Best and Worst of 2017

I wasn’t going to do this, but Fuzzy Galore said on her blog that I should and I am a sucker for data and milestones.  So let’s dive in!

2017 was a weird year.  I would say that it was easily one of the worst I’ve had to slog through.  There were some pretty serious medical issues that went on within the family and that was certainly something to endure.  And living in Hawaii and dealing with them dusting off the legitimate nuclear alarm sirens wasn’t the most calming thing in the world.  Hurricanes happened.  Nazis happened.  Who would have thought that Nazis happening was going to be a thing?

Anyway, focusing beyond the world’s happenings, things weren’t so great in the family either.  This was a genuinely rough year, filled with all sorts of depression, anxiety, and uncertainty.

On the other hand, 2017 was pretty great because it was my first year on two wheels!  I bought my Honda Ruckus, crashed it less than a minute after gingerly pulling the throttle and learned you have to lean AND turn the bars.

I had all sorts of thoughts run through my head as I pulled myself and my scooter up.  I was filled with doubt and shame because everyone – literally everyone I work with that has ever operated a motorbike of any sort – said that scooters are super easy and, if you can’t ride that, you shouldn’t ride anything.

And here I was, brushing my elbow and leg off and trying to get away before a neighbor called the cops.

It was beyond interesting to basically learn how to drive again as a 33-year-old.  I had the same instincts I did as a kid learning to drive a car (mainly “we probably shouldn’t do this.  I mean, how hard is it to walk everywhere?  Walking’s healthier anyway!”), but I was old and experienced enough to realize this was just instinct and, over time, I would get better.  It was just a matter of fighting through it.

My riding this year was particularly interesting for me to turn over in my head a bit as my motivations changed a lot.  I bought a scooter because it was cheap and I needed a commuter vehicle to get to and from work.  I was ONLY going to ride to and from work (two miles one way, give or take).  I was going to make modifications, but wasn’t going to get into the guts at all – strictly bolt-on stuff.

But then I got my Ruckus and the bolt-on stuff was so much fun I had to progress and eventually found myself taking apart the carburetor (it’s easy, though – definitely nothing to be scared of).  I found myself wanting to ride on weekends to practice and this turned into riding to lunch or someplace that WASN’T work.  I took the Basic RiderCourse (a requirement for operating a scooter in my line of work) and realized that it would probably be smart to learn how to operate a clutch and gears, which meant I should start looking at real motorcycles.

I was so smitten with the idea of riding, that I convinced one of my best friends to get a bike and he ended up with a Grom.  A Grom that is stored in my garage as his condo doesn’t have motorcycle parking (but makeS up for this with plenty of motorcycle thefts, though).  I’ve been looking at it for almost a year now and, when he outgrew it, I was there to tell him I’d make him whole again cost-wise if he sold it to me.

So right now it’s like I’ve got a Grom on lay-away.  That’s pretty exciting.

I tackled the Ruckus stretch which, while there were plenty of pictures to guide me through the process, took a LOT longer than I expected and was a huge hassle.  I definitely made some mistakes and plan on getting a new rear frame shipped out next year to help make me feel better about the job.  I won’t lie: I’m excited and not excited about this.  I’m definitely excited to do a  better job on the mods, but not excited at all about either the process or the fact that my friend and helper will have moved away by then.  Not cool.

Ultimately, though, the coolest thing to happen this year was just falling in love with riding.  I’ve always wanted to ride motorcycles and after the initial nerves started to wear away, I started to feel like this was something I should be doing.  You know?  Like in the movies where someone has a talent they didn’t know about?  But, instead of a talent, it’s more like an affinity.  Until I started riding, I had no idea how much I would love it, but once I got into it, I found out I’ve never loved anything as much beyond the standard wife and kids.  I had gone 33 years THINKING I loved various activities, but I found out the truth this year.

