Saturday, September 22, 2007

Scooter Guy learns to shift gears: Part II

On this crisp Indian summer morning, 12 of us gathered in the upper parking lot of the PCC Sylvania campus to get up close and personal with a dozen motorcycles.

I’d brought my motor scooter for the hands-on, but then I figured, what the hell. How often to I get to learn to ride a motorcycle?

And learn I did, along with the 11 others.

Among us were folks who hadn’t ridden for 20 years. There were wives and girlfriends who were tired of clinging to love handles at 70 mph.

And then there were the neophytes. Scootering didn’t quite put me in that category, but motorcycles are a whole new world.

One young woman was a true wobbly novice, and I ended up running the course behind her. She kept dragging her feet, literally. She wouldn’t get up enough speed for the bike to stay upright. I watched her toppled three times. I thought the instructors might give up on her, but they kept at it. At the end of four hours, she was a happy cruiser.

And so was I. Starting, stopping, up shifting, down shifting, turning. The last isn’t as easy as it sounds. Motorcycle wisdom: Don’t look where you are going; look where you want to go, it’s the only way to get there. Aaaah sooooo ....

At the end of my time circling the parking lot (we each went about 11 miles without going anywhere in particular), I ached in places I have never ached before.

We had a two-hour classroom session after the time on the bikes. It was all about “mental motorcycling,” which is another way of saying “staying alive on two wheels going very fast.”

The course is lardered with acronyms to make the material stick. SIPDE is probably the most important one as it deals with raw survival. It covers the essentials of disaster avoidance. "S" is for Scan — as in keep your eyes open, WIDE open and on the move. "I" is for Identify — looking isn’t the same thing as seeing and recognizing. "P" is for Predict — as in, if I hit that truck that just pulled out in front of me I will die, on the other hand if I …. "D" is for Decide, as in what do I do to stay alive. And "E" is for Execute — DO IT!

Not a bad list. It might even come in handy for making lasagna.

Tomorrow we mount the bikes again to learn about swerving and braking in curves. Should be a blast.

After that, there’s the multiple-choice classroom test and, if all goes well, I’ll be certified as capable of riding one of these things. Hard to believe.

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