Thursday, 29 December 2011

Christmas and Getting the Courage to Ride Pt 2

Driving behind Terry as we make our way to Newcastle, we hit Singleton which is about 80km's from Newcastle, we're on the home stretch and I was glad. I lost sight of Terry when he went through an orange light and I had to stop. All good I knew I'd catch up to him eventually and I figured we were going to stop at the MacDonald's at Rutherford like we always do on this trip. Then I got pulled over by a booze bus just the other side of Singleton. That was interesting because Gizmo the staffy was sitting in the passenger seat and I had unhooked her from the seat belt cause I felt sorry for her being restricted. Whoops I just had to pray that my over friendly puppy didn't decide to clamber over me to say hello to the nice police man. She behaved and I moved on after a mad scramble to find my licence in my bike jacket in the back seat.
Now it started to rain and I honestly thought Terry would have to pull over now and wait for me. Somewhere visible would be the thing, like at the side of the road, I passed a gazillion places for him to do it. Did I see him? No. I got to Rutherford and checked the MacDonald's, no Terry, and now it's not raining, it's pelting buckets of water. Did I mention my husbands open face helmet, with no visor, in pouring rain. No way, I thought to myself, he has to pull over, he wouldn't be able to keep his eyes open in this with that helmet.

At this stage I decided he must have pulled over somewhere and I hadn't seen him, I'll ring him. I rang his mobile, and heard it ringing in the back seat of the car. I was starting to stress a bit now, I had a few visions of him lying in a ditch at the side of the highway, where no one would see him, one wheel of the bike spinning slowly over his unconscious form. I decided to just keep going to Newcastle, he's got to be in front of me still.

I got to Newcastle and no sign of him, by now visions of broken bodies and me being a widow so early in life were passing unchecked across my brain and the tears were flowing I have to admit.
After ringing people and still no sign of him I decided to go to his daughters house and just stress quietly with company. By the time I got there my wonderful husband was standing on her front veranda.
There were cuddles and stuff, and there was the constant reminders to him to take his bloody mobile phone with him when he was on the bike from now on. OK he was wet, like a drowned something, and his face was red raw from the rain, but at least he was safe.

The Shadow at Newcastle's Foreshore
 I felt drained, I'd started to think about the dangers of riding a bike in a real way.

I had a wonderful Christmas, but I didn't get on the bike at all in Newcastle. I had been looking forward to that, Newcastle is my home town and I really wanted to ride a few different roads, round the beaches and so forth. When I got there I just didn't want to do it. Was it because of the drama of losing Terry? I was starting lose confidence in the bike I think. I made Terry ride the whole way back home.

Christmas and Getting the Courage to Ride Pt 1

So I decided that I needed to get some guts and just go for a good ride. Christmas was gonna be 400km away in Newcastle this year and that seemed like the perfect opportunity, not to mention I would get to show off my pretty bike
The plan was that my husband, Terry, would drive the car with the dog half way and I would drive half way, taking it in turns to ride. 100km at a time seemed like enough for me. I started and did bout 100km before we stopped for the first change over.

Hubby riding cause I'm more skilled than him
at driving and taking photos at the same time.
Somewhere on the Golden Highway.
All going well so far, I was certainly learning, trucks are not my friends. Riding on the highway presented a new set of challenges, trucks create wind, wind makes me swerve. I worked out pretty fast how to brace when I have a truck approaching me, and I did find myself  automatically moving over in my lane. The double-b that over took me was a bit different though. I had moved over, because one of the things I had already learnt was that when anyone overtakes you about 90% of the time they think that because you are a bike you don't use all of your lane, therefore it seems perfectly alright for them to not go all the way over to the other side of the road to overtake but just kinda scream along in half of your lane, scaring the bejesus out of you.

First lesson on highways:- move to the left when someone is over taking you. I had done that with the double-b, and as he got past me, his slipstream kinda pulled me towards him, towards the middle line. I let it do it rather than fight it. I had no idea the 4WD was behind him and doing the classic 'I don't have to move all the way over cause it's just a bike' move. As I'm moving into the middle of the road, the 4WD, with limited visibility because he's behind a rotten big truck, has to swerve so he doesn't kill me. I didn't see any of this hubby told me later, just the 4WD passing me, which I didn't see till he was past me. I wasn't expecting him because personally I would never pass a car on a trucks tail like that. The lesson:- expect the unexpected. I had already learnt that some drivers would do crazy things and that I am vulnerable. When I was riding the scooter, some people just had to pass you on principle, even if you are quite capable of keeping up with the traffic in town, and they would do crazy things to get in front.

