I remember buying my first bike. It was only about a week after my endorsement class, and one of my instructors had said something to me, tongue in cheek, that I’ll never forget. “When you go to buy a bike,” he said “remember this: When you turn it on, it should turn you on right back.” I’m pretty sure I laughed out loud at that one. As a newbie, everything about riding turned me on!
Everyone, even my instructor, said that starting too small was usually a mistake, that you’d grow out of it too quickly and regret not having more power. At the time though, I was going through a separation after a long marriage, and I wasn’t feeling very powerful. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle the pressures of living alone and making my own living. My life back then was about baby steps. About testing the waters, and teaching myself to swim again. I had a little money saved, and I really wanted to pay cash for a bike I could learn on.
So I looked around a bit and rode a couple of 650s, but my biggest problem in the class had been the low speed turns and controlling the friction zone against the weight of the bike. I had no problem once I got up to speed, but I knew I lacked the overall confidence to handle a larger, heavier bike, so in the end I opted for an older model with six thousand miles on it that fit both my budget and my needs – the lightweight, easy to handle 250cc Honda Rebel.
To this day I am so glad I did that. I rode that thing everywhere. It was small and so well balanced it felt like I couldn’t lay it down even if I wanted to, which of course I didn’t. But big bikes still scared me. So I stuck to my little bike and my sons and I all learned to ride on it.
Then one day a friend of mine (who rides a Suzuki GSX 1250) invited me to take a bike trip to the Oregon Coast. We went with two other people, both of whom rode big Harleys. All of them were very experienced riders, and I jumped at the chance to learn what it was like, not only to do a big road trip, but learning to ride in a group. The route she had planned took us through sagebrush and forests, along the mighty Columbia River Gorge and even circled the back side of Mount Hood before ending in the little town of Newport, Oregon.
If you’ve ever tried to climb a mountain pass on a 250cc bike you know exactly what’s coming next. I ended up way over toward the edge of the road, full throttle and yet barely holding onto 45 mph with my friends having to wait for me at the top of every climb. I also didn’t have the right gear to go from arid deserts to snow-covered summits to coastal wetlands all in one day. My fingers were white by the time we got to our destination. Not to mention the intense vibration from an old, carbureted, non rubber-mounted engine, which left my limbs absolutely trembling at the end of six+ hours on the road.
I learned a lot of valuable lessons on that trip, and after a year of riding the Honda I bought my first Harley. Again, I did my research and even rode some mid-range bikes, but by this time a lot had changed in my life. I’d moved to a new city, gotten a new job, and started a new relationship. I was ready to start traveling by bike, and I needed something that could take me where I wanted to go in the next chapter of my life.
I decided to go big or stay home and bought a 2013 HD Super Glide Custom, weighing in at just shy of 700 pounds with a 1584cc engine. It was a little scary, getting on that thing for the first time, but the minute I flipped the ignition, my instructor’s words dropped back into my head. Again I laughed out loud, and never looked back!
Like any road that’s fit to be ridden, life twists and turns. Our needs may change. Our abilities may change. Our ride may change. If you ask me though, that’s ok.
Change is a given.
Change is the ride.
And I wouldn’t change a thing…
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