How I got in touch with my inner motorcycle maven

KrystynaLagowskiHondaGROM

So here’s my confession for the week: despite being a type-A gearhead, I have never ever actually driven a motorcycle. It’s true. Oh, I’ve admired their lustrous black and chrome curves from afar, and even had a few adventures riding on the back. But somehow, never made it to the driver position.

An offer came one day that I couldn’t refuse, not just because it was free, but because it came from one of my favourite PR chicks*. What the heck, I figured? Worst case scenario, I’d wipe out in grand style. But being the gearhead that I am, I secretly assumed that I’d soon be popping wheelies over flames like the famous British dare-divas, the Motobirds._89024464_motobirds-frommaryww-maryconnorsjumpingfireinbikinitop

The day of the lesson arrived with a blast of the winter we’d managed to miss in November. Never mind, it was clear and dry, and a little cold wouldn’t keep me from my date. And there, on a square patch of asphalt in the parking lot, a group of tall orange pylons stood guard over five Honda motorcycles. They were neatly lined up, angled rakishly to the left, beckoning seductively. I was introduced to my instructor, George Williams, from Learning Curves.

Right away, I was suited up in a thick motorcycle jacket made of goretex and possibly gyproc, as well as a helmet. These folks were not leaving anything to chance!

A diminutive black Honda GROM caught my eye, with its raw, exposed innards and chubby small wheels. I couldn’t wait to get started, hopping astride and grasping the handlebars. But wait, wait! George insisted on first giving me a full description of the bike, showing me where things were, from the kickstand to the fuel tank. He even demonstrated how the kickstand worked, from at rest to ride.

With George

 

The GROM boasted 125 cc and 10 horsepower. George quipped that there were lawnmowers with more power. I believe that my late mother’s sewing machine was capable of more power. But that, in turn, made the GROM ideal for novices like me, especially those who were hankering to be overnight badass bikerinas.

It turns out the bike, tiny putt putt that it was, had more to it than I’d thought. The setup was completely different from my car – the clutch was on the handlebars, and the shifter was at my left foot. The ignition was at the centre, above the fuel tank, but the starter was just under the right handlebar. Oh, and there was no reverse – and no syncromesh. Never mind that the throttle (accelerator) was on the right handlebar and the front brake was attached to the right handlebar. Got it? Got it!

Before I could even turn on the ignition, George ran me through exercises designed to keep my head up, look where I was going, feel for the friction point (where the clutch starts to grab).

As the lesson unfolded, George was a welcome font of knowledge. I learned “KNIFE,” an acronym for preparing to ride. K was for kickstand, which should be up. N was for neutral, the gear in which the bike should be. I was for ignition, which should be on. F was for fuel, which should be enough to get you where you’re going. And E was for engine kill switch, which could stop the bike at any time.

George Instructs

In fact, we spent a good 30 minutes learning what features were on the bike, where they were, how they worked, what was legal and what was not. And what to do in case of an emergency (kill switch!), but more importantly, how to avoid getting into emergencies.

A few more minutes of sitting on the bike, turning things on and off, moving backwards and forwards, and I was finally ready to roll! I crawled forwards, in a straight line towards George, brave soul that he was. I drove around in a large, wobbly circle, steadily more secure until I felt almost, downright brash. It was like slow sorcery, this kinship with a magical machine.

Teasing the throttle, I felt the engine throb under me, and the bike surged forward. Leaning down, I kept my eyes up and tried not to think about the fuel tank just north of my kidneys. The sturdy wheels gobbled up the pavement, and I gripped the body with my knees. Leaning into the curve, I pulsed the throttle and a quick shiver rushed through my arms as the bike rumbled in response, gently tilting to the left.

Whee

As encased in protective plastic as I was, I could still feel the wind buffeting against me, lifting my spirit as I soared through the laps on my imp of a motorcycle.

Then, all too soon, it was all over.

Sadly, I de-clad myself of jacketing and helmet, and returned to earth.

Would I ever take this up seriously? That is, get a motorcycle license and a motorcycle?

I don’t know. If I got on a serious motorcycle, it’s just possible, I might just keep on going and never, ever come back to reality again.

KrystynaLagowskiHelmet

*Note all photography by the delightful Kim Lizmore-Campbell of Calador Communications.

18 Comments on "How I got in touch with my inner motorcycle maven"

  1. Christine Peets April 12, 2016 at 7:49 pm · Reply

    I was on the back of a scooter in the Cayman Islands 30 years ago and that’s the closest I’ve ever wanted to be to any kind of motorcycle.

    Bravo and Kudos to you for doing this! You look great and I’m sure you had a blast.

    Take off!

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 4:13 pm · Reply

      Haha, Christine, I’ll bet you had fun on the back of that scooter. Agreed, it’s not for everyone. I don’t know that I’m going to pursue this much further, but I sure did love every minute of being on that bike!

