It’s kind of weird looking back. I never had any real interest in motorcycles growing up. My only real tie to motorcycles was through my dad. He rode a motorcycle throughout college for its economic value but eventually sold it because winters in Pennsylvania were not conducive to riding a motorcycle, nor safe for that matter.
It was probably when I saw the Yamaha VMax Cruiser, pictured on the left, that I really developed the drive to ride. Its design is beautiful and elegant, and I knew as soon as I saw it that I wanted it one day.
Once I decided to ride, it was a matter of learning. I knew I needed to take a class, or perhaps a series of classes, to learn to ride. My first step was to take a course that taught me the basics of riding, including what to wear, how to operate the bike, and the safety precautions I needed to understand and utilize.
Once I felt comfortable with the basics and general riding, I got my license. I eventually bought a “naked” bike, also known as a standard. I did a lot of research before buying it. Based on my research, I found that a naked bike is best for beginners because they’re:
- Easier to learn to ride. Maneuvering a standard bike involves less skill than other motorcycles.
- Generally minimalistic. There are fewer things to damage if the bike falls.
- Generally less expensive.
I also bought all of the protective gear I’d need, i.e. a DOT approved helmet and a riding jacket; I learned in my safety course that I needed to always wear pants, full coverage shoes, and gloves that would protect me if I fell.
Once I started riding, I took it slow at first; I didn’t jump on a highway immediately or any other fast paced environments. After my safety course, I really realized how dangerous motorcycles could be; they don’t have the external protection passenger vehicles do and, many times, other motorists don’t see us.
The Motorist to Motorcyclist Transformation
There was little resistance when I began riding; as I said, my father rode, so my family was generally okay with the idea from a non-safety aspect. In terms of safety, though, they were a bit hesitant when I first told them I wanted to be a motorcyclist. And when I first began riding, I understood why.
Learning something new is always challenging, but riding a motorcycle around others as a beginner was certainly eye opening. It’s not that I was ever in immediate danger; it was just the feeling of vulnerability. I didn’t feel experienced or comfortable, because I wasn’t, just like any other person who learns to do something.
But motorcycles are different. I knew that if I made a mistake and fell, a vehicle behind me could accidently strike me. And the fear of making a mistake hasn’t necessary ceased, nor do I think it ever should. That feeling certainly ebbed as I began to gain experience and feel more comfortable a few months into riding, but that fear is still there; after all, even the most experienced of humans make mistakes. The difference is that if you make one on a motorcycle, you don’t have much protection.
Years later, I now ride my bike mostly for fun, but sometimes I ride it to work; bikes are much more economical than cars. As a woman rider, I certainly have that, “wow” factor with friends and acquaintances when they find out I ride. Motorcycling is a male-dominated sport and mode of transportation, so I understand people’s surprise. And, as with all motorcyclists, I have to deal with how people stereotype us.
So far, I’ve taken one refresher safety course; it kind of reminded me of taking a refresher defensive driving class for cars. I learned things I didn’t know before and was reminded of things I’d been taught previously but had forgotten. I always recommend, as others do, taking a refresher course periodically; I think it’s very useful. I haven’t gone on any long distance trips yet, but I certainly plan to in the future.
Overall, I’m very happy I picked up riding motorcycles. It’s a great sport that I’d recommend to anyone, as long as they have a healthy respect for motorcycles and the dangers that can accompany them.
Motorcycling is great, especially on the open roads, Sarah is a safety expert and currently campaigns for road safety, click here for more information.