Today was the first day of the driving segment of my motorcycle class.
Above is a picture of the bike I rode in class: a silver, 2007 Kawasaki Eliminator 125.
The pace of the class was just right – it was challenging, but I gained a little more confidence with each skill I mastered.
Prior to this class, the only time I’d ever been on a motorcycle was as a passenger – once – on my father-in-law’s bike. I am tickled that I went from knowing nothing about driving a motorcycle to riding around in (go ahead, laugh!) third gear.
Admittedly, as I watched the instructor do the dry run, there were a few exercises that made my stomach feel like it does at the crest of a tall roller coaster. They seemed impossible for me to do. As I approached the course, I just took a deep breath and relaxed. I ended up doing just fine. (Everyone stalled a few times, so my stalling doesn’t count!) No crashes or bike-dropping to report.
There are two things I need to practice:
One, I have very small hands. I really have to stretch them to reach the clutch or the brake levers. The instructor said that I can put my wrist at the very top edge of the grips in order to operate the levers – this is a little trickier than it sounds! I really have to almost let go of the throttle or the left handle bar in order to squeeze the levers completely. Obviously, my hand isn’t going to grow, so I need to just be smoother in transitioning.
The second thing I need to work on is shifting. There were a few times when I felt like the bike was getting away from me. To compensate, I’d try to do the clutch/downshift and I’d lurch a little. Or, I’d be looking through a turn and would be trying to shift up a gear and would have trouble finding or feeling the gearshift through my boot and then would kick it more than what I needed to. Eek!
Again, though, in the last quarter of the class, I was much improved compared to the third quarter. Really, if I can do this anyone can. The instructors are so thorough and really coach the riders each step of the way. Exercises were followed by a discussion time during which we identified the skills we used and the instructors offered pointers.
About 20 minutes before the class ended, Tom brought the kids by to watch. It was so cute to listen to them talking in the back seats about mommy on the motorcycle – two “m” words that I never thought I’d hear in the same sentence, EVER. :)
UPDATE -April 5
Well, I passed the written test but failed the driving test.
My foot touched down in the middle of a “figure-8” (which is done within in a very small rectangle on the pavement) and I went a few seconds over in the lap/sharp corner test (gaging speed before going around a sharp corner – apparently, I could have gone faster) . I passed the quick-steering around an object (counter-weighting) test and the “stop on a dime” test.
So… I’m really bummed. BUT, the instructor said that I did great and that it’s just a matter of having more practice.
To have a little perspective, Saturday was only the second time I’d ever driven a bike in my life. Many of the other students had been riding for years, illegally, and then were regularly riding their bikes since recently obtaining their permits for the class.
I’m not sure if I’ll take the PenDot test at the driver’s license branch or if I’ll retake the free class. Either way, I’m focusing on the Bradley Teacher’s Training for the next few weeks. The next motorcycle class opening isn’t until I get back from Florida anyway.
In the mean time, Tom’s once-frightening bike doesn’t seem so scary to me anymore and I think I’ll take it to a parking lot for a spin to see if I am comfortable enough to take it out in traffic. With my permit, I can ride during the daylight and without passengers.
What do I think about motorcycles now? If you know how to ride them safely, you won’t be as afraid of them. Ladies, if you are afraid of your husband getting a bike – may I suggest that you and he take the class together and see if it changes your mind :) Even if you are not the primary driver of the motorcycle, and plan on just riding on the back, this skill is helpful to know if you are ever in a situation where your husband is unable to drive and you are stranded somewhere with only a motorcycle to get help or go home.