  2. Judy April 12, 2016 at 11:33 pm · Reply

    Great description! At age 51 I embarked on a similar adventure, actually completing the weekend course and completing the first two stages of a licence, but after my five years were up, I still hadn’t taken the final exam and retreated to the passenger seat again. Sometimes I regret that, but mostly I enjoy watching the world go by without having to be always mindful of what I am doing.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 4:12 pm · Reply

      You did?! Sounds like you’re still riding, if only on the back. You do need a plan to get that license, and it’s hard to practice because unlike a car, there’s no one to sit beside you and offer advice. But at least you’re enjoying the experience!

  3. William Rusho April 13, 2016 at 2:37 pm · Reply

    How many turns of the rubber band do you need to do before it starts moving. Sorry, but you will take harassing from bikers who drive hogs etc.
    It is a wonderful bike to start off on and I appreciate that you are. Too many people start off with quicker and more powerful bikes, and this can be dangerous. Riding a motorcycle is a skill that is learned, and you cannot learn it on a big bike.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 4:09 pm · Reply

      Oh, I don’t know, William. Many of those guys on the big hogs would likely just give me a thumbs up and keep on going. I have a few friends who have pretty powerful bikes and they were tickled that I had a taste of their world. And absolutely, the GROM is perfect for novice riders, I think anyone who starts off on a big bike is just asking for trouble!

  4. jeannette Paladino April 14, 2016 at 2:26 am · Reply

    Krystyna — what an adventure, indeed. Riding a motorcycle must be like riding a horse, which will respond to even the most delicate touch. It is not for the faint of heart. Glad you had such a good time.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 4:07 pm · Reply

      Do you know, Jeanette, that’s exactly what it brought to mind. I used to ride horses when I was much younger, and the experience was very similar. There’s even a similar movement to “posting” like you do on a horse, when you’re walking the bike! And there’s a lot of intuition involved, feeling connected to a creature (sentient or not) that has the power to move you. Of course, you really need to have the technique down first.

  5. Doreen Pendgracs April 14, 2016 at 12:22 pm · Reply

    Hi Krystyna. My husband was a biker when I met him (as well as a snowmobiler) so I had to learn to accept those big noisy machines. But I never liked them — except for the occasional short, scenic trip. Give me the comfort and safety of my RAV 4 any day,

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 4:04 pm · Reply

      Haha, Doreen, yep it gets pretty noisy on a bike, although the tiny GROM was fairly civilized. And it is one of the best ways to really experience the open road and take in the sights and sounds around you. But I’m sure your RAV4 is way more comfy, and that’s a pretty compelling argument!

  6. Jason B April 14, 2016 at 1:28 pm · Reply

    That’s great that you rode a bike for the first time. You have more courage than I do. I will never ride one. I just don’t trust it.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 4:01 pm · Reply

      Well, Jason, it’s not so much courage than it is just the yen to try something new. The lesson was in a big parking lot, so a very controlled environment, with a seasoned and congenial instructor. All the right ingredients for a fabulous afternoon!

  7. Jeri April 14, 2016 at 6:55 pm · Reply

    I’ve always wanted to drive a motorcycle, but have yet to do so. Growing up, I rode four-wheelers in the mountains all the time but know that’s not quite the same thing. One of my cousins has a Harley and he has so much going on bike trips.

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 3:59 pm · Reply

      You know, Jeri, it’s never too late. I’ve had a number of opportunities to learn, but something always came up. If you enjoyed four-wheeling, you would love riding. And I’ll bet your cousin would be only too happy to talk you into it!

  8. Ramona McKean April 15, 2016 at 1:53 am · Reply

    How wonderful, Krystyna, to have your “biking adventure” chronicled by photos! Among the fondest memories I have of my ex-husband are the trips we took on his Yamaha 920. A Virago, I think it was called. He even saw to a custom made trailer so we could take trips with all our camping gear. After we parted company, I thought about learning how to ride a motorcycle and getting my license. I never did though due to plain impracticality. Anyway, thank you for helping remind me of especially happy times. 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 3:58 pm · Reply

      Wow, a Virago, those are niiiice bikes. I’ll bet those trips were a lot of fun, especially if you had an awesome little trailer for your gear. Glad I could help you recall those happy times!

  9. Erica April 16, 2016 at 2:28 pm · Reply

    That sounds like it was quite an adventure. And lucky you that you got lessons on how to ride before take the motorcycle for a spin. A lot of people just hop on and hope they don’t die.

    I personally have no desire to ride a motorcycle. It is pretty dangerous where I live and I’ve seen some very bad accidents. But if I were in a parking lot like you, I might just take advantage to see what it is really like to ride. (I love the close-up photo with you with the helmet!)

    • Krystyna Lagowski April 19, 2016 at 3:57 pm · Reply

      Thanks, Erica! I wasn’t too sure about learning to ride, which is why it took so long to try. And I’m glad I did. The instructor was so safety-conscious and helpful, that it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

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