Hi again, it’s been a while, I know. I have been
procrastinating trying to figure out how I feel about my motorcycling experience these last two months. In my last post, I still wasn’t on the bike yet – in fact, it was still in my brothers basement. Since then, I’ve been riding it around every chance I get …unless it’s a windy day, I can’t stand riding in the wind just yet. I’m not “strong” enough to feel comfortable in it at this point. But anyway, we got it running and I went on a few rides with my brother, and a lot of rides on my own. Lots of pictures (and a couple of videos) from those rides can actually be found on my Instagram; I’m a lot more active there because writing little 50 word captions is easier than writing a whole blog post. 😉
So, my riding experience. Good, bad, in between?
Well, I find myself proud of many things in my riding: like climbing loose, rocky hills without falling or dropping the bike, riding with all of my gear as a way of comfort, being smart and not trying to speed everywhere I want to go, and actually stopping to enjoy this awesome country. I feel like a broken record because this isn’t the first time online that I’ve praised Canadian landscapes. ☺
But with all of my pride comes shame and “I-hate-myself” feelings, like when I walked the bike down, or when I fell down, loose, rocky hills, when I get off-balance coming to a stop, when I crashed (TODAY), when I don’t stare through the corners, or when I just don’t ride in the proper mind-set. These moments of shame and stupidity stick in my head a lot more than the moments of pride. I can’t tell if it’s unfortunate or good that I always remember the times I f-ed up. I guess in a way it’s good, because I know what I have to improve on, like never releasing the rear brakes, or staring through a corner.
So for now, my experience has been a mix of both good and bad. I feel excited and proud of myself, that I’m doing something I only ever dreamt of not long ago, but also mad and frustrated when I do something stupid or dangerous, unintentionally. Proportionally, 95% good, 5% bad. 🙂 So I’m a pretty happy camper!
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At least with these oops moments I have learnt many lessons. Maybe some of these lessons might help other new riders out there, or maybe it’ll just be nice for you to read them as an experienced rider and remember how far you’ve come. Or, if you see that I’m doing something completely wrong, please let me know! (That said, this is just my own experience and how I’ve come to my own lessons. Maybe tomorrow these lessons will be rewritten by new mistakes. Please don’t use this as training, because I am not an instructor, just someone who wants to share her own experiences and lessons.) Okay, so I ride street and dirt, so these will be a mix of both trail/dirt/enduro-because-you’re-following-your-crazy-brother and street riding lessons.
- My most dangerous mistake, imho: don’t release the rear brake in a skid. The bike will kick you off, and you will crash. Luckily I was in my backyard on soft grass.
- Ride in the ruts (on trails), not on the ridges. It’s a farther fall off of a ridge and you wont accidentally slip into a rut. Also, you can paddle with your legs from the ruts, making it easier to negotiate obstacles.
- On the road, avoid ruts and lines, and even paint, as much as possible.
- Look ahead. Your bike goes where your eyes are looking. Want to go through a corner? Look to the end of the corner. Trust yourself and your bike, and use your eyes.
- Going down a loose, rocky hill? Sit as far back as possible/comfortable, otherwise your front tire will stop on a rock and you’ll go over the handle bars. Yes, you will, trust me.
- Do not hesitate. Your bike cannot read your mind and it will end up doing the opposite of what you want it to do. Eliminating hesitation (different than fear, for me!), and using my eyes have made my gravel road cornering 10 times better already.
- Be properly afraid. Now… I don’t mean be completely scared of your bike and never ride it again. But also, don’t be an idiot with no fear in your system at all. Realize that things could happen, and let that fear fuel your attention and alertness. I always think a proper dose of fear is better than none at all.
- If you drop the bike, turn it off, collect yourself, and pick it back up. Maybe wait a few minutes before riding away to get the extra dose of adrenalin out of your system so you can concentrate on the new obstacles ahead, and always check your bike for damage. Fix your mirrors, hand guards, hand controls, make sure the brakes aren’t clogged by rocks or dirt. On my bigger crash down a hill, the mirrors were messed up, the hand guards were pointing down, and the lights/signal/horn “console” was flipped around! Both bike and I were okay otherwise!
- If you’re riding with a buddy who is more experienced than you, let them know where you stand. I tell my brother that I will not follow him quickly down gravel roads, because I still need to get used to cornering and picking good lines*. He understood, he still rides them faster, but he waits up ahead to make sure I haven’t turned the wrong way or crashed.
- *Pick good lines. Use the most comfortable line you feel you can ride confidently. For trail or roads.
- For trail riding, make sure you ask what the trail is like before heading down it. My brother knows what I’ve ridden and knows the trails around our town, so it’s easy for him to judge if it’s more or less difficult than what I’ve ridden before, but use your best judgement. If it looks too hard for your current skill level, turn around. Especially if you’re solo.** Being alone and inexperienced is not a good combination for a complicated trail. If you’ve got a nice group of understanding, patient riders with you, and you feel up to it, give it a shot. If you don’t feel up to it, and are comfortable lending your bike to another rider, let them get over the obstacle for you. (I have done this with my brother. I couldn’t gather the courage to go over a rock face with a stream running through it, so I let him ride my, previously his, bike over: it was easier for me to do this because it was his bike before, so nothing new to him. Be careful with this, make sure they’re a good rider…!)
- **If you’re riding solo, tell someone where you are going. Leave your parents/roommate/partner a note, maybe a map if you’ve already routed your travel. Just make sure someone knows where you are and about what time you are going to return by. It can be nice and free to go for a ride by yourself, but it can be very dangerous for you if no-one knows where you are. Especially on trails and back roads.
- Get to know your bike/owners manual. If something isn’t right, don’t ride until you’ve fixed it or had it fixed. I haven’t ridden in a week because the throttle would completely stick, anywhere (when wide open, or even a barely open). I watched a lot of YouTube videos to get a feel for what I could do myself before sending it to a shop. I tried oiling the cables today and TA-DA!, it snaps back shut.
- Ride in the right mind-set. I can’t stress this one enough for myself. If you feel in any way unable to fully focus on the bike and the task at hand, do not start that bike until the feeling has passed, the headache is gone, or that thing you really should do first has been done.
- Always remember that you have so much more to learn. You will never be the best rider who makes no mistakes, because there aren’t any perfect riders. If you think you’re one, get off your bike and think about it. There is always something to improve on. My list is above. 😉
- Maybe most importantly, enjoy the ride~
For now, these are all of the lessons I learnt from experience, that I can recall. I haven’t ridden in a week or so, so there will be some things I remember later. But, again, I have a lot of pictures on Instagram of my travels so far, and I suggest following there if you want to see a mixture of motorcycle stuff, a doggy, a garden, and eventually some quilting stuff. This post doesn’t have any pictures because the best ones are already up over there. ☺ Again again, if you read something that is completely shit advice, please let me know so I can edit it out and fix it.
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For now, happy riding, and RIDE SAFE THIS LONG-WEEKEND. (If you aren’t comfortable in the traffic, stay home or take your car instead. More advice. 😉 )