Inclined to Wait

Foot Pegs requires an epilogue, I’m afraid.

I must have ridden for about 10 miles, mostly on my neighborhood’s one-mile loop but also on connected cross-streets and cul-de-sacs, never exceeding 15 mph. A few cars drove by, and I passed people with dogs. Initially I thought, “You should all be afraid. This beautiful afternoon… it’s not a normal afternoon!” But the angst waned and I became more and more confident.

I couldn’t wave to neighbors, of course. That would have been disastrous. So mostly I nodded, which was frustratingly subtle. I wanted to wave wildly, laugh, and rejoice. To a few I called out, “This is my first day riding!” like an eight-year old. One neighbor looked especially surprised and amused. I beamed back at him. I stopped to chat with one other. He rides too, and he keenly wanted to impress upon me that drivers don’t always see us. I don’t think a rider, especially a new one, can hear that enough. We must pledge allegiance to our eyes… to the road ahead, on both sides, and behind.

Elated and nearly in a state of disbelief, I rode back to the base of my driveway on its hill. The incline was a bit daunting, but I was in can-do mode. So I rode straight up the hill–and promptly stalled on the steepest part.

Instantly I stood up and squeezed the front brake hard, probably harder than necessary, but I had no interest in discovering the brake’s threshold or what being in gear was really doing for me then and there with 440 pounds. I switched off the ignition, and I stood there, stuck, knowing I had neither the strength to push Little Red up the hill nor the skill to start her back up and ride forward under those circumstances. My right hand was getting tired from squeezing the front brake.

I looked to the right. I looked to the left. No one was around. Where were all my nice neighbors? I looked to the right. I looked to the left again. I was alone. I wondered how stupid I looked. I kicked the side stand down, and it seemed to bear some of the weight, but I couldn’t trust it. I waited, squeezing that front brake hard as my hand became weaker. Time passes slowly when you’re feeling stupid alone on a hill and your hand hurts. A motorcycle. Really?

After a little while, a dog-walking neighbor did spot me and graciously lent his strength to push Little Red up to the level part of the driveway while I walked her and steered. Thank you, Steve!

A motorcycle? You bet.

Foot Pegs

No longer feeling fraudulent, I begin this blog.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been preparing for this moment. Little Red has had a thorough safety inspection by a qualified mechanic, she sports new tires, she’s all tuned up, her fluids are good, and she’s up to date on her vaccinations. I’ve had a couple of sessions rocking in first gear while gently squeezing and releasing the clutch and then Fred-Flintstoning around the driveway–insufficiently stable to put my feet on the pegs, terrified of the throttle, but traveling several thrilling yards at a time anyway before walking her backwards over and over and over again. After all that, and then bragging about it to friends while wondering if I ever would really learn to ride, Little Red and I ventured off my property. This happended two days ago, and I am a changed woman.

Before two days ago, I was worried. Worried that I would never get my feet up on the damn pegs. The Fred-Flintstoning phase was fun, but I also felt pretty stupid and not in control, and I wondered if beginners ever just tip over. I knew I needed more space, a good, long straight course, and that I had to stop being so afraid of the throttle. But it was hard to imagine ever becoming comfortable. A motorcycle. Really?

With winter knocking at the door, I knew I had to get over myself quickly, though. I wanted to truly ride my bike before hibernating, so that from under my winter blankets and books I could look forward to the spring with confidence and then take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class without further delay. I wanted to be a rider, not just a motorcycle owner, over the winter from my sofa. So I decided to take Wednesday afternoon off–no meetings and perfect, warm weather.

While I was gearing up, a friend sent these texts:

“Go ride that bike today.”

“And then again tomorrow. Rain this weekend.”

“YOU CAN DO IT!!!!! 😃”

A few minutes later I walked Little Red down the hill of my driveway at a T’ai Chi pace and with that sort of deportment. I learned how much to use the front brake to control her 440 pounds; she is no bicycle. On the road I wrestled her into a north-facing position far enough from neighbors’ mailboxes. A vast, mysterious plane lay ahead, and it was great to see. Anything could happen there. That’s right, I thought, this is supposed to be fun. I inhaled. I paused. I exhaled, and I put her in first gear. I didn’t have to Fred Flintstone for long. With room to ride and having gotten used to the clutch and gear shifter feel already, the throttle was less scary. I slowly gave the engine what it wanted and found the foot pegs. Unbelievable. I was riding a motorcycle and loving it.