Thursday, October 22, 2009

Harley Mama.

I'd like to introduce you to Karen. She has her own story, but she also represents where a lot of people are coming from. There's a lot of folks who might have tried motorcycling earlier if they could have gotten over the fear. A fear spawned and nourished by the words of others. Unfortunately, there's also those who never will give it a try.

During the first night's classroom session Karen said her reason for taking the class was to become a "Harley Mama". I'm always intrigued by the personal stories of my students. I waited until the second day to ask more. Karen had never ridden before. The first day requires a lot of concentration on the part of new riders. There's a lot of stuff to coordinate. I didn't want to distract her from that, so I just let her explore.

The weekend was also a chance to work with a new instructor. This young man has impressed me from the beginning. I introduced you all to him in a post dated March 11 this year. Jeff got his audits done and went through the instructor prep session in August. I had the opportunity to teach this session along with my buddy Mary Kaye. After having worked with him I can confidently say that Jeff has the potential to be an awesome instructor.

My dear friend Al was working with the afternoon group. Al showed up early to help us with bikes and to bring hot chocolate. Al had been one of my regular students before he became an instructor. He's associated with GWRRA ( a gold wing group ). Every other year or so the group would take an Experienced Rider Course together. I'd had the honor and privilege of helping to mentor Al on his journey to become an instructor. Now he's a mentor himself. Passing it along, so to speak. Al has a heart as big as Texas. Even if he does give me a bad time for no longer riding an ST!

Some of my students this weekend had ridden before. A typical situation is men who've ridden when young and then done other things. Now they want to come back to riding. This is a great way to rediscover the old skills as well as add new ones. These two guys were pretty serious about their riding. Interestingly, they both have the same first name. They are both strong riders and were excellent students.

On Sunday morning I asked Karen more about her Harley Mama statement. Karen explained that she had ridden as a girl on the back of her Dad's bike. A lot of people during the ensuing years had told her how dangerous motorcycling was. Interestingly, even her own Dad who'd given her rides. Don't know if it was true concern or a controlling thing. Either way, Karen had grown up afraid of motorcycles. Still, somewhere in the background, the spark still smoldered.

I really hate it when people do this kind of thing. Why are they so vocal about spreading the fear? I've got some thoughts but they would take up a couple of posts all by themselves.

Karen told me that she had gotten to a certain age and decided it was now or never. She found the class and signed up. Karen's husband was there as well. He was the typical rider I mentioned earlier. It had been thirty years for him. As you can see, we actually got Karen on a bike. We even managed to elicit a smile or two along the way.

Karen wasn't the only one who had heard all the bad stories. A young man in the class had expressed a similar concern to me on the first morning. Despite that, he was determined to give it a try. He did fine and learned how much we can actually do to take care of ourselves.

Being an instructor offers me opportunity for tremendous challenge and awesome reward. When a student is obviously scared it's a challenge to get them to trust you enough to step off the ledge, as it were. The reward is seeing them gain confidence after they've had some success. It starts to dawn on them that they just might be able to do this after all. I can't tell you how much I enjoy seeing their progress through the weekend. Karen was no exception.

Karen finished the weekend without incident. Yes, there's still quite a bit of trepidation hanging about. Only time will and experience will help with that. On the other hand, I'm pretty sure she'll accomplish her dream of becoming a Harley Mama!

This is a gratuitous shot of somebody having fun on a TW200. I threw it in for Lucky.

Miles and smiles,



mq01 said...

very cool! this post warms my heart today, thank you...i can feel their excitement from here :)

kathy said...

I know that Karen will become the "Harley Mama" she envisions. How awesome to be a part of her journey.

I've explored becoming a MSF instructor, but hit a lot of walls. This is the stuff that makes me want to keep at it until I get there. Any advice?

bobskoot said...


from your photo, Karen looks right at home on that 250 Suzuki. I must say your photos are very sharp. Must be your excellent technique

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Mike Simmons said...

Nice post Dan. Your respect and care for your students comes out in your writing. Keep up the good work, I'm sure it doesn't go unnoticed. I agree with Bobskoot, nice pictures.

irondad said...

I'm glad you found pleasure in the post. By the way, I checked out your site. I will be dropping by in the future.

Separate your hazards. What's keeping you from your goal? Deal with them one at a time. It will be worth the effort if my own experience is any guide.

Take care,


irondad said...

Karen did settle in and have a bit of fun despite her nervousness. As to technique, if you set the shutter speed fast enough it's hard to blur the shot! Thank you for the compliment.

You have to care about the students to be good at it. If it's just a job, everybody gets cheated, including the instructor. I'm glad it shows in my writing. Thanks for noticing.

Take care,


Road Captain said...

Good luck to Karen!

Sojourner rides said...

You know, I'm inclined to believe that people make these comments primarily to control others--I don't even believe that they are all conscious of this. .I'm sure there are concerns embedded in the admonitions, but I think it's about control. A sort of, "I know what's best and you should do this because blah, blah, blah."

I still hear comments like this and I simply remind the speaker that I'm an adult and as an adult, I get to do exactly what I want to do. They usuall respond with eye rolling.

Orin said...

In this supposed "home of the brave," an alarming number of people seem to be scared to death of their own shadow, and everything else. It doesn't help that motorcycles have long been demonized (as have the people who ride them), though some who ride embrace the demonization.

In most of the rest of the world, a motorcycle or scooter is for the majority of riders a means of transportation, the one that local circumstance leads them to conclude it's their best option for getting to the places they need to go.

Scootin' Old Skool