My First Motorcycle

05 September 2013 · 15 comments

When I was a boy, I loved motorcycles. I was fascinated by the exploits of Evil Knievel, and liked watching motorcycle riders on the highway.

I never got a chance to ride when I was young, though. My friend Torey had a dirt bike, and he’d let me ride behind him from time to time, but I never got a chance to ride myself.

In college, Kris had a Honda Spree scooter. That was fun. When we moved to Canby, though, she sold the scooter, and for twenty years, I didn’t ride again. Then, last year in Turkey, I spent an amazing day riding a scooter through Cappadocia. Combine that experience with a girlfriend who loves motorcycles (Kim has ridden them since she was twelve), and suddenly I had a goal. I wanted to get my motorcycle endorsement.

That’s not just a formality here in Oregon. To get your motorcycle permit, you need to pass a written test. (Which I did on a whim last October.) To get the motorcycle endorsement on your license, you need to take an officially-sanctioned three-day motorcycle training program. Kim and I have been talking about doing this together for over a year. In August, we finally made it happen.

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I learned to ride on this Yamaha dual-sport bike.

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The motorcycle safety course includes eight hours of on-bike training.

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It’s official: I passed!

At the end of July, Kim bought her father’s Harley Sportster 883. He rode it from Boise to Portland; we drove him home. While in Boise, we all went shopping at the Harley store. Kim came home with these kick-ass riding boots.

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Hot hot hot!

After I finished the motorcycle training program, I looked around for a “starter bike”. It didn’t take long to find a white 2006 Honda Rebel with only 3400 miles on it.

Guess who just rode home on his NEW MOTORCYCLE?!?
Looking very serious with my new bike.

Our friend Cody also wants to learn to ride. The first free Sunday, we took him to an empty parking lot and taught him the basics. The three of us spent a couple of hours going around in circles, weaving between water-bottle cones, and practicing quick stops.

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Cody on my Rebel, getting the hang of gentle turns.

Feeling confident, I started riding my bike for errands. Very fun. And so much better to make dumb mistakes (I keep stalling in first gear!) at low speeds and in light traffic.

I was twenty minutes early for an appointment recently, so I decided to ride my motorcycle around the neighborhood. Up hills. Down hills. Around gentle corners. And so on.

I had slowed to take a sharp corner when I laid my bike down for the very first time. I’d turned my head to look into the turn, as I’d been trained to do, but had failed to account for the thing layer of loose gravel on top of the road. At about 12mph, I leaned into the turn — and the bike slid out from under me. It stopped almost immediately, coming to rest on my right leg. Ouch!

Fortunately, all I suffered were skinned knees and elbows and a bruised ego. And I learned a valuable lesson. Even a little gravel is hazardous to a motorcycle in a turn.

I’m actually a very cautious rider. I’ve been an avid bicyclist for over a decade, and I’ve been in one bad car crash. I know the biggest danger on the road is other drivers, so I’m very wary. And having crashed my bicycle several times, I know how important it is to get back out there and ride. If you take time off after a crash, you psych yourself out. You become afraid to ride.

So, naturally, I haven’t let me little motorcycle accident dampen my enthusiasm. As I prepped to leave for Ecuador, I completed all my errands by motorcycle. And I can’t wait to get home. There should be a couple of nice weekends left for me and Kim to take some joyrides through the Willamette Valley. And just wait until next summer! By then, I hope to graduate from my “starter bike” to something with a little more power…

