…On A Steel Horse I Ride

I’m wanted
Dead or alive

I needed to go for a ride. Not that I was being racked by withdrawal symptoms of PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome) by any stretch of the imagination. I have to shamefully admit, it took ten days to get off my ass and make the Beemer fit for street duty again. It’s about time, really, since I owe Matt of The Dandooligan a little product comparo.

And then I wonder why my mileage has suffered. I have doubled the number of bikes owned, but cut my mileage by half. And I look at wrenching as the culprit. I haven’t touched a torque wrench or a screwdriver in five days. I rebutted my own statement right there!

It’s more a result of the subconscious mind, rather than a definite decision made by cognitive higher-function processes. In other words, I don’t mope around, irritated by the idea that I cannot, for whatever reason, ride my motorcycle; neither do I proclaim loudly, that I will not ride my bike today. I used to suffer from the former, and the latter is really too much like quitting smoking.

It’s something else. An internal shift in focus, perhaps. When I think of motorcycling in terms of skill, my brain immediately goes to fetch some experience from the racetrack. I don’t even think in terms of roadways, surface conditions, traffic density,traffic rules and regulations, hazard recognition, and risk management anymore. Well, at least not consciously.

My brain still seems to deal with all of these factors just the same, but it doesn’t distract me anymore. Or should I say, my brain now has time to wander off and “do other things” (allowing me to be distracted) besides piloting the motorcycle and negotiating traffic.

And as I have evolved my skill set, honed my roadcraft, my attitude towards street riding has changed; and probably not for the better. How much fun could possibly be had on the public roadways anymore? It’s slow. It’s boring. It’s mundane. Routinely blah. Ugh.

You would think that slapping me on the back of the head, making me put on my gear to follow you north into the twisties, would assuage my boredom. Ha! You would think… I can’t even enjoy the “good” roads anymore, not like I used to. My motorcycle eyes have changed their focus: where once I’d seen opportunity, I now see claustrophobic ways of killing myself by sudden deceleration, if something should go wrong. If I can’t see around a corner, I can’t fully commit to it. My risk awareness is in the red, and the fear factor goes up. I am acutely aware of how vulnerable I am to ‘what ifs’ when I’m riding my bike on the street.

Long gone are the days of the Mountain Squid. The days of almost dragging tailpipe on off-camber, uphill curves in an effort to finally get that knee down. Long gone are the days of blindly diving into corners, taking the “race line” through and hanging the upper body over the double-yellow line. But a distant memory are the days of street riding having that therapeutic effect. It used to blank my brain and reset the senses. Now, I have way too much time left to think and my stressors ride pillion.

But today something was different. Today was a throwback to the “good old days.” Today, I had one of the most fun rides in a long time, on the same old boring roads. Imagine that! Could it possibly be that my brain was too preoccupied with collecting data on the various products and apps I was testing? Too preoccupied to be bothered with signaling impending narcolepsy by coma-inducing speed limits? Too preoccupied with pesky fun-killers such as deer, surface contamination, and radar guns pointed casually out of Sheriff’s cars?

No, officer. I wasn't speeding. I was qualifying.

The meaning of life? 42. Perhaps. 45? No, fookin' way!

Today PoHo data acquisition tells me one thing for certain: I had a freakin’ blast on two wheels. Sixty-four miles of unadulterated, jailhouse-worthy fun. It was balm for the soul and elixir for the senses. I feel alive. I feel giddy. I feel reset. Today, I renewed my attitude. With the correct outlook, this girl doesn’t need to be at the track to have some serious throttle therapy. Maybe it just takes a little shift of focus, seven degrees off of where it used to be.

