Sunday, November 13, 2005

COJM Part Two: The Motorcycle Safety Course

Like a good responsible person I took the motorcycle safety course. And I’m glad I did. Although being a passenger can reveal the thrills of riding a bike, it won’t teach one how to synchronize hand and foot controls, to blend your body with the balance on two moving wheels, and the dynamics and counterintuitiveness of pushing away to turn, etc. Then again, the thrill of sitting on those two wheels with that motor humming below your seat and between your legs plus the power of a bike’s get up and go can’t be beat.

I quickly adopted the feel of the 250cc I rode after throwing out of my head the reflexive responses of holding the bars and control handles like a pair of reins on a horse and pushing my heels down on the foot pegs sans stirrups. While much of what is reflexive in riding horses carries over to riding a motorcycle, I had to consciously ‘unlearn-relearn’ some motor control reflexes. Holding onto the handlebars and controls with only a few fingers, with wrists up and hand turned down as one would horse reins can spell disaster on a motorcycle.

That night after a series of frustrations the first day of the course, my brain had a talk with my motor control center while I slept. After much yelling back and forth during my fatigued-induced coma, Brain must have won the argument. Back in the saddle the next morning, it all fell into place and I was weaving in and out of the S-shaped course like a breeze. I was really enjoying myself. The “Woohoo!!!” escaping from me was met with a smirk and head shaking by the instructor.

The most carryover from riding horses is riding over obstacles. Finally I could post over bumps and a 2x6-inch timber without having the engine cut off as it does on my tractor when my butt leaves the seat. No dealing with evasion techniques, as with my horse; he detests jumping and trotting over poles, sometimes requiring a well-placed smack on his rear with a crop. I immediately sensed the appeal of dirt bikes and obstacle courses; this was now becoming dangerously too much fun.

I was the only neophyte in the class, and the only female. Neither deterred or bothered me, but I did have to laugh when the instructor apologized for referring to all of us as ‘Guys.’ I thanked him politely but assured him I am “one of the guys.” Despite that all but me were seasoned riders taking the course for insurance discounts (or to finally ride the streets legally), we all came away learning a thing or two.

One observation from the instructor was that nearly all riders, beginner and even many seasoned, have more difficulty with tight turns to the right. I questioned why but he had no explanation. I wondered aloud if it may have to do with handedness, but that seemed counterintuitive. Most humans are right-handed, thus one would expect left hand turns to be problematic. I posed this question to my VSSO, a seasoned rider and he confirmed that tight right corners are ‘uncomfortable.’ After riding alone myself, I thought about this again and wondered if this phenomenon was because the throttle was controlled by the right hand. It was for an answer which I had to pursue.

After passing the course and chatting bikes with the others about their bikes and bikes they lust after, I started the search for my own pair of wheels. Let the fun begin!!!

1 comment:

  1. Good to take that course. Bet your going to feel a confidence on your bike that you didn't have before. They really do a good job teaching you some maneuvers that you otherwise wouldn't know. I enjoyed my advanced class and took home a lot from it.