Pros and Cons of Solo and Group Motorcycle Travel

by Liz Jansen

motorcycle travelTomorrow begins 10-12 days of working from the road in Northern Ontario. I’ll be attending a writer’s workshop on the shores of Lake Superior, researching travel stories, and spending glorious time traveling on my motorcycle. Much of my road time will be on my own, although I’m looking forward to meeting up with other riders along the way.

When it comes to choices between riding alone or with a group, most motorcyclists have a distinct preference. Most have ridden in a group, defined as two or more bikes.

Far fewer have traveled alone.

I love solo travel and advocate it for its unequivocal power to re-energize, rejuvenate, and restore balance. Even if it’s going out for a few hours and before staying away overnight, the experience is extraordinarily invigorating.

I also enjoy small group travel, with the right person(s).

There’s room for both in our motorcycle lives. Try each one, and then decide which one suits you best. I’ve listed the pros and cons of each as I see them. I realize my preference is obvious and welcome your feedback.

Advantages of Group Travel

  1. Camaraderie. It’s fun to banter over lunch, dinner, and shared experiences. It’s the stuff memories are made of. This is the biggest reason most travel together.
  2. Share expenses. Whether you’re sharing a campsite or a motel room, there’s economy in numbers.
  3. Another opinion. There’s always someone to consult with for directions, accommodations, or that strange noise coming from your engine.
  4. Security. There’s safety in numbers. Having said that, in my 46 years of solo riding hundreds of thousands of miles, I have never felt threatened. Nor has anyone I know.
  5. Initiation to riding. New riders especially feel more secure in a group. It helps them learn the rules of the road, etiquette, and there’s always someone to help pick up a tipped bike.
  6. Visibility. It’s easier for other traffic to see a group than to spot a solo rider.

Disadvantages of Group Travel

  1. Waiting for people. Punctuality can be an issue, whether it’s waiting for stragglers before taking off in the morning, stopping to put on rain gear, or filling up the fuel tank.
  2. Safety. Group safety depends on a tightly managed group, clear communications, and excellent riding skills. If any one of these is missing, the safety of everyone in the group is compromised.
  3. Safety 2. Impatient drivers will take risks attempting to pass a line of riders. Often, it takes longer than they anticipated and they’ll cut in between riders, splitting the group or forcing riders to the side.
  4. Scheduling. Vacation time is precious and trying to juggle the timing needs of everyone in the group can be a chore.
  5. Cancellations. You’ve booked your vacation, arranged the cat sitter, and are all set to go when people start backing out. Your choice becomes go alone, or stay home.
  6. Different interests. Personal preferences for routes, points of interest, and even distance traveled per day or between rest stops are as unique as the individuals in the group. This can create conflict.
  7. Everything takes longer. Whether it’s a gas stop, bio break, or lunch, it always takes longer than you expect.
  8. New riders. While new riders enjoy traveling in groups, they may not have the skills to do it safely.
  9. Interactions with others. The likelihood of being approached by curious strangers, or of initiating conversations with others outside of the group diminishes with group size.

Advantages of Solo Travel

  1. Travel on your own terms. Stop, get up, or eat whenever you want, wherever you want. Take any road you want. Change your mind at the last minute.
  2. Test your personal limits. Overcoming perceived fears of solo travel builds confidence. The more you stretch yourself by navigating in a strange town, eating alone (you’re rarely alone), or setting up camp, the more you open the doors to new possibilities. It’s confidence building.
  3. There’s always room for one more. There’s usually space for one more person to fit into a crowded restaurant, theatre, campsite, or onto a ferry.
  4. Approachability. Curious onlookers are more likely to find a single rider less intimidating, and more likely to approach you with some of the darndest questions! They’ll also invite you for meals and offer places to stay.
  5. Time for reflection. This is one of the greatest gifts of traveling alone. Solitude, quiet, and peace. It can be uncomfortable and lonely at times, but you learn a lot about yourself that way, including how to overcome those feelings.

