One of my goals for this year was to complete my motorcycle basics class. I’ve had my license for years, but I knew my skills were far too rusty for me to be safely on the road.
On Saturday that goal started to become reality as I got up early and headed out the door for a nearby class. Being in a class at 7:00 AM on a weekend isn’t my idea of a good time. Unless it’s a motorcycle class and then I’m all in!
I was feeling a bit of anxiety as I headed into the class. Who else would be there? Would they be more experienced than me? The last time I took this class there was a guy who was strongly opposed to women riding bikes – would I encounter another student like that? Thankfully the other people in my class were great and we all supported each other through the process of learning together. By Sunday afternoon I would see what a supportive group we had and be thankful for that. However, on Saturday morning I had no idea what I was walking into.
We started out going over the book, our homework and the rules that would apply as we rode together in the practice area. We reviewed the location and function of the bike’s controls, safety items, what to expect for the rest of the day, instructor hand signals and so on. After about 3 hours (that felt like 10 minutes), we headed outside to meet our bikes for the first time.
The practice exercises started out slowly, just as I remembered from years ago. We pushed the bikes across the practice area with the engines off, using only our feet to propel us forward. We became comfortable with the weight and where the controls were. Finally we came to the point where the instructor had us start them and push across the training area in first gear. Then he said ok, take at least a few steps to start and if you feel ready, pick your feet up and go across. I felt the anxiety blast through my entire body but I knew I had to keep going. I took a few steps and picked my feet up, then immediately put them back down on the asphalt! My heart was pounding and my brain was screaming at me: feet down, OH S*** – FEET DOWN! I did put my feet down and stopped to take a few deep breaths and calm myself. I pushed my bike the rest of the way across with my feet down, and mentally prepared to try again. We made our group turn and I sat staring at the other side of the practice area knowing it would soon be time to try again. I wasn’t even aware of what my classmates were doing or if they felt the same anxiety as I did.
I anticipated that this fear would come given my last experience on a bike by myself. I felt that I was at a decision point – either push past it or leave the class and put this dream behind me once and for all. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I had to try again because I wanted this so badly. So, when it was time, I started across again, picked my feet up, kept breathing and pushed the anxiety away. After 15+ years away, I was doing this on my own. I WAS DOING THIS! Joy took over the space where the anxiety had been and I felt really good about my progress. Even as I write this I can feel the relief and tears of relief well up in my eyes. I knew my fear had been deep seated, but until Saturday I didn’t realize how much of a grip it had on me. It felt amazing to push through that and come out the other side.
As the day progressed, the exercises became a bit more difficult, but I always felt capable of trying them. Our class took small steps forward together and before the first day was over, we were riding well and doing some braking maneuvers. At the end of the day, I was exhausted and excited. We still had another day but I felt really good about my progress to this point.
In my next post I’ll tell you what happened on day two – and about watching a couple of my classmates put their bikes down.