This is where I started, sort of remember it but catching another bike with my head erased lot.
This is where I started, sort of remember it but catching another bike with my head erased lot.
Burning my leg on my dad's cb750 after he told me not to burn my leg. Think I was 4.
I wrote this after I completed the motorcycle course. I was sixteen, with no previous exposure to motorcycles.
Day One: Friday, July 5, 2002
The Bike Shop
At the bike course tonight, we sat around, read, talked, watched instructional videos.
I went to a bike shop to get a helmet and gloves, as they were not provided by the course. $200 for a helmet - imagine! There were really beautiful bikes there. I've never seen so many all at once - not when I was paying attention, at any rate. I hadn't realized there was so much diversity. There were little bikes that looked like they were meant for kids, and then these huge tall things that must require giraffe legs to operate, and then these other huge rhino bikes, for someone extremely fat or maybe a skinny family could kind of group on. Sleek designs, shining bright paint . . . mmm. I could fall into that world. Riding starts tomorrow. And once I have my own bike, I'm going to just ride and ride . . . just get away. Disappear . . . oh, I don't know where . . . just away. Forests and beaches and Algonquin Park. Nunavit! The Western Territories! Montreal!
Day Two: Saturday, July 6, 2002
The First Ride
Am I ready for the test tomorrow? No way. Riding that bike today - some parts were really scary. I'm afraid of the power of the bike. I had been warned that motorcycles accelerate much faster than cars. But there was just no preparation for this. One second you're there - then you're gone. See, there are three things in which motorcycles excel over all other road vehicles: that is, acceleration, braking, and turning. They are smaller, lighter, more agile; they maneuver better, they're less harmful to the environment because they conserve energy and use less parts. They're also dangerous. There is no defense with motorcycles. There is only escape. Which they are well equipped to do - if the operator knows how to handle them. But I don't. I'm an amateur. And I'm afraid of the power.
There are a thousand things to be paying attention to while driving the bike. They're always standards; it's just the way motorcycles work. As one of our main driving instructors told us, there are no "idiot switches" when it comes to bikes. You can plop into a car half drunk and it'll almost drive itself home. That sounds dumb maybe, and I don't advocate drinking and driving with cars in the least, but sometimes you make it through. You can't ever do that with a bike. Car driving skills - I'm still in the belief that a lot of it is all psychological, the learning part . . . learning your place in life as a driver. If it's not made into such a big deal, it would be easy. But motorcycles are different. There are definite riding skills that must be learned; you can't just read about them or watch someone else do it. You have to be completely alert; you can't even be tired, you have to maintain a nonslouching posture all the time.
Your right hand is working both the gas and the front brake - yeah, there's two braking systems, one for each tire - and your right foot is doing the back brake; your left hand is working the clutch, and your left foot is doing the gears. You can't ever look at any of these, you have to know exactly where they are, which isn't as hard as I thought it would be; it's a pretty ergonomic situation. The only real problems I have as far as controls are concerned is not really being able to see which gear I'm in - you kind of have to sense it out with your foot, which is (naturally!) enclosed and further desensitized in a protective boot. You kind of learn how the gears should feel as you roll on or off the throttle, and the way it sounds as you rev it, and the way the bike vibrates beneath you. And also the throttle is the right handlebar; so if the bike goes all crazy, or your stopping is messed, and you grip the handlebars really hard like I do just to try to get a grip on things - well, you're giving the bike more power, and it gets even crazier.
On top of it all, this crazy vehicle doesn't even balance itself. And you can't ever look down. Whatever you look at, your body kind of subconsciously glides everything over towards the point of interest. You look at at a tree too long, before you know it, you've crashed right into it. Doing deep turns, you can't see how close you are to the ground, check to maybe see if you're too close, if you're going to maybe crash - because if you look, you will crash, you will instinctively put your foot down to steady the bike, and your foot will drag because this isn't a bicycle, it's a screwed-up tippy vehicle with a very powerful engine. And maybe you'll fall over and the bike will crash on top of you.
Oh yeah, that did happen. Fortunately I have good falling reflexes. I don't know quite why. Maybe I'm graceful after all. Or maybe all the years of falling around in my klutz fashion have taught me not to hurt myself too bad. Or maybe it's something I picked up from my two years of training at the academy.