Disadvantages of Solo Travel

  1. Financial. Alluded to above, it’s more expensive to travel alone, primarily because of the cost of accommodations.
  2. Carrying gear and tools. Even one other person makes a difference, especially when they have the same bike. One tent, stove, and cooking utensils can support more than one, and you can share precious cargo space between bikes.

What can you add as a pro or con to either solo or group travel? Post in the comments below!


photo credit: Mexic, Real De Catorce via photopin (license)


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5 Favorite Blogs from Last Week

by Liz Jansen

4482727298_c496305f2d_nThere are many articles on motorcycle touring and safety. The ones below stood out because of the way they present the information, and how they make you think. They may even inspire you to change your habits, or take that trip you’ve always dreamed of.

Enjoy and stay safe! And cool!

 


Motorcycle Touring: Do-It-Yourself Touring

Evans Brasfield, Motorcycle.com

“Folks who ride motorcycles frequently have a high level of independence. So, when it comes to touring by bike, many choose to go their own way instead of signing up with a company organized tour. While this is particularly common when the ride begins from your home turf, you can also do it when you decide to rent a bike in some remote exotic locale.”


10 Tips for Safe City Driving

Amos, RideApart.com

“America might be a land filled with motorcycle riders and motorcycle lovers, but it most certainly is not a motorcycle friendly country. Just ask anyone who rides their motorcycle to work on a semi-regular basis and they’ll tell you horror stories not just about bad, rude and dangerous drivers, but also of oblivious pedestrians and cyclists who seem to have a death wish and also appear to have it in for you.

It doesn’t take bravery to ride your motorcycle in the city—it takes superior awareness, brains, an eye for potential hazards (not just obvious ones) and very good riding skills.”


10 Things to Expect When Starting to Ride a Motorcycle

WRN’s list for beginner riders

Genevieve Schmitt, Women Riders Now

“Many seasoned motorcycle riders have done or experienced some or all of these things. We thought it’d be fun to share the list we came up with so new riders can find some peace in knowing others have been there or are experiencing what they are right now.”


Top 10 Ways to make Your Bike Fit Better

Evans Brasfield, Motorcycle.com

“Every human body comes in its own unique shape and size, but all motorcycles of a particular model are exactly the same when they roll off the assembly line. Unless you’re remarkably lucky, some aspect of your motorcycle’s dimensions will be less than optimum to suit your body type and riding style. Fortunately, you can take steps to customize your motorcycle’s fit to your dimensions and the type of riding you do. While some of these suggestions require altering or replacing parts, many can radically alter your riding experience for the better with only basic tools and a little elbow grease.”


Epic ID Medical Emergency Info Wristband

Blake Conner, Cycle World

“An accident or medical emergency might one day render you unable to speak for yourself. EPIC-id ($35) is a waterproof USB medical emergency information wristband allowing entry and storage of as much medical info as you’d like to share. First responders simply insert EPIC-id into any PC or Mac to access potentially life-saving information.”


photo credit: Colombia, Tierradentro via photopin (license)


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Waiting

by Liz Jansen

waitingOne of the hardest parts of this time in my life is waiting for clarity. I know it will come, and when it does I’ll recognize it. But until then, the waiting is hard.

When I set out on my Wheels to Wisdom quest almost a year ago, the Road was unknown, but I was confident I was headed in the right direction. I still am, even though the Road led me to places I didn’t imagine. I no longer listen to the voice that used to drive me to act quickly and decisively, to work harder so I could accomplish more and achieve greater things. The voice that likes to remind me of all the dire consequences I can expect when I don’t listen.

Last week during my evening walk along a lovely treed street, I was admiring the lush flower gardens and the profusion of a multitude of green shades in the carpet and leafy canopy. My eye caught an errant birthday balloon, playing in the breezes, tail dragging, skimming towards me about 10’ off the ground. Even from afar, I knew this balloon was headed for me. When it got about three driveways away, a gust caught it and carried it up to the rooftops and perpendicularly away from me.

Unswayed, I knew it was just a diversion, so was not surprised when it did a u-turn, descended and came directly towards me. I didn’t even have to raise my hand to grab it. All I had to do was open it and put it around the tail.

