The First 100 Miles: A New Rider’s Perspective

The recommended first step in learning to ride a motorcycle should be to take a rider safety course such as one by from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). I took mine at Harley Davidson of Savannah in Georgia (Thanks guys!). IT WILL NOT MAKE YOU AN EXPERT! But, it will open your eyes to how other drivers – car and truck drivers – see, or rather don’t see a motorcycle. That said, don’t ever let the acts of another scare you away from learning to ride. Enough of the doom and gloom….

scare you away from learning to ride. Enough of the doom and gloom….

The course I took included a three hour online Basic Motorcycle Rider eCourse (their naming, not mine) which introduces you to the motorcycle controls and some acronyms to help you remember the pre-ride checks and startup procedures. Those of us who are military minded know this as PMCS, but I digress… This is about the first 100 AFTER the course which upon successful completion will provide proof of proficiency to the DMV. That means the second step for the new rider is to get the “M” endorsement on the license and a motorcycle. That’s where my journey begins…

My daughter dropped me off at the Indian dealership in Savannah, Georgia with nothing more than the appropriate gear for riding and a desire to purchase a motorcycle. In other words, I was going to be either riding my own motorcycle by lunch or I was going to experience an extremely long walk of shame home. Luckily I did not have to face the shame as I rode home on a used 2013 Yamaha V Star 1300 Tourer. Yea, me!

You may be wondering why a used bike. Simple. As a new rider, I did not need all the distractions of the mega-buck bells and whistles of the biggest, baddest monster cycle on the market. One, it would be too much power and weight to handle when I needed to focus on the basic controls of the bike: throttle, clutch, and brakes with a turn signal here and there for good measure. My bike has enough power to haul this big guy around without looking like a circus bear riding a 20 inch bicycle as well as bags to carry items for the motorcycle (ie – cover, wipes, papers, and TOH flag). So, I figure I’m all set to jump right in and tour the world on two wheels. Remember the safety course? It taught me the basics of riding a motorcycle and at the end of the second day I was able to ADEQUATELY demonstrate proficiency handling the small bike used for training. Big difference! Training was on a standard 500cc motorcycle; I’m now riding something with almost three times the power AND in traffic! Again, BIG difference! And a little bit scary…

My first SOLO experience on my OWN bike was a serious wake-up call to the reality of riding. I left the dealership, made a right turn heading AWAY from traffic and congestion until I felt comfortable riding MY bike. That first “ride” was about five miles out and back including a turn-around at a gas station on the right. Leaving there meant I HAD to make a left ACROSS possible traffic. At that point, my greatest fear was stalling the engine. I didn’t stall, and was on my way back to the Harley Davidson dealership (location of the rider course) to pick up my free t-shirt (yes they had one big enough) for proving I now had the big “M” on my license. Thanks to a suggestion from my brother, I went ahead and ordered a set of HD rain gear (again, big guy here so finding big enough is rough, big AND tall is, well…. we’ll soon find out.)

It’s funny that when you drive a car, you really don’t think about which route you take to get somewhere. You want to get to wherever as quickly as possible, which usually means major highways and Interstates. HOWEVER! On a bike, especially as a new rider, I sought out the least traveled back roads to avoid large groups of traffic. It may mean you go out of your way a little, but for the sake of sanity (and safety) the back roads are less stressful when putting into practice those new found skills.

My first actual trip was from the dealership to home; about forty some odd miles on normal surface roads from the outskirts of Savannah to far side of Hinesville. Not too many traffic lights and, more importantly, not too much traffic. It was a good, but nervous, trip see as this was the first time on a bike since the riding course. What made less stressful were the multiple stops (HD for T-shirt and Southern Biker Gear for gloves) on the way home. But, do I ride to work on Monday? That was the pressing question.

I work in an office environment and I’m expected to dress accordingly: no jeans! So, as suggested, again by my brother, TAKE pants and shoes, WEAR jeans and boots, CHANGE when you get there. Why didn’t I think of that?!? Anyway, it was a cool ride in to work; the trip home would be in heavier traffic. It wasn’t as bad as I had psyched myself out to be. I still worried more about stalling, slowing, and turning, all the slow-speed maneuvering that the class had focused on, but I did fine. Didn’t ride Tuesday because I wasn’t going to carry two boxes to UPS (Amazon returns – another story for another time) on the back of a motorcycle. Sure, it could be done, but I wasn’t ready to tackle that. Didn’t ride to work on Wednesday either because forecast was for 15% chance of rain – no rain gear. No rain. Then I had to remember that a CHANCE of rain is based on the number of times it had rained on that particular calendar day and is “forecast” as a statistical percentage of how likely (or not) it will rain. Screw it! I rode the 25 miles to Jesup. That ride is what led me to this writing.

ATGATT means: All The Gear, All The Time. The gear includes over the ankle boots, long pants (usually jeans), long sleeves or a jacket, a helmet, and gloves. The helmet I have is considered a full-face modular where the front portion rises up to allow easier donning and removal. I usually wear it with the visor open a bit (about an inch) because I worry about fogging up. Now, on the ride BACK from Jesup, being a bit later than I had ever ridden before, the breeze (wind) into my eyes made me think of bugs (don’t know why, it just did) and I surely didn’t want anything blowing into my eyes, so I closed the visor completely. Y’all! I had never experience such a peaceful silence! Then it hit me (the thought, not bugs): Why in the whole of God’s green earth had I waited so long to ride a motorcycle? So THIS is what wind therapy is all about! It really is the only thing you can do once you’ve been bitten by the riding bug; you’ve got to ride! So now you may be wondering: Is there a cure for the riding bug? God, I hope not!

March 11, 2020

Jeff Allmond

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