Oh yeah did I mention I'm still on my L's. Yep limited to 80km/h on a country highway. I don't blame people for overtaking me, I fully expected it. The worst thing was my L Plate kept blowing off as soon as reached 70km/h, I"m sure people were thinking I was some kind of idiot riding so slow on a highway because they had no idea I was a total noob. I had the feeling I was frustrating some people, and we all know frustrated drivers lose that precious thing called common sense. The fastest I had travelled on bike or scooter up til then was 70k's, so I wasn't really prepared for ... the wind! Hit 80km/h and all of a sudden the bike is just trying to eject you off the back of the seat. I was hanging onto the handlebars so hard my thumbs started to lose all feeling about 10 minutes into the ride. My helmet was the old open faced one that had served me so well in town on the scooter for the last couple of years, the feeling of the wind at 60 or even 70k's is kinda exhilarating, the feel of the wind any faster than that just makes you feel like your face is gonna be ripped off. And don't ask about bugs. Don't get me wrong, I had a visor, I wasn't silly. Yeah right! That wind just slaps straight underneath the visor, and the bugs are just gonna get in no matter what you do. After the first bug hit me just under the eye and felt as though it had drilled a 6mm hole in my cheek bone the thoughts of full face helmets were starting to cement in my head. I'll google it when I get home.

Bumps! No seriously, you would not even glance at the bumps in the highway in a car, but on the bike, that teensy dip in the road will send you a foot off your seat! Hmm and even though I've read on forums that you can brace and lift yourself on your foot pegs, I just cant seem to get the hang of that. I think it's because this is a cruiser I'm riding, with my stubby little legs stretched out to the max it's going to be a skill to work out how to stand up a bit on the pegs.

Terry rode the next 100km's and I did the 90 or so after that. Then he rode the rest of the way to Newcastle because I was worried about riding in traffic. There was more to worry about I was soon to learn.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Things I Have Learnt

Working out the stuff that my hands are
supposed to be doing

 Well I took her out for small rides, mainly round the block in a virtually empty business estate. I'm learning stuff even though I'm still not doing U-Turns, it's got me scared. But there are things I'm learning, the things that no one tells you about when you tell them you are learning to ride a bike for the first time. Clutch, gears, brakes. First I kept almost killing myself on the tank when i would pull in the clutch and the front brake at the same time, at the same speed, slamming on the front brakes sends your crutch into a hard lump of metal that's sitting just between your legs, not recommended, I'm glad I'm not a bloke.

Why so difficult, well I'd been riding the scooter for bout a year and a half, the scooter is automatic, both brakes are hand controlled, you don't do anything with your feet cept keep them nice and warm in a cosy foot well. So now I had to get used to the fact I had to use a foot brake, on the right hand side, when I stop I put down my right foot, it's just become automatic and you cant stop with your foot on the ground.

Leaning was different too, this bike is about 2.5 times heavier than the scooter was, I was scared to lean, even though I'd loved it on the scooter. I was asking myself if I would ever feel that love with the bike.

The empty estate that I now know like the back of my hand.
Hubby decided he wanted a picture of me riding,
but I had just stalled it in 3rd gear and now it was stuck in that
gear and I was feeling a bit miffed.

Ok so more practise needed, I want to ride the bike to work but I'm just not brave enough. I found myself putting off riding, using excuses like I'm not feeling well today, I'm too tired after work. I think I'm just going to have to make myself do something about it. I'm starting to feel that I have chosen a bike that is too big for me to start with, will I ever get the hang of it?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

How It All Started

How did it all start? Well I bought myself a motorbike, a big one. But I guess that's not really the start, so let me begin again.
I got myself a scooter, 100cc of raw Honda freedom. Well it seemed like that at the start. I loved my scooter, it got me to work and left the car for my husband to use though the day. But it also was a dream coming true.
I'd always wanted to ride motorbikes, since the very first friend let me jump on the back of his bike at age 16 and took me tearing through the streets, I loved it. Then I tried to ride it...
Bit of background info needed, I'm bout 5'3" and back then was lucky to weigh 45kg soaking wet. So jumping onto the bike my mate had was a challenge in itself, then I let the clutch out and took her sailing over the curb and dropped the poor baby in the dirt. I lost my courage after that and settled for the next best thing, pillion passenger whenever I could. I did that for the next 25 years or so.
There were times when I thought I would be able to ride a scooter, but I just never built up the guts.
Then I married my husband, and my self confidence soared. I bought the baby scooter and started to live the dream.

It wasn't enough. I wanted a real bike. So I did some research about bikes, and which ones I could ride on my learners permit was a big part of it of course. We learnt that the Honda Shadow had a 400cc Learner approved model and well I just fell in love with it. Before I had even sat on one, I owned one. The next hard part was learning how to ride. Sheesh I just jumped right in there.

So there she is on the first day I brought her home. My shiny new White Shadow. Actually I didn't bring her home, my husband did. I didn't ride her for about a week after getting her.

The first time I rode my baby I was devastated that I dropped her. It was so much heavier than the scooter! My big issue seemed to be turning, I did manage to do a few U-Turns, but that's also when I dropped her, it was bringing back memories of failure. So what did I do? I didn't ride her much for the next 4 weeks. I was scared :(