I laughed with delight at what was a pivotal lesson. Answers, insights, and directions come to us in unexpected ways. Our role is to be open and recognize them when they do arrive.


photo credit: Happy Birthday via photopin (license)

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5 Cool Tricks I Learned at Horizons Unlimited

by Liz Jansen

Recently I attended Horizons Unlimited’s Travelers Event in Orillia, Ontario. It’s one of my favorite gatherings mostly because of the people it attracts. They come from all walks of life, ages, and interests but they share a vitality for experiencing life. The other reason I enjoy these gatherings is for the tips, tricks, and tools that make motorcycle travel even more enjoyable, especially when there are weight, size, or even financial constraints.

Even if you don’t go to any of the sessions, talking to others can illuminate a whole new perspective on travel. They’re held all over the world so check out the website for a location near you.

Here are five tricks I learned:

1.Garmin Base Camp.

ic-basecamplogoThis free download helps you plan your route, organize your data, and share your ideas with others. Download to your computer to create, edit, and organize routes. Email a link to friends and family, share it on social networks or discuss in a forum.

It’s a great way to plan before transferring plans to your GPS. Thanks to Darren Baptiste for sharing this tip.

2. Shewee.

shewee-power-pink_1_1I’ve heard of these but until this event, never seen one or spoke to someone who’s used it. It’s a reusable device that lets women urinate discreetly without squatting or removing clothes. Without leaking! The base model has a funnel, extension pipe, and case and fits easily in a pocket or small bag. There’s also an option that includes wipes, hand sanitizer, flashlight, and its own small pouch. Those who have used them extol their virtues, especially when sanitation is poor, our stuck in a long line of traffic, or out in the middle of nowhere. Practice before you need to use it. Comes in six fashion colors.

3. Immobilizing a tipped bike.

When righting your motorcycle following a tip over, you want to make sure it doesn’t roll while you’re lifting it. If it’s dropped on its right side, this is easily done by making sure it’s in gear.

However, if it’s sleeping on its left side, and is in neutral, it’s a bit trickier.

Use the front brake to immobilize the bike. Remove one of your gloves, apply the brake, and slide your glove over the throttle and brake lever. That will prevent the bike from moving and free up both hands for lifting. If your bike has handguards/bark busters, use whatever’s handy—a neckerchief, scarf, sock—to wrap around brake lever and throttle.

Watch the video below to learn how to lift a bike safely.

For the more adventurous, watch this video about picking up a bike on a hill.

Thanks to Clinton Smout of SMART Adventures for this tip.

4. Storing spare tire tubes around windscreen mounts.

Lightweight MotorcyclingWhen traveling light and small, every space is important. Tubes are light and when wrapped around something, they stay secure, organized, and readily available. The weight is kept up front over the forks and balanced (if you have 2 tubes), using space that would otherwise be unoccupied. If your bike is equipped differently, look for another option wher eyou can safely store them.

Thanks to Andrew Pain for the tip. Visit his website Minimal Motorcyclist for more info.

5. Getting along.

Many people love to travel with others but often, what starts out amicably ends in relationship disaster and detracts your enjoyment. To minimize the chances of that happening it’s important to choose travel partners wisely and then talk about how decisions will be made along the way. One suggestion I liked was to have each person take a turn organizing the day, including route, meal stops, and accommodations. Everyone has to agree to go along with it up front, and it means everyone gets a say.

Have you used any of the above? What’s your experience been and what other suggestions do you have?

 

 

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5 Great Blog Posts from Last Week

by Liz Jansen

2901307338_67db369364_nToday’s collection of favorite blogs from last week covers a range of topics, selected to inform, educate, and entertain! And enhance your ride in some way.

Read about an innovative cross-country jaunt by five women riders living life on their terms. There’s a new gadget and gear to make warm weather riding more comfortable—and safe. Also a detailed review of what to look for in helmets. Lastly, another post for new riders. You’ve got your license. Now what?

Enjoy!