1 Sandra September 5, 2013 at 07:40

I know posting this comment is worthless but I need to do it for my own healing. Both my son and husband ride bikes. On July 31 I got the call Eva mother fears. “Are you …’s mother?” My son was in a local ICU – had been for 12 hours while they tracked me down- following a single vehicle highway motorcycle accident. He was a smart and competent rider but he still crashed. He is a lucky lucky young man because he will make a full recovery – but it has been a long long long few weeks for all of us. My husband, while still riding has a new perspective on how motorcycle crashes don’t just effect the person in the crash but all those around them who have to change their lives to care for the injured. I spent days and nights in the hospital hand feeding my son who was too weak and too head injured to feed himself. I startle every time my phone rings with an unexpected number. And that is just the emotional toll. Thank goodness for Obamacare because my sone is a recent college grad working three part time jobs while looking for a career job in his field. He was still able to be covered on my insurance because of the Affordable Care Act. Otherwise he would have face unimaginable bills and likely would not have had access to the rehab that is helping him gain back his brain and body. I see you riding without leathers and with a poor coverage helmet. Well, I wish you could have met the hall-mates of my son in his rehab facility. My son was the only one who was going to be whole again. He was lucky as his accident should have killed him. I don’t know why it didn’t but I am glad I still have him around to love. As I said, I am sure this wont change your mind as we all build defenses to support what we want to the truth. Ride safe, wear a good helmet and invest in full leathers. A skinned knee is one thing – an entire leg with road rash is something else – and who gets to do the bandage changes? Not the patient as they are writhing in pain, but a loved one. I am still seriously channeling PTSD. Take care

2 jdroth September 5, 2013 at 07:57

Sandra, thanks for your comment. Let me assure you that motorcycle safety is of the utmost importance to me. I used that helmet only once — to get the bike home after I bought it. I now own a high-quality full-face helmet. I don’t yet own leathers, but when I return from my Ecuador trip, Kim and I plan to go shopping for motorcycle gear. I plan to buy high-visibility, high-tech stuff to protect me and to more easily be seen. I’m fully aware of the dangers inherent in riding, and I’ll do what I can to mitigate possible problems.

This morning, I rode 12 miles to the airport with all my luggage for 17 days in Ecuador. I could have used the freeway, but opted instead for surface streets. It took much longer, but I felt far safer.

My goal is to live to a ripe old age — but I want motorcycle riding to be part of that.

3 Tyler Karaszewski September 5, 2013 at 09:38

I didn’t really want to weigh in on the safety issue. Yes, we all realize that motorcycles are more dangerous than most of the other things we all do every day, but we all get to set our own bounds as to where we think “too dangerous” is. Yes, if any of us seriously injure ourselves, we are burdening our families with helping to care for us, but that’s true for anything. I broke my leg surfing a couple years ago, and my wife had to help care for me. I didn’t give up surfing because of it. It’s too important to me. My wife got cancer and I had to care for her, and *that* was extremely difficult, and she wasn’t doing anything “dangerous” at all to cause it.

Like anything, motorcycles are a risk that you have to weigh the benefits vs risks before deciding if that’s what you want to do. I don’t ride them, but I race sailboats, and that’s something else I’m not going to give up just because it’d be safer to stay on the beach. You only live once, better not to waste that time wishing you had done the adventurous things that you decided were too dangerous. Seize the day, and such.

J.D., I’m happy to see you out taking on new challenges and new adventures.

4 Ben Slavin September 5, 2013 at 11:01

Hi JD,

Congrats on your new found freedom! Motorcycle riding is quite addicting… So, you already have the South American passion and now you have the bike. Just one thing left to do… Ride to South America! That’s what I did a few years back and it was one hell of a ride with many wild and wonderful adventures. (www.AFewMoreMiles.com)

And of course, ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time). It’s not a matter of “if” you crash, but “when” you crash. Riding is the easy part, it’s watching out for all the other drivers that is the real challenge.

I wish you lots of happy and healthy miles down the road (or trail)! Brrrraaaapppp!!!

-Ben

5 TB at BlueCollarWorkman September 5, 2013 at 13:33

Awesome, dude, awesome! Be careful, of course, my uncle got hit by a semi truck and amazingly walked away unharmed. (crazy!) So be careful. But yeah dude, get out there and ride that bike, it’s awesome!

6 JKC September 6, 2013 at 07:44

I bought my first bike 7 years ago – when I turned 40. I’ve ridden about 20,000 miles on two different bikes since then, and I’m looking forward to a great long distance ride this weekend – leaving today! I don’t write about it too much because it is hard to hear comments like Sandra’s above. I enjoyed Tyler’s sensible reply and agree that we all decide for ourselves what risks we want to take. I feel a strange combination of exhilarated and relaxed while riding. That’s why I do it. When I first started, I really enjoyed reading http://40on2.blogspot.com/ a great blog written by a guy who has been riding his whole life. It is a thoughtful, homey, and strangely spiritual blog that you may or may not enjoy. Ride safe, have fun!

