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Learning to Ride a Motorcycle - A Newbie’s Journal

by Dee Dee Baker (DoubleDee)

The purpose of this journal is to document my personal experience as a Newbie Motorcycle Rider. I want to be able to remember all the things that make this adventure so exhilarating, frightening, fun, and clearly one of the best times my life. Once I have enough miles under my butt to become a proficient motorcycle rider, I hope to someday be fortunate enough to teach other newbie’s how to ride. This journal will prompt me when I have forgotten all of the things that were most important and critical to a newbie learning to ride. More importantly it will remind me of the heart throbbing excitement that learning to ride brought into the second chapter of life.

Before I begin, I think it is important to give a little background on how I got to where I am today, OWNING MY FIRST BIKE (and believe me there is very little background since it’s been less than 2 months from my first two-up ride, to purchasing my own bike!). My personal THANKS go out to Fred for turning me on to MOTORCYCLING, for helping me to find my first bike, for being brave enough to tackle the job of teaching me how to ride and for dedicating so much of his time towards it!!

As I stated, my first experience riding a motorcycle began less than 8 weeks ago, shortly after meeting Fred. That in itself is another story for another journal; let’s just say our cyberspace meeting was as out of the ordinary as it is for me to be writing about riding a motorcycle for the first time in my life, at age 53!

I began my motorcycling experience riding as a passenger (commonly known to motorcyclists as two-up riding) on the back of my gentleman friend’s Vulcan 1500cc Cruiser. What a beautiful bike she is too, big, black, fast, loud, and lots of pretty chrome. Our first few rides were short trips, usually to go someplace for a bite to eat. He was very cautious not to overdo it and to make it as pleasant an experience for me as possible. Well he did a damn good job, because I fell in love with riding pretty much instantaneously. Within a few weeks I went on two longer group rides with a Club he belongs to, The Southern Cruisers Riding Club (SCRC), a national club in which he is a member of the Washington, Seattle-Eastside Chapter 368.

My first experience with the group ride ended up to be what my friend said was the “Best and Worst” of what motorcycling had to offer. We rode approximately 200 miles that day, and what an experience it was! We made it a little more than half of the way to our destination. The beginning of the ride was fabulous; we had beautiful weather through the back roads of Monroe…so far, so good. Then we stopped at a rest stop to take a break and some photos. When we started to throttle the bikes up to leave when Dee, the only woman rider in the group that day, said her bike would not start. It ended up that her starter went out, so her bike was jump-started by the guys in the group and we followed her to the CyleBarn at Smokey Point. No mechanic on duty, so off Dee went back home by herself with a mission not to stop anywhere because she would not be able to get her bike started again. Dee made quite an impression on me that day. She didn’t hesitate to try to repair her own bike problem even though there were plenty of men around to help out and she was quite confident she could ride alone to her mechanic near her home in Bellevue. I wondered if I could be as self-reliant when it came to resolving motorcycle mechanical problems.

The group then went on to Conway where we stopped at the Conway Tavern for BBQ Oysters. I was leery at first since I really dislike raw oysters, but thought what the heck I’ll give these BBQ ones a try. Absolutely delicious!! We resumed our ride headed to La Connor and that’s where things pretty much went downhill. The weather turned bad and began to rain, so we all suited up into our rain gear. Then the road captain decided, without anyone knowing about it, to divert the group up this steep mountain road with treacherous curves for bikes even when the weather was dry…and by now it was pouring down rain!

When we finally made it to the top of the mountain my friend was very angry and decided to have a few words with the guy who led us to the top. I didn’t hear what he said to him, however when he returned to his bike he said, “It’s ridiculous we are up on the top of this mountain on a day like today, the weather is not improving and we should try to make our way back down, head straight for I-5 and back home”. No argument from me. Well the trip back home was an hour long, straight run down I-5 to 405 to I90 in pouring down rain. We were both sopping wet and extremely cold, however, when we finally arrived at my house and hopped off the bike we both began to laugh hysterically and almost simultaneously said “Well, we made it back alive, what a sense of accomplishment that was!!” My friend asked me what I thought about the experience, and I said “I loved it, when can we go again!!” We both knew right then I could tuff out even the worst of times on a bike.

Our next group ride was called the 3-Pass Run, which was a 280-mile ride over Snoqualmie Pass, Blewett Pass, and Steven’s Pass. The Eastside 368 Chapter met up with the Wenatchee Chapter of the SCRC on the Eastside of the mountains near Leavenworth. It was very impressive to ride into Leavenworth with about 30 bikes riding formation. The day was absolutely spectacular; we had lunch at Gustav’s in Leavenworth, ended with ice cream in Duvall and back to Issaquah to collapse for the night. This trip really put me over the top about biking and I was hooked for good.

Two weeks later, brings us to…

June 17th, 2003:
I purchased my first Motorcycle, a 2000 Yamaha V-Star 650cc Classic.

I am now the proud owner of my very own, Black, shiny and for me…big enough…fast enough…maybe not quite loud enough, V-Star 650cc Classic motorcycle!! There’s only one thing left to do…LEARN HOW TO RIDE IT!!

June 19th:
The day after I purchased my motorcycle, my friend took off for a trip to Alaska, so Dee the lady rider I mentioned earlier offered to help ride the bike home from the dealer for me. We picked the bike up tonight after work, and parked her in my garage; my car promptly lost its home in the garage and came out into the driveway! Dee suggested I sit on the bike in the garage put it in neutral and walk it back and forth…so that’s exactly what I did. When my gentleman friend returns from Alaska his plan is to start teaching me the basics before I attend the MC Safety Training Class. My mission while he is gone is to try to get into an earlier Safety Training Class to obtain my endorsement instead of the one I am scheduled for in September. It seems so long to wait until September to be able to ride my bike legally and safely, so getting my learner’s permit has become another priority. Studying for the exam is now my primary objective.

Friday, June 27th, Lesson #1:
  0 Miles. Neighborhood Street Access Only.

By the time my friend returned from Alaska I had finagled getting into a July 10th, 12th and 13th Riding Safety Training Class in Lacey AND passed my Learner’s Permit Test at the DOL. I was ready to be a RIDER-IN-TRAINING! Tonight’s lesson was basically showing me where all the important items were...breaks, clutch, throttle, etc. and how to back it out of my garage. I watched him do it once and then he had me sit on the bike and do it myself. This sucker is heavy and I almost wiped out one of the solar light poles that line my entry walkway. I finally made it down the driveway to the street. He had me walk to the corner of my block onto 188th where he rode the bike to meet up with me. He said OK get on the bike and go…I said WHAT??#*!! ‘Ya gotta be kidding!! Well, I got on the bike, put it in neutral, started up the engine, pulled in the clutch, shifted into 1st gear and slowly released the clutch…off I went with both feet dragging the ground for several feet and then grabbed the hand brake and jerked myself to a stop! OMG, I was really doing it!! I did that several times back and forth until Fred said, “now you’ve got to pick up your feet and put them on the floorboards”. I said WHAT??#*!! I was reluctant to do so, but finally placed one foot up and then the other… OMG I couldn’t believe I had delayed that maneuver because the bike felt much more stable after picking up my feet and balancing them on the floorboards and there I was cruising in 1st gear!! Finally, he said OK I’m exhausted we are done for the night. He rode the bike back to the garage and I walked home. I felt a great sense of accomplishment and was really happy with the progress.

Newbie Tip: Don’t be reluctant to pick up your feet and place them on the foot pegs/boards…you’ll be surprised how much that balances and stabilizes the bike.

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