Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

Early 2002

I began to trawl through the bike books and internet, reading up about soft tails, Dyna's, shockers, heights and weights. I talked to our local gurus who serviced the Heritage and knew HEAPS, both being high performers as race riders. One had a Dyna Superglide Sport bike, and swore it was the best thing ever, giving me the rundown about cornering, smooth ride, adjustable front forks, etc, etc, etc. So I got a bit hooked.

Finally my Mum's money came through, and off we went to town, going to three dealerships and mooning over different models. I was originally a bit keen on the look of the Deuce, because of all the glorious chrome, but the ride wasn't as good, and it was a few thousand more than I had.

We ended up at Harley City, out in Brunswick, and feeling a bit hungry, we decided to grab a burger at the Biker Cafe next door before looking at bikes. As we went past the dealership window, there was a dangerous looking black FXDX on a stand in the window. My jaw just dropped at it's dark beauty, as my partner dragged me on to the cafe.

I jammed the food down my throat in super fast time, and dragged HIM back to the window. We went inside and looked at other bikes, but I was totally hooked on the Dyna. Having cash to negotiate with made a good deal easy, and we signed the papers and made arrangements to pick up the bike in a few days, when it was registered, etc.

Three days later my man rode it most of the way home, and handed it over for me to ride on the flats before I climbed the hills. It was very different from my small bike, but I remember my heart in my mouth as I tested it ever so gently. It felt great, and I could feel it's power rumbling away beneath me.

So, I began to climb up to the hills, with my man patiently cruising along behind me.

But, it wasn't as plain sailing as we had hoped....................

I came to the end of the bitumen, ready to do the 5 km gravel stretch to our driveway. Looking for my escort to catch up with me, I pulled up on the gravel road to wait for him. My feet stumbled a little on the stones, and my bike began to lean. I desperately tried to pull it up to vertical, but the huge 600lb weight just wouldn't co-operate. I could feel my eyes and muscles bulging with the effort, but it was too late; the bike had reached the point of no return, and fell heavily to the ground, crunching the gravel under it as it went. My man was watching helplessly as he clambered out of the car to help, but no good; it was all over.

We both stood looking helplessly at each other, not knowing what to say. It was an horrific moment.

We mustered our combined determination together, and he lifted it and rode it home for me. My Yamaha was only 300lbs, and I never thought about what a huge difference there would be between the two.

Well, we assessed the damage. The fuel tank had a small dent from where the indicator was pushed into it. The pipes were scratched, and some minor marks here and there. The matt black mirrors were scratched, but could be sanded back and resprayed easily. It could have been worse, but it could have been better.

We hid from the public for a few days and I felt like going under the bed to suck my thumb. Those who came to view it were only shown the 'good side'.

Then I told my self it was my bike, and the marks would be part of its history. I got back on it and rode the hell out of it. I had some great slash cut pipes put on, and some chrome tizz which gave it a really classy 'gal's look'. It now rumbled like a real Harley, and the ladies would come over and say how they loved the bike, and good on me for riding it. The blokes would look vaguely threatened and one twerp told me I "should be riding a skirtster". I asked him about his bike, and he didn't even have one!

I was still not legal to ride a 1450cc bike, but I kept a low profile, and luckily I never had my license looked at in the 9 months until I was. It was certainly a relief to finally get onto a full license and no longer feel worried if I saw the police.

We rode everywhere, and the power was huge. For a time, I would give it squirt too soon after a turn, and the back would fishtail alarmingly, but I soon learned to get it straight before getting on the throttle. I'm sure riders behind me thought I would surely crash, but I didn't. I did have some truly life threatening moments; one where a car stopped in front of me from 100kms to zero in the middle of the road, and I was forced to do a big brake, fishtailing
and smoking the rear tyre. Her fault, but she certainly could have killed me, as I nearly ended up in her car boot.

We rode thousands of kilometers to outback Broken Hill, Dubbo, Canberra, and numerous bikes shows and trips up and down the highways. We rode in the rain, thunderstorms, hail, frost, mist. My boots have been full of water, with it squelching between my toes as I changed gears. My hands have been so cold, I could barely operate the controls. My beautiful Harley has never missed a beat and still goes like new now at 52,000 kms. I have dropped it from a standstill since, but with little damage, and I still have all the original marks. My small dent in the tank is likened to the thumbprint you sometimes see on a horse's neck, and my fabulous 'black steed' wears it with pride.

A very good rider told me early on that I should always pay attention to coming to a safe stop, and making sure my bike is balanced and steady before I do anything else. That always comes into my head as I come to an intersection, or pull up to park it. It works.

It was surprising the number of men who 'fessed up when I said I had dropped it. Most people have done just that, it seems, at some stage or another, and had kept it under wraps. It was strangely liberating for us all to come clean. They are expensive, heavy, awkward bikes, and difficult to ride, but what fun they are!

I spent a long time not being able to do a tight U-turn, and was always intimidated when we took a wrong turn. My brain would tell me it was too tight; I would hit the gutter, etc, etc. I do try not to get into such situations, but have also learned to manoeuvre the bike with more skill and care. My man also watches me, and moves it for me if I find myself in a difficult situation. It is such a heavy bike for a woman, but as long as the rubber's on the ground we're OK.

I have found spending all my inheritance on my Harley has bought me a life I never dreamt of having, laughs I never would have had, unbelievable exhilaration, pride at achieving something many would love. My mother was a difficult woman, who suffered from mental illness for many years, and I looked out for her in her last 23 years of life. Having my Harley turned out to be a wonderful reward for a very difficult time.

"Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive -- the risk to be alive and express what we really are."
....Don Miguel Ruez

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