The second-coolest thing is becoming a proselytizer for motorcycling.  When I finished BRC, I started going around at work talking to people.  “Do you know how to ride?  Do you WANT to know how to ride?”  The ones that did go would ride to work and we would ride together for lunch or I would ride behind them as they went out on longer rides in unfamiliar territories.  A lot of them were also under the mistaken impression that they were just getting a commuter vehicle before the love of riding set in and they started to branch out.

I’ve gotten three coworkers to go to the course, two of which bought bikes immediately after and seeing them smiling as they take off their helmets and knowing it’s because I wouldn’t stop pestering them about just how flippin’ GREAT riding is is (unsurprisingly) very satisfactory for my own ego.

As far as the world goes, I don’t have very high hopes for 2018.  I see a lot of 2017 happening all over again with more deaths, more scares, and more crap.  But there are some glimmer of hopes if only small and incredibly personal.  I’ll get my Grom.  I’ll explore the island of Oahu on it (and write about the trips here), and hopefully get more people to at least go to the BRC if only to become more aware of what motorcyclists have to do to ride and maybe drive their cars a little smarter.

-Russ

 

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Honda Ruckus For Sale

I’ve decided to sell my Ruckus.

It’s not that I don’t like it.  I really do.  I loved learning all sorts of new things and building my confidence while transforming the looks of the bike.  It’s a genuinely cool scooter that turns all sorts of heads and is fun to ride around.

But there are issues.

Well, there is issue (singular): Hawaii.

Hawaii is moist and salty and I live pretty close to the water, which means everything corrodes.  Everything.  Even stuff that shouldn’t corrode is doing so.  We have these metal ghosts that are painted.  You put them in the ground and leave them there for Halloween and during the month that they were outside, they rusted completely.

My bike is no different.  Some of it is rusting VERY quickly and that’s a real bummer.  I’m going to have to order a new intake bracket from MNNTHBX to prime and paint to replace that one that is currently being eaten through by the elements.

I also plan on getting a new rear frame and headlight bracket not only because they’re rusting where I ground off the turn signal mounts and the rear light mount (and foolishly didn’t prime and paint), but because it will give me the opportunity to try the mods again and make them prettier.  I’ll admit I was excited and, as such, in a rush to see a finished product and the result was that I didn’t take my time and do it right.

But I will.

But if I’m being completely honest with myself (and you, I suppose), I just don’t want to deal with Hawaii’s ridiculous safety inspections.  They don’t like exhausts that can get loud unless they’re OEM on bikes like Harley Davidsons (surely this has NOTHING to do with the fact that the Harley shop has so much pull motorcycle-wise on the island). They don’t like LED lights.  They don’t like integrated lights.

Sure, you can find shops that will pass you on a safety inspection, but they’re all different with different requirements, winks, nods, etc.  It’s just not easy enough and a bit too cloak-and-dagger for me.  My original goal was to stretch it out and turn it into a bike inspired by the 1959 Cadillac hearse from Ghostbusters.  I’m part of the Ghostbusters Hawaii Division and we do some events where kids come out and I thought it would be cool for them to see something like this that was easy to sit on and get their picture taken.  I was going to make it red and white and it was going to get attention.  And when it DID get that attention, I wanted it to be on the up-and-up.  When the cops would pull me over (and I’m positive I would get pulled over), I wanted the bike to be legitimate so there wasn’t even a chance of anything beyond a friendly conversation about the mods and the goal of making people a bit happier.

But with such a huge pain, I’d rather just sell it to someone that thinks it’s fun to do these things and I’ll move on to something a little less cool-looking and a lot more legal: making a Grom Ghostbusters-themed.

Where the Ruckus was going to be a complete transformation, I plan on just painting the plastics on a Grom and calling it good.  Maybe finding a fender eliminator that’s legal here.  And bar-end mirrors.

But that’s it.

I plan on taking the Grom just about everywhere and I don’t want to deal with the legalities and specificities of areas as I ride through, nor do I want to be concerned about the prospect of bringing it in for an inspection.  I have enough to worry about.

