Foot Pegs

At first, on the driveway, trying to learn how to ride Little Red simply involved rocking in first gear while gently squeezing and releasing the clutch. Then, I tried just enough gas to Fred-Flintstone forward—not stable enough to put my feet on the pegs. I was terrified of the throttle, so I slowly wobbled a few yards forward and then walked her backward to my starting spot.

Over and over I did this. It was actually kind of fun, but I was worried that I would never get my feet up on the damn pegs. I also felt pretty stupid and not in control, and I wondered if beginners ever just tip over. (They do.) 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 front door, I knew I had to get over myself quickly. I wanted to truly ride before hibernating, so while on the sofa under blankets and books I could look forward to spring with confidence and then take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class without further delay. So on a spring-like November day, I took a last-minute afternoon off—no meetings and the sky was pure blue.

While I was gearing up, having conscientiously stowed my learner’s permit in the saddlebag, a friend sent these texts:

Go ride that bike today.

And then again tomorrow. Rain this weekend. 


A few minutes later I walked Little Red down the driveway, a small hill, slowly and deliberately as if I were doing T’ai Chi. I learned to use the front brake to control her 440 pounds; she is not a bicycle. On the road I wrestled her into a straight position far enough from neighbors’ mailboxes. And there, looking ahead I saw a vast plane so vivid in the sunshine and somehow different from the neighborhood street with which I was familiar.

Anything could happen here today.

I inhaled… and exhaled… and put Little Red in first gear, really meaning it this time. I didn’t have to Fred Flintstone for long. With room to ride and feeling comfortable with the clutch and gear shift, the throttle was less scary. I slowly gave the engine exactly what it needed and found the foot pegs. It felt right. For me, this was barely believable. If you knew me, you’d understand. I was riding a motorcycle and loving it.

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