Dirt Biking

Clutch-throttle-brake-shift…huh? My experience learning how to a ride a motorcycle

Back in 2018, when my husband and I were living in our skoolie, we decided dual sports were a good idea. Most larger skoolies and RVs tow some kind of smaller vehicle for easier access into towns and cities when traveling. Both our daily divers weren’t towable, so we came up with the idea to throw on a motorcycle hitch and a couple of dual sports to our bus. The only problem was, I had NO clue how to ride a motorcycle.

My 1965 Honda Trail 90
My 1965 Honda Trail 90.

Ok, I take that back. I owned a 1964 Honda Trail 90 that I had taken out on dirt roads near our old house and around the yard, but it was an automatic and I didn’t have to worry about a clutch. So really, I had zero idea how to use a clutch and had no experience riding anything bigger than that little Honda that maxed out at 20 mph.

My husband grew up riding and teaching kids how to ride at his local church camp and already had his motorcycle endorsement, so that fall, I signed up for my motorcycle safety class. Laws have changed now, but then, I was able to take a 2-day class and take the written and physical exams to get my endorsement.

I was SO nervous showing up to class on the first day. There were about 15 of us with only a handful of women which made it more intimidating.  Classroom time wasn’t too bad, but as soon as we hit the tarmac and I sat on my borrowed bike, I could feel the stress sweats hit. The first few exercises were pretty painful as I was more often than not, the last one to achieve the exercise. The whole clutch-throttle-brake-shift thing did not come easy to me, but I was determined. About an hour into our class, one student just up and left. Another dropped their bike multiple times, finally being asked to leave. I did not want to be one of them. 

I finally made it through day one…barely. Day two was daunting, as much as I wanted to just stay in bed, I woke up at the crack of dawn to finish what I started. The second day consisted of more class time and bike exercises, a written exam, and a physical exam riding the bike. I aced my written exam no problem, but that wasn’t what I was worried about. I could hardly eat my lunch because I was so worked up about taking my riding test.

It was finally time. I was not feeling that confident after stalling my bike umpteen-trillion times it felt like. There were certain things that could disqualify you during your test, one of them being that you could not stall your bike more than 3 times.

Running practices during my motorcycle class.
Running practices during my motorcycle class.

All of us students had to line up and complete each exercise one by one with the entire class watching. Side note: I hate people watching me. A lot. It was finally my turn to complete the first exercise and of course, I stalled my bike. At that point, there was absolutely no way I was going to let myself fail or give up because I didn’t want to go through the entire, agonizing process again. I painstakingly completed the exam after watching students both fail and succeed, both not helping my morale.

At the end of the test, the instructor had to tally up everyone’s points to see who passed and who failed. A lot of people in the class were feeling the same way I did, thinking they failed. I was pretty shocked and relieved when I got my passing results. It felt good to have gone through so much stress and work the past two days putting my mind and physical ability to the test. 

My husband treated me to my dinner of choice to celebrate that evening. I chose Red Apple Diner and had myself a gigantic chicken fried steak, eggs, and a chocolate malt.

Although I never want to go through that process again, I am glad I did it. I learned basic skills to get on a bike, and now I would say I am a decently skilled rider and I LOVE it.  My husband surprised me with my first bike, a 2009 Kawasaki KLX 250S dual sport that I really honed my basic skills on, riding nearly every weekend. Now, I am on my 5th bike, and if I’m not hiking or working on the farm, I’m out on the trails.

My first bike. A 2007 Kawasaki KLX250S.
My first bike. A 2007 Kawasaki KLX250S.

I don’t have any tips or tricks to help you as a new rider, partially because I still consider myself to be a newish rider, but I will tell you this. If you want something, you have to work for it. And if you work for it, it will be that much more rewarding.