I still feel like I’m giving up on something that I don’t really want to give up on, though.  The Ruckus is really cool and I have nothing but love for it.  I think used Rucks should be in every high school that is still fortunate enough to have vocational classes.  They take up less space than cars and more kids can get their hands on them while dealing with simpler, less intimidating parts.  Similarly, I think they’re fantastic projects for parents and kids to tackle together.

And they are fun to ride.

Still.  I think the headache of Hawaii outweighs the joy of working on the bike, so I’ll call it quits.  Maybe in the future, if I’m in a state that is less rusting and more understanding with safety stuff, I’ll work on a Ruckus with my kids.

But until then, anyone want to buy a Ruckus?

In Defense of a Honda Ruckus

Motorcycle.com recently published an article about scooters and how motorcyclists are basically too quick to dismiss them.  While the article’s points of scooters being more powerful than the common 49cc, more fun to drive than one might expect, and a way to keep riding after suffering some injuries, the comment section was ablaze with derogatory comments about scooters.

The most interesting one, though, was from a guy who suggested that it’s wise to look into maintenance costs of a scooter since they’re sometimes expensive to keep running and scooter people aren’t likely to work on their own stuff.

I took issue with this generalization.  Perhaps I’m in the minority because I see an awful lot of people riding around on stock scooters, dirty and beat to hell, so perhaps he’s onto something.  Maybe the price of typical low-power scooters is low enough for the rider to value it less than, say, a $10,000 bike.  Maybe it’s looked at as a toy or just something to use and abuse before throwing away.

But mine isn’t.

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Here’s a stock “before” pic and what it currently looks like(ish).  I still have a long way to go to get it where I want.

Actually, mine is something else entirely.  For one thing, it was expensive for a scooter.  But for another thing, I learned all sorts of mechanical stuff on my Ruckus.

I’ve always wanted to get into mechanical things, but was daunted by the traditional way of cars.  Cars are physically imposing, parts are heavy and numerous, and it just seems intimidating.

But a Ruckus is none of those things.  There are few parts, the bike itself is small, it’s only a little heavy, and it’s pretty affordable to work on it with tangible results.

I dove right in.  Within the first week I had parts ordered and began working on it.  It was little things at first: Lowering the seat, adding forward pegs, bar-end mirrors, etc.  With every small project, my confidence grew.  I became more of an active member on Ruckus Facebook pages (particularly my local one) and TotalRuckus.com where folks are beyond helpful and were nothing but patient with me and my questions that I’m sure they’ve seen a billion times.

After a while, I felt like I was ready for the first serious modification: new handlebars.  If you do any research into the project, you’ll see it’s got quite a footprint on the web for being a bit of a pain.

When that was all done, I tackled the stretch which turned into a pretty serious project (and why wouldn’t it? There’s a crazy amount of changes being made with second and third-order effects).  Along the way, the carburetor needed to be re-jet and that was my introduction to the inner workings of the bike – the guts of it all beyond stuff I can bolt onto the bike.

It was scary to get into, but I learned so much – mostly from screwing up.  But with the support system of Ruckus aficionados, I was able to get through it and now I’m less intimidated by the prospect of not only re-jetting, but getting into just about anything.  I feel like I can do just about anything if I read the instructions and have an expert or two to help with any questions I have.

So maybe typical scooters can’t go very fast (mine tops out at 42 on a good day), and perhaps some scooter riders are abusing them until they die, but there are others like me who are learning on them and that’s pretty cool.

Additionally, a friend of mine recently came home from a lengthy trip and his 11-year-old son has been going on and on about getting a dirt bike.  The father isn’t against this by any means but he mentioned my Ruckus to the son and they fell down a YouTube hole of modified Rucks and came out the other side with a bunch of questions.

It sounded to me like the father was looking for a project to do with his son and, honestly, I couldn’t imagine a better one.  The Ruckus can be changed so drastically looks-wise for relatively little money and the mechanical stuff isn’t the hardest in the world.  It could be a pretty valuable learning process for both father and son and at the end of it, the Ruckus would be something fun to bomb around on.

