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Out of My Comfort Zone

Posted Feb 13 2013 8:45am

Over the weekend, I crossed something off of my bucket list- something I didn’t even know was on it!

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I rode a motorcycle!

A few months ago, Bill decided to purchase a motorcycle. He got a really great deal on a custom bike, and it’s currently being designed to his specifications by Fig’s Cheap Choppers and Pinstriping over in Ormond Beach.

I’m not a huge motorcycle fan- the statistics about motorcycle fatalities scare me. So I wasn’t super thrilled when Bill told me he was getting a motorcycle, but I know that he loves biking and it would make him happy to feel the freedom of the road.

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Prior to getting a motorcycle license though, the DMV requires that you take a motorcycle safety course. So, after Bill had put the down payment on his bike, he asked if I’d be willing to step out of my comfort zone and take the course with him. Ummmm…I was not excited about it, but I agreed, knowing that I would learn a lot and we would spend the weekend experiencing something new together. I guess I’m 2 for 2 on my resolution to experience something new every month! I was however, pretty nervous about the whole thing because I had never been on a motocycle, let alone a motorized bicycle.

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The course we signed up for was the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s   RiderCourse™ . It was a two day course, scheduled from 7:30am-4:00pm on Saturday and Sunday (so much for a relaxing weekend!). We spent about 5 hours or so doing classroom work, and the rest of the time was on the “range” aka a large, empty parking lot.

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On Saturday, we met our instructors and started going through the RiderCourse™ book and watching the associated videos. One of the things I really appreciated about the course and the instructors was that it was all very laid back and comfortable. I was worried that I’d be surrounded by lots of experienced riders who would make me feel stupid about my lack of experience, but that was not the case at all. The class had a variety of levels of experience, and there were a few other newbies like me.

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After lunch, it was time to ride!

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We got all geared up- long pants, long sleeves, boots covering your ankles, gloves and a helmet were all required.

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Day 1 for me was not all puppies and rainbows. I had never driven a vehicle with a clutch, and I just couldn’t seem to figure it out! I found myself chanting in my head, “Clutch, shift, gas” to help me remember what I needed to do. I stalled out so. many. times!

I didn’t realize how finicky the clutch was, so when we were doing exercises in first gear and I came to a stop, my left hand would frequently loosen up, which would engage the clutch and stall the bike. Frustrating! I also realized that some of my habits from bicycling were carrying over to the motorcycle- for example, I always unclip my right shoe first when I’m coming to a stop on the bike. The problem with this is that on the motorcycle, the right foot pedal is a brake- so if I move my foot off before pushing down on it, I’m in big trouble! Thankfully, 70% of the braking power comes from the right hand brake, but still, it was something I had to be very aware of.

By the end of the day, I was finally starting to get the hang of it, and when it finally started to click, the course got to be more fun.

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Day 2 started out with bike time, followed by our road test, and then we finished up the classroom work and took the written test. I was happy to get on the bike again, to redeem myself from yesterday’s embarrassing number of stall outs. And y’know what? Day two was so much better! I weaned myself off of my chant, and was comfortable switching to and riding in 2nd and 3rd gears! Hooray! Right before lunch, we took the road test, which was comprised of many of the exercises we had practiced previously. I am happy to announce that I passed!

We returned to the classroom for the final part of the book work and to take the written test. We flew through the material and then we took the 50 multiple choice item test. The instructor handed back my test and I learned I had passed! Yahoo!

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My final thoughts about the course: I currently work in assessment and I’ve delivered my share of professional development. So, throughout the course I was constantly distracted by my own thoughts of – “oh, this would have worked much better if it was presented in xyz way” or “this is not what I call student-centered learning…” and “I can not believe this is a question on the test! It is terribly written!!” I could have spent a good amount of time fixing that test…But those are my own issues ;-)

The curriculum was scripted, so the instructors did a lot of reading the instructions verbatim, which was kind of annoying, but I guess it helps keep it standardized. I feel like it covered the basics, but unfortunately, I do not feel like I am adequately prepared to go out and ride on the street with other cars. I’m sure the class met its objectives to give us the fundamentals, but it is a little worrisome that I could technically go out and be a licensed motorcycle driver. I guess they expect you to go out and practice on your own?

It was fun to do something new and experience it with Bill. I don’t think this is something I would have sought out on my own, but I am glad that I can check it off the list of things I’ve done in my lifetime.

Regardless, I don’t plan on going out and getting a motorcycle anytime soon, nor do I plan to drive Bill’s. I’ll stick to my little Snowball , powered by my own little legs and pumping heart. :-)

Question of the day: Have you ever ridden a motorcycle? What’s the last thing you did that was outside of your comfort zone? 


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