Internal Combustion

In 2014 I met a man, someone no dating site would have revealed because of our politics and lifestyle. He piqued a spirit in me that longs for adventure, freedom, and edgy self-expression. I tend to suppress that, because it’s not so practical—and suppressing it is easier than developing better immunity to others’ opinions.

Our best adventures included his Suzuki Hayabusa, a motorcycle not built for comfort but for sport and speed, and I loved it. Eventually I decided I didn’t want to ride just as a passenger. I wanted my own bike, and that thought filled me with an unfamiliar power.

A Doctor’s Note and an Incomplete

I registered for the next available ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) class, scheduled for Halloween weekend which seemed like a fitting time to unleash an alter ego. After passing the class, in Indiana at least, you can have a motorcycle endorsement added to your driver’s license. Unfortunately, a month prior, I broke my left foot, it required surgery, and I could not attend. Household stairs can be even more dangerous than motorcycles.

I registered again, for a class on a weekend in March, with fingers crossed for early spring weather. On the second day of three, the first day outside and in the saddle, needle-like sleet penetrated our faces and the wind whipped at us through our multiple layers on the abandoned airport parking lot. I couldn’t feel my hands. Worse yet, my boots were too bulky and I couldn’t easily get my left toe under the gearshift of the tiny Honda Rebel that ABATE provided, not that I could feel my feet.

All the other students looked like they had ridden before, yet I had not previously ridden an inch. I rode several laps, but I was not in control. My brain was frozen, my nerves were shot, so I left (the right thing to do) disappointed and untrained.


About a month after that, the relationship ended. It was long-distance and too hard on my kids. Although we parted well, the loss was painful and immense. And then the retrospective began. How much of my desire to ride was based on my desire to ride with him? We had plans and hopes… plans to get a bike for me in Colorado for my visits and hopes for a riding tour abroad someday.

I believed that my interest in riding would most likely wane, that I would come to my senses and retreat. That was a comfortable mindset in some ways, but it was de-energizing. During the spring, summer, and fall, I thought about it a lot—to ride or not to ride? Losing the joy of the relationship was unavoidably sad, but ignoring the vitality it stirred up was, I came to believe, unnecessary. This became especially clear while I was a passenger on a ride in October of 2016 with work friends. The day was beautiful; I remembered I was hooked.

While getting ready for that ride and planning the layers I would wear, I looked on Craigslist for appropriate beginner bikes, like I had many times before. And there I found her, a 2003 Honda Shadow VLX with a 600 cc engine. Two days after the ride she was mine.

My Aim Is True

I intend to honestly describe my experiences in this blog (no matter where they take me) and to reinforce safe practices. If you are interested in learning to ride yourself, I don’t want to teach you any bad habits. You should imagine me wearing a full-face helmet while writing about riding. If I do something dumb, I’ll own it and tell you about it.

And because learning to ride a motorcycle, for me at least, is about more than skill and mechanics, you can also expect my thoughts on identity, fear, and power. We are all, I hope, learning to live and this project is part of that.

2 thoughts on “Pro(b)logue

  1. If you are ever ‘Inclined to Wait’ again, just leave Little Red in 1st gear, release the clutch, let her roll back until the transmission locks, put the kickstand down and leave her until you can find some neighbors… 🙂


    • Good advice, Hayabusa Guy. It’s funny, looking back on it, that I didn’t trust 1st gear. It was the “let her roll back” bit that I wasn’t comfortable with–an irrational fear that the transmission would not lock. But now I know what to do for sure. Thanks for chiming in!


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