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.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

…Stan Lee was talking about ‘Busas, right?

I’m hanging with the Boss Woman at my old place of semi-gainful employment. And we’re kicking it until closing so we can go eat at our usual spot. I have opportunity to find out that my reputation precedes me: The dude working the counter, who started after I left, calls me a badass and acts all impressed. This must be respect for your elders, can’t be anything else, he hasn’t seen me ride. He does want to ride with me, after he actually buys himself another bike. I tell him he better bring his knee pucks. “No shit?” – “Yeah, you wanna keep up, right?” – “By the way, that road ya’ll told me about?” – “Yeah, Kettle Creek.” – “Uh-huh, that one… Checked it out, kinda boring.” – “How fast were you going?” – “I didn’t ride it, I looked at it on Google Maps.” – “It’s more fun than it looks.” – “Uh-huh, sure.” …and on the bike talk goes. And I wonder why I have a reputation… LOL Probably has something to do with being a skinny little runt of a girl riding a Hayabusa. A dude on a ‘Busa? Instant Street Cred +1; a chica on one? +5, at least. And they watch you, too. Yeah, some of it is definitely ass-on-sportbike admiration, but it seems that you still have to prove yourself worthy of the ride. That was very disconcerting to a borderline social-phobic geek like me at first. But I practice my slow handling, and I really don’t have to worry about embarrassing myself too much. I gotta live up to expectations, after all! ;P 9PM rolls around, the boss is finishing up and I’m getting hot in my gear, so I opt to go outside to wait. Her son follows me, probably for the same reason. Of course, it takes a while, as usual.

Alex Doing A Burnout

21 Dec 2009: Alex has moved on to practice the fine art of the proper burnout. He caught hell on FB for it, and his mom wanted to kill him after I told her how much a rear tire cost.

While her son is sitting sedately on his Triumph Daytona 675, I amuse myself with doing a little PLP in the parking lot in front of the store. Can't really get too wild, since my tires are still cold. It's only in the upper 30s, it's freakin' cold out here! As I pass in front of the store, practicing swerves, I see Mr. Bikeless make the international sign for wheelie-that-mother, and he doesn't mean me. I just shake my head and giggle. Ah, the foibles of youth. I force myself to make my favorite of all low-speed maneuvers: the Blasted Tight-ass U-turn (and that is the proper terminology, thank you!), do a panic stop facing Mr. Triumph, then take back off doing a Slow Cone Weave around imaginary cones. The Boss Woman does eventually emerge from the store and we head on over to Mi Rancho's. Over corn chips, salsa and cheese dip we end up discussing the technique involved in popping a proper wheelie without looking like a fool (standing on the rear pegs, putting ass into it and yanking on the handlebars to make the suspension bounce the front tire up). I can't believe I actually told him. To my defense, I also explained to him how to control it and how to set it back down gently rather than slamming that front end into the ground. I hope I don't regret that. (Ah shit, I forgot to tell him he better make sure the handlebars are square before he sets it back on the ground! Oops. I don't think he's a the point where he can handle a wheelie and a turn at the same time… hmmm…) He's only been riding for 7 weeks. Then again, I hope that if he knows the proper technique mentally, he'll run it through his mind between now and the time is such that he grows a pair and is going to go and actually try it. Like they say, motorcycling is 90% mental. He is asking questions, so that's good. I do my best to explain it to him, but I don't think it's really good if middle-aged biker chica is gonna push it on him… that probably would come across as patronizing and condescending, if the advice is given unsolicited. It doesn't work like that anyway. He's riding with dudes who've been riding a lot longer, so he's already operating with that silly peer-pressure induced philosophy that if he doesn't keep up he's a pussy. I'm glad I don't have to deal with that sort of thing, because I know myself. I would be right up in there, trying to keep up and being stupid. I suppose that's the difference between being 20something and 38. =D Hell, I have a hard time keeping the Inner Squid at bay now. I don't need a more experienced (or more aggressive) group to give me reason to be a complete moron. Yet, another reason why I try to stay away from riding in groups. But then again, I do like a challenge on occasion. LOL”

After having said all that… On the way home, I implore Mr. Triumph to go first, even though he clearly is waiting for me to take the lead. There’s a reason. I’m curious about his riding, and I want to stay in the back, just in case something unforeseen happens. I think I might be a tad more practiced in emergency maneuvers. Being in the rear for safety reasons makes perfect sense to me. But mostly I just want to see him ride. Off we go… we end up doing 75 in a 45. Hmmmm… right after I had told him the three places to keep the Speed Demons under control in an attempt to avoid written notice by the local constabulary. Oh well, he’s slowly gaining on me, while I decide to restrict it to 65. That’s 20 over. At least I won’t lose my license if I get busted. I catch up to him at the next red light. What happens next, is definitely worthy of my undeserved reputation! We are both in the right lane. I am behind him. When the light turns green, I decide to show him that there’s more than one way to arrive at Point B ahead of schedule and without breaking the posted speed limit by 30 miles. Think +5 average. Excessive speed is best enjoyed in small short spurts while in town. The light turns, I follow Mr. 75-In-A-45 through the intersection, and then make use of that ridiculous way-over-the-top, arm-straightening low-end grunt that comes standard on every ‘Busa. I throw her left, into the right third of the left lane, before the car behind me even knows what’s going on, I have passed the Daytona, and quickly change lanes again, then gun it past another car. I get back over, squeeze between two cars that are slightly offset to each other, then white-line it past three more cagers. I pick my way through traffic until I find myself in the clear and settle back down into more civilized motorcycling in the far right lane at speed limit +5. I check my mirrors, but the Daytona is nowhere to be seen. He never does catch up. So much for watching him ride. LOL I get gas at the Shell in town, which is conveniently located at the intersection where Mr. Triumph and the Boss Woman (who is in her car, but has no trouble keeping up… since she drives it like she stole it) would make a left to go to their house. I watch the intersection, but I never do see them come through while I’m fuelling up. They’ve must have stopped somewhere. I’m quick, but I ain’t that damn fast! ;P Now I have an excuse to go out to eat with those two again. I need a rematch, so I can observe the Daytona in action. 😉