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Motorcycle Safety & Lady learns to ride

Updated on October 1, 2012

Well, yes I ride my own bike, but read on - it wasn't an easy learning curve.

I rode my Harley over 80,000 miles before I traded it in for a Yamaha FJR1300. I'll tell the story about taking it to the High School parking lot for 3 weeks to practice riding after taking the rider safety training.

When I learned to ride a motorcycle it was one of the toughest things I ever did. I went to the class on a Friday night, all day on Saturday, then tested out on Sunday. I had so many things go wrong:

I''ll try to document what I did wrong in each of these incidents.

I honestly did not have a clue how complicated it is to ride a motorcycle. I considered myself a good student, good listener, willing learner and relatively coordinated. But I've always had a problem with impatient instructors, teachers, bosses, who scowl and bark.

Sitting on a bike the 1st time just to balance it, I let the clutch out and it took off ...

I popped a wheelie and wrecked taking my first left hand turn.

It rained when I took the final test.

I kept forgetting to downshift when I stopped.

I cried! (More than once.)

I injured my ankle.

My instructor called me aside before he told me my scores and said, "You met the standard, but I hope I don't see you on the road on a motorcycle right away.

An MSF Class

An MSF Class
An MSF Class

Learning to ride at 51 wasn't easy.

Now I've taken experienced riding courses a few times.

You can never be too cautious on a bike. This photo is a reflection of my husband's bike in my saddlebag.

Being pushed on a motorcycle that isn't running ... coasting ... oh, no, I popped the clutch ... - Not saying I took a motorcycle out on the highway right away,

A trip to Mexico in 2008
A trip to Mexico in 2008

I took the riding course on a College campus stadium parking lot. Friday night was classroom time.

Of course the first stage of the training was in a portable building, at a makeshift desk, with several motorcycles lined up outside in parking spaces, mocking all my fears of ever being in control of one of them. My vehicle of learning was somewhere among the twelve 250cc line-up.

I listened so intently to the instructor, I had anxiety attacks in waves, remembering the emotional struggle of pass/fail from my school days. As he introduced a video character who was about to illustrate to the students, "If it can go wrong on a motorcycle it will," I felt illness coming over me.

I felt like I was a contestant on Fear Factor, and simply the introduction was set up with the tactic, "We're going to talk you out of this before you even start!"

The clumsy, witty character with a name something corny, much like the current mayhem insurance character, simply could not win. I believe his name was "Murphy," as in Murphy's law:

"Anything that can go wrong, will!"

I found myself holding my right index finger and thumb in a V shape (pointing to my left) and squeezing the clutch so-to-speak, by adding resistance with my right hand and working the two fingers together with the left.

How awkward,


how silly and ridiculous,

I thought, until I went to my bike the next morning. Oh, that's the clutch.

We stood in front of the bikes, learned each part and piece and the proper term for every movable and essential part. This wasn't real difficult for me because of my Dad's mechanics shop in our garage when I was a kid i had a special interest in tools, engines, parts and pieces. I kind of gained some confidence in this section through the years. I'm a pretty good mechanic's helper when my hubby works on our bikes.

Next we were each given a student partner. I'm a girl, I was 51 years old, I have that feminine tendency to panic when things go wrong, and I cry when I fail. There was one other girl in the class of 12 students. She was 18 and had ridden 2 wheel vehicles since she dropped the pacifier. All others were guys, including my husband. I was it.

I was the novice.

The most likely to fail.

The girl, the old lady, the loser. I'm serious, I literally heard myself saying all this in my head.

If I do one thing well, it's comparing myself to the situation and the people involved and letting myself know I'm about to fail. Believe me I'm working on this one still. Fear of Failure needs to be another topic on my list. (Just added it to the list of future topics.)

While the trainers and their appointed helpers ran from station to station placing bright orange cones in what appeared to be random locations, I introduce myself to the male partner they've assigned me, keeping one eye on where they're putting those orange beasts.

The instructor is walking towards us, "Choose who will sit on the bike first," he said. I knew somehow that my partner would be a gentleman.

"Is your bike in neutral?" said our fearless leader. My partner in crime and I both agreed it must be, as I held in on the clutch preparing to walk the bike a ways. The lesson was the rider would balance the bike and get the feel of the weight and the control while the pusher, well pushes.

