I know that, to everyone else, the notion seems to be out of the blue: “Why on Earth would you want a motorcycle? Aren’t they dangerous?”
Well, let’s see: I used to compete in SCCA Solo I. No, it’s not wheel-to-wheel racing, but it’s full-on, high-speed time trials in a race car, on race tracks, in full gear. I’ve driven Road Atlanta, Roebling Road, Daytona Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was nearly 20 years ago, but the love of machines and speed had been only dormant, not dead. I’d spent the intervening years playing with computer software, but deep inside, I missed the action.
A friend of mine, who’d raced dirtbikes in his youth, got a streetbike in the summer of 2006, and took me for a few rides as a passenger. I began thinking, “This is fun … but it would be much more fun on the front.” He offered to teach me to ride, but I wanted to just go off and learn on my own. You know –go away for a few days, and come back miraculously able to ride a motorcycle.
I know that 19-year-old guys don’t take classes: they just buy overpowered bikes and either (a) learn by trial and error, or (b) take themselves out of the gene pool. As a middle-aged woman, I decided to take a more conservative approach: I signed up for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation-sanctioned Rider’s Edge course at a local Harley-Davidson dealer. I bought books:
“The Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s Guide to Motorcycling Excellence” — If you just buy one book, this should be it. It presents techniques, cautions and advice that constitute Riding 101. And the Riders Edge class closely follows the content, so this book gives you a head start on passing the in-class written exam.
“Proficient Motorcycling” by David Hough — Extremely detailed guide to “what can go wrong,” and how to avoid common, dangerous scenarios. Consider a guide to possibilities, and don’t let it frighten you. The fact that you educate yourself about the possibilities makes you less likely to succumb to them.
“Sport Riding Techniques” by Nick Ienatsch — The title implies that it’s a textbook for performance riding, which might intimidate beginners. But it’s a great resource for beginning to intermediate riders, and it concentrates on doing things the right way. It’s about smooth, thoughtful riding, not hotrodding. And, as a compulsive editor, I love Nick Ienatsch’s clear and readable writing style.