Internal Combustion

About two years ago I met someone with whom I would fall in love, someone no dating website would have revealed, if he and I were on one, because we are so different. He piqued a spirit in me that seeks adventure, freedom, and self-expression. I tend to suppress that spirit, because it’s not always so practical–and suppressing a spirit like that is convenient for someone like me whose confidence and immunity to others’ opinions are not primary attributes.

He and I had many adventures together, and my favorite ones involved being a passenger on his Suzuki Hayabusa, a motorcycle not built for comfort but for sport and speed. I loved it anyway. And after a while I decided I didn’t want to be just a passenger on a bike, I wanted a bike of my own. The thought of it filled me with delight and an unfamiliar power.

A Doctor’s Note and an Incomplete

I registered for the next nearby ABATE (American Bikers Aimed Toward Education) of Indiana class that had available spots, the one on Halloween weekend. Upon passing the class, you get the papers you need to go to the BMV and have a motorcycle endorsement added to your driver’s license. Unfortunately, a month prior to the class, I broke my left foot, it required surgery, and I could not attend.

So I registered again, for a class to be held on a weekend in March. The second day of the 3-day class, the first day out of the classroom, was unbearably cold and began with sleet. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet, my boots were too bulky for my left one to fit easily under the gear shifter, and it seemed that all the other students had ridden before. I had not previously ridden an inch. I rode several yards that day, but was not in control. My brain was frozen, my nerves were shot, so I left, which was the right thing to do, profoundly disappointed.


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 so 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 for when I visited and stray thoughts of a riding tour abroad someday.

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

While getting ready for that ride and planning the layers I would need to 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 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. And, if I do something dumb, I’ll own it and tell you about it. I promise. Because learning to ride a motorcycle, for me at least, is about much 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 just part of that.

And You

What makes you feel alive? What have you always wanted to try? What are you afraid of, and how might that fear change if you face it? If you don’t try it now, then when? What have you done that has liberated you from an imposed or ill-conceived definition of yourself? Or, what would you like to do to that end?

Whatever may be your answers, be safe and have fun. And, kindred spirits, if you’d like to share your thoughts or experiences please leave comments. Surely I’m not the only one on this wild ride.


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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