I’m an old dog. I know this to be true because when I called the first motorcycle school about lessons, he asked my age (41) and then told me that I was “getting to that age when teaching becomes difficult”…
And he was right. Learning to ride a bike is simply terrifying. I’m sure when you’re 16 with limited life experience and having not lived through the horror of road deaths and mutilations of your friends and family, it’s easy to hop on a two-wheeled death trap and whizz off into the distance. One of the most useful things I read (yes, I did some self-imposed pre-reading on the subject) was to ‘just remember that everyone is out to kill you‘, and sadly this is true. Not their fault – as a life-long motorist I too was oblivious to the hazards that face motorcyclists on a daily basis – and that includes the Department of Roads who – almost deliberately is my guess – tend to place death-traps right in the very path they then teach you to ride in when on a bike!
That path (if you’re interested) is the inside track of the car’s right wheel. Which is precisely where you’ll find all manhole covers, road seals and large painted white arrows. The very items which, especially when wet, are deadly due to their lack of traction (aka, smooth as a baby’s bum).
But I digress – my rant about consideration for motorcyclists will be a whole blog, or website on its own – I’m almost as bad as an ex-smoker on this topic!
Back to my lessons. You would have read in our first blog that the first time I rode a motorcycle was out on Peter’s farm. I called her Tiffany because of her colouring and my obsession with naming inanimate objects. I love her (the bike, not Tiffany’s). I decided I’d get my licence even if I never needed it.
Then we made the mad decision to sign up for the Mongol Rally, and to do it on bikes instead of cars. Crazy? Not as crazy as the next step in the equation – teaching this old dog to ride.
First step was to get my learner’s licence. Easy enough – download a book (which I diligently studied) from the website and sit the online test (which I aced). With my learner’s in hand, I was able to ride a bike on the road provided I was supervised – in steps Peter, a seasoned rider.
Next step is to find a bike for me to ride. Peter kindly dusted off his old postie, and together with his Honda Goldwing – we made a hilarious duo on the road.
The goal was to learn to ride confidently so that I could eventually pass the Q-Ride course (remember the ‘old dog, can’t learn new tricks’ guy above?). I think Peter was surprised at how difficult I found it. And I repeat: the experience was, and still is, terrifying. Seriously – you are asking me to defy gravity and purposely extend my body towards the hard ground as I turn corners, and then – steer the wrong way while doing so! All at the same time as constantly ‘scanning’ the road for hazards (those who are out to kill me) in the form of motorists, animals, people and road hazards. In Queensland I also had the added hazard of the fierce sun to contend with.
Peter’s back yard provided an easy (soft) training ground where I could ride at a safe 5km per hour without the hazardous traffic beeping me along. But out on the open road it’s a different story I tell you. My ‘death grip’ (aka abject fear) on the throttle means that after about five minutes I have no feeling at all left in my right hand, and I’m developing ‘gear’ muscles in my left leg I never knew I had!
Peter has, I think, lost more hair in the last month than his cumulative 55 years, and what is left is looking somewhat on the silver side… More than once he’s revealed to me that while riding behind me he’s held his breath and thought “What am I going to tell her mother!” [when I die].
Regardless of the teething problems, I faced my fears and passed my Q-Ride! I ended up going to a different testing centre (because it was more convenient to Peter’s work for ‘supervision’ purposes, nothing to do with the ‘old dog’ comment, I swear), and the lovely Shane took me through my paces and gave me the green light.
The more I ride, the more my confidence grows, the less wobbly I become and the quicker I am around those death-defying corners. I even lean in a little now. No doubt a special thanks must go out to Peter for sacrificing hairline and sanity to get me to this point.
Watch out fellow Mongol Ralliers! The Whizzers Of Oz are on their way!
Next step – a test run! And when in Australia, why not choose Tasmania as your stomping ground?