I’ve gone back and forth on rather or not to share this with you all. I’m going to go ahead and put it up and trust that if people get brutal (yes, people can be pretty mean online) that I’ll be able to brush it off. Today, I’m going to address what can happen when you let self-doubt creep in and you don’t trust your motorcycle riding skills.
I Knew My Abilities
Without trying to sound arrogant I did consider myself a good rider. I knew I had my weaknesses like parking in a group. I’d always have that scene in my mind from Wild Hogs of making everyone’s bike fall over. Also, I slow down when I can’t see the road ahead. I know slowing down isn’t awful but it can be annoying for the motorcycles behind me. It also causes a large gap between Scott and me.
I do give myself kudos for being able to do a u-turn and I don’t usually duck walk in parking lots or when taking off from a stop. Thankfully Scott taught me how to control my clutch early on. I also felt fairly confident in my braking ability when I had to stop suddenly.
You may have noticed I used a lot of past tense above. That’s because I felt pretty confident in my abilities until suddenly I didn’t. Once I didn’t everything changed.
I Knew My Motorcycle
From day one of me having a motorcycle, Scott stressed the importance of knowing my bike. At first, it made no sense to me. I honestly thought it was some manipulative way to get me to wash it more. As time went on and I got to know my friction zone, how far over I could lean, how sharp I could turn and just how much space I needed for a u-turn. I began to discover what he really meant by getting to know it. Yes, part of that is washing it because you notice loose bolts, you see scraped floorboards or a worn belt but it’s also much more.
Spending Time Riding
Just like with any relationship the more time you spend with your motorcycle the better you know it and the more you learn to trust the connection between you and your motorcycle. When we first began riding we rode all of the time! I couldn’t get enough and Scott was more than happy to oblige with all-day rides, dinner rides, or cross-country trips for our vacations. Fast-forward to about a year and a half ago. I went back to school to work on my bachelor’s degree in nursing and free-time became nonexistent. I actually went months and months without riding.
The Perfect Storm
Last semester I decided not to take any summer classes. Scott and I were excited, finally some riding time! Around the time riding season was getting into full swing several people we knew were involved in motorcycle accidents. A few of them were really bad accidents. Those accidents or actually my dwelling on them would be the start of the storm that would hit me.
As soon as school was out and weather permitted we began riding again. At first, I did my best to put the thought of our friends that had been in accidents out of my head. Then I started noticing that I had to slow way down in corners or curves to control my bike. Faster speeds on the freeway now made me apprehensive. Suddenly I no longer felt in control of the front end of my motorcycle. I would remind myself I can control my bike but then I’d feel unstable and wobbly so I’d slow down. I’d start to think about friends that had wrecked in corners and it was pretty much all over from there.
The more we went out the more I noticed my inability to control my motorcycle. It wasn’t long before I had myself convinced I was a bad rider. I continued to take the motorcycle out convinced that I would regain control and get feeling I use to have when I rode. Scott is very observant and would ask me if everything was okay. I would answer with what I thought was the truth. I’d say something like I just don’t feel super confident today.
The problem was I kept attributing the physical problem I was noticing in my motorcycle to the fact that I hadn’t ridden in so long.
Acknowledging a Problem
We’re now up to mid-August. The weather is beautiful and Scott is itching to ride. I knew before long summer would be over and nursing school would once again consume my time. Scott wanted to take a long ride and head out to a burger place. I knew the only way to get my confidence back and regain my ability to feel in control was to ride so I put on a big grin and said let’s go. I sent a text to some friends to see if they wanted to join us and we were off.
We hit the first real corner and it’s not terribly sharp or anything but I feel wobbly and unstable. I soon have to really start slowing down in corners and turns that shouldn’t require it. Finally, it hits me that maybe the problem isn’t me, maybe it’s my motorcycle. I know the issue is usually in turns and corners. I then notice it mainly right turns and corners with a speed about 30-35 mph. As the day goes on I know I have to tell Scott what’s been going on.
We stop for gas and I tell him I’m feeling a little unstable in right turns at higher speeds. He asks if the motorcycle feels safe to ride home or should we tow it in. I explain it’s been going on for months and not a danger. I say I would rather just go ahead and head home on it where we can take a look at it.
Assessing the Problem
The next morning Scott and I headed to the garage to look at my motorcycle. Scott doesn’t usually ride my motorcycle but I asked him to take it around the block. yep, I was still doubting myself just a bit. He pulled back into the garage and said: “How the hell have you been riding that?”. Whew, I wasn’t crazy or a bad rider, something was really wrong with it. Because of our schedules and the multitude of things that may have been causing the issue we made the decision to have the motorcycle towed into the dealership.
What Was Wrong With the Bike
Finally: What was wrong with the bike? The steering head bearings went bad. Replacing those is quite a bit of work. For us and this situation, it was a good move to pay for the repair. The cost of the repair was very reasonable. In just a few days I was able to pick the bike up and get back on the road.
Regaining My Confidence
It only took Fort Worth Harley a few days to repair my bike. The evening we picked it up we decided we’d two-up on Scott’s motorcycle to get there and then head out for a dinner ride. The first turn out of the dealership was a right turn. So far so good. We took some backroads to get to Del Norte Taco. Out of habit, I started off slowing down as I reached turns and corners. As I pushed myself out of my comfort zone I was thrilled with how my bike was handling! By the time we headed home, I was smiling again and leaning into the corners and curves. I’ve had my bike back for a few weeks now and each time I get on it I gain a little more confidence. I’m back to leaning into corners and keeping my speed up.
I learned a lot the last few months but the biggest one was to speak up when something seems off. If I had I just told Scott the first time I thought the front end seemed wobbly we would have had it fixed way back in April or May of this year. I let my pride get in the way and that put both Scott and me in danger.
The other thing is to trust my ability. There was no reason for me to assume just because I hadn’t ridden frequently that suddenly I wouldn’t be able to handle my motorcycle. I would have had a lot more fun this summer if I hadn’t spent so many rides questioning my abilities as a rider.