My first 1000 miles, a study in frustration, fear and learning to love it!

by Dottie

On July 26 hubby said, come on, we have somewhere to go. I was tired, hungry and not in the mood to play games, lol. Well did I eat crow when we ended up at Harley Davidson and he had been out there that afternoon and told them to pickout some bikes that would be suitable for a beginning rider. The salesman had 6 bikes sitting there and after an afternoon of sitting, changing seats, talking lowering kits, handlebars, I walked out of Harley Davidson the proud owner of a 2011 Heritage Softtail Classic. :yahoo:
The next day we went to pick it up and hubby rode it home and I followed in the car. There was just something wrong with that, but understandable since i had not ridden a bike since high school, which was a h--- of a long time ago. :):

A full week later - after a fender lizard on back of hubby's bike at the BearTooth Rally, still never having set foot on my bike- I finally get to do the big first with my girl. So I ride on the back of my bike with hubby to the parking lot and do all the scary first voyage things.
Lessons learned: She is heavy, awkward, I am intimidated and scared out of my mind. At this point hubby is still calling all the shots as to when and where I ride, resentment is starting to grow in me.........

Next outing, same parking lot, same way of getting there. This time I venture a bit further to a nearby school and ride around the neat little circular drive. I bring her back to where hubby is standing, pull up beside him, come to a perfectly executed stop, and drop her. :redface1:
Lesson learned: Watch where you park, tar snakes, when parked on will grab you and throw you down......:shrug:
I got back on about 20 minutes later and practiced starting and stopping, nursing my pride the whole time.

Next outing, was actually quite amusing looking back on it now but sure wasn't then. Rode behind hubby to another parking lot. Fever was growing in me big time by now, I felt I was going nowhere, learning on his schedule and not mine. Anyway, to get back to the parking lot. He disappears into a shed and comes out with some orange cones. Keep in mind this is the 3rd or 4th time I have been on this bike, I am still in the knees knocking and hands shaking period. I can barely keep the thing upright let alone weave in and out of a bunch of cones. He proceeds to place the cones 2.5 inches apart (ok, ok, exaggeration) and says.....you are gonna have to learn to do these to get your license. He is also babbling a bunch of other requirements but I am no longer listening as the stupid orange cones were taking up my whole consciousness. He says...........well go on, do it. I am looking at him, and thinking to myself........well nevermind, you understand. I say, I don't feel ready and you are nuts, so you do it if that makes you feel better.

This brings me to the MSF class part of my journey. I learned the nuts and bolts of riding and it was very useful, relevant information. I have mixed feeling however about this experience, on one hand the instructor had an excellent method of conveying the information to us ia a way that was understandable and useful. I learned a lot and the knowledge imparted to me was, I felt, invaluable.

However and totally on the other hand, a five minute conversation with this instructor put fear, indecision and knocked what little confidence i had in myself and my bike to zero. He told me I was a fool to try to learn to ride on my Harley Softtail, that I was crazy if I thought I could and I must have a deathwish. We class fizzled for me after that and I didn't pass the driving test.

I went home dejected and a crying mess. The next day I spent evaluating and re-evaluating my decision and came up with three things as a goal.........ok or a I will show them sort of thing. :confused2:
#1 -Go to the DMV and get learners permit (did the next day)
#2 - Learn to ride in my way, my time and at my comfort level
#3 Be on my bike every day, no matter anyone else's plans

The next day I called a buddy from the MSF class to to on my maiden solo voyage with me and I have been on my bike every day since.

Lessons learned in this time:
Starting & stopping are not as scary as thought when you get to practice them, traffic (be aware of everything going on around you), uturns suck, gravel (go slow, don't turn wheel quickly and don't brake quickly, parking lots are your best friend, starting on an incline takes both hands, using both front and back brakes when stopping at a stop sign/light, put BOTH feel down, group riding skills, downtown traffic is scary at first but can be managed, parking (don't know if I will ever get the hang of this).

This is where I am now.....Last night hubby and I took about an 80 mile ride round trip. I had a bit of a problem keeping up with him on the way to......but did I really? I drove the speed limit and let him go.........oh did I hear about it when we arrived at the restaurant.............but I rode my ride and a pace I was comfortable with. Parking was a challenge as always. We had pulled straight in to the front of the building. WHen we came out, he jumped on my bike and backed it around so that all I had to do was get it up the incline and onto the highway. I knew he thought he was helping but he didn't ask me if I needed help, just jumped on and did it. Irritated me a bit, thoughtful as it was :shrug:
Well I kept up with him on the way home, either I was comfortable going his speed or he was not speeding.........we were heading into a storm and I was mighty glad he was right there, it was pretty windy and I had a tough time keeping it on the road. When we arrived at home he pulled his up into the driveway and came over across the street where I was parked. I said I can get it, I just need you to open the garage door. So he waled back across the street and pulled his bike in the garage. I pulled mine in between his bike and his car......:yahoo: VICTORY. He looked at me and said, good job dear. I just smiled.

