Dedicated to the women who RIDE THEIR OWN motorcycles  

On My Own Two Wheels

by Traci C.

October 6, 2003

While I know that everyone has experienced the newfound freedom and exhilaration that comes with your first ride, second ride, third ride, and so on. It just occurred to me that I should put mine on paper. After all, it is the fourth best thing I’ve ever done (marrying my husband and having two beautiful children being the top 3). And had I known the way it would feel, I would have begun riding long before now.

It was at the encouragement of my husband and a few special friends I met through a website my husband joined after buying his Volusia, that I decided I would give it a try. I honestly thought I would never be able to do it. I mean I had met other female riders and was really impressed that they were riding. I just thought I was too short, too nervous, I wasn’t coordinated enough, the bike was too big, etc. But I still signed up for the MSF course and actually counted the days until it was time for it to begin, the anticipation grew. I became excited, nervous, happy, worried, scared, etc. It was time and, pass or fail; I would give it my all.

I took the course in June 2003. On our first riding day, it rained and rained and rained, but still we rode. After becoming familiar with the bikes (I knew most of that as my husband had given me a crash (no pun intended) course in the driveway prior to the class), we started them. Now that might not seem so thrilling to some people but to a person who had never done that and was actually able to rev the engine, it was, to say the least, really cool!!! Then we walked the bikes back and forth in the parking lot which was not as cool, but part of the learning process I am sure. I think it was the “friction zone” we were working on by doing that. It was during this exercise that the instructor would let you know when it was time to actually pick your feet up and ride. I was scared to death when it was my turn to actually ride across the parking lot. I was given the signal, put my feet up, and was hooked. I went less than a mile or half mile for that matter, but the feeling I had at the moment my feet actually left the ground and rested on the pegs, was unforgettable. I COULD do it and I was hooked.

So class went on for two days. We were taught so many things: counter-steering, braking, swerving, cornering, etc. I had a blast, even if I was in a parking lot going around in circles, being yelled at, getting soaking wet one day, burning up the next. I aced the written test and passed the riding test. I know I had a few points taken off during the riding phase, but I passed. I was exhausted to say the least after the long weekend. But I had a license to ride (er, actually, learn to really ride) a motorcycle. I was proud of myself for doing it.

So, I had a license, I just needed a bike. We got a good deal on a 1986 Honda 450 Rebel. We looked at it on Monday after the class and picked it up on Tuesday (Denny drove it home). So, now I had the license and the bike. And my adventures begin…………!

I was off to the parking lot of the local high school to practice the skills I learned in the MSF class. For two weeks I hit the parking lot. My husband would ride the bike there for me and sit and watch and coach, helping me every step of the way. If I did something wrong, he told me, if I did something right, he told me. He was very patient and is still very patient with me (as I am still learning every time I ride). I practiced starting, stopping, turning, using the blinker, etc. My only obstacle was the figure eight. I could not get it. So I practiced other things.

After two weeks, I was bored with the parking lot. I don’t think my husband thought I was ready to be on the road yet, but I was. My first ride on the street was 12 miles total. It was everything and more than I ever expected. I had a little trouble maneuvering through a parking lot (my husband brought up the figure eights), but I rode. It was a good feeling.

After that, I seemed to get a little better and a little braver with each ride. My husband would ride with me, sometimes in front, sometimes in back. I never tried to keep up if he was leading but he didn’t run off and leave me either. He let me know if I needed to work on something and he let me know when he thought I was doing a good job. He also taught me things they didn’t go over in class like starting and stopping on hills. I know he thinks I don’t pay attention to anything he says, but I do.

As of October 6, 2003, I had ridden approximately 2,500 miles on the Rebel. My husband and I have ridden whenever we can to wherever we can. I have ridden the straight roads, the curvy roads, the mountain roads, the two lanes, and the four lanes. I have ridden short distances (20 miles) and have ridden long distances (250 miles). I have ridden in four different states (Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky). I have ridden in the rain, wind, and heat. I have ridden with large groups and small groups. I have ridden solo, but only once. And, I have gently laid the bike down twice (no scrapes on the bike or me). I am aware that this probably means nothing to a more experienced rider, but remember, in June 2003, I had never ridden. So with all I have accomplished, it means a whole lot to me.

I must say my house is not as clean as it used to be, the laundry does pile up, I don’t cook as often, and I spend way more time in the garage than I ever did. It is fun to talk about where we rode today and where we’ll ride tomorrow or next week. I love the time I spend with my husband on our rides. Our girls don’t seem to mind us riding most of the time. Eventually they will go with us, when I am ready to add the extra passenger. But until then, they enjoy hanging out in the garage with us.

Learning to ride has truly changed my life. The open road and wind in your face is great therapy. And where else can you find therapy this cheap (100 miles of it for $1.32)!!! I am dreading the shorter, colder days because it means less riding time. I still get nervous sometimes, I still have a lot to learn, and I still need to master those figure eights. The nervousness has eased since I first started riding. I am sure I will never stop learning, and eventually I will do the figure eights (I hope). I am thoroughly enjoying the freedom I have on my bike and look forward to many more miles in the future.

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From Traci: "I am 36 years old and was riding a Honda Rebel 450. I have since moved up to the Suzuki Volusia 800."

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