Risk on Two Wheels

Discover Challenge: “You have to have a place of your own to take the kind of risks necessary for intellectual development.” This week, take a chance. Take a deep breath, publish, and see what happens next.

I’ve chosen to write a narrative in third-person as this tends to be a rare occurrence around here. I hope you enjoy and leave it up to you to decide if I’ve taken a risk or taken the easy road.

She was never much of a risk-taker. Risks frightened her, made the contents of her stomach roll. Bungee jumping and sky diving were out of the question. Playing the slot machines and gambling were a torturous venture. Driving a car across a frozen lake was pure madness.

And, yet, here she was…about to drive a two-wheeled, motorized contraption without benefit of lessons.

Dyna Low Rider
Mr. Biker’s 1994 Dyna Low Rider. It was his “baby.”

“C’mon, let’s go for a ride,” said the husband, and she thought it would be a normal ride, with her on the back seat, extending arms around his growing middle. She put on her leather jacket and boots, grabbed a purple Harley-Davidson scarf, the sunglasses, and off they rode.

About two-tenths of a mile later, on a service road behind the nearby mall, the husband stopped the bike and dismounted. “Slide up,” he pronounced, without hesitation.

She replied with a big, fat, “WHAT??”

“Slide up,” he repeated. “You’re going to drive.”

Everything about this directive screamed, Abort! Abort! Danger! Yet, she found herself inexplicably drawn to the leather driver’s seat. “I can do this,” she told herself, “I can do it!”

The husband then proceeded to present the five-minute crash course on how to shift, brake and maneuver. It all made sense to her, yet the cold sweat running down her back was not a good sign for assurance. “Just drive down to the end of this road, make a wide turn, and drive back. That’s all you have to do. Easy,” said the man who had been driving motorcycles since the age of 12.

As her left hand nervously white-knuckled the clutch and her left foot found first gear, the non-risk-taker was about to take a leap of faith that was beyond the safety barrier. A small prayer was repeated, similar to “Lord, help me,” as the grasp of the clutch was released and the knuckles of the right hand slowly turned upward. The approximate 640 pounds of combined iron, steel, chrome, rubber and leather began to move. Forward. She was alternately sensing excitement and the possible need for a brown paper bag to breathe into once this was over. For now, she had to stay in control.

For a moment, just a moment, driving this machine felt easy. Driving in a straight line, in first gear, was easy. But then an anxious moment came around when the rider realized she had to make a U-turn in order to head back to the husband. “Oh my God, you have to do this,” rang the silent voice. “You can do this,” she muttered aloud. And she did. The parking area on the far end of the service road surrendered plenty of room for a U-turn. She swung the iron horse wide and leaned into a half-circle that would ultimately point her in a favorable direction. The contraption complied; mission accomplished.

A red octagon-shaped sign loomed ahead, one that was not present when driving from the other direction. Another test, a trial for her. “How hard is it to brake and put my feet on the ground?” she thought to herself. The driver’s hands gripped the front and back brake levers and cautiously brought the motorcycle to a stop as two booted feet touched the ground. A short-lived sense of relief was experienced.

Then a rookie mistake.

One question that non-riders will have is, “How the heck do you hold up 650 pounds when you weigh 135 pounds?” The answer concerns itself with center of gravity and how one treats the front wheel at a standstill. Unfortunately, this day, she did not know the answer to the question. Mrs. Wannabe Biker put those boots down and turned the front wheel to the left. That’s where she wanted to go…left.

Bad idea.

The center of gravity went left and then down, down, down. She could not stop the fall of this machine onto its side. She was terrified. Her mind was yelling, “Oh no, I broke it! I bent it!” as the husband came running from the other end of the service road. A thin elderly gentleman, who was an escapee from the assisted living complex nearby, saw everything. He hobbled over to ask if he could help. The driver pointed in the direction of her trotting husband, knowing full well that the gentleman would be no more helpful in getting the motorcycle off its side than she. He said, “Okay,” turned away and headed to his place of residence.

The husband arrived at the scene and instantly asked, “Are you okay?” He had asked her that same question several years ago, when she called, sobbing, to report involvement in a car accident. The next words out of his mouth had been, “They can replace Detroit steel, you know…” In this instant, she was grateful that he was more concerned about her well-being than the fallen motorcycle.

