*As adventurous as I consider myself, I’ve never, and I repeat, NEVER been interested in riding a motorcycle. As a matter of fact, I’ve been staunchly averse to riding, simply because in my mind it was gratuitously dangerous. There’s been a surge of interest in riding and even belonging to motorcycle clubs in the black community, but in my opinion, there are definitely “safer” ways to get around.
As I write, three very recent instances of the havoc motorcycles can wreak on the lives of riders and their families spring to mind. Those instances all involve joyriding gone awry that resulted in the untimely deaths of people I knew intimately. Hearing about those terrible accidents happening to friends was hard enough to deal with, let alone willfully opening myself and my family up to the same potential devastation. So, it’s safe to say, I had a justified fear of riding.
Why so much tragedy – validating my stance – would occur in such a short period of time (4 months), I will never know, but I guess it’s just the reality of life: accidents can and do happen. The story doesn’t end there, however.
While my sentiments about riding may have been warranted in view of those unfortunate events and losses, as I attempted to embrace and settle into the fear that was gripping me, it was curiously hard for me to justify coexisting with it. I suppose it had to do with the fact that I’ve always been taught to face my fears (using quite possibly the wrong choice of words) head on. Heck, even the bible teaches “God has not given us the spirit of fear … but of a sound mind …” you know the rest. But, how would I work up the nerve to eradicate fear in the case of motorcycling riding?
Well, as fate would have it, I was provided with the opportunity to do just that. As part of the course of my profession, writing, I was introduced to Harley Davidson’s Rider’s Edge, a comprehensive course in learning how to operate a motorcycle by the book. I bravely obliged and took the opportunity, and in the end, I can confidently and proudly say that I am better for it.
There are risks inherent in everything that we do. From stepping out of bed in the morning to lying down at night, literally, anything can happen. Our only recourse in avoiding peril is to mitigate those risks or lessen the chances of something undesirable occurring by being as knowledgeable as we can be about all that we undertake and by always remaining as alert as humanly possible. The course is designed to focus on both those admonitions.
Rider’s Edge provides riders and aspiring riders alike with the fundamentals of operating a motorcycle, it presents you with tools to increase your awareness of how to utilize the information you learn, and finally, puts you through riding drills to prepare you for the “real world” of putting a motorcycle on the road. And upon experiencing the drills, I must admit that riding is a thrill that once you experience it, it’s hard to not fall in love with.
What did I gather from the experience along with my new found appreciation for the thrill of it?
I learned that bikes don’t kill, circumstances do, and being aware of what those circumstances are and knowledgeable about how to best navigate them can mean the difference between enjoying the open road on two wheels and life-altering disaster. Employing and trusting the proper operational techniques are key in safe cycling.
Trust is important, because even when the techniques are utilized, fear can make them ineffective. Challenging my protective instincts – aka “white-knuckling” the bike – in favor of the tried and true proven techniques of riding was a tussle like you wouldn’t believe, but there’s something freeing about educated faith and trust. “Educated faith and trust ” … that’ll preach, but I digress. Once I relaxed and embraced the instructor’s guidance, I became one, so to speak, with the bike and everything became much easier.
At that point, I was ready for the final step in completing the class, the road evaluation.
Was I perfect in the evaluation, absolutely not. In fact, one drill was bombed so badly – because I allowed panic to slip in, I thought it would cost me my certification. But we were never promised the outcome of being world class riders. We were promised a toolbox full of tools to use along with the knowledge of how and when to use them as we set out on the journey to hone our skills in the world. I recovered from my mistake and carried on. The parallels between riding and life in general were hard to ignore.
From the experience, I was reminded that life is not about perfection, but about your response to it and getting better with each experience. It’s about learning from mistakes and trying again. As it is with motorcycles, life isn’t to be white-knuckled and relaxing a little – which fosters a sound mind – and utilizing the tools you’ve picked up through the myriad experiences that comprise your journey make it much easier to make necessary corrections and remain in control. The lessons were invaluable.
I faced and eradicated one of my greatest fears, completed and passed the course earning the right to change my license to add the certified rider code, and learned a few life lessons in the process. This gave me a great sense of peace and accomplishment, which is always good for the soul.
If you are a rider or aspire to be, Harley Davidson’s Rider’s Edge course is an absolute must-take … the rewards go beyond just the certification.
For more info, click here.