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Learning to Ride

John Holt writes about his experience beginning to play the cello in the popular 1993 book Chicken Soup for the Soul. Can you picture the first time he wrapped his left hand around the neck of a cello and held the bow in his right hand. Can you hear in your mind the soothing vibrato of the cello concerto that emanated from his magnificent instrument as he tenderly drew the horsehair bow over the cello’s finely tuned strings for the first time? I would imagine it took him more than a few sessions to become adept at making both arms work in harmony as he guided the cello’s bow and fingered its four strings to release the wonderfully rich and sonorous baritone cello sound.

Numerous analogies could be drawn between beginning to play a cello and beginning to ride a motorcycle. Highly refined skills are obviously needed to achieve success in both endeavors and both require desire, passion and dedication as well as significant amounts of practice to acquire the desire d level of proficiency. In both activities, others might say you are learning to play a cello or learning to ride a motorcycle. But as Holt writes in his short, half-page article, this is a misnomer.

New riders often approach the sport of motorcycling by saying they are going to learn to ride. But this is not accurate if it represents a process a new rider must go through before being able to ride a motorcycle. This hypothesis proposes that time must be invested in learning to ride a two-wheeled vehicle before a new rider is able to ride. This idea further suggests that once having learned to ride, the new rider can then begin riding an iron steed. The notion insinuates that somewhere along this progression, a new rider stops learning to ride and henceforth rides a motorcycle.

This concept just doesn’t make sense for two very good reasons. First of all, there are not two separate things that a new rider has to do. In fact, they are the very same thing. New riders learn to ride a motorcycle by riding a motorcycle. None of us learned to ride without a bike that we could get on and do it. Even if we participated in a rider training program, we still learned the physical skills by doing. We may initially learn the mental skills of riding through reading and discussion, but only by riding can we become truly proficient in them.

Secondly, we never reach appoint where we stop learning and start riding. We are always learning when ever we ride. When we get to feeling that we know it all and there is nothing left to learn, we imply that our best day of riding is behind us. Only by continuing to learn on every ride can we look forward to our next ride being even better than our last one.

New riders can only learn to ride by riding a motorcycle, so they should celebrate the fact that they are riding. They may be learning as they ride and may have room to get better, but more importantly they are riding a motorcycle. Remember that we are all learning. We, including the newest of us, are also riding and that’s what makes the learning fun.

Ride Smart! Ride Safe!