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. 🙂