I just spent fifteen hours learning how to operate a motorcycle safely and skillfully. And enjoying the company of these soon-to-be biker babes, four women who comprised the more attractive side of the ten person class.
The three day Team Oregon Basic Rider Training is terrific -- highly recommended for both new riders and those, like me, who are getting back into motorcycling/scootering after a long absence.
Here's some advice if you think your motorcycle skills will revive instantly if you hop back on your Harley, or whatever, after several years (in my case, it was about fifteen years).
I'd taken the same Team Oregon class before buying a Yamaha Seca II in the 1990s. I rode that bike for almost a year before selling it. So I wasn't a neophyte to motorcycling.
Yet the first half hour or so of the on-bike skills and safety training had me feeling pretty darn shaky. Even going at slow speeds on a wide open Chemeketa Community College parking lot, which had been roped off for the occasion.
I'm really glad I took the course over again before picking up my Suzuki Burgman 650 Executive maxi-scooter.
It isn't good to make basic motorcycling mistakes in traffic, which would be easy to do if someone is getting reacquainted with the tricky controls most bikes have. (Scooters shift automatically, which makes driving them quite a bit simpler.)
Much better to make those mistakes on a parking lot under a skilled instructor's watchful eye.
I had the most trouble with the quick stop maneuver, which entailed accelerating in second gear, and then stopping as quickly as possible, while downshifting, when the front wheel passed an orange traffic cone.
Roll off the throttle with right hand. Squeeze front brake lever with four right fingers smoothly and progressively harder. Press on rear brake with right foot, progressively softer. Pull in clutch with left hand. Press down on shifter with left foot.
At first, all that is like rubbing your head with one hand and patting your stomach with the other hand -- except you're doing it while traveling 15-20 mph and aware that the instructor and your class mates are watching to see how you do.
OK, in my case. Not great, though I had my quick-stop moments.
I was given a "dual sport" (dirt/street) bike to use that was pretty rough, and wouldn't shift into neutral when stopped. So I developed a lot of left hand strength from having to hold in the clutch while I was waiting in line with the engine on to do the next exercise.
My strong point was turning. I loved the turn exercises -- finding the right speed and the right line in a lane through a turn (usually outside, then inside to the apex, and outside again).
The camaraderie between my fellow students also was enjoyable.
Motorcycling attracts disparate people who are bound together by a passion for motorized two-wheeling. We ranged from a black clad bearded Harley type to a mother who brought her Vespa (she zipped along damn speedily, I was pleased to see, being a scooter'er myself).
Our lead instructor, David, was a sixty-one year old psychotherapist. His gray hair and beard made me like him right away -- plus think, for a fairly obvious reason, "Man, that is a good looking guy."
Proving that he was an Oregon motorcycling instructor, David threw in some New Age'y observations during the classroom portion of the training.
I think motorcycling attracts people because it activates the lower chakras, which don't get much work in our culture.
Cool. I don't know how this stuff went over with the Harley types, but this vegetarian Tai Chi scooter guy liked it.
Tomorrow I pick up my Burgman. I'll try to make sure that my chi is energized. A Starbucks latte should do the trick.