For years, I dreamed of learning the skill of riding a motorcycle. Finally, at age 32, I learned of a state-sponsored Motor Cycle Safety Course and lived my dream. At the time I lived in Illinois, but most states offer such courses.
Riding a motorcycle can be dangerous, so I opted for the state-sponsored course, instead of learning on my own. Small motorcycles and helmets were provided. Protective clothing includes a long-sleeved jacket, pants, and ankle boots. No dresses here! An important concept we learned is to be aware of possible hazards around us — the dog that may jump out, the car pulling out of a parking lot, the chocolate shops.
The Parts of the Motorcycle
In the parking lot for the half-day course, we became familiar with the parts of the motorcycle. The clutch is operated by a lever on the left hand grip. The gas is controlled by twisting the right hand grip. The shifter is a lever by your left foot. You lift up to upshift and click down to downshift. A motorcycle has front and back brakes. You engage the front brake by squeezing a lever on the right hand grip and the back brake by pressing a pedal by your right foot.
Once we learned the parts, we straddled our bikes. In neutral, we practiced keeping our balance by scooting along with our feet. Once we were confident in our ability not to fall over, we started our engines. First, you toggle a switch on the handle bars from “stop” to “run.” Then you pull out the throttle on the side of the bike and turn the key! Once the engine warms up, you press in the throttle. Now you are ready to ride!
The Finer Points
Once we could ride in a straight line, we learned how to take curves. You do not turn your handle bars but lean in the direction that you want to turn. It can be unsettling at first, but it works. However, at intersections, after you stop, you turn your handlebars in the direction you want to go. To turn off the motorcycle, switch the toggle to “stop” and turn off the key.
I passed the skill part and took the written test at my convenience. No one ever told me I ride “like a girl!”