Hello fellow Bikers! & Welcome to the first of what I hope will be many articles by a Chic biker for Chic bikers and anyone else who cares to read! I'll spend the column space for this first one giving you some insight into my riding story and passion. After that it's a blank chalkboard. This is NOT my platform – it's for everyone who rides who's a part of Law Abiding Biker (or not I guess) who'd like to see a topic explored from a more female oriented side. While I will definitely have my opinion (ask my husband!) on an issue I will always attempt to look at it from all angles. I felt like this might be a good addition to Law Abiding Biker because in general (NOT just at Law Abiding Biker) I find there is a huge lack of anything/everything geared toward women riders. Ok – sure – you can find pink and bling T-shirts everywhere for “us” – but that's not what I mean – and on the other end – Ryan & co. do a great job of telling us how to change the front tire on our bike – also good but – I guess I'm looking for a little something somewhere in the middle of those two ends. When listening to some of the podcasts as well, I know that as women, we often have very different perspectives on some of the issues. So, I do have ideas, but I would really love audience participation – from anyone who rides regardless of gender – send me a question, thought or suggestion for future articles!
I am a fairly new rider – at least compared to so many of my fellow bikers. Up until 12 years ago I had never even been on a motorcycle. Then I met my wonderful husband (to be) Dan. In his garage was parked the most beautiful Silver 2003 Anniversary Edition HD Ultra Classic – chromed to the max – so heavy he can barely lift it actually but man is it pretty! It's winter when we meet – so no riding – we live in Alberta. Spring arrives and we go out for my first ride – and I start to fall hard for this thing called motorcycle riding. If it had been up to me we would have been out far more often than we were at first. Dan has been riding all of his life, competing in off road endurance racing as a young adult, and literally can ride anything. But, I think he had lost some of his passion for it, and having someone who was new and had never done it before reignited his passion for riding too. We travelled a bunch together for the next few years – me on the back – and I loved every mile – Sturgis, all through AB & BC. As time went on I became more convinced that I wanted to learn to ride myself. Dan wanted me to learn as well, so I signed up for the Harley Davidson new rider school. It was a grueling two days – I took the course in early May and in Alberta it is still freaking cold in May. My hands were so sore and cramped I didn't think I’d make it back for day 2 – but of course I did because I am not a quitter! Passed just fine AND THEN – promptly did every single thing they told me not to do – which lessons learned will ultimately be the point my next article. My class was taught by a very qualified Calgary Motorcycle Police Officer and what they have to do in order to ride a motorcycle as an officer is far beyond what I or most motorcyclists will probably ever do – my point being that I had an excellent instructor to whom I should have listened.
First thing I (we) did wrong – bought way too much bike. Started with a 2003 Anniversary Edition 1200 Sportster – yes I was more worried about matching my boyfriend’s bike than whether I was qualified to ride it; one of the biggest beginner mistakes out there. And I was a disaster! We set out on my new bike immediately following the 2 day class, and in addition to Mistake #1 I promptly made Mistake #2 – Don't ride with someone very experienced who is going to push you beyond your comfort zone or abilities. Fortunately for me we live in a very rural area, so when I popped the clutch and pulled on the throttle and then totally lost control at least I wasn't headed into oncoming traffic. But, I did go off the road and was headed for a barbed wire fence. Dan's words echoed in my head – when in doubt – BAIL! Which is exactly what I did – fairly gracefully and successfully I might add. Unfortunately my beautiful new bike that had less than 50 km (31 miles) on it went into said barbed wire fence – it was neither a graceful or successful full stop. I was relatively unscathed – banged up, beaten, sore, sprained ankle – that's it – which as you know is incredibly lucky for someone who's just laid their bike down. Dan went home and got the bike trailer and came back with our son to pick up my battered ass and my now less than beautiful bike, and bless him (Mark- our son) says to me “But look how far you made it”. The bike was fixable thank goodness but who wants to spend $3000 fixing a brand new bike? There were all sorts of reasons it was the wrong bike for me – and please! new riders hear this well – of course we all want to ride beautiful, hot, bad ass bikes BUT your first bike MUST fit your status as a new rider.