As a kid, I would have loved to do something like this.

More Riders, Please!

I’ll be the first to admit that I am new to motorcycling and everything I say should be taken with a grain of salt. That being said, perhaps my outlook might be valuable as an outsider.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom when it comes to motorcycling in the US. There are falling sales and fewer riders. I’ve read multiple articles and posts about how to turn this around in the US and a lot of that work has been handed to organizations outside of our direct area of control. So what can we do as motorcyclists? How can we get people riding again?

Well, I think a good starting point is doing what made me want to get into riding.

I don’t mean that to sound self-absorbed, but consider this: I grew up seeing my dad ride his Harley occasionally. I have fond memories of riding on the back of it as a kid. In my teens – the formative years where things start to set – I was obsessed with the popular motorcycle shows on Discovery not for the drama, but for the awesome motorcycles.

And I still didn’t get into motorcycles until I was thirty-three! I had all the makings of an avid fan, from being brought up in a motorcycle-friendly home to loving whatever motorcycles I saw.

So where was the turning point and how can we replicate it with other riders?

A) Ride to work. All the time.

My dad rode his Harley if two things were occurring: 1) it was the weekend and 2) the weather was nice. When you grow up seeing that, you begin to wonder just how practical a vehicle is if you can’t ride it in the rain or cold.

But one day during a winter in San Antonio (cold but not snowy) a coworker came up the stairs in his winter riding suit. I remarked something like “you must be nuts,” and he patiently responded that if you have the proper gear and ride safely, you can ride whenever you want.

Suddenly motorcycles started to seem like a viable option.

I saw him ride to work almost every single day and it made an impression on me. I don’t think I’m the only one that would work on, either. If someone sees you ride to work almost every day, they can take their time finding out who you are, building a relationship, and asking about why you ride when it’s cold or wet outside and you can tell them all about how great riding is.

B) Be friendly.

Honda might have said you meet the nicest people on their bikes, but the rest of the media has a fascination with portraying bikers as very unsavory folks.

To combat this, just be as friendly and patient as you can. Everyone has questions and when you’re patient and friendly, people are more likely to ask the questions that will ease their mind about riding.

While you’re at it, feel free to lay out the logistical path to safe motorcycling. You can tell the prospective rider that they can, for a small fee and the cost of a helmet and some gloves, take the Basic RiderCourse to see if they like riding before even looking for a motorcycle of their own. You can be the voice of reason and caution when it comes to what kind of motorcycle to cut their teeth on. And you can definitely be the voice of safety when it comes to gear.

As a guy who loves checklists and milestones, having someone lay out the whole process from training to riding meant the world to me.

C) Follow Up

I’m not saying that you have to be best friends with new riders, but I can guarantee that a new rider would appreciate it if you rode around with them a time or two in order to get more comfortable with their bike and their skills. Go out to lunch or a ride along an easy route. Talk to them about what you notice and offer constructive criticism to get better. Be encouraging.

This will all help get a rider on a bike, safely riding, and establishing a love of the hobby and they can pay it forward with the next rider because you set such a good example.

Early Morning Ride Challenges

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Sunday is usually a rough day for me since it always starts the same: I wake up way too early.

I think this is from years of conditioning, knowing that I need to be able to sleep Sunday night if I want any hope at all of being a functioning human on Monday. There were many weeks in high school and college that I learned this lesson the hard way, so I started to wake up earlier on Sundays to help guarantee earlier bed times that night.

But sometimes I wake up way too early.

That was the case this Sunday, when I opened my eyes for the day around 4:30am.

After scrolling through Instagram and Facebook, not really liking it but just killing time, I started to think about motorcycle challenges. I just downloaded Rever, a motorcycle app that tracks your rides and stats like average and max speed, distance, time, etc. There are challenges that pop up and I am probably never going to place in the top 10 while living on Oahu since they’re all location or milage-based.

