Taking the Long Road to a Motorcycle License
By Heather d'Entremont | @bambi_dm | email@example.com
"If you can't handle that, you won't be able to handle a big bike."
That's what I was told by one of my instructors at the end of our first full day of the motorcycle training course. We had finished up early on a sweltering summer day, but I asked if I could spend another few minutes practicing without the pressure of having my other 10 classmates around. I had just finished trying tight circles on a Virago with awkward mini-apes and, for what felt like the 1,000th time, I had felt unbalanced and put my foot down.
I went home that afternoon and cried. Lame, I know. I was convinced I couldn't do it and even worse, thought that I'd never be able to do it. It was my husband who pushed me to go back the next day to finish the course, to not give up.
In New Brunswick, Canada, motorcycle licenses are divided into two classes: A (all bike sizes) and D (any bike 550cc or less). When you do the test to get your license, you test for either one. Most people go straight for class A, but even though I went back to the class the next day, the instructors comment stayed with me: I wouldn't be able to handle a "big bike".
I tested for my class D that weekend and passed easily. I bought a Kawasaki Vulcan 500 and enthusiastically practiced and soon discovered my absolute passion for open roads and two wheels.
You'd think that'd be the end of the story – but far from it. Like many others, I started wanting more power after a year. I'm not a speed-freak by any means, but I wanted enough zip to feel confident passing on the highway. And it doesn't help when everyone you ride with has 1000cc+ between their legs.
I quickly found a beautiful sportster in my price range – all that I needed was my class A. Easy, I thought. I'd been riding for a year at that point and figured I'd have no issues testing again.
I scheduled my test for a few weeks later and reserved a 600cc bike to do the test (you have to supply your own bike for the test if you're not part of the motorcycle training course). My friend rode it to the testing area and I rode my Vulcan.
I did the course without any issues – except the bike kept stalling. If it didn't rev the guts out of 'er, she was dead. Just as I was finishing up the test, the bike stalled for a fourth time and the instructor walked over to me. I guess it was "4 strikes, you're out" for me. I was angry, embarrassed and crushed. My friend rode the bike back to the shop and – you guessed it – it stalled a couple more times on the way back.
I rescheduled the test for a few weeks later and reserved a different bike. I figured that I had completed the other test without error (except for the stalling), so I didn't take the time to practice beforehand (BIG mistake).
The day of the second test, my friend brought the bike for me. As soon as she showed up in the parking lot, I started shaking. Getting on the bike, I wasn't any better. I fiddled with the controls, I fumbled putting the kickstand up. In my head, I heard "If you can't handle that, you won't be able to handle a big bike." I was so frustrated with myself – I knew this stuff! But I let my nerves get the best of me and unfortunately, I didn't even get past the second part of the test.
Back to the drawing board.
I scheduled my third test and committed to a ton of practicing. With my husband's help (and lots of patience), we set up an exact replica of the test in a parking lot – mini-cones and all – and practiced until sundown a few evenings each week. I finally found my pace, a rhythm, and most importantly, my confidence, again.
The morning of my third test, my husband loaded up the loaner bike onto a small trailer for me. It was pouring rain. I called to make sure the test wasn't cancelled and was assured that it would go ahead rain or shine.
So I drove to the test site and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Others showed up for their own tests and soon enough, an hour after my scheduled appointment, they called and told me that it was cancelled. I felt a wave of disappointment roll over me.
I rescheduled for the following week and got a few extra hours of practice in. On the morning of my fourth (or third?) test, it was raining again. I must've called 20 times before 10 a.m. to confirm the test was still on. I was reassured that it would happen, so once again, my husband loaded up the bike and we went and waited. Luckily, the instructor was already there. I was the first person to show up, so he agreed to test me right away.
As I got on the bike, the rain falling steadily, I went over what I had practiced so many times over the last few weeks. Whenever I felt any uncertainty or negativity creep into my inner voice, I hushed it by methodically reviewing every single technique I had practiced. I fell into my rhythm and just like a delicate ballet routine, I moved through the test with ease – step by step, slowly and flawlessly.
As the instructor wrote up my class A license, I could barely contain my excitement. After far too long of a road with many bumps (and huge potholes), I could finally get my "big" bike. Lesson of the day? Never give up, never let someone tell you that you can't do something, and never let YOURSELF tell you that you can't do something.
Ride your bike (big or small) and raise hell, babes!
Author: Heather d’Entremont (@Bambi_DM)