“You thought it would rain and wore rain boots?” “They’re motorcycle boots.” “Oh. Sorry.” Oops. Forgot to flirt back. Rain boots. Hardly. Worst attempt to engage in convo with me ever. @iconmotosports @revzilla (at Crema Bakery & Cafe)

Moto as learning metaphor

(a quasi-apology for temporarily hating my coding instructors)

I’m 48. I’m two dozen years old. If this is half of my life, we’re talking about living to 96. I have no plans for that, so my life is half way over. Closer to dying than birth, but birth is kind of messy, and being a baby looks boring. As long as I keep trying new things, aging is adventurous and gives me more time to learn.

And to fail.

When I was 46, I took my motorcycle safety foundation (MSF) Basic Rider I course. Me go, girl. Unfortunately, the job that was going to afford me my first motorcycle fell through. I had the M on my license but not moto in my garage. 

On February 14, 2015, ten months after getting my license, which I got learning on a glorified scooter, I bought my first motorcycle: a Honda CB500F. After I bought it, I threw my leg over, fired up the ignition, then looked at my salesperson and said, “Oh, fuck.” This motorcycle was a lot more powerful than the glorified kiddie-scooters we had in class.

Thanks to a friend with a motorcycle trailer and decades of riding under his belt, I got a little tutoring before having it delivered to my house, where I named her P.J. Soles. I ended up with just enough re-learning to get me out of my driveway and around my neighborhood to practice. 

Then I crashed. I was practicing left turns. No big deal in a car; your arms turn the steering wheel this way or that way, and the gas and brake are under your right foot. On a motorcycle, when you turn left, your front brake and throttle are going away from you. It’s an awkward feel, and I wanted to practice it. First left turn. Sweet. Second left turn. Sweet. I GOT THIS! Third left turn? Too much throttle, I’m freaking out, forgetting to engage the clutch, and I speed across the T-intersection, pop the curb and crash into a parked car. Bonk. Damn. Fuck. 

I couldn’t lift my motorcycle. I felt like an impostor. I am forever grateful that the owner just laughed it off and didn’t want me to pay for a wee dent (it really was wee). Convinced that I broke my motorcycle, I walked the half mile home holding back tears. I called AAA and paid too much to have it towed from too close to home. 

For weeks I stared at P.J. I felt that I was neglecting her. I felt that I didn’t deserve a new machine. I felt like a failure. I felt too old to learn something new.

I knew I didn’t have the self-confidence to do this on my own, so I put it out there to strangers for help: Meetup and even OKCupid (“I am not looking for a partner; I’m looking for a riding tutor”). Seek and ye shall find. And find I did. I had the basic knowledge. I knew what do to. I knew that I needed seat time—practice. What I didn’t have until a few months after my crash was a moto-mentor. 

It has been over a year since I popped that curb and bonked the car. I no longer call it a crash. It was really a spectacular drop. I rarely drop it. Not never. Never say that. I have a lot of seat time, but I am still learning. I am comfortable riding at 80mph, but turns at a slow speed still make me nervous. So do turns at speed. So do a lot of things, but I am still riding when I can because there’s only one way to learn to build confidence:

Practice. And failing. And getting back up again to practice. 

So here is to hoping that a year from now, I’ll look back at my clumsy starts to programming and see that I did learn from my mistakes. At least I’m not bruised.