You have asked and I shall answer, to the best of my ability.
This one goes out to all the men out there who are lucky enough to have a lady in their lives who is either riding her own motorcycle, is learning to ride her own, or is thinking about learning to ride. Maybe she’s your wife, your girlfriend, a family member, or just a woman who is in your social circle and for some reason or another has “adopted” you to be her mentor for her two-wheeled adventures.
These are the “rules of engagement” as I have come to understand them in my journey as a biker chick to become the best skilled rider I can possibly be. Look at these “rules” as a general guideline, as an inside peek at how us girls roll.
- More likely, a woman will ask for advice when she wants it and ask it of whom she trusts. Do not offer uninvited advice, unless you see her doing something repeatedly that could endanger her and others. In this case, be tactful, respectful and don’t get personal. And please don’t dress her down in front of the entire crowd. Think of how you would want this to be handled. This is not the time to trash talk, poke fun or be condescending. The message will only be heard if it is delivered appropriately. Any other time, keep it to yourself. Men are protectors, they want to fix things that they deem to be broken in some form or another. You’re wired that way, but please rise above your biology and resist the urge to “fix it” or “save her from herself”. Uninvited critique on technique or style will come across as patronizing, sexist, sometimes belittling, and even disrespectful. Again, a girl will ask if she wants to know.
- When you overhear a woman, usually in quite an animated fashion, critiquing her own screw-ups, please don’t take this to be an open invitation for a riding lesson. We’re not exasperated or unsure of ourselves. It isn’t a sign of being helpless. When a girl goes on about how she totally blew a corner, or how she was a complete idiot for doing this, or not doing something else, she is processing. She knew she’s messed up; and that should be the key to understanding that she isn’t asking for help or trying to elicit your advice on the sly, but rather is engaging in an “after-action review”, to relive an event so she can do better next time. She is aware of her boundaries and where her skill development needs further attention. She’s got it under control and is handling her affairs.
Biker Babes in Training
If the woman is a beginning rider or is thinking about learning to ride a motorcycle, here is a list of things to keep in mind to understand how our learning experiences differ from that of the men, and how best to deal with gender-specific issues that may not even cross your mind as it is a non-issue for most guys.
- If she has asked you to teach her how to ride and you have agreed, you should sit down first and talk about the expectations you have of each other. Make your own ground rules to ensure a pleasant and fun experience, for both student and teacher.
- Implore her to take a basic riding course either before or after you begin teaching her. I cannot overemphasize the importance of formal practical training. She can learn the fundamentals of motorcycle operation in a safe and controlled environment with a relaxed and non-threatening atmosphere. A foundation which I personally found to be of huge benefit to my further education and skill training. Two of the most common courses are the Basic RiderCourse offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and the Rider’s Edge Course offered by a lot of Harley Davidson dealers. Taking a riding course will also help those women who are unsure, to figure out if riding a motorcycle is something they would enjoy, before they take the plunge and buy a motorcycle, which is a sort-of big deal for a lot of us financially.
- If at all possible, hook her up with an experienced female rider who rides the same type of motorcycle that she does. Women riders understand the obstacles a girl faces when first starting out and are for the most part very supportive of each other and a lot of women will feel more comfortable asking certain questions of another female rider.
- Be patient and let her take each lesson at her own pace. A woman’s learning curve differs from that of a man’s. Generally speaking, a woman will learn at a slower pace, but will peak their skill set above that of the average man. I’m not saying this to be sexist, it has to do with how most of us girls approach new experiences and how we work through problems and our anxieties. We place more emphasis on education and prevention to keep us out of potential trouble. Men are more apt to wing it and learn as they go. “One down, five up? Ok, see ya.” That’s how my husband learned to ride; that was the question-statement he posed to the dude he bought his first bike from, gave him the cash and rode off into the sunset.
- Do not pressure her about her speed. If you constantly nag her about “being slow” you may inadvertently destroy the confidence she is building in herself and her bike’s capabilities and turn it into frustration. In other words, don’t push her too far too fast. Girls don’t have the need to keep up with their buddies for worry of embarrassing themselves or being called slow; for the most part. Her speed will pick up on its own as her skills mature and her confidence increases.
- Don’t try and talk her into something or out of something. Ride your own ride, let her do the same.
- Let her buy her own ride. Period. She is the one who has to ride it, not you. Give her pointers, if she asks for your opinion, but give them objectively and without putting a spin on things. Also implore her to do her own research. The more she knows about motorcycle basics, the better the position she’ll be in to make an informed decision.
