Terror is my co-pilot, or learning to ride

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.  When I looked at rising gas prices, I decided I need something with good mileage.  Thoughts of a Honda Fit gave way to a Smart before moving on to a scooter.  They stuck on the scooter for a few days, and then everything clicked into place.

A motorcycle.

Yeah!  Why the fuck not, right?  My father had a bike, so did two of my brothers.  Runs in the family.  My mother would hate it, but I’m a grown-ass man.  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.  I spent a lot of time researching models and makes, as well as possible customizations like bars, exhausts, controls, you name it.  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.  After a brief introduction, I learned I was one of maybe three people in the class who had never ridden before.  Around that point, I started feeling a little intimidated.  I was determined not to let it get to me, though.  I was prepared!  Armed with several viewings of helpful youtube videos.  I knew the mechanics of riding, if nothing else.

Then Saturday came, first day on the riding range.  And Saturday brought a friend called A Whole Lot of Rain along for the ride.  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!”  Puttering around in first wasn’t a problem.  Once we were told to upshift into second, however, I kept finding neutral.  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.  I did manage to lock the front wheel up once, but I got it back under control (completely by accident).  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.  I passed the written test with only one question wrong out of fifty.  Not bad!  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.  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.  I made eight attempts to stay in this box and complete my two U-Turns, and I had eight failures.  Campared to that box, the rest of the day was cake.  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.  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.  Our skills test involved four tasks: the U-Turn, a quick swerve, a 135 degree turn at speed, and a quick stop.  Collect more than twenty penalty points, and you fail.  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.  Our instructors waved me on, and I took off to fight that stupid rectangle.

And I fucking nailed it.  Well, nailed it is a bit extreme.  I still left the box once or twice, but only by a few inches instead of my usual twenty feet or more.  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.  End of the day, I only accumulated eight penality points, enough for me to skip the riding portion of the drivers license test.  Good for me.

Two days later, I’m still a little sore, probably from Saturday’s day of white-knuckled terror.  I know I can ride, though, and with practice I’m only going to get better.

Now, to get a bike….

3 thoughts on “Terror is my co-pilot, or learning to ride

  1. Congratulations you daredevil. That sounds like a load of fun this older guy will have to take a pass on.

  2. Congrats on the license obtaining! I never got my bike license, but had a bike from the time I was 14. Never had to take on the u-turn box, though.

    I’d get one in a heart beat, but I don’t live in Texas (we have snow from October to May).

  3. Today I took my car license test for the first time. I’m 26. I practiced parallel parking for an hour beforehand and couldn’t get it once. I rarely get nervous, but I was nervous as fuck.

    I aced the parallel parking, went a little crooked on my side-street turn around, and was certain that I’d passed the test with ease. The instructor told me I’d failed to look over my left shoulder, every single time I should have (my fiance taught me to drive, she never mentioned the looking-over-the-left-shoulder thing), accumulating a total of 19 points. One more and I would have failed.

    Reading Broken Skin tonight at work. I just started Captain Jinkies. All fantastic stories so far. I particularly liked Working the Bag, Why I Do It (my dad and uncles were vets and they used to tell me ghost and monster stories set during the Vietnam War), and Insomnia Is My Only Friend (what they do to her body–that hit me hard).

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