Tag Archive for fear

I'm Riding the Lightning Now!

I spun the motorcycle up to 40 miles an hour today. Yeah, I’m flying now! I best be careful before I break the sound barrier and piss off the neighbors.

Okay, in all seriousness, I’m finally putting in some real seat time after several weeks of storms, rain, trips, and projects, and my comfort level is growing fast. In fact, today I felt more eager than nervous when I fired her up, and that 40mph jaunt, though brief, was not as terrifying as I anticipated.

That’s right, I said terrifying. It’s tough to shake the idea that I’m straddling an engine and someone stole a couple of my wheels. Granted a Virago‘s engine is about as small as they come, but sitting on top of even 21 horses is a very different feeling from strapping into a cozy chair with a sturdy firewall and floor separating me from the engine and all the spinny bits. It’s also a lot of fun, but like my father-in-law told me, you’ve got to respect it or it’ll turn on you.

Because tempting fate by pushing new heights of speed wasn’t enough, I took her out into some heavier traffic today, too. This was another exercise in channeling fear as I made sure I had plenty of time to get moving. My bike will still accelerate better than a lot of cars, but I also have to keep in mind my shifting ability (or lack thereof). Missing a the gear with a semi bearing down on me wouldn’t be any fun now, would it?

Then came the hat trick: I also marked the farthest distance ridden yet. Okay, so it was only a mile from home, but I’ve zipped around quite a bit within that range. It’s all about seat time for the moment, and my comfort level grows with every turn. Just like when I’m learning a new kata in karate class, I’m building up my proprioception, or muscle memory. Pretty soon shifts and turns will be automatic, just as they are in a car.

That mile distance took me to the local gas station. The tank was looking a bit empty, so I decided it was about time I topped her off. I didn’t look at the pump meter until she was full. The total?

$3.95!

I rounded her to four bucks even, just shy of a gallon of gas. If the previous owner had reset the tachometer with the last fill-up, I’ll easily see 50 miles per gallon out of this bike, probably more.

I can definitely get comfortable with numbers like that.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Two Wheels of Terror

I’m giving serious thought to purchasing a motorcycle again. Specifically the Honda Shadow VLX.

The out-of-control gas prices are what made me think about bikes in the first place, and it’s become a stronger argument this summer as prices continue to creep upward. According to this chart, I should expect to get about 50 miles per gallon on a Shadow, which will make trips to our second campus at work or to things like karate class a lot cheaper than if I were to take the family van at 20-22 miles per gallon. It also lets me leave the van with the wife and kids should they need it, without the extra expense of a car as the second vehicle.

There’s still a nagging fear in the back of my head, though. I only learned to ride last year, and while the course put me at ease about my own riding, there’s always that concern about some pinhead pulling out in front of me or merging into me in traffic. On top of that, I have yet to get seat time on anything more than a parking lot course. My father-in-law offered to let me take his GoldWing for a spin, but I can hardly even get my stubby legs over the seat, much less get them to touch the ground while I’m on it. A co-worker offered to let me ride his Shadow ACE, but if I dumped it I’d feel horrible so I took a pass.

On the other hand, I know riders who have been on their bikes over 30 years without incident. What’s more, statistics show that the overwhelming majority of riders (better than 90% if I remember right) of motorcycle accidents involve riders who are self-taught and/or who are riding under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Just taking that $20 course put me ahead of most riders on the road before I even get on the bike.

I’m also told that fear is good for the rider. You stay more alert, more aware of your surroundings. When you’re expecting that pinhead to merge into you, you’re reacting before he even starts to move. It’s when you get tired or careless that you start to have a problem.

This morning it occurred to me I felt the same way when I first took driver’s ed in high school. I remember standing out front, watching people pick up their kids or watching other students pick up their friends, and being amazed at how easy they made it look. I used to wonder if I’d ever be that comfortable behind the wheel, even if I’d ever be as good at driving as they seemed to be. A year later, the car was just an extension of my body. I picked up my brother and one of his friends after practice one afternoon, and I realized I was doing the same thing as the people I had been watching. Driving really is easy, and I was as good as those other people.

I’ve been watching motorcyclists with the same awe. They’ve been out in droves with the warmer weather, and they cruise along just like the cars around them. It’s all about experience, and you’ve got to start somewhere. The good news is we have miles and miles of open road out here in the boonies, unlike the crowded suburban streets I learned to drive a car on.

I’d always wanted to learn to ride a motorcycle, and I’ve accomplished that much. Now it’s time to give some serious thought to taking it to the next level. What better time than spring?

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.