Learning To Ride, Part 2

So the search for the “middle bike” was on and at the suggestion of a friend, I turned to Ebay.

Now, I had never bought anything off of Ebay, let alone a motorcycle, so I was pretty ignorant about buying and selling online.  I did have a basic idea about what I wanted in the next bike.   I knew I wanted a used bike – I didn’t want to spend a fortune on a new one only to find it wasn’t what I really wanted and I didn’t want to worry about messing up a brand new bike because of beginner’s mistakes.  I was also looking for a bike with mid range controls, meaning that the clutch and the brake were within reach of my short legs.  Other priorities included a lower seat height, low mileage and of course, it had to be within my price range.

A bike that seemed to fit my needs was available and I jumped into bidding.  I was the high bidder for a couple weeks, slowly increasing the amount I would pay, always staying within my budget but slightly ahead of the other bidders.  On the evening of the final bidding, I sat down at my computer, a gin and tonic by my side and played the game in earnest.

The problem with drinking gin and tonics while bidding on Ebay is that it’s easy to get excited and exceed the budget.  Which is exactly what I did.  Happily I moved onto my second G&T, entering in more bids and thinking “I WILL own this bike”!  Well … anyone who has bid for items on Ebay knows what happened next.

I lost the bike in the last 5 seconds.

Initially I was devastated, but when I woke up the next morning I was somewhat relieved.   Just two hours later, though, I received a call saying that the high bidder had dropped out!  I had won the bike AND they would let me have it for my original budgeted amount.  Needless to say, I was thrilled and the 2008 HD Sportster XL 883L with only 300 miles on it was  mine!!  Well, it was almost mine … first I had to get it home from North Carolina.

My good friend Michael agreed to drive me the two hours to pick up the bike.   Just like with Billy and my Honda Rebel, I was so glad to have an experienced biker with me.  Michael checked out the bike, loaded it up on the trailer and we headed back home to Virginia.

    

Buying the “new” bike, meant selling the old bike, so for a short period of time before I sold the Honda (not without some sadness I might add) I actually had two bikes in my carport!

I brought the Sportster home in November of 2009 and rode as many  miles as I could in preparation for the next phase in my biking life:  a 50th Birthday Solo Ride!   I gained experience by riding solo, riding with friends and with my local HOG chapter.  Slowly my confidence level grew and I was ready for my first solo trip.  I’d taken a long trip before (1000 miles) but this time I would be the driver and I would be alone.

In July of 2010, I left on a 925 mile, 5 day, 3 state trip, (which will someday be the subject of another blog entry).  I tamed the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee; rode through mountains and along rivers; on beautiful sunny days and during rain storms.  I also rode the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I ate at great local restaurants, visited fun local pubs, and every where I went people asked me about riding solo and celebrating being 50 years old!

        

     

I absolutely loved the freedom of those five days—no plan and the opportunity to spontaneously pick my route. I went from one town to the next, choosing the roads as I went along. The folks I met and who helped to guide me added depth to the ride. I often hear bikers talk about the wind in the face and the freedom of the road. I feel like I finally get it.  Even still, when I finally pulled back into Radford, that traditional end of the day beer sure tasted good (thanks Amy!).

So what’s next in this journey of learning to ride?

After 12,000 miles of riding, I’m dreaming about my final, “big girl” bike.  I’m still not sure what that bike will be but I do know that I am ready for it!

Learning to Ride, Part 1

I’ll never forget my first ride on the back of a motorcycle (okay – not counting that ride on the back of a dirt bike in 1981,heading down a forest service road to the Salmon River in Idaho).  This time, I was immediately and completely hooked!  I got off the bike and wooped it up as I ran and threw myself into the arms of my friend.  A passion for motorcycles was born that night for sure!

I spent the first year riding on the back of a 2003 Anniversary Heritage Softail (“the Springer”) and I loved every moment!  Some women long to be the driver from the get go.  Me?  I was happy sitting  in the back, watching the scenery and acting the part of the “traveling, babbling companion”.  Yep, that describes me pretty well.

In May of 2009, I took the motorcycle safety course at New River Community College, and while I passed the class without a problem, I was the only one in the class who dropped the bike … in a parking lot … yeah, a flat parking lot.  Despite that less than stellar beginning, I got my license the very next week and immediately started looking for a bike.

My good friend Billy helped me to find the perfect starter bike and I’ll forever be grateful to him for that.

Having an experienced biker with me gave me the confidence I needed to take what was for me, a huge step.  Billy had a friend who was selling a 20 year old Honda Rebel and I jumped at the offer.  He took me to meet the seller of the bike, checked it out for me, watched me ride it in a church parking lot (where I did NOT drop it) and even rode it home for me.

      

Looks like he’s riding a toy bike, doesn’t it?

Home for the bike for the first two months was a storage unit.  I live at the top of a fairly steep driveway so having the storage unit gave me time to gain experience starting on, and getting up, hills.  A nearby parking lot offered just enough of a hill to practice on (I look back on it now and chuckle that it presented even the mildest of challenges).  Soon enough I brought the bike home and I was riding as much as I could.

I had such great support from my friends during this time.  Billy kept encouraging me to get out of town,  into the country and to stop “waving like Miss America” when I passed people I knew.  Amy, Debbie and Jan insisted that I let at least one of them know when I left on a ride and when I returned home.  Once I got my first HD bike, the GOAs and Tim gave me my first leather in the form of a vest and my father even gave me a HD winter cap to wear under my helmet.  My friends have supported, encouraged, and been very excited for me!

Soon enough I was begging to ride with the big boys and I managed to keep up pretty well, considering that I was riding a little 250cc bike (I called it my “baby bike”).  Within 3 months I was ready to move up to something bigger.  I rode that little Honda so hard during one ride that the muffler vibrated right off the bike!  It was the perfect starter bike.  I encourage new riders to start small like I did.  The confidence I gained as a novice on that little bike was invaluable.  But after riding 1500 miles, it was time to move on up.  I wanted my next bike, my “middle bike”, to be one that would offer me more of a challenge but still not push my capability.

The kind of bike that would be was still to be determined.  All I knew is that I was ready!