Dedicated to the women who RIDE THEIR OWN motorcycles  

My first LONG ride....

by Karenlee

...and everything leading up to it!

My sister and brother-in-law ride, and have matching Kawasaki ZRX’s (wave to them if you see them on the road with their matching Oregon license plates, “His” and “Hers”!) While it always seemed fun and romantic, I never had the itch to try it myself. Then I met Justin. He, too, rides a Kawy. He offered to take me for a ride on it, and it was then that I had to admit the ridiculous: I was afraid of the helmet! (I’m claustrophobic, and it just looked so… closed in.) He is a wonderful thoughtful person, though, and he gave me some “no pressure” suggestions on how to get used to the helmet. It turns out, there’s no claustrophobia involved, because once the helmet’s on, I can see everything just fine – even with the shield down!

So, we started going for rides two-up, which was lovely – fun and romantic, just as I’d thought! I remember an early two-up ride along the coast (we live in Northern California), where I realized I was completely content and in absolute heaven riding on the back of Justin’s Kawy with my arms around him as we rode past some very beautiful scenery.

And then, one day, as we were walking back to his bike after stopping for brunch, this thought blared into my brain: “Oh *man*!! *I* want to 'drive'!” It took me a week or so before I voiced this thought to Justin, and he said, “Fine. Sign up for the MSF course – I will, too, if you want me to be there with you.” So I signed up, and we started haunting Craig's List for a good used bike for me. We looked a gazillions, called on a couple dozen, looked at several, only test rode one. And then, Justin sent me a link to an ad for a bike located 200 miles away, with a note saying, “Too bad it’s way out in Sacramento…” But this picture was the first one I’d seen where my heart jumped up and said, “OoooooOOooo!” So I emailed him back and said, “Don’t we owe your brother in Sacramento a visit??”

We drove to Sac, and looked at the bike – a 1980 Honda CX500 in nearly-perfect condition – and Justin test-rode it and approved, and I handed the guy my cash, and he handed me the pink slip, and we headed home – Justin on “my” bike, and me in the car. Just like that, I was a proud motorcycle owner! And we had to get home right away, because my two-days-on-the-course riding class was starting the next morning!

I had a great time in the class on those little bitty bikes, and got a taste for “being in the driver’s seat”. I passed the class (without dumping any of the bikes I rode!), passed the DMV test, and took my first solo ride from home to Justin’s work, which he commemorated by taking a picture of me riding into the parking lot!

Actually, before that, I had the best training period! Justin would ride my bike and I would drive to the parking lot of the place where I worked, then he would take the car and go run errands and I would spend a couple of hours starting, stopping, going around curves, making turns, and generally getting the feel of my bike. When that started to feel too confining, we started to go out noodling around in the neighborhood – Justin in the lead, and me bringing up the rear. Great practice getting used to distractions (people crossing the street, barking dogs, stop signs every block or two…) and getting my shifting and braking up to par.

So, that’s how it went for a month or so, except that our “neighborhood treks” got longer and longer, culminating in a dinner date at a restaurant about 15 miles away, which we rode to on city streets.

In the interests of full-disclosure, I have to tell you about the time I dropped my bike. We had gone on one of our longer, but still relatively local, rides. We had been coming down a long sloping street, and I was surprised by a stop-sign and locked up my brakes. I didn’t drop the bike then, though! I rolled cautiously (and gratefully – there were no other vehicles nearby!) through the intersection, and came to a nervous stop at the curb on the other side. Justin was very solicitous, and tried to find a reason for my tires to skid – I was too embarrassed to admit that I’d just been overwhelmed and missed a stop-sign. After letting me calm down a bit, we continued for another mile or so, when Justin pulled into a parking lot for a coffee break at a Starbucks. Except he went in the “out” lane, and had to turn his bike sharply to the right to park in one of the angled parking spaces. I was right behind him, and I had two fatal thoughts: 1) I’ll never be able to make that sharp a turn; and 2) I’m going to fall down – this thought was accompanied by my eyes focusing on the ground. As any rider will tell you, you will go where you look. I was looking down, and that’s where I went. I’m sure I looked just like Artie Johnson on the Laugh-In tricycle, because I fell in slow-motion. I was thoroughly disgusted with myself, and walked away from the bike – and from Justin – to be embarrassed and chagrined all by myself. When I walked back a few minutes later, Justin was removing the pieces of the wind-shield I had shattered, and wondering what I was going to do. It turns out, he was worried that I would decide I’d had enough and would never ride again. Ha! It never occurred to me! It’s just that I was so danged embarrassed about doing something so stupid!

Five weeks after I got my license, I went on my very first “long” ride! We rode 600 miles over 4 days, taking only back roads (because I wasn’t ready yet for freeway riding) including going over the Sonora Pass (east) and coming back through the Tioga Pass (west) of the Sierra Mountains! I tell ya – I learned a *lot* in those four days! On our first day out, we were riding in a foothills canyon area, and I suddenly realized that the road to my right just dropped right off! I was following Justin around a left-hand turn when this thought came to me. Remember the lesson about going where you’re looking! I had to tear my eyes away from the cliff edge, but I swung the turn wide anyway, and actually put a boot down for a second. But I pulled myself out of the turn … and seconds later I realized what I’d done and sent grateful prayers of thanks to my dad and my uncle (both of whom had passed away about a year before). I figured they’d been looking out for me that day!

We’ve since been on several long rides, and lots of 150-mile one-day local rides. I try to use my bike – now named Lorelei – as my “commute vehicle”, weather and errand-schedule permitting. I’ve put about 7000 miles on her in this first 12-months, and have enjoyed (nearly) every single one!

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From Karenlee: "I ride a 1980 Honda CX500 named "Lorelei". She and I have been together since I started riding a year ago."

WHAT YOU NEED to Know! Cyclechex Motorcycle History Report.
Motorcycle History Report - What You Need to Know Before You Buy a Used Motorcycle.

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