Today I received one of those happy little emails from WordPress notifying me that a comment had been made on my blog. Awesome. People actually read my blog??? So like a fat kid to cake, I excitedly hurried to check it. Log in to WordPress. Moderate comments. Aha. Someone responded to my post Riding Two-Up on a Thousand. The comment went like this: Have you ever thought of getting your own bike. The ride is even better when you are driving. Just a thought!!!!!!!!!!!
My first reaction was YES!!!!! Oh my gosh! I’ve thought about riding for like, two years! Every time we watch the MotoGP I become more obsessed with it! But I didn’t write that. Instead I responded with a boring summary trying to capture all that has transpired over the past year. I gave the cliche “long story short” and ended it there. And now here I am. Feeling like it’s not enough. Knowing that there’s so much more to be said. Why? Because up until now, this news has been a secret. My entire family is in California; I am 7,000 something miles away. Why bother freaking them out?
So Mom and Dad, if you’re reading this right now, please don’t be mad at me. I didn’t tell you because, well, I couldn’t handle the thought of knowing you’d all be freaking out. It would’ve shattered my confidence and hindered my thoughts each time I got on the bike. Yet somehow, even not telling you still had that effect on me so I guess you win both ways. Maybe I wasn’t mentally strong enough. Maybe I just wasn’t ready. Or maybe it’s something much bigger than anything I can see right now. The bottom line is, you don’t have to worry anymore because I’ve decided to quit.
Yes my friends, I’ve quit riding. Here is the long story that I cut short. It all happened last December. A girlfriend and I had been talking about doing the motorcycle rider’s training course together and then getting our licenses. The boys always had fun riding together, so we couldn’t resist the thought of doing it ourselves. Or at least I couldn’t. I signed up but my friend backed out. She said she still needed to learn how to ride a bike. Fair enough. That’s probably an important skill to have first, right?
I did the course. Day one, I was confident but incredibly tense. The instructor lady was this short, blonde-haired butch chick who kept talking about how she rides an R1. She was loud and her beady eyes reminded me of my eighth grade grammar teacher. I freaked out, got pulled aside, and was given instructions to take private lessons. Days two and three, I got to learn at my own pace. It was great. Just me and my instructor on an open track. Everything was coming together. Friction point, easing on the brakes, start/stops. Day four, I re-joined another class to do final training. Then it was done. Off to the RTA (which is like the DMV for Australia). Took the test, passed, and smiled for the camera. I had my new license and it was time to shop for a bike.
In January, we brought her home. She was a white 1992 CBR250RR and I called her my Babyblade. She was an oldie, but a goodie. One of the original styles of race bikes from the early days of GP. All my nerves from day one of learning came rushing back to me. I looked at her and wondered how long our journey would last. Could I really handle this? Who cares? I felt too cool. I was chick who had her own bike! Parking lots became our new friend. Huge ones with lots of space. IKEA, Homebush, anywhere. My husband would ride her out there, and I’d follow in the car. Then I’d practice riding around and around; starting and stopping again and again; turning left and right. I was improving, but I was still too scared to go on the road.
Australia has so many different road rules and road signs. Oh how they love their signs! They’re everywhere. And I don’t know how, but they always manage to squeeze as many words as possible into the space given on any one sign so that your attention is now focused on trying to decipher what the heck it says rather than watching the road ahead of you. It makes you wonder why they don’t just paint the damn curbs red. Then there’s all the bus lanes, speed cameras, and roundabouts to get used to. On top of it all, everything’s on the other side of the road. Keeping left (even in the car) has not been my forte. In the end, it all proved to be too much for my poor little American brain to process.
Here I was thinking that as a woman, I should master riding without a hitch. We’re the sex that always boasts about our ability to multi-task, right? So riding should come naturally. Wrong. Maybe for some. All the chicks I kept seeing on motorbikes and reading about on various forums and blogs grew up on the farm riding dirt bikes. Others had a brother or family member who was into riding and introduced them to it at a young age. But I’m just a girl in her 30s who happens to take up riding in a foreign country where she is still struggling to find her way around. Perhaps it just wasn’t meant to be. But I had to know for sure.
So two Sundays ago, I decided this was it. No parking lots. I’d take Babyblade for ride around our little neighbourhood circuit near where we live. If I felt comfortable, then the next step would be quiet roads or late night riding. Off I went. My husband watched me from the patio as I made my rounds. I don’t know how many I did–I only know that the last one made me want to crap my pants. I was pulling into our driveway and trying to slow down when an oncoming car came up around the turn and we almost collided. All I remember is screaming a dozen expletives from inside my helmet and trying my best to get out of his way. I stopped safely and knew that was it. I had tried. I learned. I rode. And now, I had enough.
Maybe I cut the long story short because I didn’t want to admit to my readers (and myself) that I didn’t really ride. Maybe I wanted people to believe that I’d been riding for a while and that I was experienced. But the truth is that I’m just a parking lot rider. Sure, I’m pretty bummed that I didn’t push myself more but honestly, there wasn’t anything left of me to push. I had reached my full capacity. Maybe fear got the best of me. Or maybe God was trying to send me hints along the way since the very beginning. Whatever it was, it switched for me and now I’m just happy to be riding two-up again.
I cried that night. After returning to the garage, I went upstairs and confessed to my husband that this was it. I didn’t want to but I had to let it go. I had all these high hopes. Sure they were mostly vain ones, but still they were hopes. My hopes. I dreamt of being the ultimate wife–sexy paddock girl and hot motorbike rider. The wife who rides up the old road with her husband. The wife who signs up for a track day and learns how to get her knee down. The wife with the full leathers on. The wife who goes on long road trips with her husband across the country. All of those dreams came crashing down. The worst part? Knowing that I had to let go of my bike. My baby. I never wanted us to have to part ways. She was a good bike but I think she needed more attention from me than I was willing to give. It’s a terrible end to my short-lived riding career, but alas the day has come. Bye bye Babyblade, bye bye.