- Don’t let her wimp out. This is a toughie, though. When we have a bad experience and we aren’t reliant on our motorcycle for daily transportation, we have the option to take the Chicken Exit rather than working through it and conquering our fear. This can manifest itself in several ways, and not necessarily where you would think. That is what makes this one so difficult to pinpoint, even to ourselves. Be supportive, listen, and gently encourage her to keep on trying. How do you do this? That is something I cannot answer. It’s probably easier for another female rider to accomplish, because girls are more apt to say “if she can do it, so can I” when she can’t find the motivation on her own. Left to her own devices, a woman usually will either work through her discomfort and keep pushing herself in an effort to overcome the obstacle in her path or she will eventually quit. It all depends on how much importance she places on conquering the perceived setback. Not all women will become avid motorcyclists, some will find that it’s not for them after all and some will turn it into a lifestyle and sell their cars. Some will be content with riding pillion and others won’t stop until they have their racing license and have proven to themselves that they can do it. Again, whatever she decides, it is not a failure on her part or yours as her mentor.
- Realize that women riders face a slightly different set of difficulties when learning to ride a motorcycle. Things most men find a non-issue and have never really given it much thought. Things such as: seat height, rider position, weight of the motorcycle, upper body strength, physical endurance, inseam, body shape, etc. These all have an impact to one degree or another of how we approach riding and the kind of bikes we find “agreeable” to us when we first start out. Even finding properly fitting motorcycle gear can be a real chore for girls.
- And last, but not least, don’t ever append “…for a girl” at the end of a statement; unless you want to carry your balls home in a jar.
Here’s an article I came across while researching my current affliction courtesy of forgoing two weeks of training plan in favor of laying around the house depressed and then picking up where I left off, just to up the ante by a few more miles. Yes, I’m a dumbass.
When I first started my marathon training my left knee eventually decided to tell me to knock off the silliness and get back on the couch. After all, my body parts are accustomed to the luxuries the sedentary lifestyle of a geek has to offer, only momentarily interrupted by the physical exertion required to throw a motorcycle around a few curves. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you want to look at this) I was endowed with a pretty fast metabolism and the genetic predisposition of being muscular, which allowed me to indulge in junk food and hours-long sessions in front of the computer without too much damage to the physique. But at 24% body fat, I wasn’t what you would consider healthy or in shape, even if I only weighed 115 pounds and wore a Size 2.
I solved the emerging knee problem by online research and then doing what was suggested as the first steps: making sure I was using the right footwear and paying attention to my stride and keeping things aligned properly. The first made the second so much easier. I’m not sure if my stride is what they would call efficient, but it seems easier on the legs, so it must be better than it used to be.
Since googling and self-diagnosis worked the first time I encountered a problem during my training, I am not shy about using the same strategy again. Is it medically advised? Probably not. Is it smart? The stupidity of the whole endeavor depends largely on how the research was preformed and on the accuracy of the self-diagnosis. But since I don’t really have a choice in the matter, it will have to do.
As with my motorcycle racing skill training, I have to learn most of it on my own and occasionally I might even get to spend some money on professional skill training to make sure I’m on the right track. I’d rather spend money on a racing school then pay for a personal trainer or a running coach and a sports doctor. Thank you, but if I had that kind of money, I’d rather see a world champion racer about a slide around a corner than a dude clad from head to toe in UnderArmour with a clipboard and a stopwatch about some pace-enhancing speed work. Since I have money for neither, at this particular point in my life, the option isn’t available anyway.
Now that I am trying to enhance my body’s performance and not just look the part, I realize that there is more to it than just going out there and doing it. Apparently, DOMS isn’t my only problem. I’m supposed to be fueling my body appropriately, too. However, I’m running on regular 87-octane pump gas, rather than the VP-110 racing fuel I’m supposed to be on. I severely lack in protein and am completely over on the fat. As a vegetarian this is probably the normal state of affairs for my body anyway. I never was one to pay much attention to how much of what and the overall quality of the foods I was eating. I ate what I wanted when I wanted it and how much I wanted.
Partial analysis, however, reveals that my diet is lacking and that I am probably malnourished. No wonder I am always tired, feel sluggish, can’t seem to get enough oxygen into my system and am irritable and moody. Not saying that all these problems stem from my diet and correcting my eating will not solve all of these problems, but it definitely won’t hurt.
I’m really getting nervous about the upcoming race. Just having the suspicion that something is wrong is one thing, but now finding out that there is a definite correlation between my habits and my lack of progress performance wise are two different animals for me. The latter is a hell of a lot harder to overcome mentally. I’m starting to be afraid to fail, even though I have shown that I can cover 13.1 miles without dying, I’m beginning to think that I won’t be able to make it, especially now that my body is showing the damage that I have done by proving that I can cover the distance in the first place, after being ill-prepared. My husband keeps telling me I’m overdoing it. I keep telling him that I have no choice. And I keep telling myself that racers do play hurt.
The anxiety builds. Yesterday I was fretting over the 6-miler, but against all I deemed possible, I made it. I was in pain the entire time, but I made it. Today I don’t want to run the prescribed 3 miles, because I’m still feeling the effects of the six-mile pounding from yesterday. And I don’t even want to think about the 12 miles I am supposed to run on Saturday. I feel like I’m going to a funeral this weekend. My own. I get nauseated just thinking about it.