At this point it was decided that I needed a beginner bike with less power and also with a clutch that I could actually reach and pull in. I hadn't given up, but now I had one more thing to contend with in addition to the fact that I was new and had limited skills – FEAR. Talk about being your own worst enemy. We bought a 650 Suzuki Boulevard – which is the bike I should have started with. I could touch the ground, I could pull in the clutch, it was light, and it wasn't overpowered. I started practicing. I rode by myself. I took a couple of one on one lessons, which was very helpful. Slowly I was regaining my confidence. One day I went out on my own to do an errand. It was actually a fairly long round trip through town and I did very well. I started to relax. Too much. I was only 3 minutes from home and I suppose I felt like whew – I made it – look at me go – and I wasn't paying attention. A sudden gust of wind that was amplified by a semi trailer truck passing me caught me off guard – because I had relaxed too much and wasn't focused on riding I got blown around a bit and then totally over reacted – a fatal mistake on a bike. I braked hard and headed for the ditch. All I can say is anyone who doesn't wear a helmet should come and see mine. My head hit the pavement HARD – but I ultimately got up and walked away – ok well, I was a little wet because the ditch was full of water and my bike was submerged. A kind gentleman who was following behind me loaded me into his truck and took me home. The look on my boyfriends face when I got out of a strangers truck dripping wet – not sure what to call that – disbelief I guess. Like really, another bike? Oh, and it's submerged in 3 feet of water. Well, at least it has more than 50 km on it. The man has been very patient with my “learning to ride a motorcycle” escapades.
At this point I really thought my riding days were over. I was happy to just be a passenger. So I happily rode for a while – all the while wishing I wasn’t so lame, watching women bikers go by thinking what the hell is the matter with me? All of this really lays at the altar of: If you are a new biker, listen to the training and wisdom of those who have gone before, who have attended the accidents of the broken, and worse, new riders, those who KNOW without a doubt what is best for you the NEW rider.
So flash to a bike trip undertaken by Dan and I – me now riding on the back of course. We planned to do the beautiful Kootenay Lake ride through British Columbia. For all biking enthusiasts who have not yet had the pleasure, be sure to put this one in your Harley Ride Trip Planner. We left Calgary a bit late in the day, so had to get a room in a small town in Sparwood, BC. Some of our best times have been in inexpensive motels in small towns – but that’s another article. The next morning we rose early and went on to Cranbrook., BC. Of course we love to visit all the Harley Davidson stores, so we stopped in.
This particular dealership had been given for a limited time the franchise rights to sell the CanAm Spyder. We had seen them before on vacation down in Florida, and looked at one at our local dealership, but they weren’t doing any demo rides. I went next door to the Tim Hortons to get us a coffee, and when I got back Dan had bought me the Spyder – it was such a good deal don’t you know. Inside I was petrified – I had to ride the stupid thing – so now is when I confess I had been talking big about getting back on a bike or a trike, but in reality I was far too afraid to actually do it. One thing that Dan has always been able to do with me is push me way outside of my comfort zone. So, after a brief lesson, off we went.
We were headed up the Kootenay Lakes ride through Nakusp, to Sicamous BC. I did well until we hit the #1 Highway – being on a major thoroughfare with semi trailer trucks and loads of traffic was scary. I cannot tell you how many times I said the Lord’s prayer. I rode that Spyder (specialty paint and some serious upgrades over the winter) for 2 years. The next year following some major surgery I traded up to the 2013 Spyder Touring Version. Bought it in May and rode it non-stop all summer. On our last trip home from Montana I said: “I think I’m ready to go back to a Harley”. Truth be told that was always my vision/dream. But it took me 3 years and 20 000 km to overcome my demons and really feel confident to ride period, let alone a clutch, all the extra power etc.
We immediately started shopping, and bought the new 2014 Tri-Glide. I could/can ride 2 wheels now, but I enjoy the ride so much more on 3 wheels not being super worried, stressed, and white knuckling it most of the time – so why not – you still enjoy all the benefits of biking – well, except for leaning into the corners, which I’ll admit is a big deal, but I’m happy to give that up for all the other benefits. We managed one trip before the snow flew that year only about 1500 km – but enough. I told myself “When you get back on in the spring just remember you did fabulous – nothing to worry about”. This year we put on 16 000 km (9941 miles – but who’s counting?) and I loved every minute of it. There is nothing in my life that I have done that I enjoy as much as I do riding my Harley – Nothing!
That’s my story – or part of it anyway – I know you’re thinking thank God she didn’t tell the whole story. Most of my writing will not be this long. My focus will be on women riders and to some extent new riders – as I can relate to both. I LOVE Law Abiding Biker – the knowledge I am gaining is awesome. Hopefully, I can add just a little bit to their experience.