The open road. Sun in your face, wind in your hair, and a constant reflection of your face staring back at you. After many years of looking at my reflection in the back of my husband's helmet, a little voice in my head started wondering if perhaps I wanted to be in the driver's seat.
Don't get me wrong, it's a nice helmet (I helped to pick it out), but a change of view would be nice. And while I like touring as a passenger, there were times I wanted to do a bit of exploring on my own.
As time went on, the voice got louder, and the urge to try something new became stronger each time we went riding. And then there were the little urges from my husband, who is always confident in me, and ever the listening ear as I worried my way through the decision. Finally, I decided it was time. I decided to do the one thing that I never thought I would try: I was going to learn how to ride a motorcycle.
Now, I wasn't about to do this by myself. I wasn't that brave! I convinced my very good friend to take the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Beginner Rider Course with me. Did I say convince? I meant bribed.
If we didn't pass, or didn't love it, at least we would have fun trying. And no one could ever say we didn't at least try. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Beginner Rider Class seemed the perfect fit. We get to ride on other people's bikes (my husband was happy about that one!!!), learn from top instructors, and if we passed the test at the end, we wouldn't need to take the states driving test to get our motorcycle certification.
For those of you that don't know. The MSF Beginner Rider Course is spread out over three half day sessions. The first session is a classroom session, and the other two sessions are on the motorcycles.
So, now it's 1 am on a Friday night. I'm sitting in my pajamas with a glass of wine, eagerly waiting for the registration website to be officially "open" so that I can register for the class. Seriously, in Ohio, there are so many people trying to get in, that they open the registration site at 1 am, and it is first come first serve! Five minutes later, my $25 paid, I am registered for the class and headed for bed. Seven minutes later, all of the spring classes were full and yes, the class in Ohio only costs $25.
A couple of weeks later, my friend and I show up for the classroom portion of the course. In this setting, the instructors take us through the book word for word, and have us work in small groups to capture the key topics for the rest of the class. It's pretty dry, but we of course found a way to make it fun. Overall, it teaches you the basic things you want to remember as you are on the bike. But you won't realize this until after the end of the first riding day!
On a bright, hot Saturday morning at 7 am, coffee in hand, we're all standing in a large parking lot with our instructors and the motorcycles. Seeing the bikes lined up ready to go makes the caffeine seem a bit unnecessary. With nerves lit up like the sun, we get underway.
We were on the bikes right away - the second exercise of the day. The instructors were great at being patient, taking us step by step through things, and adjusting for people's learning level. There was a mix of brand new riders and more experienced riders. People helped each other through tasks, and cheered when we accomplished something that was challenging.
We learned all about controlling the bike, trusting the bike, and looking to where you want to go. Note for quick success: If you reply "Look where you want to go" to about any question from the instructors, it will be the right answer!
We also learned that keeping the keys turned to ON when the bike is stopped will drain the battery. OK, maybe I just learned that!
Want to know some other tidbits that I learned?
The test at the end was challenging. But the instructors do whatever they can to prepare you for it through their exercises and great coaching. I was so nervous, but passed with flying colors - as did my friend and all of our classmates!
The bottom line on the class is that it is well worth the cost and time to take it. I feel much more empowered to ride the bike safely, and it taught me enough basics to be able to get on the bike and ride in order to start building my skills. I would recommend it to anyone!
After passing the test, I went out right away and got my new license. The "M" motorcycle endorsement made it all worthwhile.
The satisfaction of just having the license is starting to wane. What fun is just a piece of cardboard? I wanted something to ride! And the fear that I am going to completely forget everything that I just learned at the motorcycle course is starting to creep in. It's time to start looking for a bike...