Laura Goes to Motorcycle School–Day Four: Asphalt Revisited

Bursting into tears is so embarrassing. I did it a lot as a kid, but later learned–in therapy, no less–that tears disconcert people, and maybe need to be reigned in from time to time. Today I saved my tears for a 10 minute break after my dismal performance on the Honda 250 that I was assigned around 8:00 a.m.

If the little Kawasaki 125 I rode yesterday and Tuesday was a spirited little pony, then the Honda 250 is a saddled dragon with a nasty temper. There were times today when the thing tried to race itself out from under me with seemingly no warning. I understand that it only happened because I had my hand on the throttle, but it sure felt random. To say the bike is responsive would be a ridiculous understatement. And it really dislikes first gear. Thankfully, it’s not too hard to get it into second (though sometimes we visited neutral and maybe third on the way and sometimes neutral and first, again). It performs very well up to 15 mph (wheeeee!) in second.

After not laying the Kawasaki down yesterday, I was very hopeful about today’s lessons. There are two different two-wheeled licenses you can get in Illinois. The M-class is for bikes 150 ccs and above, the L-class is for bikes 125 ccs and below. I badly wanted to be given a bigger bike today so I might qualify for the M-class license. I was stoked when I realized the bike I’d been assigned was a 250.

Let’s just get the disaster part over with, shall we? This time–about 15 minutes into the class–I went down with the bike. And under it. Well, all but my right leg. I couldn’t even tell you what led up to it. I think I was turning and braking with the front break (a bad combo). Then there was a terrible noise, and I found (YES!) the engine kill switch. Of course, the momentum completely drained from the bike and it became a ginormous blue and chrome paperweight that I wasn’t strong enough to keep upright. Once again there was no damage to me or the bike. I’ve been lucky like that. One of the coaches came over to lift up the bike because I was just lying there on the asphalt, looking up at the sky, thinking *%8%8^, *^86%85 and *78%4$!!!!

I didn’t want to get up. It was reasonably comfortable there, despite the bike, and I didn’t have to look at anyone. After an indecent amount of time passed, I did stand up. The helpful coach asked if I wanted to switch back to the 125. Then he asked me if I was okay. There was NO WAY I was going to switch bikes. Unh-unh. Nope. I was going to tame that beast.

What we did over the course of the morning…Damn, we did a LOT of exercises. Lots of swerving and curves. I’m proud to say that I did really well on the sudden stop exercise. Kind of ironic. The most challenging was the stupid U-turn box. We had to do figure 8 U-turns. I went wide. Very, very wide. I know it will be on the final test tomorrow. Let’s all pray that I kick-ass on everything else so that when I screw it up it won’t completely tank me.

Speaking of the driving test, I don’t have much hope, I’m afraid. During my tearful episode on the phone with my dearest PB, he reminded me that I’m doing this for my own amusement, not because I have to be terribly competent at riding a motorcycle anytime soon. I’m not predicting failure. I can visualize myself zooming through the test like a champ. The realist in me says that it took me a long time to become a safe car driver, and ten or eleven hours on a motorcycle isn’t very darn much. Whatever happens–license come Monday morning, or no–I bet you’ll all be relieved to hear I won’t be riding dragons down your neighborhood roadways anytime soon.

Wish me luck tomorrow!

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