Black leather chaps. Black leather jacket. Black leather boots.
T-shirt. Sunglasses. Chrome.
Blowing hair in the wind. Riding solo through the desert. Smelling freedom in the air.
Bikers are synonymous with rebels, such as James Dean in “Rebel Without A Cause.” They represent the villains like Cat woman in the new Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The iconography associated with motorcycles inspires many to learn to ride. They want to be tough, rebellious and show no fear. For others, the stereotype scares them away.
Growing up, motorcycles were nothing special. The bikers were my family. I remember wearing my half helmet riding on the back of my dad’s trike. I also remember the day Dad showed us his new addition to his tattoo sleeve, a picture that was to represent Mom. Bikers were real people—not villains, not rebels. Bikers were people with families and took care of each other.
It was not until later in life when I realized that bikers were the enemy. Bikers wreck towns and tear families apart. The worst of them are the women bikers.
The biker chicks go against everything society tells us is good. The biker chicks ride solo, eliminating the need for a male to provide. They represent strong women, who do not need protection from harm.
For years I have been torn between learning to ride and not to ride. It was not the fear of getting in an accident that made me shy away, but rather the fear of what others may think.
I think the fear of what others may think plagues our everyday lives. It is this fear that keeps the non-traditional student from going back to school. It is this fear that keeps us from standing up for our beliefs. It is this fear that keeps us from doing things that make us happy.
I decided a few months ago that I was going to forego this fear and try to learn to ride. I signed up for the WYDOT motorcycle safety class. The class is designed to teach beginner riders the basic rules of the road, how to ride the motorcycle, and tips for keeping yourself and others safe on the road. Riding a motorcycle poses more of a risk in regards to safety because the small size of the vehicle makes it hard to see and road conditions make more of an impact on riding. The class only cost $25 for Wyoming residents, which was pretty reasonable considering it was a three day course where motorcycles were provided.
It was 5 p.m. on Friday. I just arrived in Cheyenne off of I-80 from Laramie and head over to WYDOT for my class. I park the car, I am early as usual. I pull out my pre-packed dinner salad and munch until I see two men pull up on motorcycles in front of the building.
I see the men get off their motorcycles and head towards the crowd of men that was formed in front of the entrance. One of the men unlocks the door to the building.
I put away my dinner and decide to head up to the classroom. I walk in and the room is filled with guys. “Oh, great,” I think to myself. “I get to be the only female in the class and probably the only one without experience riding.”
As it gets closer to the time for the class to start, more and more people start showing up. By the time class starts, there are three women taking the class, including me, and the age of the people taking the class varies.
We do simple introductions about ourselves and find out that I am not the only newbie. The first day of class turns out to be a blast and I learn tons of great information. However, tomorrow we are going to start riding first thing in the morning.
7 a.m. Saturday, I arrive at WYDOT wearing jeans, a jacket, and over the ankle boots. There is a dense fog over the parking lot. I walk over to the line of motorcycles carrying my helmet and gloves. Butterflies fill my stomach. “Boy, do I hope that I don’t drop this thing,” keeps running through my head.
We pick out our bikes from the line-up. I choose the green Suzuki because it already has a big dent and I cannot do much more damage to it.
The class starts out slow, by applying the theory we learned from the class the night before. We practice getting on and off the bikes safely. We practice finding neutral. Eventually we upgrade to riding in circles shifting all the way to third gear and doing figure eights within two parking spaces.
By 12:30 p.m. I am tired from using all these new muscles I have not used before. I go to lunch with the ladies and return to the classroom an hour later to learn more about motorcycle safety.
The Saturday session ends around supper time, finishing up with the written exam. I go to my sister’s house where I am staying for the weekend, and try to sleep off the nerves about the riding exam that is taking place the next day.
Sunday morning starts out similar to Saturday, but we start with the more advanced stuff. We ride in circles shifting from second to third to first. Then we learn to swerve around objects. Finally, we learn to ride over objects.
Sunday concludes with taking the riding exam. I await the results at my table in the classroom, hoping that I pass and receive my certification card. I open it up, trying not to show any emotion because I do not want to make the others feel worse about failing by my expression of joy and trying to remain calm if I failed.
Immediately after earning my certification, I start looking for motorcycles. My anxiety about being stereotyped returns. The type of motorcycle a person rides says a lot about her.
I look for weeks non-stop. Bikes are either too tall, to where I can’t place my feet on the ground, or put out an aura of coolness that I cannot pull off.
Finally, I decide to customize a motorcycle through Harley Davidson. Red, my 2012 1200 Custom Sportster, arrived three weeks later. She is a mixture of class, femininity and power with her chrome accents and retro paint job of metallic red and off white.
I have been riding for a month now. The worry about what people will think when they find out I ride a motorcycle still bothers me a little. But the feeling goes away and I am taken back to my childhood innocence once I start Red up.
I ride around town and smell the autumn air, knowing the season will soon end. Sadness plagues me at the thought of putting her away for the winter. I wave to the other riders as we pass each other on the road. Then, I remember all the great people I have met on my journey.
The Ladies of Harley members took the time to meet with me and gave me the encouragement I needed to push my fears to the way-side. I feel a sense of brotherhood (and sisterhood) as I wave to the other motorcyclists on the road. I even feel a sense of pride when people come up to me and want to talk about my motorcycle.
As I ride down the road, the fear of what people think is left to the curb. Fear often keeps people from pursuing something that can be life fulfilling. Fear kept me from rekindling with the past and reuniting what I once tried to hide. Now, I ride and am whole again.