Editor’s Note: Kayleigh Pingel started at J&P Cycles in 2012, after graduating from the University of Dubuque with degrees in computer graphics and computer information systems. She works in the J&P Marketing Department as a web designer, creating products and event emails as well as graphics for the J&P website. Kayleigh has been riding with her husband Steven, also a J&P employee who serves as a software developer, since they started dating over five years ago. She has recently taken up riding on her own, and enjoys roaming the Midwest on her 2012 Sportster Iron 883 named “Little Red.” When not working or riding, you can find Kayleigh gaming, geocaching, visiting friends & family, or playing with her dog Courage.
Motorcycles aren’t something I really grew up around. The most I knew about them was that our neighbor’s bike made just enough noise for my mother to shake her head when he left for work in the morning. Motorcycles were just dangerous, loud machines that mysteriously drove by in packs, on the way to some unknown destination. Of course, now I realize I had no idea what I was missing out on.
My first opportunity to ride on a motorcycle came up a little over 5 years ago, when my then-boyfriend (now-husband) offered to take me around the block on his bike. I shied away the first few times, but eventually gave in. The first thing I remember feeling was the vibration on my feet, and then the cool wind that made my eyes water. And I’ll admit, I was a pretty big wuss as I clung to his back for those few minutes, leaning out of turns and generally being a terrible passenger. But something stuck with me, and I kept climbing on the back of his perfectly uncomfortable and temperamental ’79 Sportster, so we could adventure together.
After a few years of moves, graduations, and a new 2012 Fat Bob, I was definitely at home sitting behind my husband while we rode. But he began to mention, encouragingly, but not pushy, that I could get my own bike if I wanted. I’d usually respond with a “no way – I can’t even drive stick!” Plus, I enjoyed sharing the bike with him, so why would I want to change that?
Then one night in the early Fall I was driving alone in my car with the windows down, enjoying the cool breeze, and I got an urge I hadn’t felt before: “I wish I was riding my bike right now.” I didn’t want to be on my husband’s bike – I wanted my bike. My bike that I didn’t have – and didn’t know how to ride.
A couple of months later, we ended up buying a beat-up little Suzuki, but only got a few practice rides in before the snow hit. It wasn’t until after a stop at the local Harley dealership that I felt like I found my bike. What began as a window-shopping trip to look at used bikes changed as soon as I sat on a brand new 2012 Sportster Iron 883. The bike fit me perfectly, and just felt right underneath me. I lovingly dubbed her “Little Red” after her ember red pearl paint job, and she became mine.
At this point I now owned two motorcycles before I even had my license, and I’ll admit I felt a little bit crazy. But along with my Harley came a spot in the dealership’s riding course, which I enthusiastically attended in the chill of March. I was still having a hard time getting over my nerves, even though I knew I wanted to ride. And every time I stalled a Buell at practice, or a classmate dropped out of the course, I got a little more anxious. But knowing that I was working towards riding “Little Red” alongside my husband helped me keep my chin up.
Finally, after waiting an extra week to take my final riding test due to a good ‘ole fashion Iowa snowstorm, I passed the course. I got my actual motorcycle license shortly after and we picked my bike up from storage. The first time my husband and I rode together separately, I thought I’d want to stay in town. After all, I’d only proved I could ride in a parking lot. But I ended up leading us out towards the country, where I rode in fifth gear for the first time! As cheesy as it sounds, cruising at 55 mph around the hills of Iowa, I felt like I was flying! A few rides later, and I really began to feel comfortable on my own bike – like I used to experience as a passenger, but with so many new sensations. And I actually feel even closer to my husband when I’m riding alongside him than I did when I was sitting directly behind him.
So it took me nearly five years, but this riding season I am proud to say that this former motorcycle newbie and wuss is out on her own! I hope that other passengers who get the same craving as I did will take the plunge and give riding solo a try because it could be that if you like riding on the back seat, you’ll enjoy a solo seat even more.