The Highway Runnaways Ride

Tom Roderick

“The Highway Runaways Ride is inspired by the infamous Avis and Effie Hotchkiss ride in 1915, when the mother and daughter became the first women to ride their Harley-Davidsons across the U.S. Lana MacNaughton leads a modern day celebration of how women riders are unleashing their rebellious spirit and living life on their terms.

Distinguished for her “Women’s Moto Exhibit,” MacNaughton is leading four of her closest female friends on a cross country Harley-Davison motorcycle journey, starting July 3, when she kicks off the ride in Brooklyn, New York. This four-week tour will end in San Francisco.”


Warm Weather Accessories Buyer’s Guide – Part 2

Tom Roderick

“Beginning in Spring and ending in Fall, the motorcycling season basically exists during the warmest time of the year. Staying cool while operating a motorcycle during these months heightens the experience by increasing a rider’s comfort. Maintaining a healthy temperature also increases a rider’s safety. We covered the obvious ways to keep your temperature in check with our Warm-Weather Buyer’s Guides for Boots, Jackets and Pants, Gloves. Here we look at a few additional, but no less important, ways to manage your personal thermostat.


Out of the Box Multi-tool

“Motorcyclists understand the concept of being able to do more with less—specifically, how to be able to carry more tools in less space. This is true whether most of your riding is around town or around the world. So, we tend to have an affinity for ingenious compact multi-tools of all types—and in general, the simpler and more compact, the better.

Gerber, the company well-known for its rugged, razor-edged hunting knives and other outdoor gear has one of the simplest multi-tools on the market called the Shard.”


Moto Mentoring: You’ve Got Your First Bike. Now, What Do You Do?

Evans Brasfield

“We’ve all been there. Really. We were new riders once. We understand where you’re at: You’ve just bought your first motorcycle. You’re all excited to be riding your new (or new-to-you) bike home, you park your bike and stand back to admire it – and then it hits you: Now what do I do?”


W Tips & Tricks: Get the Right Motorcycle Helmet for You

Marc Lindeman

“When it comes to motorcycle helmets, plenty of riders get all wrapped around the axle discussing helmet laws. We’re smart enough not to wade into that mess, but our opinion is that no matter what the law says, you gotta protect your coconut, and that means wearing a helmet.”


photo credit: golden napa via photopin (license)

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Canada Day—Celebrate and Remember

by Liz Jansen

It seemed appropriate to pull this article from the archives for this Canada Day on which we celebrate our freedom and those who help us keep it. Last week, Major (ret.) Edgar Wayne “Watch Dog” Boone, 58 of Ottawa, and Master Cpl. Darren Williams from Quinte West were killed when they were hit by an oncoming car while riding in formation with fellow veterans from the CAV (Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Unit.) Another rider is in serious condition. This post is dedicated to them, and all the men and women who serve. Thank you. 

Remembrance Day

Today on Remembrance Day, we pay special tribute to all those who have served our countries in the military. Their sacrifices, courage and patriotism have given us the way of life we enjoy today.

We will never know the horrors of war and peacekeeping they have endured or what they’ve had to do in the name of service. Ironically, being removed from conflict while enjoying our liberties makes it easy to become complacent and forget the price of freedom. Those who have actively fought for them will never forget.

Canada Day

There are many military motorcycle units who are actively reaching out to their comrades, especially those suffering from PSTD. Motorcycles – and the heroes who ride them – are therapy.

This year brings a new recognition to soldiers who have served, but died when they’ve chosen to take their own life. These are fallen soldiers just as are those who die during battle. Check out this website Soldiers of Suicide. Hold these soldiers in gratitude for their service and offer sympathy and support to their families. A huge word of appreciation goes to Lise Charron for birthing this project.

When you see active or retired military men and women, take a moment to say “Thank you.” They need to hear it and we need to remember.

Related articles:

photo credit: fatboyke (Luc) via photopin cc

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5 Blog Posts You Don’t Want to Miss

by Liz Jansen

blog postsWith the season in full swing, new riders are graduating from classes, purchasing motorcycles, and getting out on the road. Continuous learning and skill improvement is a life-long habit to start right now. That’s why I’ve included Keith Code’s article on counter-steering, which all riders can learn from.