I was almost ready to give up before even half the day was over. But . . . well, the instructors did promise that hardly anyone failed. When I didn't understand things, I was afraid to move onto the next step - but they made me anyway - I was upset because tbey'd said that they were teaching on a progressive basis. But they were right. I learned everything. Not perfectly, but I know what I'm supposed to be doing, more or less.
The instructors were all really cool. I felt like I was in a boot camp. Over the roar of the bikes they yell at us like new recruits. Which, in a way, I guess we are. One of the lead instructors was Don. He'd lost his right arm; or at least, the right hand. Not in a motorcycle accident, he said to us before anyone could ask. He still has his upper arm, his elbow, and a bit of the forearm before a kind of stump comes into place. This injury occurred five years ago, and Don tells us he's never let it set him back. Well, he did in the beginning, but his wife and a few supportive friends helped him up. And now he can resume his old hobbies - which included archery, fishing, and motorcycle riding. Yes, this one-armed man drives a motorcycle. That stump is not weak. Last night I saw him pick up a full-grown young man who fell asleep during the lecture (I don't recall now whether it was a trainee or another instructor) and flip him upside down on his head. And I've seen him casually carrying his lunchbag in the crook of his elbow. And counting things off with his hand, he'll use his good hand and pad the fingers on the fleshy part of the stump. Clapping, giving damn good demonstrations, he uses the stump just like a hand. And I've seen him drive a bike and use the throttle - and pull in the front brake! - all with a stump, and not even really leaning out of proportion that I could see.
Granted, if I had a stump I wouldn't be able to do it all; he's probably six and a half feet tall, big and strong and muscular, and if he had two stumps he could probably kick my ass in hand-to-hand combat. Hell, I could have two knives and he could have two stumps and he'd win. But that doesn't cause me to downgrade his adaptability, and the good sense of humour he has maintained - or perhaps grown - as a result of everything. I admire him. And would admire him even if the stump wasn't a part of him. He's funny, and knowledgeable, with quick little perceptions . . . hmmm.
We began the day working in pairs, pushing each other around on the bikes, without starting them: just getting a feel for motorcycles. One of the instructors came and started pushing my partner while he was on the bike and I got huffy because I took it as an insinuation that I wasn't pushing well enough. I asked if this was so; he didn't answer really, just told me to walk alongside. I was offended. Was I really not good enough, or had I just not realized the amount of effort required, or was he just stereotyping me because of my femaleness and my size? I put in a better effort the next round, starting to push my partner before another instructor could butt in, pushing with all my strength. I soon found myself panting.
We moved on to starting the bike, riding along in a straight line, and coming to a stop. I had a lot of problems with stalling, but once I got that down pat, I was zipping along and feeling pretty good about it. Then we started some slowriding techniques, driving through a pylon course of figure eights and really tight slaloms, on first gear, working mainly off the clutch. I kept stalling, and then I just couldn't do the tight turns. The vehicle was going so slow, I couldn't balance, I was afraid of doing it too tight, sure I was going to fall over. I kept looking at the ground, and then I'd start to fall toward the ground, and then put my foot out, and then I'd be down or stalled or both. After that I learned to grab a bike without a kickstart, which I was also having problems with - not the kickstart itself exactly, but the pressure to kickstart with trainers yelling at me and people coming up behind me as I blocked the course. Crap.
So I never quite got the hang of that, and then they started teaching us how to shift into second, and I was freaking because if I was going all over the place just riding the clutch, what was I going to do once I had more power behind me? And then we had to do some wide slaloms. But that wasn't hard at all, I found. I got the gear shifting thing pretty quick, partly from having read about the process in the motorcycle manual, partly from hearing them repeat the process a million times, partly from instructors randomly jumping on the back of my troublesome bike and riding me through it, partly from the one or two sessions I'd had with my friend Colin's standard months ago (from that I understood what the clutch was all about, kind of). But it took me awhile to figure out why the engine stalled - finally someone explained to me that if the clutch was engaged and there was no gas, or no fuel, and thus no power to run the bike, that the engine just shuts itself off for whatever reason. What I still don't understand is why the bikes can "coast" if the clutch is eased out gradually. And why some bikes can't.
Anyways, I liked shifting into second gear - feeling some power. I wasn't afraid of that; though I was kind of afraid of stopping the bike . . . but just driving along, doing fairly wide turns, and even some shorter ones, I was comfortable; it didn't feel so tippy. And then, because it was a continuous course, with the instructors adding new obstacles which would then connect to the first obstacles, - which I hadn't realized when I was freaking about premature advancement - I eventually found that shifting down to first gear and working off the clutch and doing the figure eights and the tight slaloms . . . well, it wasn't so hard. It was more awkward and less awkward at the same time.
