Motorcycle class was hard


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Yesterday I completed a two-day motorcycle class. Unlike most people in the class, I’m not even sure if I want a bike and I figured that taking the class was a good way to find out.

The class was held in a wind swept, foggy parking lot at City College in San Francisco. There were about 30 students broken into three groups. The instructors were enthusiastic and we were all eager to get on the bikes.

The lessons were thorough and some of the exercises were fun, but most of the time was spent either standing, listening to instructions or waiting our turn to ride the bikes around the course, which would have been fine but many of the exercises were trickier than I supposed and I felt my anxiety level rise each time we completed an exercise that I hadn’t mastered.

The easiest and most fun exercise was running over 2 x 4s while going in an oval. Executing two tight u-turns in a row was the hardest and very nerve racking. On my second to last practice, the guy in front of me dumped his bike, which had me spooked–if you dump your bike in the final exam you fail.

At the end of the second day we were evaluated on three moderately complex maneuvers. The first maneuver was tight u-turns, which I always took too slow and wide. For the test I became bold and decided to ‘use the force’–doing it the way I was told to and resisting the impulse to go too slow and look whether or not I was within the lines. Nailed it.

The last maneuver was a fairly straightforward brake and turn scenario. I thought it went well but, as I later learned, I was wrong.

Waiting for scores was nerve-racking—I hadn’t felt that way since performing oboe recitals in high school. The instructor met with us one at a time. When it was my turn, the instructor first covered some formalities then it was time to talk about how I did. The first two exercises went well even though I had to do the second one twice because I was too slow. Then he listed all the points that were deducted on the third maneuver: I didn’t use boths brakes enough and I didn’t accelerate into the turn properly after slowing before the turn. If I had made one more mistake, I may have failed, but I didn’t. I passed.

I left class relieved but pre-occupied with my performance and its implications. Riding the motorcycle was fun but I won’t miss being judged, especially on something I’m doing for essentially the first time.

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