I belong to the women riders who accounted for 14% of the total motorcycle riding population in 2015 (retrieved from Revzilla – Dec 22, 2015). That was the summer I threw caution to the wind and signed up for the NH DMV’s Basic Rider Course. As a kid, I grew up on the back of my dad’s motorcycle, but as an adult I was tired of being limited to riding only when he was available. So I figured that the course would be a great way to find out if I could hack it as a motorcyclist without investing in a bike or risking scratching my dad’s Harley. During the three day course I learned the basic skills of cornering, braking and shifting – that is, after I held up the entire class figuring out the clutch. If I knew that riding required the use of all of my limbs (left foot gear shift lever, right foot rear break, left hand clutch, right hand throttle) I would have never made it to that course. I am not the most coordinated person on the planet, but when that weekend course came to an end I felt a true connectedness with being a rider.
The following week my dad accompanied me to Full Throttle Powersports and I fell in love at first sight with a used, white Suzuki cruiser. I was so nervous to take it on the road that I made my sister’s boyfriend ride it home from the dealership. I affectionately named her the Cougar Cruiser after my crazy cat lady tendencies and slowly began warming up to the idea that I would take her out in traffic. I hadn’t been this nervous to be on the road since I got my license at sixteen.
Those first few rides I had to constantly remember to turn off my blinker since it didn’t automatically shut off like my car. I had to keep a sharp eye on miles, since the 2005 model didn’t have a fuel level display. I thought every pot hole would swallow my tire whole and I dreaded the idea of confronting stop signs, rotaries, and intersections. First I circled the block in the early morning hours before many cars were on the road. The next time I mapped out a route to a friend’s house with limited stop signs. Finally I agreed to tag along with my father and entertained a short ride for ice cream to the next town over. And then, I fell down the slippery slope to day trips up north, to the seacoast, and through the bumpy back roads of NH. By The time 2016 rolled around I rode my little Cougar Cruiser to Bike Week and kept up with my dad and his friends for the weekend in Laconia (the world’s oldest bike rally!).
The best thing about riding my motorcycle is getting out in nature and getting lost on windy back roads. I love the sensation of the warm summer air whipping around me as the warmth of the sunshine makes my skin tingle. It’s an amazing feeling to get outdoors and watch the world fly by all around me. I enjoy the challenge of maneuvering my bike around corners, over battered pavement, and through the hills of New England. My favorite scenic backdrops have been rolling farm pastures, the ocean along Route One, and the cool canopy of the NH forests when we I turn off a main road on to a road less traveled.
I’m not ignorant to the dangers of operating a motorcycle. I wear my helmet, my sunscreen and the proper protective gear but I know there could be instances where this would never be enough to protect me. So why risk it? It’s the same reason I risk African Safaris and River Tours in the Amazon. I personally don’t live my life abiding by fear. I spent a lot of years just existing, but traveling, motorcycle riding, and the occasional skydive remind me I’m truly alive.
That being said, I have observed the automobile drivers that tailgate bikers, text while driving and drift towards a motorcyclist or fail to check their blind spots before they cut over. The difference is when those cars hit another vehicle that the impacted vehicle typically helps to shield the human inside. When those cars hit a biker, they’re hitting limbs, helmets, and human beings dead on. Making the decision to hold the handlebars between your hands is not the same as clutching a steering wheel. As a motorcycle rider you have to be constantly hyper-alert to your surroundings and assume the role of a defensive rider always. You have to consciously be in the moment and always have an escape route mapped out should anything arise.
And that’s why I favor the yellow line – plain and simple. I don’t cross the yellow line or drift over the yellow line, but I favor the left side of the traffic lane. I’ve dabbled with the right lane, but as a new rider I’ve found I’m more apt to drift on a curve or have a slight moment of panic. In those instances if I’m in the left lane I only have one safe option of avoidance – to go left. Right is not an option on a low shoulder NH back road, which means if I round a corner and there is a deer or a vehicle in my lane I’m more likely to collide with the object obstructing my path. When I operate my motorcycle in the left side of the lane I am more likely to have two paths of escape or at least more room to maneuver my bike around the obstruction. I’m also more visible to oncoming traffic when I’m in the left hand side of the traffic lane, then if I’m in the right hand side of the lane behind another vehicle.
There are riders that favor the yellow lane and there are riders that favor the breakdown lane – to each their own. Either way, riders face more drastic consequences when they are involved in a collision. So if you are a rider, take the Basic Rider Course or Refresher Course and learn the basic crash avoidance techniques. And if you are an automobile driver give the biker plenty of space, pay attention to signals, and remember they don’t have a protective shield of an automobile to use as a buffer should you collide. And as for this biker babe, I’m not hanging my helmet up anytime soon just yet. Live free or ride.
Learn about the Basic Rider Course –> Here
Register for the Course –> Here
Learn to ride on a Harley and take the New Rider Course @ Seacoast Harley –> Here