Then I wasn't doing everything perfectly so one of the instructors decided I needed a smaller bike, which was ridiculous, I could feel myself improving. So on the smaller bike (which was a kickstart, but I'd gotten over the stalling thing somewhat) everything was messed, and I wasn't doing much to help it because I was pissed and I wanted my bigger bike back. My mother's friend Larry had advised to always go for the bigger bikes because they were easier to maneuver. Because they didn't maneuver as well - and therefore wouldn't be dashing all over the place during slowriding. And sure that's a chincey way to play it - easy way out - but actually I'd rather not kill myself as I'm just learning.
Ah, the bike . . . I really hope I'll be a competent driver. It's so fun . . . there's something different about driving a bike, and just being a passenger. When the instructors would hop on the back, and control the bike and I'd put my hands over theirs to feel what they were doing . . . well, it wasn't always the best learning method for me, because I couldn't feel what they were doing. And not because we were both wearing leather gloves. I lost connection with the bike. I became a passenger again.
But when I'm driving, it's like I'm connected with the bike through some invisible thread . . . like I'm communicating with it, sharing the same mindset. And the bike can only connect like that with one person at a time; so when the instructors took the controls from me, they also took the connection. I could no longer hear the motorcycle's thoughts.
Don did say that that the we will be far more connected to the motorcycle than any car.
And though I feel much more confident about motorcycle riding, I still feel very afraid, and I'm not too sure what will happen in tomorrow's eight hours of training but I hope I manage to get the hang of everything. I don't seem to be too far at the back of the learning scale, in comparison to my fellow trainees that is, and I've been assured that hardly anyone fails - so I guess I'll get through this. It was a good day for weather; and riding around on the bikes, I didn't really notice the heat of the helmet or the black leather gloves or the zippered jean jacket. I guess the wind knocked the heat off, but then again, we didn't seem to be going fast for that. . . maybe it was just my excitement?
Day Three: Sunday, July 7, 2002
So there were sixteen trainees in our course. Fifteen after one woman dropped out. Five women, ten men. The women were all early forties, one kind of in her early thirties; the men were mid twenties to late forties. One of the guys looked only to be a few years older than me. They were all white, and all the men seemed to be fairly physically fit; the women were not so fit looking, and fairly small in size.
Despite the insistence of the instructors that hardly anyone fails, three of the females did so. They were the only three people to fail.
But I was one of the two lucky female survivors!!!
I passed. The test was easy for sure - the instructors hadn't lied when they told us that they had far over-trained us. But I was almost positive, when it was all over, that I'd failed, not because I couldn't do it but because I was so nervous throughout my testing that I couldn't concentrate on anything. I just kind of blanked out and tried to let my body do the driving. This sounds okay if you know what you're doing, if the reflexes are attuned to the bike - but mine aren't, so the results weren't always so good. I stalled a couple of times and popped a wheelie once as I was starting off.
I was so freaked about failing that I didn't even bother asking if anyone had failed. I didn't want to know. I tried to reassure myself - it would only be thirty bucks or whatever to retake the test part, and since I do have my M1, I could practice by myself in a parking lot somewhere. I know what I have to do; now I just have to smooth it. Put it into practice, get some experience before I forget it all.
Then we were back in the classroom and stuff was being marked and information filled out . . . and we were all sitting around chatting with each other . . . and then three of the women were taken aside, out into the hall, and I was sure that they'd failed - maybe they did have some other matter, but it could have been dealt with in a corner of the classroom, what other reason would they have to be in the hall but to discreetly hide themselves so that others could be congratulated? I didn't relax. I was sure that the guy who'd lead them off was coming back for me.
He didn't. Don made a little speech about how the Ontario Motorcycle Safety Association got started, and then talked about their training methods, they're the best, no one else over-trains like they do, no one else has obstacles or trains in a circuit, some of the other training courses has the trainees pushing bikes until noon whereas we were riding with engines by 9AM. And then our successes - if you're in this room, you passed - I just felt such happiness . . . I knew that my mark would be bad, but who cares? I know I can do it. I'll get it down pat soon enough. And now I have my M2.