We’ll relate to Jen Hill’s passion for riding, and love reminiscing at Sturgis Museum’s ”My First Ride” exhibit.. Tips on purchasing used bikes are always helpful, and the Mad Maxx bike will appeal to fantasy lovers everywhere.

 


Keith Code—Motorcyclistsonline.com 

Countersteering Vs. Body-Steering: Which One Steers The Bike?

“Twist of the Wrist author Keith Code explains the difference between steering a motorcycle through handlebar input and body lean.

Most barstool debates tend to devolve into generalities, opinions, and hearsay, in the absence of defined terms. Debating generalities just gives me a headache. The age-old countersteering versus body-steering argument—one of the oldest motorcycle-related barstool debates—is one that could especially benefit from some solid definition.”


Howard Kelly—Motorcycle.com

The Girl Who Played With Ninja

“Picture if you will, the average person you might meet with a masters in mathematics. Quickly you envision Archimedes, Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei or even Albert Einstein, but none of you would instantly draw a mental image of Jen Hill (Jen Tekawitha if you seek her Instagram or website), a vibrant young woman who at present has logged more than 20,000 miles on a Kawasaki Ninja 250 – her first bike!

Jen committed to her education doing things like being a range assistant in MSF programs for two years, taking a Lee Parks Total Control ARC class, the MSF DirtBike School and most recently, the Cornerspin class. Education was second nature to Jen, but she also knew that getting out and riding would be the true transformation in her skill. So she rode, everywhere.”


Motorcycle.com

Buying Your First Used Motorcycle Without Getting Taken for a Ride

“If you’re in the market for a motorcycle, chances are you’ve noticed that a swath of new two-wheelers with a five-figure price tag. Of course there are plenty of motorcycles with smaller digits on the bill of sale, but like anything, motorcycle retail prices go up, not down.

Is your need or desire for a motorbike fervently at odds with the very practical matter of staying pennywise? If so, here’s a way to make peace between the devil and angel on your shoulders: buying used.”


by Ken Conte

Sturgis Motorcycle Museum’s “My First Ride” Exhibit

“The Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame is proud to announce the opening of its newest exhibit: “My First Ride.” The exhibit features motorcycles many riders will recognize as that first motorcycle they ever rode. In addition, the exhibit features stories by people from all over the country detailing the first time they climbed on a motorcycle.”


Michelle Starr—CNET

Wind-powered motorcycle for a Mad Max world

“Fossil fuels aren’t going to last forever.

Come the days of scarcity, hopefully we won’t be living in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland warring viciously over the few resources left — and hopefully we’ll be a little more prepared, with sustainable replacements for the fossil-fueled technology we live with now.

This is the idea behind James Dyson Award entry Strangeworld — a motorcycle powered by the wind and the sun.”


photo credit: A Quick Test for Optimism vs. Pessimism via photopin (license)

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Posted in Motorcycle Tips, Rider Stories

9 Reasons to view Death as an Ally

by Liz Jansen

14409015592_e42f42f785_nAs a child, the thought of physical death was never far from consciousness, entrenched in the belief system with which I was raised. It terrified me, shaped my thoughts, and predicated my behavior for many years. It still shapes my perspective on life and influences my choices. Except now, I see death as an ally, opening the door to a meaningful and vibrant life.

An awareness of death helps us:

  1. Keep our priorities straight and our life in balance. Accepting that we’re all mortal creatures and here for a finite time instills a renewed sense of immediacy, perspective, and scale. Making these senses a daily practice mitigates the sudden wake-up call that often springs from a cancer diagnosis or similar life-threatening situation. Leaders of change.
  2. Release the hold on material possessions and finances as a means of security. While they can still be part of our existence, the pretenses, ostentatiousness, and fear of losing them need not be a motivator.
  3. Let go of social status, sexual roles, and titles as markers of who we are. This doesn’t mean abandoning social and material existence or obligations. Rather, it removes arbitrary roles and expectations from the driver’s seat.
  4. Keep our I love you’s and I forgive you’s I don’t want to look back on my life with regrets. It’s not just our own demise that could prompt this but also the unexpected passing of a loved one with whom we share unfinished business.
  5. Let go of those parts of our life that no longer serves us. It allows us to birth a new job, relationship, or other interest. In the early 2000’s, I came to the difficult realization with both my marriage and my career that I’d evolved into roles that no longer fit. I was approaching age 50 and knew that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life there. It was a turbulent time but it opened my eyes to opportunities and possibilities I’d never dreamt possible.
  6. Confront the purpose and meaning of our existence. The eternal question. Each of us will have different opinions, but at the end of the day, resolving what has heart and meaning and following that lead will serve us well. I want to fully use my skills and abilities to make a difference in this world.
  7. Live in the now. Viewing death as an ally reminds us of the preciousness of each moment. It helps us appreciate beauty in each flower, love of friends and family, kindness in a stranger’s eyes, and laughter.
  8. Promote simplicity. Letting go of attachments frees up the time and energy we need to expend to earn them, maintain them, and dispose of them.
  9. Heighten our appreciation of nature and appreciation of others. With more time available in prime slots, we can spend more of it with people, pursuits, and passions that nourish our soul.

Viewing death as an ally allows me to embrace life and appreciate the people, plants, and animals I share it with. How is an appreciation of death a useful partner in your life?


 

photo credit: TWP_CRO2014 via photopin (license)


 

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Blog Posts You Don’t Want to Miss from Last Week

by Liz Jansen 

4532975094_28fe47e151_nLast week I was dismayed to learn about crashes from two well-known women riders. I was also grateful that they weren’t more seriously injured. Both ascribe to an ATGATT philosophy and it saved their hides. Literally. My injuries were also minimized by high quality, proper fitting gear. We take all reasonable precautions when riding, but crashes happen.

Read and learn from their stories. I’ve also included posts to help keep you safe on the road.


Alicia Elfving aka The MotoLady

Crashing my Motorcycle and the Value of Gear

“Yesterday at about 11am I left Costa Mesa base camp heading toward LA on the 55 North freeway. I exited right at the 73N/405N freeway onramp interchange, which is a really long two lane sweeping left turn. At about 50 mph, I hit what I thought was a little bump in the roadway and got a speed wobble, which almost immediately turned into a violent tank slapper and I hit the pavement. I didn’t highside- I had a very violent lowside (sort of) where the bike hit the ground rather hard (and with the quickness).

We then slid some 75 or so feet to a stop after sliding into the median (in what seemed like slow-mo) and bouncing off. The bike and I ground against the road for a moment together when I lost sight of it, rolling sideways as I skid feet first and then rotated around to point across the lanes.”


GearChic aka Joanne Donn

Remember, #Atgatt

“Story to come. Just know that the combination of leather and body armor saved the entire right side of my body. All I walked away with was a fun collection of bruises in varying shades of green.”  The photos (not gory) tell all.


Motorcycle.com

Warm-Weather Jackets And Pants Buyers Guide

“It’s June and the temperatures are now starting to hot up. That can only mean one thing: Summer’s here and riding season is in full swing. For some, riding in hot weather means shedding the protective gear in order to stay cool. You don’t need us to remind you what a bad idea this is, as one of our favorite adages when it comes to riding in hot climes is “I’d rather sweat than bleed.” For this buyer’s guide, we’ve put together 10 jackets and pants that’ll both keep you cool on a hot ride and also protect your hide should you have the unfortunate fate of falling down. The list is organized in ascending order based on price.”


RoadRUNNER

Riding in a Proper State of Mind; A Mental Checklist for Riders

“It’s been observed that operating a motorcycle is 90-percent mental and only 10-percent physical. In addition, scientists tell us that we are not consciously aware of most of what the mind is doing in everyday life. Do you consciously think about breathing or making your heart beat or which foot operates your bike’s gear shift? Like an iceberg, some 90-percent of the brain’s activity is taking place below the conscious surface. This may fly in the face of some historic perceptions of motorcyclists as brawny he-men muscling heavyweight cruiser-type bikes down the road.”


