Easy Rider, on the Bike

This weekend I spent my mornings, from 6:30 am until noon, learning to ride a motorcycle. Why might I do this, you might ask? Since I’ve moved to San Francisco, I’ve seen many people scooting around on Vespas. I always think, “They look cute. That’s a great way to get around.” So when a friend invited me to take a motorcycle safety course, I jumped at the opportunity.

I approached Saturday morning with a bit of trepidation. I pictured myself on a Harley, a hunk of metal that would crush me if I fell over. Luckily, that wasn’t the case. The first exercise, however, didn’t go so well. I followed the instructor’s directions literally, intent on every word, every instruction. After a few minutes, he walked over to me. “Lori. You’re supposed to be sitting on your motorcycle, not standing over it. How are you going to ride like that?” I looked around. Everyone else had somehow understood they should be sitting. I sat.

We started a drill where we were to slowly advance across the parking lot. Each time I attempted to move forward, my motorcycle, a tiny Kawasaki (that most likely would not crush me), shut off. Well, it shut off because I let out the clutch too quickly. I took a few deep breaths and reassured myself that I could do this. I could. Right?

I could and I did. By the end of day two I was weaving in and out of cones (and not knocking them over), taking corners, and making u-turns. The instructor’s consistent advice to me? Speed up. I told him that I drive the speed limit when I drive a car. He dubbed me Driving Miss Daisy for the remainder of the class.

At the end of the class came the moment for evaluation. If we passed, we wouldn’t have to take the driving portion of the motorcycle license test at the DMV. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. As I prepared to complete the first portion of the test, u-turns and swerves, I tried to psyche myself up by thinking, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” I thought for a few moments and then an answer came to me. “I could confuse the clutch and the throttle, rev the engine when I mean to brake, enter a turn, and flip the bike and go flying off.” I sat with that thought a moment and decided that wasn’t the best course of action. I completed the test, albeit slowly, and waited for the results.

Our instructor, LA, called us over to him one by one. I waited for my name. As I sat down beside him, he asked me how I was doing. I looked at him and attempted a smile. “You’re fine! You passed!” I was both relieved and surprised. I do not have the skills to take a motorcycle out in public. But maybe with a little more practice…

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