Or, I should say, the only way I would ever place is if they made a challenge about hitting landmarks on Oahu. Then I might have a shot.

Anyway, some of my favorite bloggers are the ones that have done long distances on bikes that were definitely not meant for going long distances. They did it slowly, chipping away at the goal until it was accomplished and I’ve always liked this.  That’s how I approach these riding challenges.

It made me wonder what my longest ride had been and whether I could break that record before I had to be home to take my daughter to ninja class.

So I got up, drank coffee, and watched the sky slowly light up. I need the daylight since it’s less likely I’ll be pulled over for not having a license plate light in the daytime (I’ll get to it, I swear).

Once it was bright enough, I took off. I wasn’t looking to just get miles, but more to see how long I could hang out on the Ruckus and not get a sore back.  For funsies and science! 

I took usual routes and then branched off when I noticed a road that I had never been down. I explored and saw some stuff that I had never seen. I took my time going down these roads, excited to get home and mark up a map that I’ve been using to track all the places I’ve been on the Ruckus.

I found some rough roads I don’t plan on going again, some sketch roads that I thought I might not technically be allowed on, and some cool places for pictures. Overall, I had a great time just driving around, but eventually I had to go home.

When I pulled into the garage I had logged 2:07:24 and 39.4 miles. That’s a long time for a short distance, but I still had fun. I checked Rever and saw that I had moved up in my challenges, but it wasn’t as drastic as I had hoped. Currently I’m 145th in the odometer challenge of September, but the top 10 have insane numbers.

It was still worth it, though. I didn’t hurt at all, found out I could ride over two hours and be fine, I felt that kind of amazing that you feel after a good ride, and I enjoyed increasing my own stats.

While I’ll probably never place in a Rever challenge, I do enjoy taking part in them. I love riding, but the challenges create even more pull to get outside and see stuff, even if it’s just pushing your own limits.

So I thought maybe I’ll make my own challenges based on my own riding. If my current longest ride is about 2:08, can I ride 2:38 and, if so, will I be in any pain afterward? What about 3:08?  4:08?  If I rode 39.4 miles in 2:08, how many miles could I ride in the same time if I focused just on getting as many miles as possible while doing the speed limit in a small space?  Certainly more than this ride since I went down slow roads to see new stuff, stopping to take in the view at times, but how much more?

These are the questions that have me excited for the work week to be over so I can have fun breaking my own records and adding to my own challenges.

I’m stoked for the next long ride!

-Russ

The Walk of Shame

I’ve been tearing my Ruckus apart and putting it back together now for months, stretching it out, inadvertently lowering it, having to deal with the issues that popped up, and troubleshooting the new ways it was behaving based on modifications I finished.  You can’t do something without it effecting something else down the line and it is an exercise in patience to work your way down that line, slowly making sure that everything is good.

It’s especially frustrating when the bike goes from not running well at all to running okay.  I’ll admit that I’m quick to latch on and say “finally!” and try my hardest to ignore the knocks, pulls, and random noises until it just gets too irritating to bear any more and then it gets wheeled back in the garage for an unknown amount of time while I scour the internet and ask for help from local gurus who are familiar with the Ruckus.

The biggest issue that has come up with the Ruckus involved more airflow and the mixture with gas in the carburetor.  I had to increase the size of the jets, but re-jetting was a scary proposition.  I did it, though, and learned that it wasn’t the bear I imagined (I think this is a solid life lesson here), and have re-jet multiple times since.

Because that’s the thing with re-jetting.  It’s a process.  It involved putting in a new jet, going for a ride, taking notes (or using a tach if you have one), returning home, and doing it all over again to either go up or down a size.  It’s important to realize that, even if it’s running well, it might be able to run a bit better with a different jet.  And then you realize you went too big and bring it home to pull it all apart and put in the smaller jet again.

Like I said, an exercise in patience.