MC Garage

How to Set Up and Adjust Your Controls

“Every bike should be fitted to its rider. Even if your motorcycle has no apparent allowances, you can still make some basic adjustments that will improve your riding comfort and the ease with which you manage your bike’s controls. We’ll show you how.”


photo credit: Self Portrait via photopin (license)


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How to Start Riding After a Motorcycle Accident

by Liz Jansen 

IMG_2036I’m nervous about getting back on a motorcycle. Although I don’t keep a running total, I’ve ridden hundreds of thousands of miles over 45 years with no accidents on the road until last summer. I teach others how to ride motorcycles at Humber College. And I’m a little spooked.

There’s never been any question that I’d ride again. Even before I hit the kill switch as my bike lay totaled in that Alberta ditch, I knew I’d be back on the road. And that time is quickly approaching.

You don’t have to have done anything spectacular to unnerve you. An incident as minor as dropping your bike in a parking lot can give your confidence a hit.

Here’s how I’m proceeding:

Have a plan. Your circumstances will be unique to you, your riding experience, and any injuries.

Consult an expert. I’m fortunate to have access to Clinton Smout, a world-class trainer and owner of SMART Adventures.  Clinton’s a consummate professional and trains everyone from little kids on their first off-road bike, to police officers and FIM trainers. Don’t take advice from anyone BUT an expert. There’s too much at stake.

Wait until you’re ready. I haven’t ridden a motorcycle in 10 months. That alone means my skills are rusty. That I’ve had a traumatic experience compounded by a non-riding injury has affected my confidence. And I’ll be riding bikes that are new to me. I’ve got a few things to overcome.

Start slowly. Three weeks ago I had my first motorcycle ride since crashing nine months earlier. I was tentative and really nervous, not so much from flashbacks but rather because I didn’t feel secure on the ankle I broke at the end of March. Until a part isn’t working at full capacity, you don’t realize how much you use it. I thought I’d just need my left ankle for support when I threw my right leg over the seat. That’s true, but just the start.

Your ankle doesn’t remain rigid as all of that is going on. Even if subtle, the joint is flexing, rotating, and extending itself to help you maintain balance. I ended up getting on from the wrong side and even that took a bit of acrobatics. Then there was the dilemma of righting the bike from the side stand. I was on a light bike, on a flat surface, and it wasn’t that far over, but that little push to get it vertical by myself was out of the question that day. With a little help I was off and accomplished what I’d set out to do—ride around the parking lot.

Get ready to push your comfort zone. Don’t think there aren’t voices in my head telling me I’m crazy, and to be careful or I’ll hurt myself again. Some of those voices are logical while others are over-reacting. It’s a matter of keeping them in balance. We all know riding is risky but there’s lots we can do to mitigate it. Keeping skills sharp, riding alert, and wearing high visibility, high quality protective clothing are a good start.

Choose your motorcycle wisely.  Your motorcycle may be OK for you to return to. Mine isn’t. I’ll be testing bikes that are lighter, have a lower seat height, and a smaller engine displacement. I like the upright seating position and know I may have to adapt it so it’s comfortable for me.

Ramp up gradually. I know the secret to building confidence is saddle time, done under conditions where I’m set up for success. For a few days, that means parking lots and low speeds on low-traffic roads during off-peak hours.

Take frequent breaks. My ankle and shoulder will need a rest from the physical exertion. And whether I feel it or not, I’ll be expending emotional energy on tension. It’s only natural. Short, more frequent rest stops will keep me from depleting my energy allotment before I get to my destination.

Be flexible. Be prepared to adjust your progress depending on how you respond. There’s no prize for overdoing it or trying to get back before you’re ready. I have no desire to spend more time recuperating.

Be kind to yourself. It takes effort and done deliberately and purposefully, it’s so worth it!

If you truly want to ride, don’t let anything or anyone stop you. Not only do you deny yourself the pleasures of riding, that message of defeat carries with you into other areas of your life.


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Posted in Adventure, Liz's Stories, Motorcycle Tips

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