This past Memorial Day weekend, my almost 11-year-old dream of being able to ride a motorcycle finally came true! I took lessons on how to ride a motorcycle through Motorcycle Safety Instruction. I highly recommend the course (even if two days does not suffice in getting me ready for the roads) because it allows me to bypass the riding exam at the DMV. I still have to take the written test, but they’ve given me all the info I need for that.
The first day of class began with a bunch of videos and info on motorcycles and safety. They give you all the answers to the questions in the booklet. It probably would have been boring had I not forgotten everything I learned about motorcycles back in the day. Plus, there are things you can only comprehend after you’ve been on a bike, like how you have to press on the handlebar on the same side as the direction you’re turning, a.k.a. countersteering (think inertia… or read this).
In the afternoon, we got to ride, and that was when I realized how strenuous the course would be. I also realized how out of my league I was on a 250 (it was a Suzuki GZ250). I felt too small while my brother felt too big for the bike. It was a frustrating day for me because I kept stalling the bike, couldn’t shift very well (my instructor had trouble with the lever too), and fell twice. Luckily I wasn’t moving when the bike fell, but it landed on my left foot and I couldn’t get up on my own. In addition to road rash and scrapes, I got a nasty bruise from the foot peg jabbing me. . No wonder they told everyone to wear long sleeves, jeans, and boots; they really do help! The top of my left foot also got a bruise from the lack of padding in my boots and the stubborn gear shift lever, and I had blisters on my feet.
My injuries didn’t bother me as much as the blow to my pride and the heat. I felt so bad that I was ready to quit even though learning how to ride was my dream. I also considered going for a moped instead of an actual bike since they’re small and don’t require shifting. Luckily I remembered that to ride a motorcycle was a dream (and that these lessons were not free). Also, it would be easier for me to transition to a 50cc scooter than the other way around. I persisted even though I wasn’t sure I could survive another day.
Somehow I did, and I did a lot better on day two. Meeting early in the morning made the class less exhausting, and I wore hiking boots instead of the black ones I wear everywhere. I was less shaky on the bike even if the lessons got trickier (I hate U-turns). I was convinced I was going to fail the skills test, but they passed me. What a relief!
I don’t want to bore you with all the technical things I learned so here are some epiphanies and truths I picked up on:
- Motocross truly is one of the most physically demanding sports. – I was ready to collapse after half a day of riding, and it took me 4 days after the classes for my muscles to stop aching.
- It really helps if you have driven standard transmission before.
- They deduct points if you’re too slow during your exam.
- Mopeds go about 100 miles per gallon of gas. Motorcycles can get about half that although it depends on how fast you go and what kind of bike you have.
- Advil and adrenaline are your best friends when you’re injured and sore. Ice helps too.
- Even though you have to be physically fit, anybody can learn how to ride a motorcycle if he/she work hard enough.
Even if it was tough and had me limping like a zombie (my arms and shoulders hurt as much as my legs) for a couple days, I enjoyed the experience. I learned how resilient and strong I really am. After I got over the initial challenge of shifting gears and rolling the throttle, I felt more at ease with being on a motorcycle than being in a car. You’re one with the vehicle and a lot freer.
I’m ending this long-winded entry with two dream bikes. The first is actually one that I am considering because while it is a 250, it is one of the smaller bikes: the Kawasaki Ninja 250R. This was my first sport bike love. I spotted one in the parking lot of my high school and decided that I wanted a motorcycle like that if I ever hit the road. My love has not wavered, and unless it feels really weird when I sit on it (which is what happened with my brother), I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving the Ninja.
The other, the Suzuki Hayabusa, is completely a fantasy bike. I saw it in the Guggenheim Art of the Motorcycle exhibit in Las Vegas. It was the final bike in the chronologically-arranged exhibit and the fastest standard production motorcycle of the 20th century. Although I risk sounding corny, I saw the future in the bike. It reminded me of Kaneda’s bike in the anime, Akira. I don’t think I will ever be able to handle its great size or the 1300cc engine, but I can admire from afar.