90 Miles Behind the Handlebars Or What Iíve Learned in Just 90 Miles MC Riding

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90 Miles Behind the Handlebars
What Iíve Learned in Just 90 Miles of Motorcycle Riding

As youíve probably gathered from the title of this article Iím in no position to be teaching anyone how to ride. Iím still really new to this riding thing but thought I would share a few observations that I made and lessons I learned in my whole 90 miles of riding experience. These things have definitely taught me a thing or two and I thought maybe they could do someone else some good. They say you have to learn from your mistakes, and after you read this, I think youíll find that there was definitely some educating happening. I saw in CaptGoodVibes signature he quotes MZ33 saying ďIn theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.Ē I think that this article proves that point quite nicely. If one person picks something up from my boneheadedness then great, if not I hope you enjoy the read.

Thereís nothing like the feeling out on the road on a motorcycle. Itís a feeling that you just donít get in a 4 wheel, enclosed vehicle. Youíre open, exposed. It goes against everything youíve ever felt or learned about driving. If you were like most kids (at least the kids I knew) your parents told you donít ride your bicycle down the middle of a busy street and to stay out of the traffic. Thatís what itís like. Itís like riding your bicycle (your really large, fast, and heavy bicycle) down the middle of the street. In traffic. Really fast. And youíre allowed to do it! Cars and trucks behind you look and feel like they're right on top of you. It really does take some getting used to and some time to begin feeling somewhat comfortable with the situation. Chances are your road companions arenít as close as you think they are. Remember you donít have the extra Ĺ of car behind your driverís seat. It makes the vehicles behind you seem like theyíve stopped on your back seat at a stop sign. How about the bus or large truck going past you in the opposite direction? You think you feel small in your car next to those really big vehicles? Try it on a motorcycle. After a short while, the feeling that you are going to be a hood ornament on someoneís car becomes a feeling to which you become accustomed and itís less of a distraction.

After completing the BRC and getting my license I rode my bike for the first time. Overall it was an uneventful ride around the side roads of the neighborhood just to get my feet wet. Coming back into the driveway to park the bike, with a large SUV on my six, I hit the curb at the end of the driveway at a very shallow angle. The bike bounced over the curb, across the driveway, into the grass and fell over on its left side. Luckily I was going slowly enough to step off and out of the way as the motorcycle fell. Lesson learned, well, lessons, plural. Lesson 1 - hearing, repeating and knowing are not the same as experiencing something. You can have something drummed into your head all day long and 15 ways to Sunday but if you forget to execute what you were taught you are going to learn the lesson the hard way. Lesson 2 - Always cross an obstruction at as close to a 90 degree angle as you can. Lesson 3 Ė if you are being tailgated do what you can do safely to stop being tailgated. In this case I should have ridden down the street 3 more houses to the stop sign, watched for a turn signal on the SUV and turned the opposite way to go around the block and come back to my driveway with no one on my tail. All of these things are taught, and reviewed in the Basic Riders Course. The theory was there in my head but I had yet to LEARN the lessons, to experience them first hand. Lessons learned!

Look where you want the bike to go, the bike will magically go wherever your nose is pointing. As weird as it sounds, it works! It really does! It even works mid turn. See a pothole halfway thru a shallow turn? Look to the side of it, and like magic the bike will follow your gaze around the hole and save you from having to pick up your motorcycle or its pieces. Look where you don't want to be headed and that's EXACTLY where you'll end up. I was turning left out of a parking lot and fixed my gaze too far across the road, and not far enough up the lane I was turning into. Guess where I and the bike ended up? On the shoulder where the bike slipped in the loose dirt on the shoulder and fell again! Luckily it didnít slide enough to drop over the edge into the ditch at the side of the road. Second fall and again at low enough speed to step off the bike as it went down. Remember to look where you want to go!

You CAN pick up a 700 pound motorcycle by yourself if it falls over. This was one of my biggest fears of taking the bike out before I started riding it. What would happen if I dropped the bike and no one was around to help me pick it up. Would I have to walk away and leave it lying there, on its side, begging to be picked up. Well, the first time the bike fell I thought
ďAw Crap, How am I going to pick this thing up?!Ē I found out it is possible to pick up the bike yourself with the right leverage.

Own the road, at least your part of it. You have as much right to be on the road as the other vehicles. And the part of the road you are driving on is YOURS. Donít give anyone the opportunity to share your part of the road. Make sure that when you claim your space you make it impossible for one of your road companions to get cozy next to you. This one I learned when pulling out of my neighborhood onto a main road. The road I was pulling out from splayed out at the end like the tail of a fish. It was after schools in the area let out for the day and I was sharing the road with school buses. This particular school bus decided to pull right up along side of me at the intersection of the side road and the main road. I was MAD. How could anyone be so stupid? Was the bus driver blind? Did he not realize that where he stopped was dangerous for me? Then I thought about it, was it really the bus driverís fault that he pulled up along side of me? Was he really a thoughtless driver? While thatís a possibility I also realized that the situation I put MYSELF in was really MY fault. If I had positioned myself further to the left in my lane, the bus would not have been able to pull up along side of me. Another lesson learned, when you come to a stop at an intersection, donít stop far to the left or right side of the road toward the curb. Stop in a position, in your lane, that makes it impossible for anyone else to pull up along side of you. Make sure they have to stop BEHIND you. If they can pull up along side of you, your view will be blocked and cars coming down the road you are turning onto canít see you. No harm, no foul this time but definitely a lesson learned.

Lose the attitude. Ride friendly and defensively. Watch what everyone else is doing. If you see something happening that youíre not sure about, SLOW DOWN and reposition yourself to where you have enough room to maneuver out of or around the situation. Donít ride with the attitude that you own the WHOLE road. You may own you small part of the road, but the other vehicles own their small (or not so small) part of the road too. They have an expectation the same as you. They expect that no other vehicle will be sharing their lane and in most cases they can rest assured that that will be so. They are big enough and take up enough room in their lane that there is normally not enough room left for them to share with another vehicle. Drivers are probably not out to kill you on the road, at least not on purpose. Take your ride in stride. Watch for unsafe situations and adjust for them. Donít let your anger rise up and take control of your ride. Ride with a level head. If someone pulls a boneheaded move on you, donít just lose it, consider the situation, examine it from the other driverís point of view. Did something you did give them the opportunity to make that boneheaded move? Maybe you did, maybe you didnít, but getting angry is not going to help the situation and as long as you came out of it unscathed there may be a lesson to be learned!

Most of these things are taught in the Basic Rider Course. Should I have known better? Yeah, I Probably should have. Did I know better. Yeah, I really did know this stuff. After all I aced the Basic Rider Course, right? Itís just that once youíre out on your own without anyone guiding you youíre free to make stupid mistakes. Youíre also on your own to realize that you made a mistake and to learn from it and not repeat it. Like they told us at the end of the course. ďYouíre now licensed to drive a motorcycleÖaround a parking lot!Ē It was funny at the time but you donít realize how true that really is until you get that bike out on the road for the first time!

Just one manís view!

Keep the Shiny Side Up and Ride Smart!

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  1. Bugguts's Avatar
    Excellent!!! Keep the "always learning" attitude and you'll go far....literally!
  2. Trials's Avatar
    You is a fast learner :I

    Adrenaline <- That's the stuff that lifts a 700 pound dropped motorcycle I think it's endorphins that keep you riding and possibly midi-chlorians that make you really good at it
  3. subvetSSN606's Avatar
    Nice post!