This spring, I was attracted to a beautiful touring bike. I always enjoy slowly strolling down the rows of bikes at a dealership watching the chrome sparkle from lights and reflect colors from people’s clothing as they walk by. It didn’t take much encouragement for me to test ride that beautiful, shiny bike. Several weeks later, I made it my own and the smile couldn’t be taken off my face as I rode it home.
Since then, I have stopped counting the number of times men and women have made comments to me like “That’s a big bike for a lady.”, “Do you ride that by yourself?” and “How many times have you dropped it?” For the record, it fits me fine, I do ride it all by myself and it has not been dropped once. For those whose find it encouraging, I let them know that I’ve been riding bikes a long time, I spent thousands of miles riding a smaller bike and I’ve learned to pay attention to the little things.
I’ve learned a lot of these “little things” from my sweetie, some from coaching for Harley-Davidson Riding Academy and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, others from miles of riding and picked-up a few more from reading and research. As riders, the more miles we put on our bikes, we often take the little things for granted. As an experienced rider getting on a bigger bike, I knew I had to be even more attentive to little things. Here’s an example: Just last weekend I found myself in Birmingham, Alabama at the Barber Vintage Festival. As we pulled in, the parking area was packed and I was looking for a space to park two bikes that I would be comfortable getting out of all by myself. (Yes, I’m an independent kinda lady.) I knew if I pulled into the empty space, at the down-slope angle I would be parking, I would not be able to back out by myself. Instead of parking the easy way and depending on my husband’s help to get me out of the spot, I asked him to park and then we discussed how to use the angle of the parking lot for me to back in myself and give me an easy exit when we got ready to leave. While this took a little more time, it was a valuable learning experience for me. The next day, I watched a man on his touring bike need help from a friend to push him into his parking spot. Yes, I did grin a little bit.
What are some of the “little things”?
* Planning ahead when parking and using the “lay of the land” to help you.
* If you do need to ask for help, always let the person helping know what you want them to do. Don’t assume they will know how to help you.
* Pulling up to a stop sign or red light? Glance at the area where you will put your feet down when you come to a stop. A pot hole, loose gravel, oil or other fluids can cause a foot to slip or one side to be lower.
* Did you pack for a trip? Extra weight can alter your stopping distance.
* Practice stopping, starting and parking. Things like a heavier bike or ABS make a difference in how your bike reacts and feels.
* Do you have new gadgets? Sit on your bike and try to form “muscle memory” for using them without looking at them. Don’t let the new radio or GPS be a distraction to you.
* Practice low-speed maneuvers in tight spaces, like turns from a stop and u-turn. When the time comes for a u-turn, your skills will be sharp.
* If you have a passenger, ask them to wait for your signal prior to getting on the motorcycle. And, have another signal for getting off. That way you are always prepared.
Every time I get on my new bike, I’m constantly thinking about little things. Each mile makes me more confident and my experience with it increases. Yes, I’m still smiling and loving it. One of the best things is being an encouragement to women riders that are just beginning. When you’re riding, try not to take the little things for granted. Remember that safe riding starts with you!