Yes, I am definitely getting the pre-race jitters. Except this time, they arrive a week early for the wrong sport. And my response to this type of fear is always trying harder, going faster, taking more risks. And something tells me that this might not be the appropriate course of action in the sport of (sorta) long distance running. But I really am at a loss as what to do, and failure is not an option, since I already paid the entrance fee and a DNS is not preferable over a DNF at this point or any other. *sigh*
The past several weeks I have asked of myself repeatedly where I could possibly find motivation when the reason for said motivation has gone; unceremoniously packed its bag, and left in the middle of the night to disappear without so much as saying goodbye.
"Dear Miss Busa, it's been fun. But I have to go. Our relationship is just not working for me anymore. Regretfully, Your Motivation P.S. Please don't try and find me."
Motivation, you are just like all the others! You swine! I will never be motivated again. Ever! I haven’t been able to figure it out. My motivation didn’t even leave a forwarding address. Or did it?
Today, during some research for an essay I am writing, I stumble across a quote by Mario Andretti. Words I’ve been needing to hear for a long time. Words that make me feel a little less lonely. Words that give affirmation to the knowledge that dreams are not easy to achieve, because if they were, everybody would be a rock star, wealthy and living the life.
Unlike the rock stars, I really don’t want much out of my life. I have most everything already. I just want to be damn fricken fast and have a two-car garage. I’d take the former with a healthy dose of the relativity theory and the latter I would also live in, if I had to.
“Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.”
I’m going to run today. After almost two weeks of skipping out on most of my scheduled marathon training, because I just really didn’t see the point anymore, I am putting myself and my white flag-waving attitude on notice. The worries of a crashed economy, the rising cost of living, and an uncertain future were suffocating my will to live well.
My life as I have known it for the past fifteen years is quickly falling apart around me; and the stress of continued unemployment and pending financial hardship were enough to throw my happy-go-lucky disposition into the crapper. My brain chemistry went into crash-override and switched itself into depression mode and left me with smudged and streaky eye liner.
This is only an interruption of your dream. If this had been the actual end of your dream, this interruption would have been followed by the rolling of the closing credits and a fade to a wakeful state.
…because all I want to do is ride.
And scare myself on occasion. Because if you aren’t scaring yourself you aren’t going fast enough. I think Mario said that, too.
I am getting the butterflies again. The more I think about the upcoming weekend, the more I feel like I am not ready. The more flaws I find in my technique, the more doubt creeps up in my head. I have exactly nine days to sort myself and get ready for JenningsGP and I feel slightly overwhelmed. This feeling is nothing new, and intellectually I know it’s all my nerves; emotionally it’s quite a different story. I have a tendency to hype myself up and freak myself out internally, where I’ll be a quivering blob by the time I need to perform, have to fight the urge to vomit, and try desperately hard not to act visibly like the proverbial deer caught in the proverbial headlights and play it all cool, calm, and collected. That’s right, because to Miss Busa this ain’t nothing but a thang! Keep on thinking that…
Mr. Slow has told me over and over again that people cannot tell that I’m a nervous wreck and that I’ll do just fine and I end up having a blast. He’s right on both counts. I have a long track record that proves him to be right; however, that does not change the fact that I have to go through this nerve-wracking process every time. Performance anxiety goes away moments before the green light comes on, so to speak. Anxiety, self-doubt, the nausea and the OMG-I’m-Gonna-Die obligatory internal cry for help are replaced by focused concentration. I am calm. I am entering “the zone”. I am but alone in my task. Everything and everyone around me is forgotten. Just the girl and her goal. And I can do exceptionally well under pressure if I don’t over-think it.
I am now in pre-mission over-thinking mode. I want to go over everything yet again. Or I just don’t. One way stresses me out for two weeks, the other only stresses me out on the last day. I do either, sometimes both.
I woke with a start last night, muscles tensing, synapses misfiring and the last thought on my brain while regaining wakeful cognition was “Oh shit!” I even woke hubby. He asked me what was wrong. I mumbled something along the lines of: “Nothing, just a bad dream.” I remembered what woke me, but didn’t want to voice it. Because saying something out loud gives it power.
I have never dreamed about motorcycling. The only times there were ever motorcycles in my dreams, they were parked somewhere in the background and none of them were mine. Which is curious in itself, since I am known to process in my dreams. Heck, I used to dream solutions to scripting problems in a language based on C++. I don’t code in C++, never have. The solution to the problem was also new to me. I tried it out as soon as I woke up and it worked, just like my dream predicted it would. A problem that had been bugging me for several days was solved in a strange three-second dream. Go figure. I have dreamed in HTML before. Don’t ask me to explain that one. A friend of mine and I talked about this, she’s done it, too. And here I thought I was the Lone Rangerette in Weird World. 🙂
The first time I dream about riding, it’s not a solution or a Eureka! moment to deepen my understanding, it’s a damn crash; a low-side in some turn on some racetrack somewhere I have never been. Maybe it was JenningsGP, I have stared at that track map long enough…
I’m so not ready.
But I’m going anyway.
Why? Because I can and I must.