Learning to Ride, Sunday

This is a continuation of a story begun in the previous entry. If you’re starting here, go back and read the first one first. Otherwise you won’t get all that drama I built up for you. 🙂 Come back here when you’re done.

Even considering the time change, I woke up at an unthinkable hour Sunday morning. Of course I used the extra time to obsess over my performance on Saturday and my self-perceived likelihood of passing the course. One useful thing: I realized that one of the reasons I was looking down was probably because I wasn’t really feeling the shift lever very well. I drove by Ye Olde MegaMart on the way in and bought some different boots in the hopes of making that better.

Sunday morning on the range was a bit warmer and less windy. The coaches were friendly and chipper. I was pretty apprehensive, and I’m sure it showed, but I tried to participate in the small-talk. Finally, the time came to crank up the bikes and start the morning’s training. Our first thing was simply a warm-up (for the bikes and for us): some laps around the perimeter and then [grumble] that danged offset weave again. Oh well, at least we weren’t being evaluated, and by some miracle I wasn’t sore (don’t know how that happened).

All I can say about what happened during that warm-up is that something clicked. The boots may have helped. Probably not a lot. Maybe sleeping allowed Saturday’s practice to soak into my brain. Maybe it was just because I wasn’t tired. I don’t know, but something clicked. The bike just felt right. I even figured out how to slip the clutch just right to allow me to negotiate the offset weave with no difficulty. Multiple times. It was fun. I think I was beaming by the time we finished the warm-up.

The next couple of exercises were fairly simple turning practices. During the debrief, one of the coaches actually singled me and one of the other guys out and said that we might as well have been demonstrating the model way of negotiating the curves. Yay!

The next few exercises didn’t go quite as smoothly, but I was still feeling pretty decent. I was finally keeping my eyes up most of the time, so my biggest problem was one of my oldest: handling the quick stops correctly. Between grabbing a fistful of front brake and not quite getting the downshift into 1st gear, it continued to be a problem.

All too soon, we were actually practicing for the evaluation. Of course THE BOX was going to be part of the evaluation. I flubbed the first try, but I finally figured out how to use the clutch-feathering technique that worked in the offset weave, and I made the second try. Then there it was.

Somehow I ended up lined up as the first bike in line for the evaluation. I’ll always wonder if the coaches did that intentionally. First thing was THE BOX, followed by a quick swerve test. I NAILED them. As I was lining up for the next part of the eval, I was breathing several sighs of relief and trying to think about the next portion. One of the coaches actually walked up and said, “Just relax. I’m not worried at all that you’ll fail this.”

That vote of confidence pulled me through the rest of the evaluation. The quick stop overall went well. I got the bike into 1st, and I stopped smoothly. One final test of something that I’d nailed earlier in the morning, and it was done. We went back to the classroom and took an easy written test. I was called into the next room, and out of the 20 points necessary to cause me to fail the skill test, I only lost 12. I got docked for 2 things: not stopping quite quickly enough in the quick stop (actually because I began my stop a bit late), and decelerating just a little through one of my turns. Woohoo!! He handed me my little completion card.

I’m quite happy. Both through my score and from talking with the coaches, I confirmed that I ended up doing quite well… especially for someone who was struggling so much on Saturday. That means that now I’m ready to start doing some real practice to build on those skills I started learning. Unfortunately, that’s probably going to be a while. Between saving up the money for the bike (which comes behind a couple of house projects that need to get done) and the fact that riding season is pretty close to being over until spring, it may be a while. I’ve decided I really want to try this, though. 🙂

So, what’s moral of all this? Probably that I need to challenge myself like that more often. That, and giving up is rarely the right thing to do? 🙂 For anyone else that takes the course: stick it out. Even if you suck on Saturday, stick it out. It might just click.

I’ll obviously make updates here as things progress. More when it happens. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Learning to Ride, Sunday

  1. what kind of bike are you going to get or do you have one already.

    No, I don’t have a bike. I was pretty adamant about not buying a bike until I’d taken the course. Both for safety reasons and because I didn’t want to spend that money until I had some confidence that I’d actually enjoy it.

    As for what I’ll get, that depends. The only sure things are that it’s going to be used and fairly inexpensive. Beyond that, I’m going to be pretty flexible, since I don’t know what I’ll be able to find. Right now, I think it’s going to be a cruiser style bike. I’ve sat on a lot of bikes, and cruisers seem to feel the best. It will probably have a 500 – 750 cc engine. The coaches yesterday confirmed that that was probably about the right size range for a cruiser. If I could manipulate the used market and get exactly the bike I wanted, I would probably get one of two Kawasaki bikes. Either a ’90-’95 Vulcan 500 or its older sibling, the 454 LTD. If I found a REALLY good deal on a Vulcan 750, I would probably consider it. As a backup choice, I’d be okay with a Suzuki Savage. A Yamaha Virago 535 would probably also work, but those aren’t quite as readily available, and they’re probably more expensive.

  2. Oh how exciting! 🙂

    Yes. It was. 🙂 During the parts of the course where things were working well (when I wasn’t obsessing about screwing up), it was tons of fun. Once I got the hang of them, I could have done the cone weaves all day. I’m quite sure I had a perfectly stupid grin on my face. 🙂

  3. Both for safety reasons and because I didn’t want to spend that money until I had some confidence that I’d actually enjoy it.

    *snicker* Sorry, hon, gotta call this one as I see it:

    replacing old and busted couches Jeff has complained about for years > shiny bike when Jeff just recently got a shiny new car for transportation

    (For all reading this, yes, I shall be swatted for this when none of you are looking.)

    Love,

    your wife 😉

  4. I shall be swatted for this when none of you are looking.

    Ah, but it’s much more fun to do it publicly where everyone can see. 🙂

    I know it was a long post, but if you’d read for content, you would have noticed:

    Between saving up the money for the bike (which comes behind a couple of house projects that need to get done)

    I have not forgotten about the couches. 🙂

  5. Your description of the learning process changing from “OMG impossible!” to “Fun!” is one I’m very familiar with. Reminds me of the dance workshops I did last weekend. 🙂

  6. Very very strange. This entry just showed up on my LJ friends list, right after your Harry Potter post. Since I’m reading it for the first time, I’ll just say congratulations, and I hope you find the bike you want. And who says riding season is over? Just this past weekend there were MANY bikes on the road. Of course I think my husband is the only crazy riding his in below freezing temps. Just gotta have the right gear to keep you warm. 🙂

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