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.
Traffic is medium-heavy. I’m following behind hubby’s truck, changing into the fast lane when I see a semi-truck pulled over on the shoulder, which is the reason hubby’s changing lanes. He passes another semi-truck in the ‘Granny Lane’ (the right lane) and as I come up on him, I see that he has his left turn signal on, apparently he wants to get over, too. Decision time. My first impulse tells me to speed up, get out of this guy’s way, followed by the thought of ‘you always speed up; slowing down is never an option for you’ spoken in my hubby’s voice from a conversation we had after he bought me the Beemer and chewed my ass for a good four hours while I was at work. Mind you, this wasn’t a lecture, this was a serious conversation about riding style, skill, and being a squid and I had it coming. He just held his tongue for almost a month until he had purchased me another bike, so I wouldn’t think it was about the money or the wrecked Hayabusa. I deserved it. I was an idiot by riding what is essentially a drag bike the way I did. I dragged tail pipe, in a left turn from a stop at an intersection. I’d say this lecture was long overdue. However, I didn’t like to hear it. Meanwhile, I’m rolling towards uncertainty, torn. My riding in traffic has always been proactive, decisive and aggressive when need be. I read patterns, I see, I act to stay out of trouble. My riding style and how I deal with traffic around me is certainly different from my husband’s. When we ride together and traffic gets bad, it’s each (wo)man for himself. I pick my way, he picks his. I usually end up ahead of him, because I use my power and maneuverability I have over cars to my advantage. There’s a reason why I refer to this as ‘Combat Commuting’. He doesn’t like it, but neither do I like the way he rides in traffic. I think his way is dangerous, he thinks my way is. We agreed to disagree, since we’re both keeping it rubber side down and out of harm’s way. Our respective methods work for us. Torn, I make the decision to slow down, but the semi is not getting over. His turn signal is still on and he’s progressively slowing down. I don’t know what he’s going to do. I CAN’T READ HIM!!! I am now past the point of gunning it past him and I do NOT want to end up in his blind spot when he finally does make a move. Suddenly, I hear horns blaring, I jerk my head left and see a silver SUV blowing past me on the left-side rumble strip, which is too narrow to be called a shoulder. He’s throwing up rocks as he whips past me. At this moment all sanity leaves me. My overactive imagination treats me to a mental video detailing what would have happened if he had hit me squarely in the ass. I see myself exploding and body parts raining all over I-20 West. I would have died not knowing I was dead. I would have just ceased to exist. I don’t want to die like that. I want to stare death straight in the face and see it coming! I want a transition between life and death, for crying out loud! Body parts. I shake myself and rip it like I’ve never ripped it before. I pass the SUV, who no doubt had not paid attention to the massive slow down that was caused by the bottlenecking of vehicles around the stopped truck on shoulder. I wonder if he had dropped his phone while he saw my tail lit up by brake lights closing in on him at a surreal rate of speed. I can’t shake it. My breath is rapid, but yet I remain calm and in control of my machine. I’m not scared. I don’t know how to describe what I’m going through. Not fear. Not shock. Maybe awe. I don’t know. I’m dumbfounded, really. I feel disconnected from my decision and I recite in my head over and over that I should have went with my first instinct. Gun it and get the fuck out. Yeah, that was one hell of a bad judgment call. ONE HELLA BRAINFART!We get to our destination and I make a u-turn, pull up next to hubby and tell him that I’m not feeling it and I just want to go the fuck home. He looks at me with concern: “Something happen?” – “You could say that.” – “You ok.” – “Yes, I’m fine.” – “What happened?” – “On I-20… that truck…” – “What?” – “Can’t talk about it right now, let’s just go.” He follows me. I’m going the wrong direction. I’m frustrated. Ah, hell with this. I get back on I-20, then get off on the next exit and pull over at a lane for a mobile weigh station setup, which is currently unused and vacant. I park my bike and get into the truck. I explain. We get into an argument, he apologizes. I apologize. Other stuff comes up, we’re a mess. We both apologize again.
Fuck me, if this doesn’t fall into the ‘ride your own ride’ category. He feels like I’m blaming him. I’m not trying to, I’m just trying to make him understand what led up to the brainfart that could have made me go bye-bye in the most glorious of meat explosions ever. No Special FX needed. I shouldn’t have brought it up. I knew how it would sound, but I also needed to talk to my best friend, the one person in my life I trust implicitly. But some things have no place there. This is one of them. I’m at wit’s end. Two in a row! TWO IN A FUCKING ROW! Yesterday, I came within fractions of an inch of a collision with some jackass who decides to cut me off at the last possible second. Now this? If I had a car I’d be done with street riding. I really am not having any fun at the moment… and I’m still not scared. WTF?
I feel like the life got sucked right out of me. Now what am I going to do to keep my sanity? Do drugs? Become an alcoholic or pay a shrink $150/hour? Meh.
I’m better than this.
Hubby told me later on that these trucks belonged to the same carnie outfit, the one with the left turn signal on? Wasn’t his turn signal at all. He had his four-way flashers on, but had a few bulbs out. Same goes for his buddy on the shoulder (who was still moving, DRIVING very slowly), four-ways on, but a few bulbs short of a proper signal. SOMEBODY GIVE THESE FUCKWADS A GODDAMN TICKET!