A ‘how to’ become a biker girl story. I bought a Kawasaki Ninja beginners bike; how the trials of dating led me to it, and why this motorcycle woman inspires authenticity.
A Foreign Encounter
Last November I began dating a man; let’s call him ‘Don.’ Being quite the charmer, when Don offered me a motorcycle ride around Manhattan during our second date, I –a woman that had never desired to get on a bike—excitedly said, “ok!” Motorcycles had, up until that point, been pretty terrifying. But I guess oxytocin will make you do crazy things (more on that in another post), and so lo and behold, one Saturday in late November, I took a ride around Manhattan on the back of a Red Ducati. As it turned out, it was one of the most lyrical days of my life.
Mantox Leads to Epiphany
Don and I dated a few more weeks until realizing we wanted different things; we graciously went our separate ways just before the New Year and I decided to take a dating hiatus: a ‘mantox,’ if you will. Months passed, yet I still found myself longingly thinking back to that warm fall day in November. The more I thought about it, the more I realized what I longed for wasn’t the guy at all –no. What I longed for was the thrill I felt on that bike!
7 months later, I realized: I love motorcycles. Whoa! OK! But now what? I can’t exactly date men just because they have a bike –or can I? No!
While there are but a handful of women on motorcycles, it was clear: I needed to give this motorcycle thing a try.
Doing the Illogical
It was late June at this point and we were already 3 months into the riding season. I knew if I didn’t get on a bike within a few weeks, the season would end and I’d be left to daydream about motorcycles a full year until the next riding season. I made up my mind; I wanted to see what motorcycling was all about! So here’s what I did:
- It was a Sunday night when I went online and found the Motorcycle Permit Learner’s Manual. I studied.
- I went to the DMV bright and early Monday morning for my motorcycle permit. I took the 20 question test. As it turns out, in New York, you need to study both the Motorcycle Manual and the Driver’s Manual. It seems that I had forgotten everything in the Driver’s Manual over my 10 years of driving. I failed the exam. Oops! I regrouped, studied both manuals and went back for exam round 2. This time I passed!
- To test the waters of biking, I registered for a private 2 hour motorcycle lesson. Within the first 30 minutes, I was in first gear! Yes, I dropped the loaner bike (a Susuki GZ 250 cruiser), but it was to be expected, I was learning! After the lesson, I was pretty sure this motorcycle business was an art I wanted to master.
- I registered for Motorcycle Safety School, a 2-day course and all-in-one alternative to the DMV road-test. The class was probably one of the hardest things that I’ve ever endured (both physically and mentally). Did you know there are something like 2500 maneuvers needed to successfully operate a motorcycle? There are only about 200 with driving a car. And that was just the beginning. The 2 day course was from 7am – 5pm all day Saturday and all day Sunday. Better suited for April than July, the class had us spend most of the weekend outside, in 100 degree weather, roasting in full gear (riding gloves, helmet, long sleeve shirt, riding pants and riding boots!). I’d driven a manual car before, but I was by no means proficient. Couple learning how to shift a bike with balance, coordination, and 100+ degree heat –it was no joke!
- At the end of the 2-day course, there was a Road Test. I passed!
- Now that I had added an M to my D license, it was time to find a bike. I knew I wanted a sport bike, something with a small engine (250) and light weight to start (<400 lbs.). I also wanted a used bike, perhaps dropped a time or two, so I wouldn’t feel so bad if I beat it up a bit. I found a 2010 Kawasaki Ninja 250 with low mileage. 3 days after passing the Road Test, I bought my first bike (courtesy of Craigslist.org).
- Next came Insurance. I reached out to my friends at the Small Business Authority for a quote (The SBA designed this site, by the way). Motorcycle insurance is surprisingly cheap (only $500 a year or so). The SBA returned quotes from a bunch of carriers, making the entire process a breeze. I had my insurance card that same day! I was ready to register the bike and pick up my plates from the NYSDMV the following morning.
- It was time to ride! My cousins both have motorcycles and they helped me not only purchase the right bike, but also get some much needed practice on the NYC roads (learning for 2 days in an empty parking lot is WAY different than cruising the city streets). Within just a few days of practice, I had established a solid relationship with my bike (there’s loads of trust involved, especially for cornering). A few rides with family and friends and pretty soon, I felt comfortable riding on my own.
My Ninja is the best in the class of motorcycles for women and a great starter bike for many reasons:
- It’s light weight at only 375 lbs.;
- It’s used but has low mileage;
- It’s a bright visible red color (great for safety);
- It’s perky –the engine is small, but the bike is light enough to give it lots of quirk, so it’s great for learning technique. The perfect beginner motorcycle.
Everything was grand, but there was one thing missing: noise. When it comes to bikes, a silent motorcycle is a big no, no (especially in NYC). On a motorcycle, you’re generally invisible. Cars simply don’t see you. You are always in someone’s blind spot, and with the level of traffic in New York City, that’s an unavoidable fact. Ask any Harley Davidson rider, and they will tell you, the one thing that saves them time and time again is the level of noise a Harley bike produces.
Throughout this process, safety has been my foremost concern. That’s why I quickly realized I needed to replace my Ninja exhaust and make my Ninja super loud. This way, even if cars don’t see me in their mirrors, they’ll be sure to hear me (even from around the block). My new Carbon Fiber Two Brothers exhaust that I purchased and had installed by my new friend Sean at Prospect Cycles is awesome
Breaking Down Barriers
I’ve been riding for just about three months now. At first it was scary –I’m not going to lie. On a motorcycle, 15 mph feels more like 50; so needless to say, my first highway ride was a major rush! But with each passing day, I’ve found more joy and less fear in the endeavor (albeit, as it relates to motorcycles, a remnant of fear is a good thing).
Sure, I could have called Don for a ride (some pun intended), or found another man to take me on his bike. I could have become a motorcycle groupie or started dating only guys that own bikes. But all of those routes would have been cop-outs. And that’s really the point of this entire post: don’t look for a cop-out. Listen to what your inner self –what your soul– is asking for; then run and do it… quickly! True up!
Not many women motorcycle. In fact, women on motorcycles is generally an oxymoron. But if I can ride a motorcycle, then you can do, well, –anything. Break down your barriers! On the other side of your fears lives your greatest life.
PS: I’m a grown woman but if you’re wondering what my family had to say about all this, they were against it at first. They’d rather I get married and have children than gallivant around Manhattan on a motorcycle. But my folks relaxed when they saw my methodical approach to learning, all the safety precautions I was taking and how much I truly enjoy it. Ironically enough, the motorcycle is likely to get me wed sooner than not, since nearly all bikers are men and they tend to travel in packs. Amen to that.
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