One might assume a license to operate a motorcycle equates to a solid competence in riding. From experience, I can assure you this is not the case. Passing the motorcycle course and written exam is just the first step. Honestly, that was the easiest part of the whole process. Not only was it short in duration, just 2 days, but it was an overwhelming amount of information to process. The lessons to follow were more impactful, and appeared in a variety of unexpected ways. Learning to ride a motorcycle is a multi-step process, and my transition from beginning to end had nothing to do with the type of learner I am. Real world variables and incidents force you to embrace every little challenge and fear with a strong mindset. Don’t limit your capability to learn, adapt, and overcome by putting yourself in a learning-style silo.
Learning to ride a motorcycle did not come easy. I needed to curve some of my fears by watching others. How did they learn to ride a motorcycle? What challenges did most advanced riders face? Can I learn from them without putting myself in danger? Of course! For that, let’s go to YouTube. Let’s watch and learn from them first. Even though there was not a physical connection, it was certainly beneficial to spend time becoming visually familiar with a motorcycle, how people ride, what it looks like when they mount the bike and take off, how they handle traffic situations, etc.
I returned to the same parking lot over and over to practice the basics. I spent hours practicing the same maneuvers, making the same mistakes time and time again. And just to keep it real, I’d throw in a new mistake every now and then. Or maybe it was just to make sure my husband, Chris, wasn’t tempted to fall asleep when he was on Dana-motorcycle-watch duty. As frustrating as it was, it was important to physical feel the mistakes. For instance, letting the clutch out too soon or not squeezing the bike with my legs or not giving it enough gas. Through repetition, I was able to feel the difference of coming to a stop without killing it, making a turn with speed while squeezing the bike with my legs, and taking off from a stopped position with speed and confidence.
With each lap around the parking lot, Chris would give feedback. Sometimes this feedback was immediate and sometimes it was several minutes later. No matter, it was comforting to hear from someone that was watching from a different perspective. I can only evaluate myself so much given the layers of fear and adrenaline I had to juggle. He was able to see what I couldn’t, and both affirmations and suggestions gave me the courage to take another lap.
After several weeks, those parking lot laps turned into longer rides. Sometimes through a neighborhood, sometimes a one-mile ride to McDonalds, and sometimes a lap around the whole county. No matter the distance, each ride gave me an opportunity to put into place what we practiced in the parking lot. Each ride presented a new scenario to use basic techniques like feathering the clutch, emergency braking, or using my hips to increase the angle of a lean.
Even when you’re riding better and feeling more confident, the tears are real and regular. Learning to ride had a steeper learning curve than I anticipated. Chris’ voice was extremely helpful and comforting, but sometimes you need a different voice to tell you the same thing. Maybe the sentence is structured a little different, maybe the level of empathy changes, or maybe the energy in another voice motivates you in a different way. I took my greatest fears to social media and asked for tips for overcoming them. It’s amazing how looking at a fear from a slightly different angle can change everything. Or how there are more people watching and rooting for you than you realized, providing plenty of motivation to keep you moving forward.
The ultimate goal was to feel confident enough to ride on my own. Chris would let me lead, giving me a 15 minute head start and we’d meet several miles down the road. I was forced to be alone with my own thoughts. I didn’t hear immediate feedback or comments. Instead, I had to recall everything I learned. So many voices went through my head during those few miles. I wasn’t riding alone. These are the moments when you think through lessons learned and tips, and figure out how to best apply them for your particular style of riding. You are solid enough to internalize previous training and make decisions for yourself.
Months later on a ride, Chris’ bluetooth ran out of power and the distance remaining until we arrived back to camp was significantly longer than any of the quick 15-minute head start rides. At first the feeling of solitude was shocking, even though he was just a few feet ahead of me. One thing I hadn’t been brave enough to do was to listen to music while riding. An thing interesting about sound is how it can take your experience to a completely, more immersive level. I learned this after asking Siri played one of my music playlists. I was able to exhale, relax my shoulders a bit more, and enjoy the ride. The music helped drown out my own logical (or illogical) thoughts. At this moment, I realized I had arrived. I completed the full learning cycle through an element I hadn’t even considered necessary.
Truth being, all of these elements absolutely matter one way or another. Their application may appear in different ways or at different times during any major learning process. No one, two, or even three areas alone can lead you to competence. You must allow all to work together.
Consider one of your greatest challenges you conquered. Did that process include all seven areas, equalling one outcome: competence?