Learners in Hand
It's weird to have a little tiny "L" tag on your keychain -- one that you're supposed to attach to your license plate while riding around -- and not have anything to put it on. When I first spoke with my riding school, I learned a little bit about where in my skills development I should be looking to purchase my first ride. But until then (then being after I take my Motorcycle Skills Test or MST) I will be using their fleet of motorcycles, so I'm currently without a steed.
There's a nagging in the back of my head. I can akin it to having loose change, or a bunch of cash in your jeans. It's aching to be used. It nests in the passenger seat of your subconscious and creates a hum that is only satiated by its use.
Now that I've started riding lessons, I can't help but impatiently await the next session while I'm doing "normal life" things.
I'd say it's Getting pretty Sirius
Well. It has begun. As I write this, I'm 6-ish hours into my saddle-time and I couldn't be more enthusiastic.
Day 1 - Instructor gave me the full walk around. We met early in the morning (7am to be exact) on a Sunday. It was raining a bit, and I wasn't too stoked about it.
I had all my gear, and the rain wasn't going to kill my mood or excitement. But that didn't stop it (or early morning weekend transit woes) from trying.
We chatted for a while at the coffee shop in Kits--about motorcycles of course--and got some much needed body fuel.
My introduction to Sirius Black (my training CBR 125) was informative, and moist. The instructor gave me the run-down of a mandatory pre-ride inspection, then I got to straddle the bike as we went over what every button and lever does. More importantly, we talked about the roles played by all of my appendages.
A simple version looks like this;
Rfoot - Rear break pedal / first mounted (remaining foot) when starting from a full stop.
Lfoot - Gear shift pedal / ground mounted (human kickstand) when fully stopped.
Rhand - Throttle / starter & kill switches / front break lever
Lhand - Turn signals / horn / clutch lever
We worked on cementing that mindset a bit, before setting me off to mosey about in the parking lot in first gear, pretty much laying off the throttle in its entirety. I floated about, topping out at around 10 - 15 km/h. I can't way it was easy.
There once was a time in my musically-inclined youth where I had decided to try learning the drums. Self taught of course. And I just couldn't get my limbs to act independantly, no matter how hard I tried. Learning the simple controls of a motorcycle is very similar. But I feel like I had success in this operation because I was riding a death machine being propelled by said actions. Kind of a do or die (literally) situation.
The beautiful thing about the folks at High Gear Motorcycle School is that safety is the number one rule on their roads. Heading into this journey, I knew that my disdain for motor-vehicle travel was going to be cause for concern, and entering into a hobby that begins at a very unreasonable level of danger just by engaging in the act needed to be met with utmost respect.
Caution, and safety were going to be my strongest points of focus while learning. I'll go more into detail on my choice of riding schools in a future RT, and keep your eyes peeled on the BIKE page for my gear breakdown. For now, know that I believe I chose the perfect school, and my set of protection correctly.
Tripped and Stalled
My very first riding lesson lit a fire in me--something I'm sure that everyone reading this with motorcycle experience will empathize with. I was buzzing. I was so excited for my return visit to the deserted parking lots of Kitsilano that I completely neglected to consider that it might not be as smooth as my first.
This second lesson threw a lot at me. We went over far more practice with throttle / clutch control -- the act of keeping your clutch in pinpoint positions to allow access to partial throttle, allowing for more accurate control over speed. This is something I don't believe is ever perfected. Especially when you consider the clutch response difference between nearly every single bike on the market. This skill is merely practiced, and continually growing.
Further more, we did a slough of slow speed maneuvering, which is only possible with, at the very least, a minuscule ability to manipulate speeds with clutch/throttle control. This is where I began to lose my temper a bit.
In everyday life, my temper can cause many rifts, but when learning, or creating, it usually does the opposite.
Flying around the parking lot, with only my eyes and my imagination to guide me was an easy task. I soon felt very at home floating around corners, dodging the parked cars (and a particularly stubborn crow), and zipping along straight-aways. But once I had to follow a direction, make a perfect turn, or complete a slalom without incident, I was quickly reminded how little skills I had on two wheels.
As an ex-athlete, I know that part of the confidence to succeed comes from knowing that you overcame the frustrating point in time where you just couldn't get it right. Practice for hours would steer me in the direction of adopting the skill, but I've always been flustered by my continual failure. Which in the past, has pushed me beyond it and generally allows me to learn / succeed. Nothing was different in this parking lot.
