How-To: Teach a Woman…

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.

Biker Babes

If the woman in question is already riding her own motorcycle, there are only two points you need to be clear on:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Don’t try and talk her into something or out of something. Ride your own ride, let her do the same.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

I’m Too Old For This!

We’ve all heard the expression: “I’m too old for this shit!” A few of us loudly proclaim our belief in the principle on occasion, but keep on keeping on. Some of us think it and quietly give up. Then there are some who use it as an excuse not to even start.

The subject of wether or not I’m too old to pound my body into submission and shape myself into an athlete by brute-force methodology has crossed my mind on more than a few occasions. My body is threatening mutiny, or so it seems. However, my mind has been known for its propensity of cracking the whip to quell the whining and the whimpering when the mission is deemed critical and worthy.

My husband’s view on the way I approach things? He just shakes his head and exclaims:

“Damn, baby! You never do anything half-assed, do you? You can’t help yourself!”

Even though my fervor must get on his nerves on occasion, I do believe he is sitting back, smugly, big shit-eating grin on his overly satisfied face, arms crossed at the chest, nodding and thinking to himself:

“Yeah, that’s my baby!”

He brags to his friends and co-workers. I know he does. Where others whip out their wallets (mobile phones) in one smooth and snappy movement to accost you with an array of baby pics and family portraits, he whips out his track photography. I think he has more pictures of me dragging knee on his phone than I do. That’s pretty bad. Where the wives (girlfriends) of others are gorgeous in their perfect hair and flawless makeup, he runs around flashing people with my sweaty helmet hair and unpainted countenance in dirty leathers.

He says I’m not like most 40 year-olds. But I don’t buy it. I feel too old for my own good on most days; and where I used to look ten years younger, frequent exposure to the elements and a high-stress work environment have finally taken their toll. I now am starting to look about as old as I feel. My crow’s feet alone could probably get me some premature social security benefits, if they didn’t check their paperwork. 😉

At least we don’t get the “so nice of you to take your daughter out” comments anymore. That was always a hoot, since hubby usually responded to those remarks with laying a fat slobbery kiss on me a few minutes later, after failing to correct the erroneous assumption. What a nut job! That’s why I don’t take him out in public very often… *giggles*

But there are a few individuals who defy the “life is over after 40” rule and they give me the drive to keep on going. Because a midlife crisis, after all, is a terrible thing to waste. =D

I almost didn’t start racing when I first got the notion and excitedly and very loudly exclaimed, while my nose was buried in Keith Code’s book A Twist of the Wrist: “Hell yeah! I wanna do THAT!” I’m glad I was on weekend duty and alone in the office. After the initial excitement wore off and my brain had time to process all of the information, it responded with an unkindly “I’m too old for this shit!” and that was the end of it for about a year or so.

A guy at work, who is a few years my junior, found out that I had crashed on my second race weekend and ended my first season prematurely, decided that he should save me from myself and told me the following: “I know you don’t want to hear this, but you’re too old to race. You crash and your body takes forever to heal and your injuries are probably going to be more severe. That’s probably also why you’re slow. You’re afraid to go fast.”

[Note: I only sustained minor injuries to my left hand due to my glove failing. The season ended prematurely because it took a little over three months and most of my saved up money to repair my bike, and it was decided it was best to prepare to race a full season in 2012, with a dedicated race bike and a lot more cash saved up.]

Excuse me?!? Dude, you better thank your lucky stars that we’re at work, because if you had said that to me anywhere else, I would have put you in your place, you presumptuous little prick! And then raced your cruiser riding ass for pinks. In first gear, with one hand. Asshole!

He stopped riding sport bikes (“crotch rockets” is the term he actually used) because he, by his own admission, was “too old for this shit” and had crashed and it took him forever to heal.