Chased by encroaching darkness I hurried home, wishing I could play outside for just a little while longer.

~~~

It’s all the same, only the names will change
Everyday, it seems, we’re wastin’ away
Another place where the faces are so cold
I drive all night just to get back home

~ "Dead or Alive" by Bon Jovi

The Progression Of Progress

How does one rate progress? How do you know that you are where you should be in your development of a skill. I am not good with physical skills, I have always been more of an academic. The theoretical comes fairly easy to me. I’m a quick study. Try to teach me a manual skill that involves motor skill and coordination, and I’ll be arriving on site in the short bus. Martial arts, ballroom dancing, Jazzercise, Tai-Chi, DDR, you name it, I’ll have a time of it. I will eventually learn it with persistence and repetition, but it takes me longer than it should on average… way longer; but once I’ve torturously climbed my steep learning curve, I’ll be fairly good at it, comparatively speaking, of course: on the top end of mediocre for the most part. There’s one surprising exception to this personal status quo: motorcycling. After overcoming my initial fear, I was playing in traffic by myself within a few short training sessions under the tutelage of my hubby. I eventually took the MSF and finished that at the top of my class overall, while nearing a panic attack during the range portion; but I surprised myself. I always do. The nerves during a practical test are legendary and well known to me. But yet, I remain focused and calm under pressure, it’s not a fun feeling though. One of the reasons I haven’t made it to the drag strip or a track day yet… I’m just too damn nervous when people are watching me. I get a serious case of stage freight with a healthy dose of performance anxiety thrown in. But I digress, after initially learning and reaching the first big milestones of riding, how do you measure your progress. At first you could tell, even with limited knowledge of the subject matter, it was blatantly obvious: not going wide in right turns anymore, no more stalling at lights, no more wobbling through corners, no more dumping the bike in the parking lot while trying to make a u-turn, etc. All the newbie firsts conquered. Now, milestones are hard to come by and the progress indicators seem infinitely more minute. I keep asking my husband, if I’m where I should be in my progress. He used to tell me I’m way ahead of the curve, but now he can’t even answer the question anymore, he doesn’t know. I’m the kind of person who NEEDS to know. So where should one be after almost 16 months of riding and a little over 18K on the clock? Am I working too hard at it? Not hard enough? I don’t even know why this really is so important… I know the important bits at the moment: I need to work on my shifting, it’s crap lately (used to be smooth as butter, too), especially between first and second. WTF? Embarrassing as hell when you’re showing off to some dude parked in the lane next to you on some chromed out ‘Busa and you’re leaving him at the line, and miss the upshift in the corner… UGH! Yeah…. One only can hope he didn’t hear that. LOL Still spanked his ass, though. ;P I need to work on my throttle control, it’s been a little more jerky lately, too. But I think I might just be able to fix that with a little chain adjustment, the slack’s at 30mm but I like it around 25mm way better. That could be a contributing factor. My cornering has gone to pot, too. Well, in comparison to what it was… my lines aren’t as decisive as they once were… way too many midcorner corrections going on! But I blame all this stuff mainly on it being so damn cold… no real opportunity to go out there and joy ride for honing one’s skills, when you’re preoccupied with shivering and numb fingers. I shall see in the springtime, whether or not that’s what it is. My riding now is mostly perfunctory, gets me to Point B, but I’m not really ‘working at it’ or ‘listening in on it’. They say these are all soft skills. It stands to reason, then, that over the winter we get rusty, since we’re not putting nearly as many miles on the clock. But all this makes me feel like I’m going backwards. And I don’t like it. Maybe that’s where the preoccupation with the learning curve is coming from. I need to know that I’m not slipping. I want to improve not regress.

I have a definite tendency to over-think stuff, which is a blessing and a curse. On one side, I think it’s a contributing factor why I haven’t wrecked myself and why I have taken to motorcycling so readily (it is, after all, a skill which is 90% mental); on the other hand I think it holds me back a lot of the time. I don’t know, really. I think and think and think… and I get so tired of thinking I end up ‘winging’ it a lot of the time, because I’m sick of thinking about it… but I can’t help myself. I’m over-analytical, too. I have to find meaning in everything. Cause and effect… And I will dissect something I screwed up in my riding until I’m sick of that, too. Maybe I need to loosen up a little and chill. Maybe I’m taking this all too serious. Nah. I do take it serious, and it has kept me rubber side down so far. Shouldn’t fix what isn’t broke. I suppose I shouldn’t try to fit myself into some perceived norm; some progress chart to follow. I’m who I am: a quasi-perfectionist, a thinker, a geek, a dork, compulsive, spontaneous, aversed to meticulous planning, an adrenaline junkie, and a bit on the squidly side. I should really ride my own ride in this aspect, too. I just have to find another way to measure my curve.