I won’t bore you with the process of re-jetting the carb on a Honda Ruckus (this is going to eventually be a site about travel and the Grom, after all.  Once I get my Grom!), but know that it involves a screw that you open to empty a small fuel reservoir.  When you’re done emptying it, you close the screw and carry on.  When you put everything back together and turn the bike on, the reservoir is filled with fuel.  This won’t be on the test, but it will come into play later.

I had been experiencing some pulsating that I chalked up to not quite enough fuel in the mixture and decided to bump up a jet size.  The worst-case scenario had me going back down.  Not a big deal.  I changed the oil and re-jet the carb, leaving the bike in the garage overnight.

The next day comes and I am supposed to go on my first group ride.  I was very excited, but knew that due diligence needed to be performed and the bike needed a test run.  I tried to start it and it would catch and then die.  Catch and then die.  Catch and then die.  Eventually it caught and, with some throttle goosing, got going.  The fuel light immediately came on, but I average 119mpg and the light comes on with .3 gallons left so I had plenty of miles to go before I actually needed gas and this was going to be a short test drive.

I drove out to the other side of the base.  It was a quiet morning since it was Sunday, and the streets were practically empty.  It was great.  When I reached the other side of the base, I did a U-turn and started back.  I would hit up a gas station and then go off to the group ride.  It was going to be a blast.

But then the bike started to cough and die.

Out of gas.

I was literally feet away from the furthest point from any gas station on base.

I pulled off to the shoulder and took off my backpack to start stowing my gear.  I took my helmet off, stowed my gloves, put on my sunglasses (helmet has a sun visor), and took off my long-sleeve shirt.  When I got off the bike, I noticed that the kickstand ate through the mixture of sand, dirt, and silt.  Even if I could get the bike balanced on it, it wouldn’t be long before it tipped.

But then I remembered!  They talked about this at the Basic RiderCourse, specifically about kickstands eating through hot asphalt and getting stuck or the bike tipping over.  You can buy these special plates/discs to go under your kickstand, but they’re expensive (about $20), perhaps not really needed (in that situation), and easily stolen.  My instructor said he was riding with a friend on a hot day and they pulled into a parking lot and his friend grabbed one from under someone else’s bike and put it under his kickstand instead.

The basics of it didn’t require a ton of investment, though.  You’re just talking about a greater dispersal of weight.  So I just tucked a Smucker’s jelly jar lid in my backpack (after washing it, of course).  It did the trick.

Side note: the lid worked like a champ but my kickstand poked a hole through it by the time I returned, so it might be a one-time use kind of thing, but it’s still cheap and comes with free jelly!

I also had sunblock in my bag (which was definitely needed) and a battery charger and cable in case my phone died.

The reason I mention these things is because they genuinely made me feel better about the situation.  I had gone from feeling miserable about my impending doom of a walk to get gas to feeling more or less okay because I won’t get sunburned, I have sunglasses, the bike will be fine while I’m gone, and I don’t even need to worry about my phone.

I started walking and after a couple of miles, my wife got back to my text and came to meet me.  I filled up .498 gallons and she took me back out to the bike.  I emptied the whole can into the gas tank and took off to the gas station to top it off and proceeded to put in .964 gallons.  It’s a 1.3 gallon tank.

I got home and the whole bike stunk of gas, but I figured that might be the bigger jet.  I later went out to get some flour and when I got home figured something was definitely wrong and noticed the small puddle of gas under the bike.  I cleaned up what I could and turned it back on, staring at the fuel line.

The fuel line was good.

The top of the carb case started to get flooded with gas, though.

And that was when it hit me.  The reservoir screw.

I tightened the screw and went for a ride.  Everything was better.  The bike started right, it felt good, acceleration (what little there is for a 49cc Ruckus) was there, and the smell was gone.  When I parked for a bit, a guy jumped out of his car and asked to take a picture of the bike.

Everything was good.

But what an embarrassment.  Add to that the fact that it killed my mileage stats dropping the mpg from 119 to 97.2.  I lost .5 gallons going seven miles.

