by Gale Nelson
(Sequim, WA, USA)
My husband, who is 65, took up motorcycle riding again (he rode as a young man) about two years ago. At 56, I was reluctant to embrace his new found passion because I had been in some minor wrecks riding friends' dirt bikes as a kid, and in a more serious wreck as a passenger of my ex-husband's bike over 25 years ago. In fact, I had not been on a bike as a rider or a passenger since that accident. My husband knew this and never pressured me to ride.
However, the joy he experienced riding his bike was obvious every time he came home from a jaunt or long trip. At some point, on a warm sunny day, I asked him to take me for a ride. He did, and though I was very nervous, I enjoyed it. He took me on another ride into the mountains a week later, and as we drove through traffic to get there, I felt incredibly alert. It was then that I thought, "I need to take a motorcycle safety course to learn more, even if I never ride a bike again."
I signed up for a local course, rode a Suzuki GZ250 in the pouring rain both days, and loved every minute of it. Go figure! Not long afterwards, I bought my very first bike--the same kind of bike I rode in the course. It wasn't long before I knew I was going to need a bigger bike--I felt it just didn't have the power needed to go on the roads we have to drive to get to some of the smaller, twisting mountain roads we like to ride on. But I drove that bike for about six months before getting my next bike, a Suzuki Intruder 800.
From the time my husband started riding, he also started reading and watching videos. I read all the books he brought home from the library, watched the videos (sometimes several times), and had great discussions with him. Once I had my own bike, we would drive to a big parking lot and practice all the maneuvers we had been studying: figure 8s, counter-steering, quick stops, weight shifts in turns, feathering the clutch, etc. All of this helped me feel more confident riding on the streets.
I feel that I am very fortunate to have my husband helping me understand and expand my riding skills, but I believe that even if he wasn't in my life--if I had discovered riding again on my own, I would be equally enthusiastic about reading and watching videos, and would likely even join a group of safety-conscious riders. (I would actually like to teach motorcycle safety, but don't know if I could swing that right now, what with everything else going on in my life.)
My advice to new riders--really, to ALL riders--is to educate yourself about motorcycle safety. Take an MSF or other motorcycle safety course, and then continue reading and watching videos, and going out to parking lots or streets with little or no traffic to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Doing so embeds the proper response into your very being--so in an emergency, you will automatically do 'the right thing'.
At the very least, read David Hough's book, "Proficient Motorcycling." It has been the best-selling book on motorcycling safety for many years and is chock full of valuable information for all motorcyclists. What you read, learn and practice from it may just save your life.