The reason I started racing, despite my misgivings about starting so late in life and only having been riding motorcycles on the street for a little over two years? Burt Munro. The old fart showed Bonneville how old timers roll, and he didn’t even pre-register. 😉 He bet “the farm” on his dream and it paid off. Against all odds, with plenty of obstacles and no sponsors. Yeah! He’s still my hero.

Read up on him sometime or watch the movie ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. Very inspiring story, even if you are not into racing. His story transcends the sport. It’s a testament to the fact that “I’m too old for this shit!” is just another fallacy we’ve been brainwashed with by the media, societal norms and rate-of-return expectations. Youth is wasted on the young. Whoever said that, they have it pegged.

I ran into a man of the “over-the-hill type” at my inaugural WERA race. He’s freaking awesome. I think he said he started racing when he was 67 and that was a few years back. But don’t quote me on his exact age. The man is my hero. He doesn’t know it, but I secretly look up to him. He’s having fun doing what he does, has a wicked sense of humor, and he’s fast.

My “sister in speed”, whom I met during a racing school we both attended, just shrugged when she first heard how old I was and said: “You’re just a baby.” She doesn’t look it, but she’s ten years my senior. And crashing does not slow her down a bit. She’s having fun, too.

There are many other people to whom I look up to, who defy the norm. People who do in spite of it all. Did you know there is a dude who races motorcycles and only has one arm?!? I didn’t know it was possible. I saw him at Barber, while I was walking to the race control building he was making his way onto pit road to go on track. I did a double take, shaking my head because I thought I was hallucinating, and then did a triumphant fist pump in his direction. He didn’t see me, because he had already passed the spot where I was standing to let traffic through. Yeah, get a load of THAT. That’s what I call passion! That’s what I call drive and determination. Freakin’ awesome. I still don’t know who he is, but there are a number of amputees still riding and racing motorcycles. Still think you’re too old, too disabled, too whatever?

Today I am researching a few topics of interest on running and come across an article that talks about fears first time road racers have. One of which is also a very real fear for first time motorcycle road racers: the fear of coming in last. It takes one race to get over that silliness. 🙂 But I digress. One of the items listed was the fear of being too old to run, let alone enter an official road race. The article ended with:

“You’re never too old to start running, and it’s definitely never too late to start road racing.”

And that is the truth.

Obstacles are placed in our way to test our resolve, our determination, our passion, and our will to succeed. I can’t do nothing about my chronological age; but I can work on being in the best shape of my life and not let my age stop me from achieving my goals. My age also can’t keep me from dreaming!

And as the clock keeps ticking away, forcing me to grow even older than “too old for this shit”, I still try and retain my inner peace and happiness while I’m waiting for my turn again.

Three basic ingredients are needed for sustained happiness:

  1. Something to do.
  2. Something to look forward to.
  3. Somebody to love.

I have lost my main “to do” four months ago, but I am keeping busy with my marathon training and writing, to keep the depression and anxiety at bay.

I am looking forward to racing my motorcycle again, which will happen once I have secured re-employment and have regained a positive cash flow and met my other financial responsibilities. 2013 could be my year and I have to be ready, mentally and physically.

I have the third item covered in spades. No, make that hearts, even though it is not the trump suit, it works better in a literary sense.


Send it down below…

Nothing like feeling like a complete failure to motivate oneself to prove otherwise. I needed to get rid of all this negative energy I’ve had stored up for whatever reason. I hadn’t worked out in two days and that didn’t help my general state of mind. Everywhere I turn, I see obstacles in my way. It’s almost as if I’m swimming upstream, in the wrong direction, against all odds, expending my energy and resources on a lost cause. meh. I hate feeling like this.

I have developed some sort of mental block that keeps me from getting faster on the track. I have an idea about the causality but no real fix on how to go about overcoming the problem. I over-think to the point of distraction. I don’t even know how to explain this… I just know it’s making me slower, and my skill progression has tanked. I hate that, too!