Not cool.

So it was a day of lessons learned.  I’ll probably never make the carb screw mistake again.  I realized the importance of having some small things in your bag to make your life a little better.  I learned that Smucker’s jelly lids are pretty handy to have in your bag (the lid I used was from marmalade and I can’t help but wonder if the lid from their far-superior grape jelly would hold up better).

And I learned you can’t make it to a group ride if you’re doing the walk of shame for gas.

Maybe next time.

Riding Mentors

The sun had recently risen and we were on the road.  It was my first time riding with anyone since I began using this mode of transportation and, as such, I wanted to stay behind my friend (who is far more experienced than I am) as much as possible.  We were riding under the canopy of Hawaiian trees that are trimmed to cover the roads and provide some shade.  I was the picture of attention, with my eyes darting from speedometer, to the road way ahead of me, to a brief glance at the more immediate road hazards, and then to my mirrors, and back to doing it all over again.

I watched as my friend, riding a Triumph Speed Triple R, adjusted himself into more of an upright position and took his hand off the left bar to relax a bit.  We passed plastic road pillars that emerged to introduce a new lane going in our direction and keep us separated – at least for a little while – and I saw my friend’s left hand reach out and come within an inch of touching one.

He wasn’t trying to hit it – he was just enjoying the ride.  He wasn’t in a hurry and he was very relaxed about the whole event.  He was alert and taking in everything, but he was also experienced and calm.

I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck.  I was worried about the times when I was in the lead when I knew the way to our destinations better because I didn’t want to lose my bud or look like a total idiot somehow.  I was worried about the times when I was behind because I wanted to maintain a good enough distance that any mistakes I could possibly make wouldn’t transfer to emergency actions on his part, but I still wanted to ride with my friend and not be a football field away from him.

My grasp on the handlebars was tight and exhausting and I’m sure it would have been fun if it weren’t so nerve-wracking.

We pulled off for breakfast and knew we were going to separate so I could watch my kids at gymnastics.  Sitting there eating, the fun began to soak in.  It felt like leveling up.  I began to calm down and realize that we had made it to our destination.  We had ridden around and no-one was injured.  I did it.  And, if I could do it once, I could do it again but maybe the next time I could do it with less of a death-grip on my bars.

That was months ago and I’ve ridden with him since.  We’ve gone out and pushed my skills as a rider a bit more each time – never being dangerous, but just trying to get better. It wasn’t a prescribed academic course with sections dedicated to shoulder-checking or doing U-turns – it was just riding and the lessons came naturally.  He would go close to my speed, but stay ahead of me and I had to safely keep up, safely changing lanes and occasionally leading to a different spot.  It was never hard, but it was always a slightly larger challenge than the last time.  I don’t even think he was aware that he was teaching me.

But since that first ride, I realized that we need more mentors in our riding lives. Someone who knows way more than you and is willing to share their knowledge in a non-judgmental way.  The kind of person who will make time for a new rider to answer all their dumb questions and maybe take them out to a parking lot to help nail down the stuff they learned at their safety class.

Also, the type of person that will insist you take a safety class.

They should be the kind of person that will ride with you at your speed and where you’re comfortable and slowly push you to a better level of riding – not the idiot who pushes you to do stupid things.

Most importantly, though, they should be someone you want to emulate.  I wanted to emulate my friend, who exuded confidence and alertness.  I wanted to develop my own skills to be that calm in my riding and knew the only way to do that was to get out there and ride better – not just ride more – with a focus on developing my skills and learning from my mistakes regardless of how big or small they are.

Maybe one day I can be a mentor for someone else but I know I never want to stop learning how to ride better.

The end goal of all of this is to ride with your friends, but to make everyone around you safe and strong enough in their riding that they won’t get hurt and you could ride with them for even longer.  When we push an atmosphere of education and safety, we’ll build the motorcycling ranks and have more riders out there and there is nothing wrong with that!