During my rehearsed stop sign practice--where I'd have to come to a complete stop, perform a 360 check, begin moving forward, then make a sharp-ish turn--I must have stalled poor Sirius Black thirty to forty times (which is why my instructor informed me that Sirius was a far better instructor than he could ever be.) It was downright embarrassing at one point, after something like six back-to-back stalls. Adding to that, I just couldn't for the life of me get through the slalom without running over at least a single cone.
My brain got so fixated, and my anger with myself grew to the point where I felt I had to take breaks (something I'm not always good at recognizing.) I just couldn't get it. My clutch hand was impatient, my right foot would rest on the rear break, causing poor Sirius to give up, and leave me shaking my head and hitting that electric started again.
Safely, I can say that Sirius Black and I ended my day with a refreshed, and far deeper relationship than we had prior. I miss him already.
Silver Bullet vs Scarewolves
Slightly unsure of myself, I can't say whether or not I entered my third lesson with resentment, or a refueled tank of excitement. But when I saw that my instructor arrived on a motorcycle of his own -- and not his usual training-bike-carrying truck, I began afire once more.
The only thing that could mean was that I was going to have to pilot a motorcycle from our normal meeting spot, to whichever clear parking-lot, by myself. Through traffic -- although we took side streets, and avoided major routes -- I was going to be forced to forgive my previous transgressions, and forget my struggle.
Luckily, I had a prance through an alleyway, right away, to be introduced to my newest dance partner. Silverella, the slayer of my fears, is a young Suzuki TU250, and she's a beautiful sight.
I couldn't believe how fast I fell for her. Maybe it was the physical strain on my legs to prop myself up on the tiny 125 sport bike from the previous lessons. Or it could have been the upright (or "standard") sitting position. Either way, it was such a smooth ride. We worked together so well. It was my first experience not trying to "fit" with the bike. It was glorious.
During my short stint, tango-ing with Silverella through the side streets of one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I felt my toe get wet.
Without warning, I had dipped my foot into the ocean of joy, that body of feeling free, the numbness to the horrid.
Eventually, we made it to a lot where I practices more slalom (to far greater result) and u-turns, as well as an introduction to the front breaking system.
After around six to seven hours in the saddle, I have lost a little bit of my hesitance, and strongly believe I've come to an obvious conclusion to the question "will this be for me?" -- spoiler alert, the answer is YES.
I spoke with my instructor about Silverella, and we discussed what I loved about her, and also what her short-comings might be. Though the experience was enthralling, and I threw the kickstand down with a giddy smile on my face, my teacher told me he could never suggest buying one, to nearly anyone. Saddened, I spent as much time glancing over at her. Trying not to offer him money.
Instead, he suggested I investigate the Triumph Bonneville line-up, as they are the "more grown-up versions" of the TU250. Which I have, and currently have a Triumph Bonneville T100 at the top of my desires list.
So that's that.
I haven't purchased my own motorcycle yet, as I'm still using the great fleet from High Gear, but I feel like I'm getting close. It's mostly pointless to purchase your own motorcycle until after you've taken the MST exam at your local license office, which would let you (the rider) ride without an instructor. If you purchase one before that, it would sit there, begging you to break the law and take it for a spin.
I'm extremely excited to continue these lessons. And it seems like we're moving at a pretty steady space.
Until next time,
Keep that Rubber-side Down
COMING SOON ON RT
- I take Silverella into real traffic
- What Gear did I buy?
- Shopping for my first motorcycle
THEMOTOSOCIAL - VANCOVER
One of the most popular reasons why people enjoy life of moto-obsession is "community"--I'm planning on doing a bit of a piece on my thoughts about it thus far--and one of the best groups in Canada is TheMotoSocial. This group travels to all of the major cities in our country and throws awesome, and more relaxed, social motorcycles events. It truly turns into a passive show & shine of sorts. Lots of friendly people, all conversing on a topic they hold dear, while also peeking at the rides everyone arrived on. TheMotoSocialVancouver event was great. Even as a person who (at the time) hadn't even taken my learners knowledge test, I was greeted by nearly everyone with kindness, and enthusiasm. I met a few epic people, whom wandered around the space adjacent to 33AcresBrewing (the location of this meet-up) with me as we talked bikes, shared stories, and fawned over beautiful machines parked along 7th avenue.
Follow TheMotoSocial on Instagram and Facebook and be sure to show up at your city's next meet! Below are a few of my favorite shots from the event that I took. (If you see your ride, or yourself in any of the images below, feel free to leave a comment and I'll reach out and share my hi-res version!)