I have been with Grimace for roughly 12 1/2 years – Grimace comes from a motorcycling family, and as such I think he pretty much grew up on one. In the time I’ve been with him, I have never been in control of a moving vehicle, other than the car, my mountain bike or the pram (it counts, right?!). I’ve happiy pillioned (??spelling?) with him, and loved it. I’ve been a passenger with him on an ATV, and loved it.
Well, today was the first time I have ridden a motorcycle.
Today, I fronted up at the Sydney International Regatta Centre (at Penrith) at the lovely time of 6:40am to undertake the pre-learners motorcycle training course. And, of course it was teeming with the wet stuff. With no idea what to expect, I clumsily walked into the classroom (turns out the wrong classroom initially) slurping my coffee. I actually wasn’t even sure if I would get to touch a motorcycle on the first day, rather be stuck in the classroom running through the theory. The only things I knew for certain were I didn’t want the humiliation of dropping the bike, hitting another participant’s bike, or worse, running the instructor over.
Settling in with the 4 other course participants, it became abundantly clear that I was the least experienced person in the group – almost all the others have either had their licence previosuly, or grown up using dirt bikes or quad bikes. The instructor was a lovely guy, but a guy who you knew was also a strict rule-follower. If you didn’t or couldn’t follow a direction/rule, it was clear that you weren’t going to be able to continue. As such, I was concentrating, hard.
It turns out, the first day involves a lot of time on a bike – I felt comfortable mounting the bike, grabbing the brake and throwing the leg over. I felt comfortable sitting on it – all those times of playing with Giggles Magoo on Grimace’s bike were actually helping me. Grimace used to commute to work on a little Honda 125 – and park it on our front verandah. Climing all over it and pushing all the buttons were clear favourites for Giggles Magoo when he was younger. I have also watched Grimace move approximately ONE THOUSAND bikes and was pretty comfortable holding the clutch in.
What I wasn’t comfortable with, was the whole moving part. The throttle is so sensitive, and I just kept thinking I was definitely going to do something wrong, like run the instructor over (it really didn’t help that he kept standing close to me and directly in my path). I was immediately overwhelmed with those horrible feelings of inadequacy and failure; laughing at myself for even thinking I could do this. I was also mostly just wondering how anyone can actually coordinate all of the things, whilst following the road rules and concentrating on the other vehicles around them to stay alive, let alone ride! Trying to piece together all the required tasks and movements to ride the motorcycle took me right back to 16 year old me when Dad was teaching me how to drive the (manual) car.
Doused in my motorcycle gear (thank goodness Grimace had reminded me to take my own stuff – borrowd helmet and gloves….ewwwww), I had clear visions of 16/17 year old me freaking out about all the tasks a manual driver needs to do – clutch, brake, accelerator, indicators, mirrors, remembering to keep looking ahead, moving of eyes and head, etc etc. I remembered feeling so stupid and out of depth; like I was never going to be able to learn how coordinate it all. I remember stalling. I remember stalling on a very busy major arterial road at peak hour and getting out of the car (in the right-hand lane), refusing to to it again. I remember being ‘gently’ reminded by my dad that you have to fail to succeed. That you have to make those mistakes to get it right, and that you just need to keep trying. I also remembered telling my beautiful Dad to F**k Off, as he was a terrible teacher – turns out he wasn’t (angst-ridden me was the terrible learner!). I’m quite a good driver now, relaxed and alert. I quite like driving places I have never been and reverse parking is not an issue for me. Obviously over time, it all just became a habit, and the mind plays a part in pre-empting what I need to do, without really thinking about it.
I was suddenly so grateful for that experience as a 16/17 year old overwhelmed driver, and grateful for being confronted with the memory of learning at the exact moment in time that I needed to be reminded.I recognised those “I won’t be able to do this; people are going to laugh at me/doubt me and expect me to fail” thoughts and was able to put my pragmatic mind to good use – yes, maybe this isn’t for me, but you know what, keep giving it a go. If the instructor is happy for me to keep going, I must be doing something right. And you know what – I even got into second gear without knocking anyone (or a bike) over!
Day 2 of the course is tomorrow morning – after day 2, I’m supposedly able to sit the motorcycle riding test. I’m just hoping my second time on a bike goes in a similar direction to the first.