Baby Steps

I got back on the iron horse.

A girl and her bike.

I was scared, sweaty, nervous, almost in tears, but I geared up with James, and straddled my bike, started her up, and proceeded to ride her around the neighborhood loop.

After a weekend filled with doubt, regret, wistful thoughts, and even a bit of anger at myself for allowing this to happen, I decided to at least TRY to ride again.

We geared up, headed out, unlocked our bikes, and straddled our respective machines. I turned to James, holding back tears. Tears of fear, tears of anger, tears of joy. He smiled, nodded, gave me the thumbs-up sign and waited patiently for me to release the clutch and twist my wrist to give some throttle.

Off we went.

The feelings were familar. I was riding. I was still nervous and a bit scared, but I was riding.

While part of me was happy, part of me was decidedly not.

The new aftermarket slip-on exhaust that we had put on my bike had somehow changed my bike. I noticed it as soon as I descended the steep hill from our apartment. Before, with the stock can on my bike, I could easily descend this hill in first gear with no real ‘pulling’ or high engine whine. I could usually descend at about 18-20 mph, with RPMs around 4-5,000.

Now?

I was going 18 mph, and the RPMs were almost 8,000, and the bike was pleading with me to shift her.

Not in a nice way, either.

A way that I was not happy with, and a way that I didn’t feel confident about.

This wasn’t my bike. This was a different bike. This bike was going to do things HER way, not MY way, and I knew as I rounded the first corner, that this would be a short trip. The exhaust was ‘popping’ and making loud almost backfiring sounds that I wasn’t familiar with at all. She was loud, overbearing, almost obnoxious. What was once a smooth, controlled ride, had suddenly turned into a herky jerky outing. I never even shifted her up out of second gear. I wanted to pay closer attention to the difference in RPMs and speed. I noticed a definite difference in handling and shifting requirements, that previously, with the stock can, were simply NOT there. I was not happy with THIS bike. I wanted MY bike back. At the end of the ride, I explained to James what had happened, and we agreed, that in the end, we will put the stock can back on my bike. I need MY bike back. I NEED the bike that gave me confidence, gave me the positive outlook I needed when I needed it. I don’t need to rock the proverbial boat while learning. Or riding.

I’m happy that my braking, turning, shifting in general was good. I asked James to critique me from behind as he rode. He said all looked good, and he was pleased that I was able to get back in the seat and remember those basic skills. I was very happy about that.

In the end, the ride was a success. I was able to gear up, get on, and ride. I am proud of myself for overcoming the fears that had taken me hostage, and that had taken the fun out of something that I had previously found so joyous and exhilarating. I did have moments during the ride that reminded me of why I decided to learn how to ride in the first place. I remember the sound of the wind through my helmet, the view through my face shield, the feel of the bike under me, the vibration of the machine as she carried me along, seeing my love in the rearview mirror as he rode behind me, ensuring my safety.

I am not alone. I know that now. I am not the only rider to experience fear, or reluctance, or hesitation, or doubt. I am not alone. I will never be alone. Many fellow female, and some male, riders shared their experiences regarding their early days of riding, and I was humbled. I was humbled knowing that we all share some common feelings with regard to motorcycles, and our relationship with our machines.

I realized yesterday that this transformation won’t happen overnight. This realization is a bitter pill to swallow for this instant-gratification kind of gal. Patience has never been a strong suit of mine, but if anything will change that, it’s riding a motorcycle. I need to find joy in the small victories of riding. I need to be proud when I suit up, get on, ride around my apartment complex, ride around a parking lot, ride on side streets, tackle my first traffic light, head out on the open road, or any ride in between.

One thing I realized yesterday is this:

I will not give up. I will not allow my fear to get the best of me. I refuse to quit before I even start. Something James said yesterday hit me so hard, I thought I might fall down:

“Lisa, don’t give up until you’ve at least tried it. Only then are you allowed to even entertain the idea of selling the bike and riding pillion with me. Try the ride you are fearful of at least once. Once. If, after that, your fear is still at a level that you believe won’t fade, then you can sell your bike. Not before.”

Another friend during a late-night conversation said:

Lisa, don’t sell the bike. Don’t give up. Give yourself a break. Take your time. Cut yourself some slack.”

Baby steps.

I need to crawl before I can walk.

Or ride.

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One thought on “Baby Steps

  1. Atta girl! You make me proud to know you! You are the essence of determination and you can do it! It’s all about baby steps! We all have our “what the heck am I doing on a bike” moments and we all have moments of fear. You just have to persevere and you are lucky because you have a wonderful partner watching out for you and I think if he ad any reservations about you riding he would voice his concerns and tell you. You will get past this and if you do change your mind, no big deal. I rode pillion for 28 years on the back of my hubs bike and still like to go riding that way. Hang on & hang in, you’ll get there!

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