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24 Wheels and 2000cc’s

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Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Course in Dublin, VA

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June 8th: Twenty-four students arrived at New River Community College in Dublin, Virginia, boasting a variety of riding skill – from never thrown a leg over to nearly 30 years’ experience. This is Melinda’s story of her longing to ride her own bike and how she came to be in Dublin, VA this particular Friday evening.

Melinda on Suzuki GZ250
Melinda on Suzuki GZ250

For the last 19 years I have had a great desire to ride a bike – my own bike – not just be a passenger on my husband’s. When we first met we went to all kinds of motorcycle rallies and long rides with our friends and I always had a longing to be in the front seat. Back then there really were not many women drivers. It seemed almost silly to want to be one so I tucked the thought of having my own bike way back in my head and it only sporadically came to the forefront.

As time went by the one adventure I was able to take on a regular basis was with my horses. I love horses and feel that there is a certain pride and dignity in them that is very rare and hard to find in anything else. Horses are also extremely loyal and one of mine has been labeled as one of the best friends I have ever had.

When out on a horse I feel really spiritual and close to God because I am in wonder of the magnificent part of the world that I am blessed to live in. There is also a great feeling of freedom when riding a horse that is impossible to acquire when doing most anything else. I have always shared horseback riding with my husband, daughter, and grandsons but realized one day that I wanted something that was just for me.

Honda Rebel 450
Melinda’s Rebel

I mentioned to Bill (my husband) that I would like to ride my own motorcycle and then we would forget about it until the idea popped back in my head.

Imagine my surprise when Bill called me from work to say that he found just the bike for me. It was a 1987 Honda Rebel 450 and it was laying in a ditch with weeds growing over it. My first thought was that there was probably a reason that it was in the ditch-junk maybe-but when Bill said we could buy it for $500 I decided to go for it. At that price I knew that I wouldn’t be too torn up if I messed it up while learning. In the end all it needed was O-rings so for $30 my bike was ready to hit the road.

I didn’t even know how to start a bike let alone drive one so it was a real learning experience for me. Within the first week of having the bike I was riding the gravel mountain roads near my home and soon I started riding in to work. I was a little scared and realized I breathed a sigh of relief and said a little thank you when I made it past certain points in my trip.

I truly feel like I am on a huge adventure every time I make a trip on my Rebel. I think I even felt like a rebel myself for doing it. After only a couple hundred miles I realized that I was hooked and needed to get my license and learn a little more about riding safely so I signed up for a motorcycle safety course at a community college not too far from my home.

MSF bikes
2000cc’s lined up for morning exercises

My co-worker Terri has had her license for 20 years and rides a Yamaha V-Star 1300 so I look up to her as an example. She and I had been talking about taking the safety course and we finally signed up for it. Terri talked to her friend Shirley who also wanted to take the course so it ended up being the three of us. I think we were all a little skeptical about it in the beginning. Maybe we were a little scared (I was), and maybe we were a little doubtful of our abilities, we may have even worried that it was a waste of a weekend but we did go for it and none of us regretted it.

We spent the first evening in a class room where we heard a lot about safety, the law, and some pretty gruesome statistics. We actually remembered a lot of the things we heard that night and put them to use the next morning when we got to pick our bike and start the riding part of the class.

MSF Exercises
Exercises in Dublin

I ended up on a Suzuki CZ 250 and it was very similar to my Rebel but the seat was a little lower so it was easier to get on. That may not sound very important but when you are short and get on and off as much as we did throughout the weekend it does matter. There were some people there who had never been on a bike before and I was impressed with them in the beginning and even more in the end.

MSF Instructors

We had three instructors who made it apparent in the beginning that this was a serious class and that although we could have fun the most important reason that we were there was safety. They gave us lessons on the proper way to get on and off the bike, to stop suddenly, to swerve, and how to curve.

They even had us doing a figure 8 in a box that for me was surely not big enough but by the end of the weekend it must have grown and I was able to pass that part as well. The class teaches you how to be seen while on your bike and how to get out of the way if you are not. We even ran over top of 2x4s which was really fun when you are going 15 miles an hour but may not be when you are going 55.

The instructors paid close attention to every detail of our maneuvers when practicing and when testing. They actually zoned in on details like whether you used both brakes the way you should and if you were in first gear when you come to a stop (so you can get out of the way quickly if needed).

One of the points made over and over all three days of the class was always look where you are going. Bikes like to go in the direction that your head is pointing. This really is important and is the only way I was able to do the figure 8 or go around all of the cones that were set up for us to do our maneuvers in or around (thank goodness these are really small rubber cones because a lot of us ran over them).

Another point that was made more than once was to wear the proper protective clothing. Always wear gloves, long sleeves, long pants, DOT approved helmets, and eye protection.

Melinda in her Fox Creek LeatherReflector Jacket

A couple of days after taking the class I went for a ride. Bill laughed when I put my leather jacket on and asked if I was afraid of getting cold (it was 80 degrees). I told him no but that if I go down I still want to have skin on my arms.

Yesterday he left our house with only a long sleeve shirt, pants, and helmet and he lost control in a curve because the front brake stuck. He went off the bike and slid 10 feet on the pavement. He came home with road rash on his knuckles, arm, knee, elbow and shoulder and a broken ego.

I have to give credit where credit is due, he told me I was right about the leathers. I told him that I have worked at Fox Creek Leather for over 5 years and talked to bikers from all over the world and have learned a few things. Come on guys be sure to wear protective gear no matter what brand or material you prefer. Take care of yourself.

To summarize my feelings about the class and the motorcycle riding experience I want to say that the world seems to be a much larger and more beautiful place when you are on a horse or on a bike. Pick any view that you think is impressive in you car and then get on your bike or on your horse and you will have your breath taken away.

So where did the 24 wheels and 2000cc’s come from? Our class was divided into 2 sections – 12 riders and 12 bikes. Okay, that’s 24 wheels. 2000cc’s?? When you tally the cc’s for each bike in the class, it came to about 2000cc’s.

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