Every time I look at the bike, I find “something else”. Some other mechanical issue that needs to be worked out. I have not a clue. I never wanted to become a mechanic, I just wanted to race the damned thing, but yet here I am. I suffer through it, and make my brain hurt, so I can have a relatively short time by comparison doing the thing I really love to do.

Then there is the financial aspect that bugs me. Racing is financially, uh… irresponsible, a budgetary money pit, a high-risk-no-return proposition especially considering the ongoing game of economic crapshoot. But yet here I am, cutting corners in every other aspect of my life, just so I can “go racin’.” But what a ride! You know you’re in for a good time when they make you sign a waiver before they let you through the gate. Uh-huh. Yup. Nothing like it. I would sell my mother-in-law for a stack of DOT slicks. Yes, it’s that bad. But I can’t help but feel a little guilty.

Winter gets me down, the skies are gray, it’s cold, the world around us dead. People are grumpier than usual. It’s depressing. I find it hard to keep my spirits up when the weather seems so gloomy and foreboding all the time.

The Underpants TreeLots of other personal and family junk that occasionally just wants to show up and take a dump on my happiness. Ick! Screw you. You make me angry because I am helpless and not in control of the situation. Keep your chin up. Ignore it. They’re just jealous. Love the Haters, because it means you’re doing something right. All the kind and supportive comments in the world sometimes aren’t enough… you still end up almost drowning in the cesspool of other people’s bullshit. Blech.

With the attitude of hating my life and feeling like a complete failure, I stomp up the hill to the walking trail behind my house. A 1/3-mile sandy kidney-bean shaped track around a playground and a picnic area. I’m not in the mood, but I have some anger management to do. Exercising should exorcise my (perceived) demons… at least for a little while. If you’re exhausted you have not the energy to be anything but calm. I hit play on the Nike+ GPS app and with the push of that button, decide that today I am going to run until I can run no more. How far can I possibly get? A mile? Maybe… The workout is done with the first walking stride I take. Deal. Off I go.

Last time I was here, maybe a week ago, I couldn’t run a complete lap. It’s torture. After about half a lap, I want to stop. I can’t breathe, my side is starting to hurt. Concentrate. Concentrate. Pay attention to your stride, control your movements. Control your breathing. In through the nose… out through the mouth. Steady. Paced. You can do this.

GPS calculated paceI keep fighting lazy thoughts of quitting with angry thoughts of not wanting to be a failure in today’s run. Failure is not an option. I start crying at one point… or I think I am starting to. I don’t know. One foot in front of the other. I hate running. I want to quit. I don’t see the point. Why bother? I keep pushing on. I am on my last lap to finish the first mile. I tell myself that I at least have to complete one mile. I notice a pair of men’s boxers hanging in a nearby tree. WTF?!? Somebody went home commando.

After that I tell myself one more lap. I have to make it back around to the underpants. I have to take a picture of them. I do. I don’t take a picture of them though. Ok, well I’m almost to two miles. That’s what we ran in the military physical fitness test. I can do this. I see a woman walking about a half a lap ahead of me. Ok. I can lap her… if I lap her before my two miles are up, I’ll allow myself to stop. I end up lapping her twice before she gets in her car and leaves.

Eventually my brain focuses on something racing related and I’m not even really aware anymore that I am running. Well, I am aware of it, but it’s not in the foreground and with that the negative self-talk subsides. I keep pushing. Another idea surfaces: I will set all new PBs today. EVERY SINGLE STAT that Nike+ keeps track of will be improved. Then I’ll let myself be a quitter.

I accomplish my goal at 4.10 miles (farthest run) in 44:16 minutes (longest run) with an overall average pace of 10:47 per mile, which is an improvement by 1:02 minutes. I set my fastest 1K at 6:09; my fastest 1M at 10:08 and my fastest 5K at 33:19.

Do I feel better? A little. Do I still feel like a failure? A little. But at least I have part of my sunshine back. The rest will follow.


