Monday, August 20, 2007

Learning to Ride at 51

I had very little to do with motorcycles before 1998. My partner finally bought his Harley Heritage after many years of yearning after one. I climbed on the back and we joined clubs, spending many happy hours seeing Victoria and New South Wales. We joked about me getting my license, but I wasn't really serious, and when others asked me I had a foolish moment and finally said yes.

So, I was sort of verbally committed, but never really thought about the reality of having lessons and getting a bike myself. I didn't even know where the brakes, throttle, or gears were.

Eventually I lashed out and bought a 250cc Yamaha V-Star (see photo) and trundled off for lessons to get my L-Plates. I was the only woman there, and a granny to boot, and most were young bucks who already knew how to ride. I fell off and fumbled and finally had to go for my Ls twice, but I could really ride on the road!

I remember the first time I took my bike out, and how terrified I was. My partner followed me at a distance as I teetered around quiet country roads with my heart in my mouth. But I was off!

I dropped it a few times in the first few weeks, but learned to ride by going everywhere, even shopping, notching up 8500 kms in months. Our driveway is impossibly steep, intimidating some car drivers, and the only way I could get out on the road was to find some way to negotiate it. Going up wasn't too bad, as I could gun it and pull up strongly. Going down was another issue, and seemed like I was riding straight off a cliff. I had to put the brakes on, clutch in, and one foot on the ground as I inched down.

The gravel road was the next hurdle, and had areas of deep sand, so great care had to be taken not to slide out before I reached the bitumen. Riding in the dark was really frightening, and I remember riding close behind the big Harley, following his headlights and turns in the steep, dark, winding road. I remember one night being so frozen with fear, I thought my heart would stop, not being able to see where I was going.

But it all passed without injury, though each ride would be punctuated with at least one risky event, making me very aware of our fragility on the road.

I went for my full license and got it, so got out and rode and rode and rode. Finally, I became frustrated with the lack of power of the little Yamaha, and began to look around to see what I might get next. My P-plate rules said no big bikes until the first year was over, but that didn't stop me. My old Mum passed on and I inherited enough money from her will to get my big Harley.

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