Last summer, while riding around Texas in my broken down car that lacks air conditioning, I started to think that I needed a new vehicle.Â When I looked at rising gas prices, I decided I need something with good mileage.Â Thoughts of a Honda Fit gave way to a Smart before moving on to a scooter.Â They stuck on the scooter for a few days, and then everything clicked into place.
Yeah!Â Why the fuck not, right?Â My father had a bike, so did two of my brothers.Â Runs in the family.Â My mother would hate it, but I’m a grown-ass man.Â Pretty sure I can make my own decisions (I asked my girlfriend if I was, and she informed me that, since it didn’t involve the house, I was).
So I started taking steps toward getting a motorcycle.
The past year has been an exercise in getting my debt under control and preparing to take on a motorcycle loan.Â I spent a lot of time researching models and makes, as well as possible customizations like bars, exhausts, controls, you name it.Â Before I knew it, the time had come to take the next step…
…learning to ride.
Last Thursday, I showed up in class to start the three day motorcycle safety course offered by Motofun.Â After a brief introduction, I learned I was one of maybe three people in the class who had never ridden before.Â Around that point, I started feeling a little intimidated.Â I was determined not to let it get to me, though.Â I was prepared!Â Armed with several viewings of helpful youtube videos.Â I knew the mechanics of riding, if nothing else.
Then Saturday came, first day on the riding range.Â And Saturday brought a friend called A Whole Lot of Rain along for the ride.Â So after stopping to grab some rain gear (which didn’t help for fuck all), I made my way down to the high school parking lot that would be our range for the next two days.
The terror began soon after.
I was amazed at how fast I went from “I got this” to “OHSHITOHSHITOHSHITOHSHIT!”Â Puttering around in first wasn’t a problem.Â Once we were told to upshift into second, however, I kept finding neutral.Â Follow that with a quick stop, and suddenly my brain became a grocery list that I just couldn’t get through fast enough.
At least I wasn’t one of the few people who dumped their bikes the first day.Â I did manage to lock the front wheel up once, but I got it back under control (completely by accident).Â By the end of the day, I even managed to find second and third without too much fidgeting.
After our first day of riding, we returned to the classroom to finish that portion.Â I passed the written test with only one question wrong out of fifty.Â Not bad!Â My confidence was returning.
Then came Sunday.
And the fucking U-Turn box.
Now, I don’t know what sadistic asshole came up with the U-Turn box, but I hope they’re dead, and I hope they died painfully.Â As easy as a bike might be to turn at speed, when physics just swings you around like you’re on a string, turning even a light motorcycle at a crawl is about as easy as operating on a flea.Â I made eight attempts to stay in this box and complete my two U-Turns, and I had eight failures.Â Campared to that box, the rest of the day was cake.Â The instructors even told us those slow, tight turns are more of a convenience skill, and that there are riders of thirty years or more who can’t pull it off.
So we made it through the next few hours, practicing swerves, counter-steering, and many other things, and soon we were ready for our riding skills test.Â First up?
That goddamn U-Turn box.
I was fourth in line to try this painted rectangle of doom, and I was pretty damn sure it was going to make me fail the test.Â Our skills test involved four tasks: the U-Turn, a quick swerve, a 135 degree turn at speed, and a quick stop.Â Collect more than twenty penalty points, and you fail.Â I was sure I’d leave that box with thirty or more.
I’ve never been an optimist.
So I watched the first three riders tackle the box with varying degrees of success.Â Our instructors waved me on, and I took off to fight that stupid rectangle.
And I fucking nailed it.Â Well, nailed it is a bit extreme.Â I still left the box once or twice, but only by a few inches instead of my usual twenty feet or more.Â I went on to nail the swerve and turn, and I only gained a few points for making a bit too slow of a stop.Â End of the day, I only accumulated eight penality points, enough for me to skip the riding portion of the drivers license test.Â Good for me.
Two days later, I’m still a little sore, probably from Saturday’s day of white-knuckled terror.Â I know I can ride, though, and with practice I’m only going to get better.
Now, to get a bike….