7 PawPrint September 6, 2013 at 08:39

Damn–you were in Boise, and of course I’ve moved to Seattle. My son, who’s a few years younger than you, bought a motorcycle several years ago. He’s extremely careful about where he rides and when. He checks for road construction during the summer (Boise does a lot of chip sealing) and avoids those areas. He won’t ride in the rain, which is a lot easier to avoid in Boise than in Portland, and only on surface streets. After the initial jolt of fear upon hearing of his purchase, I realized that he’s as safety conscious as one can get, and my other son, who is obese and smokes, is probably in more danger of cutting his life short than my motorcycle-riding son.

So, be careful, of course, but have lots of fun hitting the open road. I look forward to reading more about your motorcycle adventures.

8 Jason@LiveRealNow September 6, 2013 at 09:17

I’ve laid my bike down 3 times, all due to surprise gravel. Two of them were at slow(stopping) speeds. The third had me rolling down the highway while my bike went upside down. It sucks, but it happens.

Getting in the wind is calming meditation for me. When you’re on your bike, your not thinking about anything else. Not the bills, not work, not the fight you had with your wife. It all goes away when I ride, and I won’t give that up.

9 chacha1 September 6, 2013 at 09:57

Not long after we hooked up, my now-husband laid his big Suzuki down on a patch of sand in a beach parking lot and broke his fibula. He hasn’t really ridden since, though he still has the motorcycle. As his personal-training career took off, he needed to carry more and more gear for his clients, so a car was kind of a necessary job tool.

I know he’d like to ride again later on (like after we’ve retired and left L.A.) but can’t help wishing he would get rid of the damn Suzuki. I know perfectly well he’ll want a different bike when the time comes. :-)

10 Felicity Fields September 6, 2013 at 13:29

My dad has been a recreational motorcyclist for years. He loves it! Congrats on your new adventures, JD!

11 Lillie's Mimi September 8, 2013 at 13:43

J.D., I never post but have to say congratulations on getting you license. You sound like someone I wouldn’t mind riding with and I, like Kim, have been on bikes since before I was 12. Keep the shiny side up! and enjoy

12 Cody Limbaugh September 11, 2013 at 12:17

JD- I passes the class last weekend! Funny- I chose the same helmet (the only blue one) and was on the same bike. Next summer is going to be AWESOME!

13 jlcollinsnh September 16, 2013 at 15:43

Hey JD….

Great hanging out with you in Ecuador at the Chautauqua. As promised here’s my post on MC riding:

http://jlcollinsnh.com/2011/11/13/its-better-in-the-wind-or-why-i-ride-a-motorcycle/

There are some links to very cool videos. “It’s Better in the Wind” is my favorite and features a couple of Triumph Scramblers just like mine.

Your Rebel should serve you well. Don’t be in a great hurry to trade up to a larger bike. There is lots of fun to be had on the small ones.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I’m an ATGATT rider too. Glad to hear you’ll be investing in some quality gear.

Next step, ride on over here to NH and we’ll have a coffee.

14 Krishanu January 21, 2014 at 13:14

Hi JD,

Long time reader but first time commentator here.

I’m a motorcycle rider and wanted to share one nugget of wisdom I’ve heard, which I follow (almost) all the time: ATGATT. Simple acronym. Stands for: All The Gear, All The Time. No matter if you’re going for a 5 min errand or a 5 hour trip in rolling valleys. Wear all the protective gear. Ankle length boots, full length jeans, chaps-if you do wear them, leather jacket with shoulder and elbow padding, full-face helmet.

Happy riding!

Oh, and more thing. Don’t “upgrade” to a more powerful machine only because everyone says it’s the norm. Do it only when you feel: a) you can handle a bigger bike, b) you actually need a bigger bike.

15 ael April 8, 2014 at 00:19

A large number of accidents happen within first 6 months of switching to bigger bike. Take care.

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