My mark was bad - but not really as bad as I thought it would be . . . we were allowed 11 demerit points, and I got nine, but one of them was for the stupid stall that I did, and one was a five-pointer for not stopping into the proper position. Even my accelerations - I thought that would be done for sure, because I wasn't even thinking about clutch etc as I tried to pick up speed, or downshifting as I tried to pull down speed, but I didn't lose points for that. Apparently I have developed some reflexes after all. And one of the instructors even personally congratulated me in front of the class, and I had a lot of others making comments. 'You scare me sometimes, kid,' Don said, 'but you're alright.' And one of the others - I think his name was Mike - said, 'Sometimes you're out there are you have little flashes where you start looking like a rider.'
I'm sure the others got a lot of compliments - but I didn't notice those, I was too wrapped up in me and my own bike. I'm a motorcycle rider now. As Don warned us passed students, I am now part of an exclusive fraternity, and if I want to be a good rider I'll wave to other motorcyclists and not snub them because my bike is better than theirs or whatnot. After all, we're all on two wheels. A world that the average car driver has no knowledge of. Even I, before I took this course, had very little sense of the differentness of the motorcycle. It's intimate. It's graceful. It's beautiful . . .
And when I get a car - because bikes can't lug around the kind of crap that I do - I'm getting a standard. It's not a motorcycle, but it's better than some lazy automatic. It starts and stops faster. Not as fast as a motorcycle. But as close as a four-wheeler can get. Hey, maybe I'll get a standard van or truck instead.
I feel so . . . zen . . . right now . . . I think next time I'm near the library, I'll get a copy of that book, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Maybe I've found a calling here. Maybe, instead of buying a computer, I'll upgrade my bike. If I buy a computer, I won't ever have time for my bike.
No. I'll always have time for my bike. For the first time in I don't know how long, months, maybe years, I feel really drawn to something, an obsession coming in. That bike - it's the most free thing in the world - impossible to explain to anyone who doesn't know how to ride a bike - impossible even to a regular bike-passenger . . . This is a thousand times greater. This is having the connection to the bike . . . it's almost more like horseback riding than car driving, that's level of connection involved. The bike's not alive but it feels alive sometimes.
I'm going to practice like hell, and I'm going to become a highly skilled rider. Don said it's possible to drive through snow, it's possible to drive almost 365 days of the year; I'm going to do it. I will make this happen. Even if I get a car - it will never replace the motorcycle; I will always have a bike. Always.
TLDR: I was hooked from the start.
Riding my uncle's mini-bike around his neighbourhood. I always liked bikes as long as I can remember, but riding that little bike got me hooked for sure.
Back in BC, yay!!!
2010 Yamaha Vstar 950
250 Saga Dual-sport
WMRC #747 (2005)
Getting a ride on, and then riding few years later, my uncle's Tomos moped
Lived by a motorcycle shop as a kid and always looked at the dirt bikes. Never did get one but 26 years later finally went to same shop and picked up my CBR and been loving it since!!
Any shift workers out there wanna ride during the week PM me.
Honda 50 mini trail. Yamaha TY80. The smell of old motorcycles always takes me back. The new stuff doesn't stink like a good old bike.
Long Live Shervin Of The North!
1) Helping a cousin resurrect a Briggs & Stratton mini-bike.
2) Going for a ride on another cousin's bike and having him him strand it on some RR tracks, while a train was coming.
Fill the house with bees.
In the unfinished basement store room my dad had his old 197something cb100 that he retired when my brother and I were born. I remember always messing with it, not having a clue what I was doing trying to kick it over etc.. At one point at maybe 10 years old i remember wheeling it around on flat tires and crashing into and denting the hot water tank.. My first crash! Actually come to think it I crashed it another time as well, this time outside on the driveway and into the house.. Lol ahh memories
Some people are like Slinkies ...
Not really good for anything, but they still bring a smile to your face when you push them down a flight of stairs.
WMRC & PCMRC #19
'78 kawasaki KE100, I still own it.
There are old riders and there are bold riders. There aren't any old, bold riders.
Ride safe folks.
1970 Suzuki mini bike, 14 yrs old, bought it with my first ever paying job... 5 spd! it kicked those Honda automatics asses!
First motor I took apart and put back together successfully! (sort of...)
A friends Keystone minibike. 2 hp Brigg's? Piece of crap but it had a motor!!!
All my Mistresses have two round, sticky black feet and are Made in Japan or Germany!
If I die on Phillip Island, so what! I'm already in Heaven! WOOHOOO!!!