A few months back I wrote a blog entry about becoming a new Harley motorcycle rider after the passing of my grandfather. In that post I shared how, quite unexpectedly, I became the owner of a 2001 Heritage Softail Classic.
J&P Cycles Senior Technician Scott Holton, recently blogged about how motorcycling is often a hereditary thing – an obsession that’s often passed on down the family tree. What Scott didn’t explain is what happens if that trait skips a generation in the gene pool. Where’s your mentor? How do you learn? Of course there are huge benefits when you have a close relative or friend take you through the paces. And signing up for a sanctioned course at a local community college or dealership can also do the trick, I’m told.
Since my original post, I’ve climbed on a motorcycle (OK, a dirt bike) a couple of times at the home of a coworker. He’s been gracious — and patient — enough to lend me his time, experience and his bike so I can get familiar with the concept of riding something with a motor attached to it, but only two wheels. After a few slow laps around his yard, I picked up a few tips fairly quickly.
First off, it’s not as easy as you guys make it out to be. At least not for me it isn’t. The coordination required to make the bike maneuver in a dignified manner is something that eluded me at first. Back in college, I used to borrow my brother’s bike and ride into town, but what little coordination I might have possessed at that time has long disappeared.
Starting, stopping and shifting are all part of a laundry list of action items in my head, all clamoring for my attention in what should be a carefully choreographed symphony of hand and foot motions. It’s nowhere near second nature and requires far too much quick thinking on my part. My jaw drops in amazement when I see you guys just pick up your feet and go. What’s that all about? Where the heck did you learn that?
Second, it seems to be all about the clutch. One of the most useful things I’ve learned is relying on the motorcycle clutch to control the bike and smooth out the ride. Not only for shifting, but to slow down or approach an obstacle with caution (and more control). Despite my newly discovered mechanical understanding of the clutch, I’ve provided laughs and guffaws on several occasions due to my inability to “feel” the clutch – either releasing it too slowly or too quickly.
Finally, I’ve come to the realization that I could get used to this real quick. Once the bike is actually moving and I’m maneuvering around the yard, around buildings and between piles of dirt, I’m getting this feeling that all is well with the world. Even in the confined spaces of a backyard, this feels somewhat liberating and freeing. Now you might be sitting there thinking this boy ain’t seen nothin’ yet, and you’d be correct in that pronouncement.
I’ve found myself looking forward to these “yard trips,” and I’m pretty sure skill will come with time and experience. And I’m making plans. In addition to “yard riding”, I’m checking into a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) basic rider course. I figure that between the classroom setting and riding with my coworkers, I’ll end up with a balance of theoretical and practical knowledge.
Do you remember back to your first ride? What got you “over the hump?” Was there a tip or trick you picked up, or did it just take time?