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Rookie Once More

by Jill (Silver Penguin)

I've been riding a bike since I was a little kid so it didn't take much to get me back into it after the kids grew up. With a 650 Cruiser and then an 1100, I worked on my skills a day at a time. Still a lot to learn, but I've put getting on for 25K miles under the tires so far. Without realizing it, I'd gotten to a point where I could control the bike without thinking about it constantly.

Somehow, acceleration and braking were accomplished with appropriate gear shifts, while my conscious brain paid attention to the cager with the cell phone. You know the one with the burger in one hand, phone in the other? Watch him when he reaches for his soda! I learned to pull off smoothly, with both feet on the boards before the wheel turned a full revolution. Stopping was gentle and graceful at least 99% of the time. Feet stayed up on the boards until the last second, then gently down, giving the appearance of being totally in control.

That was a good feeling that I took completely for granted until it was gone.

Now I'm back to that hollow feeling in the pit of my stomach, when I strap the helmet on. It's getting better but I'm anxious about each ride. The bike and its behavior are no longer familiar. My trusted friend waits patiently in the garage as I go out to play with a stranger. We're making friends slowly but there isn't that easy relationship yet.

I've gone over to the 'other' side, and got a sport bike. You've heard me vent over issues regarding the seat height. That's still a problem but I'm talking about the concept of building a relationship here. I have to learn to ride all over again. My gear shifts were lumpy and all in the wrong places. Who knew that you don't ride a powerful sport bike the same way as a cruiser? I just did what I knew best. At one point, I ran out of gears. Thinking that my boot was stuck or something, I looked down. I was doing 60mph at about 2500RPM. There's room to go to about 9500RPM before hitting the red line. Gotta learn to stretch those gears out a bit.

The brakes are a lot sharper, which is a good thing if one takes the RPM up to the red line I guess. I found out how punchy the brakes were, each time I stopped for a signal. Instead of that smooth, gentle easing to a stop, I resembled a helicopter hitting a brick wall. Both legs were flailing in a frantic attempt to reach the ground then I grabbed a panicky handful of brake and almost launched myself over the top. Not a pretty sight.

How long is it since you had to look down to find the turn signals? I'd forgotten how that felt. My VStar just seems to put them on and turn them off without me helping.

The first few trips were positively nerve wracking but then came a ride when things started to settle down a bit. I have the confidence to ride in my motorcycle boots instead of the high heeled disco boots. That cured the shifting problems instantly. There is more of a healthy fear of the power than an out and out terror; hence my stops are more controlled.

When doing errands on my Cruiser this morning, I reveled in the confidence I felt on the bike. Of course, there is still a tremendous amount that I have to learn but riding the sport bike has helped my skills.

Now, I shall go on to build on the skills and hopefully develop that confident friendship with my sport bike too.


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From Jill: "As a re-entry rider, after raising children, I started with a VStar 650 then moved up to the 1100. I fell in love with a sport-tourer at a women's motorcycle event. This story is about what happened next."

WHAT YOU NEED to Know! Cyclechex Motorcycle History Report.
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