by Sylvia L.
Iíve been a motorcycle passenger for over
ten years, and had always wanted to learn how to actually ride one
myself. I just never got around to itÖ.you know how that is. So, last
year I got married, and my husband was in the same boat. We talked for
months about taking the MSF Basic Rider Course. However, I was active
duty Air Force when we got married, and we were living apart. Then he
went active duty, and we were still living apart. I was diagnosed in Jan
05 with Multiple Sclerosis, was retired from the Air Force in June, and
now weíre living together under the same roof. Yay! We finally were able
to take the MSF together (free for military members on active dutyÖI did
it three days before I retired) in San Angelo, TX.
The rider course was a TON of fun. I had never driven a motorcycle in my
life, and it was certainly different than being a passenger! I learned
on a Kawasaki Eliminator 125, and it was a great size to learn on. Why
they call that little thing an Eliminator, Iíll never know. I was REALLY
happy that I didnít drop the bike once. There were three other females
in the class, and two of them were dropping the bike constantly. The
only portion of the class I had any difficulty with was the back-to-back
U-turns in that stupid box, but it sounds like most people do. After the
course, my husband and I sent off to Florida for our motorcycle
endorsements (weíre still residents of FL), and started the search for
our own motorcycles.
Now, our original plan was to just get one motorcycle, and I would be
the passenger. No way, honey! Not after taking that class and
experiencing riding for myself! We searched high and low, and found two
really great deals on almost identical motorcycles. We bought a 2004
Kawasaki Vulcan 500 LTD for him in Dallas, and a 2003 model of the same
bike for me in Lubbock. THAT was an interesting experienceÖthe ďtest
ride.Ē I was SO incredibly nervous because, here I was, getting ready to
ride this bike that looked so much bigger than the 125, and it didnít
belong to us! I was so scared that I would drop the bike in front of the
owner. I managed to make it around the block with no incident, as did my
husband. Let me assure you, I was shaking the whole time.
A couple of days after getting the bikes home, we took them to the mall
parking lot adjacent to our apartment complex to practice maneuvers and
such. We did that for about an hour, which was great for my confidence.
In the parking lot of our complex on the way back, I braked too hard
while the wheel was slightly turned, and I dropped it. Yep. Add me on to
the list. Thank the good LORD there was no visible damage to the
bikeÖafter all, it did happen in slow motion.
Lots more practice sessions in the mall parking lot, and my husband has
been a great help in providing feedback on my stops, starts, turns, etc.
Despite all this, even the simplest of errors can really ruin your day.
I was in the process of starting up my bike in front of our apartment to
warm it up before a ride. You remember that whole FINE-C thing? Letís
just say I accidentally skipped the whole ďNĒ portion. NOT good. My bike
was in first gear, and just like the BRC instructor said it would, my
bike lurched forward about a foot, stalled, and promptly fell over into
my car. Without me on it, of course. Nice, right? The right rearview
mirror snapped off, and the front left indicator lamp got crushed. Very
small, almost unnoticeable scratches to the logo on the gas tank. A
golfball-sized dent and accompanying scratch on the lower panel of my
car door. I cried like a little girl, I wonít kid you. But, after about
an hour, I got back on the damn bike and went for what turned out to be
a really great ride. I paid $158 for the replacement parts, which I
identified and ordered using the bike's schematic, and replaced the
mirror and turn signal all by myself. I was VERY proud of myself for
being able to fix my own bikeÖand mistake.
Yes, I still get nervous before getting on the road. And yes, Iím
progressing more slowly than my husband, who is anxious to go 70 mph on
the highway. Iím just not there yet, but heís OK with that. Iíve gone
for 20-mile round trip rides to the airport and back, getting up to 55
mph. I thought that would be really scary, but itís not so bad once
youíre actually doing it. Iím anxious to get a windshield because I
think that will help make the ride more comfortable. I still practice
slow turns and right turns from a stop in the mall parking lot. I
actually try to practice for at least 15 minutes before heading on a
longer trip, and that helps my confidence a lot.
I absolutely LOVE my bike, and Iím getting very comfortable with how it
feels, and how my body fits to it. I read as much as I can in books and
online about safety strategies and how to learn from othersí
experiences. I also love sharing the experience with my husband, and
sharing a goofy 6 year oldís grin with him when we finish a ride and the
helmets come off! One of the biggest victories for me over my MS is
being able to ride at all. I have to be careful not to ride when itís
too hot because my legs can become weak. In west Texas, that means
before 8 am or after 8 pm! Iím trying to ride whenever I can because I
need to enjoy this freedom as my body permits me to do so. So far, so
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