I cannot tell you the difference it has made to have taken control of how I learn, doing it at my pace and comfort level, to understand who may and may not be the best teacher for me (sorry honey) and to just do it. I think I hurt hubby's pride and feelings when I took it out of his hands, but he intimidated me and expected to much of me, he made me nervous and I made stupid mistakes. It was afterall, about me learning to ride, not him.

I have done everything I need to do, I practice, practice, practice, sometimes on the highway, sometimes in town and sometimes in the parking lot. I always keep safety in mind, but I do it my way, in my time and at my comfort level.
My mindset is changing, I am getting more comfortable on my girl, I still get nervous :scared: but I am not as intimidated and I know I can do it.

The joy and pride I feel when I ride is incredible and much more intense than I imagined. I have found that riding is about making time, not doing time. I cannot push my limits to far. Sure I can and do set goals, almost every time I take her out but I am always respectful of my current limits. It has turned out to be not so much a matter of discovering some secret, hard gained formula, but is more about, to me anyway, mastering the basics of balance, control and safety. I am striving to be a great rider who is more concerned with the journey than the destination right now. I am on :cloud9:

Dottie..................sorry this turned out so long

Comments for My first 1000 miles, a study in frustration, fear and learning to love it!

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Sep 05, 2011
by: Donna

Thank You all for your comments. I was afraid I would become one of those who tried and quit. I know now it's normal to be scared and I can go out and ride.
I have had a couple of accidents one broke my left arm so was out of commission then I some how gave it too much gas and may have popped the clutch or something when the hubby and I went riding. The traffic made me very nervous and I think I just over reacted and went down luckily I ended up off the street and just piched the first two fingers on my left hand. I did bend the left foot peg the clutch lever so had to replace those.
I just wanted to give you all a big THANK YOU as I know now I can ride and get this clutch challenge problem I have behind me.

Aug 18, 2011
Be selfish
by: Sonia

Women tend to forget this is one time in our lives when we need and should be very selfish--learning to ride is all about you and no one else!

Aug 17, 2011
Growing pains
by: Cindy

Dottie, I think you are all set! Great job. Enjoy!!

Aug 17, 2011
by: Lynn - Florida

Rule No. 1. Never let a husband or boyfriend teach you to drive or ride. Enough said.

Aug 17, 2011
You're right
by: Martinique

I agree that sometimes you just gotta take your learning by the horns. I crashed behind my boyfriend in the first six miles on the street. We were doing parking lot practice, and I said I was ready for the street. He was hesitant, but we went anyways. He took too curvy of a road, and my inexperience didn't allow me to know how to navigate that well, combined with a car behind me, making me nervous, and down I went, broke my ankle. I never ONCE tried to place any blame on him, but he's made comments recently that he shouldn't have taken me down that road, and so I know he feels a little responsible.

Well, after that, I was really slow, and it was hard to keep up with him. He has a busy work schedule, that doesn't jive with mine at all, so it was hard for us to ride together, so I did a lot of riding by myself. He didn't exactly like that, because he was worried something would happen, but I would constantly check in, and that eased his mind.

So, six months later, I'm a very solid rider. I've done 8 track days on my sport bike and am loving every second of it. The BF and I ride together a lot now, I can keep up, and he loves that I can and we have a blast together. He's also become a great instructor for me on the race track. Sometimes its difficult taking criticism from him, because of our intimate relationship, but we've talked it out. He tries to praise me as much as possible, but wants me to get better, so he's kinda nit picky about my riding. BUT, his constant pushing has pushed me farther than I could have pushed myself. Not to or past my limits, but he puts me somewhere where I can learn more, rather than just well within my comfort zone, where I won't learn anything.

All in all, I think it takes a little time on your own, to learn how to ride. After you get past that point, find a way to stroke hubby's pride again. You know how guys are. But he'll be proud to have a wife that doesn't just ride on the back of his bike, but actually rides her own. I know my BF is. :)

Aug 16, 2011
Great Post
by: jp

Thanks for your story...the good..the bad...and the ugly (and the beautiful).

I hope all newbies and wanna bes read it.

Husbands and boyfriends can be helpful when learning, but they can also be obstacles...

New riders have to figure out what works for them and their size, experience and knowledge.

Aug 16, 2011
Hubby's schedule
by: Judith

You know Dottie I can empathize with what you said. I haven't been on my bike hardly at all, making excuses for myself. My hubby has decided he will control how I learn and when I learn. I know he is concerned for my safety but it's not like he is riding my bike, it is supposed to be me. I see I need to take control and do it my way. I have taken the safety course and I have my motorcycle license. Really it is just taking myself out there and doing it. What you mentioned is what I am struggling with. Good luck with your bike. I have a Honda Shadow Deluxe 600. Just my size and it looks nice.

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