silvergirl

Learning a new skill is exciting and a little nerve wracking and a little scary but I went for it by signing up to take a training course at the Harley Davidson Academy for beginner riders. My husband has always ridden a bike and sometimes being the passenger isn’t always that fun, so I thought why not? I can totally learn this! And I totally did…along with it came some bruises, some fear, some nervousness, exhilaration, joy, freedom, and a total sense of accomplishment and pride.

I knew going in that it was going to be a lot of work, seeing as I didn’t even know how to get on a bike properly by myself, but what I didn’t realize was how much work it was going to be emotionally.

My biggest fears going in to it were:

  • That I was going to drop the bike – Yep, that did happen
  • That I was going to break a body part – Nope, didn’t happen
  • That I was going to lose control, crash and kill myself – Obviously not

What I thought I was going to learn:

  • How to ride a bike (ha!) – didn’t think too much beyond that part because I didn’t want to put too many expectations on the course or myself.

My goal was to be completely present in each moment.

What actually happened:

The training was set up to not only teach us 4 participants (2 guys, 2 gals) but to train 2 coaches to be certified trainers. So we had a head coach, 2 coach trainees, and 2 reps from Harley Canada cheering us all on for the weekend. It was a fantastic group…a lot of great laughs, visiting and conversations were definitely had.

The first morning we literally learned how to put the kickstand up on the bike and it progressed from there. I can’t remember where we were at the end of the first day, but I’m pretty sure we were cruising around the parking lot in first gear through the slalom and doing figure eights. I wouldn’t have believed it if you would’ve told me that in the morning. I was totally impressed with how each new skill is added to the previous skill learned. Their model for learning and teaching is by far, one of the best models I’ve ever been involved with. Repetition and practice are key factors, along with someone literally standing beside you being your cheerleader for EVERY single skill you are working on. (Thanks Kelly!!) Words of encouragement were ALWAYS a part of every discussion. Even when you felt like you weren’t feeling it yourself.

Day 2 brought a little more nervousness and trepidation for me as I knew that we were going to finish the day with a 35 minute ride out in the real world. Ummm scary! I don’t even ride my pedal bike in traffic so I knew that this was going to be a huge jump for me. Nerves aside, we kept on learning, progressing through each drill, sometimes taking a few more rounds to ensure that we were confident in our skills.

When it came time for emergency braking, that’s when the nerves kicked in. The more we practiced the more I realized how much of a dangerous situation that we could get in once we were out on the road.

  • What if I couldn’t stop in time?
  • What if my back tire got into a skid?
  • What if I started to skid sideways down the road?

Each time I began to doubt, I remembered my initial goal to be present. Take a breath, get focused, move on. I know that my first attempt at emergency braking was on the pathetic side. No questions about it. But that’s ok, and it was encouraged. Start with where you are and build on it. By the last time I went through, I was up into second gear and thinking it was kinda fun! Who knew?

Time for lunch…at this point, feeling pretty darn comfy with where I was at. It was a gorgeous day, I was eating GF cheese pizza (ha!), drinking a ton of water, enjoying great conversation, getting excited for the road ride! (totally did not think it was going to happen and was at the point numerous times in the morning to let them know that I didn’t think I was going to go on it).

Lunch break over, and we are going to learn how to start moving from the bottom of a hill. (hill starts)…Great! I’m thinking. I used to love driving my little standard red Plymouth Horizon when I was in high school thinking hills were fun because you start moving backwards a touch before the gear kicks in and you’re up and on your way! Fun! Let’s do this.

So I’m first in line to go, hop on my bike feeling 110% confident, start to go, my handlebars break hard left and the bike is falling, my inner ninja kicks in and I’m rolling away from the bike like I’m on fire and hop right up!!  What the hell just happened? Chuck, the head coach, comes on over and says, “gather around, I’ll show you how to pick up a bike the right way”. OK, let’s do this, I guess? He walks us through how to pick it up and the next thing I know, I’m on the bike starting off the right way.

Did I mention…look in the direction you want to go…it wasn’t until later that I realized that I was looking over at the dumpsters when I started off the first time. So that’s where I was going…super slow speed, looking in the wrong direction, wasn’t paying attention and feeling over confident = bad things happen. Lesson learned. Or so I thought.

The next time, and ALL of the times after that, I went through the mental checklist that I had prepared for each time that I was going to move the bike. They teach that at the VERY beginning and you build on it each time with each new skill. It only works though if you use it. Ha!

During the break, it was so very reassuring to hear about the times that the others had dropped their bikes, what circumstances it was and how they overcame it. Karen, from Harley Canada, walked right up to me and high fived me and THANKED me for getting it over with. WHAT? She said that it’s best to get it out of the way at the beginning so I don’t have to keep worrying about it. (how did she know that it was one of my fears?) I wish I could remember everything she said to me, but all I know was that it was exactly what I needed to hear in that moment because I was able to walk back out there, get back on and start preparing for the intersection lesson.

That also meant though that I was getting closer to the road ride. EEEEEEEP!