The next instruction was to the "pushers." The partner that was not on the bike, was to push the bike up to about 5-8 miles mph, then the rider would let it coast to a stop.



Well, I saw I was headed that direction, really that general direction, well honestly no where near them, but out of the corner of my eye I knew they were out there and remember, the bike is not running, understand you?

I'm on it, riding it, thinking about putting my feet down whenever I get to actually drift to a stop and it slows, and suddenly,

I let out on the clutch,

It wasn't my fault, my hand couldn't grip that tight for another second.

To my great alarm I was riding a bike that was in gear, running, putting, chugging, stalling, and I heard a voice in the distance, now shouting, "Pull in the clutch, pull in the clutch, left hand. Now brake, right hand, right foot."

WHAT???!!! Left hand, right hand, right foot, goodness what about my mouth, how do I hold my mouth, and what about the left foot should it be doing anything. Give me a break. I rolled to a gentle stop and put both feet down. Heart be still within me, am I still breathing?

I just rode a motorcycle.

Learn to Ride - Read all about motorcycle safety

Even if you've been riding several years, or if you're a guy, all your life, you should look into an Experienced Rider's Course just to see if you're riding safely.

No - you won't be doing this after the beginner's course
No - you won't be doing this after the beginner's course

If you can ride a bicycle you can learn to ride a motorcycle.

If you know how to ride, get a review course.

The Basic RiderCourse is a 14 to 15 hour program, which provides classroom and actual motorcycle operator training in a controlled, off-street environment.

No experience is necessary; a good sense of balance is required (you must be able to ride a bicycle).

Approaching the Cones

Approaching the Cones
Approaching the Cones

You met the standard, but I hope I don't see you on the road on a motorcycle right away.

Motorcycle Safety - The Foundation that provides the course.

I took the MSF course back in 1999. It was very thorough.

Don't ride - or know someone who doesn't

Let people know these 10 safety tips:

QUICK TIPS: Ten Things All Car & Truck Drivers Should Know About Motorcycles

1. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don't "recognize" a motorcycle; they ignore it (usually unintentionally). Look for motorcycles, especially when checking traffic at an intersection.

2. Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle's speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

3. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car's blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to thoroughly check traffic, whether you're changing lanes or turning at intersections.

4. Because of its small size a motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it really is. Don't assume all motorcyclists are speed demons.

5. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

6. Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders, (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle's signal is for real.

7. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

8. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle's better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don't expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

9. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can't always stop "on a dime."

10. When a motorcycle is in motion, don't think of it as motorcycle; think of it as a person. 4/05

Was the course helpful?

Did you take the Motorcycle Safety Training? - Did you already know how to ride or were you a novice?

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    • Heidi Vincent profile image

      Heidi Vincent 5 years ago from GRENADA

      Nice lens detailing your learning to ride experience bikerministry! I had a good laugh at your instructor's statement "You met the standard, but I hope I don't see you on the road on a motorcycle right away. I still have riding a motorcycle as one of my to do things.

    • Barbara2659 profile image

      Barbara2659 5 years ago

      I love this lens. The pic at the top is my favorite one of you and Russ.

    • sousababy profile image

      sousababy 6 years ago

      My brother had a motorcycle and I rode on the back sometimes (I was only about 12 years old). Admittedly, now that I am a mom, I am less daring (in the vehicle way, at least - ha). I wouldn't want to hurt another person out there, that's for sure. Thanks for sharing, I love these kind of personal lenses. Keep 'em coming.

    • bikerministry profile image

      bikerministry 6 years ago

      @happynutritionist: Hey, thanks for stopping by. Well, no, I'm not jumping, but I do ride a sport bike now, I've had it up over 100 mph (sh-h-h) just so I could say I did it. (On a back country road in Texas.) That is fiercely scarey! Learning to ride is a great experience, as many women are learning now and some Motorcycle Safety Instructors are women. They are all great people with your safety in mind. Thanks for hunting me down, and blessings!

    • profile image

      happynutritionist 6 years ago

      I had to hunt this page down, but glad I did! I know you ride a bike, but wondered what it might be like to learn how to ride one at this point in life that I have a good idea. Are you jumping high like that rider in the last picture yet? :-) Blessed

    • profile image

      Support-Lounge 6 years ago

      CBT motorcycle training in London.