 4.5 years since I last took this class. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. Because I know more about the beginning of the class, I'm able to absorb the second part. This is a good thing because it's where I need the most practice (swerving, making judgement calls, etc)...the real fundamentals that become instinct over time. Got to chat up Nice Guy & The Instructor during the break, where they warned me about hot asphalt in Florida & how the bike's kick stand will sink into the ground. All in all, good safety tip. Because if that bike falls over, I'd rather have a funny story to tell about how I did it...not just that it sank like the Titanic.

The videos have been modernized, I think. There were more women riders than I remember the first time. And they focused on being visible, especially at night...which makes me question why all the riding gear is always black. Why not sell something more visible & safe? I feel like there's a marketing opportunity here that all the manufacturers are missing. And I'm too lazy to capitalize on it.

And just to prove I'm a nerd, I just about did a double-take when the video mentioned "the science of time & space..." because suddenly my Sportster is really a TARDIS & I get to be the Doctor's Companion...which just makes me want to repaint the bike in a Bad Wolf motif.

I just have to make it thru Saturday & Sunday. Riding days with people who don't know what a throttle is. I hope I don't end up wanting to show them what it is to throttle...know what I mean?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Start at the very beginning...

The best place to start is at the beginning. That's what Maria says in the Sound of Music...& that's what Vizzini told Inigo Montoya to do.

And let's be clear: I mean the Julie Andrews version. Because it's the ONLY version. I have no idea what possessed Carrie Underwood to do that.

When I turned 30, I decided to go a bit crazy & try to do 30 brand new things. The list included stuff I should've been doing already (putting away laundry after cleaning), reading books that'd been on my list for years, running a marathon (still haven't done that one)...& riding a motorcyle. I signed up for my Harely Davidson-branded Riders Edge course, bought all the gear, & even a motorcycle of my very own:

2009...& quite a few extra pounds. Not motorcycle; straight up fat.
And the truth of the matter is...I hated it. I hated having to get suited up every single time I wanted to go somewhere. I hated every single garment of clothing because I'm not into leather. Or tassles. Or roses dripping blood. And as it turns out, hot pink motorcyle gear is actually tough to find. Girly-Girl wasn't being sold at the time. I was entirely out of my element. I couldn't wear the "biker bimbo" look, all leathered out, & feel comfortable walking around. I felt like a complete moronidiotbimbo every time I put the gear on. But I couldn't ride unprotected, either. When I finally bought chaps (only because I was FREEZING on a horrible group ride), it could be counted as a miracle.

And that's just the gear.

The actual riding itself was a whole different animal. It's not that I didn't like doing it... but I don't think I understood the learning curve. My husband, a moto-noob at the same time, took to it instantly. I couldn't keep up with him. Literally. He spent as much time as he could riding, but I couldn't; I even bought luggage so I could change into business attire at work to get riding time in...but I just didn't take to it. I always felt it was more hassle, as a lady, than it was really worth. And because he took to it so naturally, I thought there was something about me that didn't make for a good motorcyclist...just because I didn't get it straightaway.

And then, 4 months later, we moved to Italy...where the U.S./Italian agreement for the military allows for THREE registered vehicles. So we had to decide: which 3 vehicles would be registered? I opted immediately for both cars & his motorcycle....because if I wasn't cool with riding in Louisiana, I knew I'd never be okay in Italy. And if I'm being honest, it was the perfect excuse to stop doing something I didn't like doing to begin with.

There I Italy for 4 years, my little 883 rotting in the garage. And so, I sold it just before we moved back to the States. Because if I'd known better...or shopped at a better dealership (more on that later), I'd have never had that bike. It was always the wrong one for me. I hated the stupid choke on it, the balance made me feel like I was always going to fall over, I couldn't reach the highway pegs, & the mid-controls felt unnatural. Even if I never rode again, I knew selling the bike was my best option; I was never going to ride it again regardless!

Fast forward to December 2013. Randomly decided to check out our local Harley Davidson dealership. And of course, found the perfect "grown up" motorcycle for my husband. Too good a price on a Road King to walk away from, so we bought it. But what to do with his 2007 HD Sportster Roadster? Instead of trading it in, we kept it...for me. I surprised myself by suiting up in all my old gear, which is now about 3 sizes too big for me, & taking off. Sure, my turns are crap, but I got around our little subdivision without dropping or stalling the bike...which is a vast improvement over 4 years ago when I started.

So here I am...retaking the Motorcycle Safety Course for a refresher & trying this out all over again. I'm still a moto-noob. I'm still not sure if I'm going to stick with it. But at least I understand the learning curve better...& I'm going to take my sweet ass time getting to my comfy zone...with the goal of actually enjoying the experience instead of freaking out about stalling or dropping the bike.

And here's the aforementioned hand-me-down, in case you're interested.

Welcome & Enjoy!

I can't believe I'm the first person to come up with this blog title. It's seems ridiculous that no one has ever thought of it before...but then, I can't really find anything Hot Pink for my motorcycle... so I suppose it makes sense. Welcome to my blog about my personal motorcycling experiences. I'm coming back after 4.5 years off a bike & basically starting fresh. These are my stories & my opinions. Please feel free to comment & chat about motorcycling & being a female rider (if you are one, obviously). More to come...