We took quite a bit of time practicing the intersections, with shoulder checking, lane changing, signaling, turning, yielding, stopping, and…you get the idea. Harder than you think but totally manageable. The biggest concern I had was being able to reach the signal lights.

Moving on…

One more break, then road ride. Before leaving the parking lot, we practiced riding with a group. There were five of us going…4 students, 1 coach that had a one-way radio who spoke with us over ear pieces. I know, super cool right? And following us were all of the other coaches in a vehicle who could also speak with us.

Pulling out of the parking lot was awesome because at that point it was feeling like ok, let’s just go already! I definitely had to settle myself, because there was a lot of emotion going on. The biggest thing being to breathe to relax the body, I knew I didn’t want to have tense muscles all over.

Leaving the college parking lot onto the main road was pretty incredible! Coming up to my first intersection I could see on the right hand side my husband parked at the stop sign watching our convoy drive past. I knew that he and our boys could see me riding and tears instantly came to my eyes. In that moment, I was so freaking proud of how far I had come over the past 2 days. I was so proud that my boys could see me doing something that I had wanted to do. And realizing that I had showed them that by doing this, they could do anything they wanted to as well….yup, tears in my eyes again as I write this…

Into residential we went, practicing and relaxing into it. We stopped in a cul de sac to make sure everyone was comfortable and doing ok (which we where) then we continued on our journey. Just as we were about to leave residential I saw that familiar white truck again and smiled…sneaky little buggers.

From there we moved onto an 80 km/hr road that took us out of town towards an acreage subdivision. It took us about 10 minutes to get there and we did another check stop to ensure we were all good. As we pulled away, moving into the curve a huge dog came running out towards the third motorcycle, chasing and barking at him. I was the fourth in our group so I had to slow down to manage the risk that he brought! Thankfully he was called back to his owners and he listened!! Yikes. Thank goodness for the hazard avoidance training!

Pulled up at the stop sign to exit right out of the subdivision and realized that I was on a hill. The first 3 motorcycles had gone, I was next and I was not doing well. I checked traffic, there was a car coming from the left, I had enough time to go, but definitely did not feel comfortable.

  • I paused.
  • I hung my head.
  • Tears of defeat came to my eyes.
  • Questions of whether or not I could keep going.
  • Deciding whether I should give up.
  • If I could handle it.
  • I did NOT want to drop the bike again.
  • Rock bottom.
  • And then there was Louie. The coach car pulled up right beside me. He hopped out, came over and asked me what was going on. I couldn’t talk, I just shook my head. He said, “You got this gal, you know what you’re doing, you can do this.”
  • I took a breath, I took another, and it felt like 100 after that.
  • But I went through my list, I checked traffic, and I went.
  • The turn wasn’t pretty.
  • But, I did it.
  • I guess I had more to learn.
  • And the group got back together.
  • And we got back to the college.
  • And we celebrated. And we smiled, and we took pictures, and then Karen hugged me and I teared up again.

Because it was really hard, and it was scary, and I had to dig really really deep to keep going. But I did it. And while in that moment I felt like I had failed, I knew that I had stayed true to my goal. I had stayed present. I allowed myself to feel all of those feelings of doubt and uncertainty, and then I allowed myself to look around a teeny tiny bit to give myself a glimpse of what it will feel like when I am 100% confident on a bike every time I get on it. Every emotion filled my body that day. The lowest of the lows, and the highest of the highs. And I wouldn’t change it for anything because I learned so much about myself and about the people we surround ourselves with. I am so thankful for each person in that group who encouraged me ALL weekend. It was as though each positive word built on each other to get me through that moment. Pretty amazing stuff. 

Leaving the training I was wiped, but did have to drive to Edmonton that night. I got home and shared everything with my family and it was soooooo awesome. Everyone was so excited to share in my accomplishment. I wasn’t wiped anymore, they had also picked me back up!

Driving to Edmonton that night, reflecting on the weekend, listening to the radio, ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ by Simon & Garfunkel came on. As always, I listened to the lyrics and couldn’t help but notice how incredibly well these words represented my weekend. Yes…more tears. When they started in with “sail on silvergirl” the tears were definitely rolling. A lot of nicknames came up over the weekend but, I think I like that one the best of all. It was the perfect way to end the day because those lyrics truly said it ALL.

So incredibly thankful for all of those involved in the weekend and the training process, for picking me back up when I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it myself. Each person there has affected my life in such an amazing way. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to get back on a bike, but after reflecting on the weekend, and taking time to process during the week, I have been looking at what bike I would love to buy someday.

If you are wondering if you are strong enough to accomplish any dream…you are
If you think you can’t…you can
When you think you don’t have anything left…you do
Stay curious, keep asking questions, practice what’s important to you, dig deep,
don’t give up, stay strong and sail on…

Ride safe, and see you down the road!

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 “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Simon & Garfunkel, written by Paul Simon

When you’re weary, feeling small,
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all
I’m on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can’t be found

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I’ll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on, silvergirl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
If you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

*Thanks to my Mom for the featured pic!