No going back now

So yesterday, I went ahead and did it. I bought a motorcycle.

This is what my new bike looks like
This is what my new bike looks like

That is not my bike, but it’s pretty similar. I will get a picture up next week, once I get it home. It’s a 1994 Kawasaki Vulcan 500, a little bigger than I thought I would get, but it’s a very comfortable bike and doesn’t feel hard to maneuver. I think I can grow with this bike for some time. If I had gone with a Rebel or some similar 250, I think I would get annoyed with it after a few weeks.

I test drove it yesterday in the parking lot of the dealer. It’s a strange feeling riding a motorcycle at this stage. It’s exciting and fun, but it’s also rather scary. I know just enough about riding a motorcycle to do some damage. I can get it going, shift gears, make decent turns, etc. But it doesn’t feel anything like second nature yet. My body doesn’t quite know what to do when things go wrong. For instance, it’s happened a few times that I roll the throttle the wrong way when I’m trying to stop. Fortunately, I’m squeezing the clutch and hitting the breaks too, so I haven’t lost control, but still it doesn’t feel very good to hear that engine rev when you are trying to bring the bike to a halt. I’m confident that control will come with time and practice, but lets just say I’m not 100% confident that it will come.

Once you decide to get a bike, people love to tell you about accidents. Everyone seems to have a motorcycle accident story, and this doesn’t help with the convolution of emotions that I’m feeling as a new rider. One friend was riding on the back of a guy’s bike, they got clipped in a curve on a mountain road and dropped the bike. She was lucky that the only real injury was a very badly scraped knee, but we are talking a very badly scraped knee. Another friend hit a small oil slick on a curve, when the oil patch ended, so did his riding career, with a high side fall (I think that’s the right terminology), that banged up his shoulder and back. Most of the stories are second and third hand stories, but it seems ingrained in our collective conscious that motorcycles are dangerous things. Perhaps in 10,000 years, children will be born with an innate fear of motorcycles similar to how most people seem to be afraid of rats and snakes and spiders.

I’m determined to be as safe a rider as I can be. I’m anxious to get my license so that I can practice by myself. I’m sure there will be many afternoons and evenings ahead of me where I just practice various skills over and over, until all the different operations do become second nature. The fear is part of the process. It’s a good thing, at least in small doses. It keeps you focused. Maybe I’ll never fully master my fear of riding, but perhaps I shouldn’t. According to a book I’m reading, how long you have been riding seems to correlate with how likely you are to have an accident. Obviously, brand new riders are much more likely to have an accident, but there is another spike in accidents when people have been riding for two or three years. Perhaps that is when riders start to lose some of that healthy fear. If a rider makes it to four years, however, their accident rates go way down. Perhaps that’s when experience is the trump card. We’ll see if I make it that far as a motorcyclist.

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