Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sharin' the Road!

I'd like to introduce you to Stacy. In a small way I've been involved in her training, both directly and in the fact that one of her original instructors was trained by me.

Stacy's the kind of newer rider whose enthusiasm for riding is contagious. If you've ridden a long time and found yourself getting kind of jaded, hanging out with Stacy for a while will soon remind you of why we all started riding in the first place! She's also a faithful member of the ride to work club. Here's her story.




Hello everyone, my name is Stacy and I live in Oregon. I've been motorcycling a little over a year now, and I'd like to thank Dan for giving me a chance to share my story.

I never thought I'd be a motorcyclist. Motorcycling was something other, more adventurous people did, and it took a few seeds of memory and a few more strokes of luck before I found myself sitting on a motorcycle for the first time.

First, the memories. As a toddler, I once ran out in the middle of a street into the path of an oncoming motorcycle. The rider executed a perfect emergency stop and his motorcycle came to a halt several feet before me. This was my first experience with SIPDE, though I didn't know it yet.

The second memory. As a young girl, I watched from my bedroom window as the neighbors across the cul-de-sac unloaded a motorcycle from a trailer and proceeded to teach their eldest daughter how to ride. This was the first time I realized that women were not only passengers, but riders themselves.

It still took a few lucky breaks to get me into the saddle of a motorcycle. The first break was my job right out of college. I soon found that my boss rolled into work on a gigantic Harley. Another co-worker commuted on a Ninja 250, and yet another rode a Yamaha sport-tourer. I was surrounded by riders for the first time, and they were invaluable in giving me a good impression about riding. All of my co-workers suggested that I take the Team Oregon BRT if I wanted to learn to ride, and when my Ninja riding co-worker offered to sell his to me at a good price, I almost got bitten. But alas, it wasn't yet to be.

After a job change, a move up to Corvallis, and three years came the second lucky break: my soon-to-be partner decided to sell her car and learn to ride... a scooter. It didn't take me long to talk her out of buying a 50cc and in to taking the Team Oregon course -- sorry, scooter folks! -- just to try things out, of course, and if she didn't like the motorcycle, she could always buy a scooter and have some rider training to boot. I would also take the course with her, so she wouldn't be alone. Yeah, right!

So that's how I found myself on my first motorcycle: a cranky Suzuki GZ125 I named "Mr. Sparky." The classroom session earlier in the week was one thing, but actually sitting on a motorcycle and preparing to ride was another. I had no idea what to expect, but I'll never forget that first exercise of finding the friction zone and letting the bike roll just a tiny bit forward. After taking baby steps up and down the range, I thought to myself, "I think I can do this." But once we did the next exercise, easing out on the clutch enough to continuously move the bike, the thought changed to "I know I can do this."

The beauty of the Team Oregon BRT is that each exercise builds a foundation. Every exercise requires using the skills from all the previous ones. Together, they form a logical, and natural, progression. I began that first day having never been on a motorcycle and ended it starting, shifting, and turning -- a new rider! But I wasn't quite ready yet.

Day two, which began with such promise, ended with disaster: I failed the riding test. Passing the written test with a 100% was little consolation. I had done so well on the exercises! I knew I could do it, but what had gone wrong? A bad case of nerves, for one, and after I bought the Rebel, I discovered that a friction zone that felt more narrow than a toothpick was not the norm. I thought I was doing fine when practicing the exercises on Mr. Sparky, but really, I was just getting by. Combined with nerves, the lack of perfect practice led to a downward spiral that killed my confidence and led to even further mistakes and a failed test.

My instructor, of course, already knew this. She told me that what I needed was more time on a bike. Thankfully, my partner passed the test, so one of us could ride a bike to and from the nearest parking lot. It didn't take long before I bought the Rebel and started practicing in earnest for the retest.

Dan was the instructor at my retest. I rode the Rebel. I got nervous again, but all that practice paid off and I passed. I remember Dan's evaluation: I had done fairly well, but there was room for improvement with practice. There's that word again: practice.



Once I got my endorsement, I started commuting to work on the Rebel. The commute was only a couple miles each way, and it took longer to put on my gear and warm up the bike than it did to actually ride there! Sure, I could have taken the bus, but commuting meant two rides a day! A few months ago, my commute doubled to four miles each way. Now I'm riding home for lunch. That's four rides a day!

I began to see every single ride as a practice session. Every start, every shift, every turn is an opportunity to practice perfectly. This outlook keeps me focused on the ride and the improvement of my skills. I can tell within minutes if I'm just not in it that day; perhaps the body's telling me that I should take the car for the rest of the day. There's almost always another opportunity to ride tomorrow.

I've put about 3000 miles on the Rebel in the past year. That's not very much I suppose, but 90% of those miles were on city streets, rain or shine (and one snowstorm!) I feel much more comfortable on busy city streets than out in the twisties. However, my goal this summer is to put in some quality miles on longer rides. I'm hoping that my schedule's permitting, because the new SV650 parked in my garage is starting to demand it!


( end of Stacy's writing )

Thanks so much for gracing my site, Stacy! There's still a standing invitation out to everyone. Stop by and share your story with us. I'll help you put it together if you'd like. Drop me a line at intrepidcommuter@comcast.net.

Miles and smiles,

Dan

8 comments:

Earl Thomas said...

Stacy, Welcome to a lifestyle that has been a huge part of who I am for as long as I can remember. If it's any consolation, I am still practicing my riding skills, my motorcyles continue to, and I suppose they always will, humble me.

If it helps to justify putting all of your gear on (Don't ever stop doing that, BTW!), there is no rule in Motorcyling that says you need to take the shortest route to and from work. I think that most of us Motorcyclists would agree that we seldom take the shortest distance between two points. Conventional rules go out the window with our type, that's part of the fun!

E.T.

The Snark said...

When I saw Stacy's pic my heart stopped. She looks a lot like my ex, who has the same name, with a different spelling.

*goes off to look for the oxygen cylinder*

Conchscooter said...

This is the story that reminds us of irondads contributions. And that Suzuki looks real nice.

Krysta in Milwaukee said...

Yea!! Another woman riding!

I still like the startled looks I get when I take off my helmet and the guy who's checking out the bike finds out I'm a woman. I'd think that the moto-girl stickers on both saddlebags would be a clue...

Stacy said...

Thank you all for the welcome!

Earl: You're right about taking the long way home. I have a pretty busy schedule, so I try to squeeze in rides as much as I can.

The Snark: I hope you found it!

Conchscooter: Both of my instructors at the BRT were excellent. I'm sure Dan had something to do with that... ;)

Krysta: Gotta love the long stares on the road or when stopped at a light, or the notes left on the bike, or the comments at the gas station...

Balisada said...

I think I recognize that Rebel in the pic.

It took some digging on the Rebel Forum Garage to see if the two pics matched, but I am pretty sure it's the same Rebel.

Howdy Tbolt!

Nice bike! You must have just moved up from the Rebel!


Balisada

Stacy said...

balisada: You have a good memory!!

Balisada said...

I have a good memory for rebels, and yours was a distinctive seat.

Balisada