Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why I Ride Motorcycles

Most people who meet me don't picture me as someone who would ever ride a motorcycle. I'm either fairly geeky-looking or fairly girly-looking, depending on which day you meet me, and in general I don't have the kind of attitude you'd expect from a typical biker chick.

The woman who sold me my motorcycle later told me she thought I was a secret shopper at first, because I was really not the type. We later worked together for a year and a half or so when I was the marketing coordinator at that same Harley dealership.

I fully confess it: I got into motorcycles because my now-husband was into motorcycles when we first met. He took me for a ride. The first time, I was terrified. It was a very uncomfortable ride for the both of us. The second time, though, I really relaxed and enjoyed it. That was when I got hooked.

That summer, he let me zip around a vacant lot by the river on his dirt bike, just learning how to shift gears, keep my balance, and get a feel for what it's like to be on two wheels. Then, in October of 2006, I got my bike, a 2007 Harley-Davidson XL50 (aka 50th Anniversary Sportster XL1200).

Long story short, I didn't really learn how to ride it until the following summer (it was the end of riding season anyways) when I got the job at the Harley shop. I took a five-day class, which I chronicle at my old blog here.

But the reason I ride is something I have a really hard time explaining without lapsing into the typical "independent woman" platitudes. It's not that I'm a hardcore feminist. Anyone who knows me knows I'm meek as milk and fairly awkward. But there's a part of me that takes pleasure in female competence. I don't run around trying to surpass all of the men in my life, but I like the fact that I can do something that a lot of men view as a male activity. I can connect on a level that doesn't involve sex and flirting, sort of like women who actually enjoy, and are conversant in, sports. But I can also do what I'm talking about. I'm not great at it. But I can ride a motorcycle; I rode one around Sturgis, and I even enjoy a few favorite local riding spots.

Riding still scares me sometimes. I look at people who commute on a motorcycle during the summer months and wonder how they do it; I frequently find myself in situations in my car that I don't know how I would've handled if I'd been on my bike instead. But on the other hand, when I do ride, I just love that I'm doing something for the pleasure of it. I ride so I can take in the scenery, look around, and meander without a particular goal in mind. I ride for the sensation of being on a motorcycle, and for the challenge of it. And there's a weird feeling you get after being on a motorcycle. You walk with a certain kind of pride. On anyone but me, I'd refer to it as a badass swagger. For me, it might just be that I successfully managed to ride another 50 miles without dying (go me!). I imagine it's the kind of relief you feel after managing to not kill yourself. But it's also just an appreciation for life - what you get to see and do in your limited time here on planet earth. And some of that might include an adventure on your own two wheels, if you're lucky.

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