Monday, January 26, 2009

Learning To Ride

My friend Louise bought a Honda Ace 750 and I took her to a parking lot yesterday to learn to start, stop, and turn. This is all in the name of not having her flunk out of the MSF riding course she will be taking. Of course I wanted to tell her all of the things she needed to know at one time. WRONG!

She needed it broken down into smaller, manageable bits. So, we started only with letting out the clutch, getting the bike to roll, and walking it to a stop. Next came applying the front brake to stop. In about 15 minutes she was circling the parking lot without stopping. Round and round making left hand turns. Time to turn her around because a motorcycle needs to turn right. Not as easy as turning left, but quickly everything was good. Until the police showed up. This was a school parking lot after all. Well, after they asked if this was a riding lesson they were good with it and the riding continued.

A successful, non bumpy start to the life of a new motorcyclist. But, a safe start doesn't always happen for a new rider. Or an old rider getting back into riding.

This is one of those stories.

Jim was pushing 60 when youthful memories of Easy Rider brought him to the local Harley-Davidson dealership. "It was a mid-age crisis," he told a reporter. "I'd see dudes with women and thought a motorcycle would put me in like Flynn."

When the dealer delivered the gleaming new hog to Jim's front door, his eyes lit up like a boy receiving a Red Ryder 200-shot carbine air rifle with a compass in the stock, and no grownups around to warn him that his new toy could put an eye out!

Jim started the engine and felt its pulsing, guttural power. It had been 30 years since he had been in the saddle of a babe-magnet like this. He revved the engine and listened to it purr. He kicked it into gear and roared off down the road. Born to be wild.

Ten seconds and a tenth of a mile later, Jim slammed into a neighbor's utility trailer at 40 mph as he tried to remember how the throttle worked. The cops who investigated told him it was a miracle he was alive. He survived with just a few broken ribs. "Oh my God," he said, "I hurt in places I didn't know could hurt."

Insurance covered repairs to the bike and the trailer. Jim sold the restored dream machine for $800 less than he paid, but every few weeks, he continued to receive mailings from his complimentary membership in the Harley Owners Group. Some dreams die hard.


  1. Here in New England, I think cemetarys are a great place for a rider to practice once they get passed the parking lot stage. The 'grid' pattern of the rows make for great practice of taking slow, tight turns from a stop.

    As far as Old Jim goes, I'm going to show this to my wife. It's a great reply to her question to me of why don't I wait for our kids to grow up before I take off on a Harley. Then there's that saying, If you wait, all you get is older.

  2. Joker: Thanks for the tip about cemeteries, as I would have never thought about them.

    A cemetery can be useful on two fronts. The mentioned turning practice. Also, a reminder where you will end up if you don't learn your lessons well!

    I like the idea. Thanks again.

  3. Luckily,I live in a neighborhood that has nice streets with stop signs and such and it's layed out pretty much grid like. I must have put 500 miles on my first bike, (2001 Suzuki 800) and never ventured past a 10 block radius. I was completely comfortable with stops, starts, turns, and gear shifting before I hit the streets with much traffic on them. I know my neighbors thought I was crazy, and are probably glad I graduated from my comfort zone.

    I sure your friend appreciates your help and advice. Ride safe and ride on!

  4. "a Red Ryder 200-shot carbine air rifle with a compass in the stock", Comes from one of my all time favorite movies. What a classic. Too funny!

  5. I know of way too many unsuccessful returns to riding.

    You are wise to realize that there's a building block process. Clutch and throttle control are one building block. Smoothly braking is another. Those have to be solid because they're the foundation for the more advanced stuff.

    Hope the MSF class and experience goes well for Louise.

  6. Sounds like you started Louise off on the right foot. That's how Dave started teaching me, one step at a time. Tell Louise to have fun!

  7. Joker and Lady R: Louise has nixed the cemetary, but agrees with Lady R.

    She said having the neighbors look at her funny is one thing, but waking the dead is something she couldn't do.

    Mr. M: That movie is a classic and I look forward to seeing it yearly.

    Irondad: Thanks for your valued words of wisdom.

    I'm sure she will do fine in the MSF course.

    BB: I will tell her, as well as direct her to your blog so she can also read about your progression into becoming a rider.

    Positive role models are important.

  8. Welcome to the fun and enjoyment Louise. Nice of you to help her and guide he from your years of ridng. Look forward to reading about more of her adventures. Does she have a blog? It would be cool to read as another person first time much like Ms. BB does.


  9. Fasthair: Thank you and Louise has taken the blog idea under advisement.

  10. The person who taught my MSF Basic Rider Course did a great job. I fully believe that an individual having never touched a motorcycle previously could take the course and be up and riding in no time. You can read about my saga on-line.

    Ride on,