“We have to get this up,” he calmly stated, pointing toward the pavement. The husband guided her in the proper position to help raise this weight, with him bearing the greatest burden. One…two…three…lift! It was a struggle for both of them, but they managed to get the Harley-Davidson upright. The left mirror took the brunt of the rookie mistake and would have to be replaced. A small area of scratched paint would need loving care.

There would be no further lessons that day and no further rides on this motorcycle for some time. She was not experienced enough to drive on her own. It’s one matter for your father to push you off into space, sans training wheels, when learning to ride a bicycle. It’s another matter to be pushed into space on a large, growling motor bike with no sense of the laws of gravity. Lesson learned.

HD Dyna Convertible
Mrs. Biker’s pride and joy.

That week, she went to the technical school and signed up for motorcycle riding classes. She would go on to score 95% on the written test and 100% on the riding test. She would ride a Suzuki Intruder 800, then a Harley 1300cc Dyna Convertible. Mrs. Biker was reminded again of the laws of gravity a few years later, in a different parking lot, forgetting that turning a tight corner doesn’t always work with an iron horse. This time, she was more embarrassed than anything, swearing that it would never ever happen again.

It’s not a good idea to swear.

14 responses to Risk on Two Wheels

    • bikerchick57 says:

      She’s a little closer to the ground on a motorcycle…never mind that she’s speeding along at 65 mph…I suppose it’s still risky business.

  1. Tom says:

    In Germany I drove a Suzuki “Intruder”-shopper. Looked good but didn’t sound like a Harley. Meeting a dog nearly killed me.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      No, the Suzuki did not sound like a Harley and I hated where they put the battery. It was always a two-person job to take it out and put it back in. I thought it was a good first bike to ride instead of jumping on a Harley right away.

  2. I think Ms Biker is the bravest of the brave. Lots of people ride motorbikes without lessons but they’re usually on something scooter-sized, in Bali and often end up in hospital. This story had a much happier ending.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      You’ll get no hospital stories from me. The times I dumped motorcycles was always in a parking lot, trying to turn the damn thing around.The only thing ever hurt was paint, chrome and my pride. Oh, and thanks for the brave comment. I think my driving days are over because I feel safer on a bicycle. Would still ride on the back with a cute, experienced male driver…

  3. Dan Antion says:

    I like the way you told this story and I agree, I think you were brave. I’m also embarrassed to say that I rode a Honda Hawk (400) for three years. I was invisible when near a Harley, and I still manage to dump it in a parking lot when it was loaded with camping gear. There’s nothing worse than having to unpack a bike, so you can pick it up. Well, except to have your friend laughing while you do it. Thank goodness there was no Facebook in 1981. These days, bike for me means pedals.

    I think you can proudly go by ‘bikerchick’ and you could easily expand that to “storytellingbikerchick” if you wanted to.

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Well, Dan, after your Honda/camping gear story, I don’t feel so bad about dumping mine. My former husband actually changed the handlebars and lowered my Harley 2″, after I dropped it twice in parking lots, to help with the center of gravity. It made a huge difference and I didn’t have any issues after that.

      Thanks for the “storytellingbikerchick” moniker. I’ve been wanting to dive into it more, perhaps write a fiction piece, but don’t seem to have the time to sit down and concentrate or come up with a story line. I’ll have to work on it after I do some research on trains 😉

      • Dan Antion says:

        I did dump the Honda a couple of times. There is nothing that feels as helpless as being on a bike, knowing that it’s going over and you can’t stop it.

        I know what you mean about longer stories and fiction. I have tons of notes, but very little time.

  4. LB says:

    You did well writing your story, Mary, I was interested until the end.
    I think you are definitely worthy of the name “storytellingbikerchick”.
    And seriously, what biker hasn’t dropped their bike … it happens to us all!

    • bikerchick57 says:

      Thanks for the kudos, Laurie. It appears we are both members of the illustrious Bike Dropping Club. That’s awesome…sort of..

      • LB says:

        Anyone who says they aren’t a part of that club is not being honest. Every biker I know has dropped at one point or another. I will say that the high center of gravity with my sporster and my 5 ft height led to several drops. I am amazed with how much more comfortable I am with the much bigger, much heavier softail because of it’s lower center of gravity.

      • bikerchick57 says:

        I remember being at a bike event, watching a biker contest…slow ride…and being amazed at a 5 ft woman maneuvering her Heritage softtail slowly down the course. She had her center of gravity nailed!

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