Almost…

It’s been quite the struggle lately. The fast approach of winter probably has something to do with my lack of motivation and general malcontent and frustration with my progress, or rather the lack thereof. I knew it was going to be difficult to realize a dream of this magnitude by myself and I thought I was prepared for the struggle, but reality is stealing in and robbing me of my enthusiasm. A lot of the time it just seems so much easier to just give up. Then there are those obstacles that continue to pop up unexpectedly, like fallen rocks at the apex of a blind corner on a beautiful mountain road. You went in too fast (too unprepared, too unfocused, too naively) and now are realizing that your line of travel goes right through the middle of it. You somehow save it, but you are beginning to wonder what the hell is wrong with you. The more stuff happens, the more you wonder. If I were a religious person, I would probably say to myself: “This is God’s way of telling me it needs to stop. That this is the devil’s way of seducing the faithful soul into sin.” Fortunately, I am not religious. Instead of trying to read the sign, I keep pushing on. Working it. Spending every waking moment thinking about it. What step is next, breaking it down, making it happen. I have reached a new level, sure. But the closer I get, the harder the task.

My ‘Racing Fund’ is running low on cash, my spirit is drained from all this mundane work and mental training, having to learn new stuff that I didn’t think would have any thing to do with motorcycling or racing at all. Soldering? Please. Yet, here I am. “I love the smell of burnt lead in the morning.” *inhales deeply, making a manly snorting sound* “It smells like (more crap to overcome on the way to) victory!” Grunt work. But necessary. I prep. I procure. I learn. I wrench. I work at my boring but pretty well-paid job. I make lists. Too much training and not enough action. Kind of like the military. Train, train, train. Now what? When do we get to apply our craft? All dressed up and no one to kill. Frustrating. This is how this feels. And I know that is part of the problem. I have little self-motivation, because somewhere, someone in my past instilled this belief — this nagging, dark, lying little inner voice, that I should “not rise above my station”; that I am “never good enough”; that “lofty goals are for setting oneself up for failure”. Then there is my extreme shyness, which makes avoidance and self-sabotage a weapon of choice. Go with the flow, don’t stand out, blend in and don’t make waves. WELL, SCREW THAT! But it is a struggle to overcome these things.

To make a long story short (again, I do believe it is slightly too late for that): I have had a series of setbacks and they are tearing down my resolve. Frustration. Dwindling motivation. The gnawing of that negative piss-ant voice in the dark recesses of my brain; worming, slithering, creeping about, making itself known with its condescending quips here and there; and gathering its strength for a full-frontal assault. It’s happened before; but never have I been able to hang on this long until it all went into cascading system failure. The result: I give up and move on. Eventually it all fades into unimportance as I acquire new interests and avert my focus.

Hurdles, I was speaking of them before. Money. There is a huge one. I’m running out of my savings. And still, the list keeps getting longer. Technically, it’s getting shorter but for every two items I check off, one or two more show up. Obviously, part of that has to do with the lack of decisive and detailed planning. But I know not what I do, so I have to wing most of it. I have no mentor. I know no one personally who has raced before, in any of its forms. I do thrive on that a little, but at the same time it stresses me out. Recent case in point:

I got it in my head to go to the Maxton Mile in Laurinburg, NC on our wedding anniversary and partake in the last ECTA speed trials meet of this year. My bike had been in the shop for about ten days or so, and I had plenty of time to get ready. Yeah. I can pull this off. The dealer strung me along with promises and I thought my bike would be repaired and ready to go with plenty of time to spare. I spent over $700 to get race prepped. I planned, I studied, I made phone calls and I asked questions. I was actually getting excited. I finally had a little of that “something to look forward to” action in my life and it blew away all my frustration at my lack of skill progression, conflicting work and track day schedules, money woes, and the list goes on. Mr. Slow told me it would be a bad idea to waste all this cash on LSR when I’m less than six months away from the start of the road racing season. I told him that I needed this to keep going. I needed to get out of my “all dressed up and nowhere to go” funk that was slowly but surely settling over my resolve. He nodded and said that he understood, but also gave me this one caveat: “Don’t get your hopes up, you don’t even know if your bike will be back in time. I don’t want you to set yourself up for disappointment.” I dismissed his cautionary advice with repeating a statement made to me by my service department: “We ordered the part today. It’s being overnighted from Germany. Should be here Tuesday. They sometimes come late to deliver, so it should be ready either late Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.” And so it was decreed. I was going to my first official racing event. I actually had fun for the next three weeks. I knew the chance I was taking, but I also knew that I had to keep getting ready, because I didn’t want to be the one who fouled it up by lack of preparation. I enjoyed the newfound motivation, the feeling of having purpose. Mr. Slow even took the day off (against all odds) so he could come with me, since I really didn’t want to go by myself. I am such a damn scared-y cat! Going forth and doing something I never really have done before, not in this setting anyway, and all of it in front of a largish crowd gave me a case of the nerves. Short of getting on my bike and hauling ass as quickly and fast as I can, this was all new to me and I needed someone there to hold my hand. Yeah. So what?!? There ain’t no shame in my game.

Needless to say, it didn’t work out. Bike was ready one day before the meet. No time to make it to Norcross, GA before they closed up shop. They called around 3:00PM and it takes, depending on traffic, about 2-2.5 hours to get there in drive time alone. Even if I had been able to throw all my stuff in the back of the truck, haul ass up there, pick up the bike, and haul ass back; then wrench all night by myself to get the bike race prepped (I had some of it done already by the dealership to save time), then drive all the way to Laurinburg sleep deprived and do practice runs hopped up on diet pills and energy drinks (Low-Carb Monster? Diet Red Bull? Anybody? I drink enough of that stuff to warrant a sticker on my ass and a contingency plan.) Another kicker? They tried to call me into work, but I missed their calls, not to mention I was in Atlanta and wouldn’t have been able to make it there in time to be of any use anywa. But hubby didn’t miss his phone call, so he had to go to work. We don’t even work at the same place or the same town. How’s that for fate?

That concludes the Tale of Two Failures. I didn’t even blog about the first one, maybe I’ll mention it in detail one of these days. I give you a hint: I missed my first official WERA race. Fortunately, I hadn’t registered yet and hadn’t begun to spend a ton of money of my “Racing Fund” either. As luck would have it, life intervened not a minute too late, and I had to spend part of my “tire money” elsewhere. FML.

6 November: Lisa and Em partying away Monday's track day money.

Track Day Fees or Cover Charge: Because sometimes you just have to drink a load of low-cal shit beer in order to save money on rubber later.

Then there was that little embarrassing interlude with my planned JenningsGP track day to see what was going on with my skill progression. Also had some suspension fiddling planned since I’m way too saggy in the rear (any wise cracks and I’ll beat you with my breaker bar, is that clear?) and my damping settings could use a tweak or two. I dunno exactly what’s going on there, but I figured I’ll take it to the proper place to make the adjustments and read tea lea…. I mean, rubber and see if I can’t sort it out for myself. Tweak the springs and find out how bad my lap times are still the suck. *nods* Yeah, let’s just say three words here: Failure to appear. I went out with a girl friend and blew a track fee’s worth of $$$ on partying and cab fare. Doh! I knew it, too. Nobody to blame but myself. Instead of dragging knee (and a little more toe than I’d care to admit) on Monday, I was dragging my drunk ass all over some honkey-tonk barroom on Friday. I don’t even like Country music. Epic. Fail. Ballroom Blitz.

My life is starting to resemble a Bowling For Soup song. Rewrite the lyrics into something with a little more VP100 and voilà: Miss Busa’s has her own “Soundtrack of my (Racing) Life”.

Racing voids the warranty.

Almost.