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SADDLE TIME: Building Confidence

Saddle Time: Gaining Confidence


Congratulations! You’ve been bitten by the bug. You’ve always wondered what riding a motorcycle would be like. You’ve always wanted to find out what the excitement is all about. You’ve finally given in to your desires and your dreams. You’ve decided it was time to tackle the challenge and learn to ride a motorcycle. Riding may have been something that deep down you’ve wanted to do for a long time or you may have just suddenly been lured into the sport as if struck by lightning.

Maybe you vibrated with the wonder of a child in your early years as you felt the roar of a two-wheeled iron horse propel its way down the road. You may have marveled at the fun that the riders seemed to be having as their steel and chrome vehicles went by you. You sensed a passion that you didn’t understand, but it intrigued you as you saw their gleaming machines glide down the road.

Perhaps your circle of friends and family participate in the sport and you sense the passion whenever they are together with their steel steeds. You feel the excitement as they discuss their most recent ride in vivid detail, relishing the things they saw and the challenges they faced. They talk of their motorcycles like they’re prized possessions and you attempt to understand the obvious bond between riders and their machines.

Possibly you’ve been participating in the sport of motorcycling as a co-rider and enjoying the partial freedom it brings. But you feel something is missing as your fun and excitement are still in the hands of someone else. You also are finding that the unchanging scenery on the back of the helmet before you has become boring as you sit tranquilly on the pillion.  You’re ready for a change and you feel it’s time to move forward and grab control of your own ride.

Whatever your reason for learning to ride, you undoubtedly approached it with excitement and nervousness, exhilaration and trepidation, anticipation and apprehension. You were excited about fulfilling your dreams of riding a motorcycle, but you were also nervous about taking on the risks of riding. The prospect of experiencing the freedom of controlling your own ride was exhilarating, yet you were anxious about balancing the weight of your bike and harnessing its power. You approached your learning with hope and eagerness while still apprehensive about your ability to gain the physical skills necessary for riding a two-wheeled vehicle.

You may have asked a friend or family member with years of riding experience to show you how it’s done. They may have told you how easy it is to ride as they explained the operation of the controls to you. Then they probably took you to a parking lot to continue your riding lessons. It may have even been a real experience for you just to get to the parking lot. Or you might have relied on a professional riding instructor to help you learn by enrolling in a beginning motorcycle class. If you learned from a friend, it’s still not too late to take a course to fill in the gaps and augment your learning. Obviously our bias is to take a safety class for what we consider three very good reasons.

First, a class can help save relationships because many long-time riders know how to ride without consciously knowing what they do or how to explain it to someone else. Often times, either the new rider or the seasoned rider become frustrated with the process and tension builds between them. Sometimes the new rider just isn’t getting it fast enough to satisfy the experienced one. Maybe they keep making the same mistake and the experienced rider can’t understand why they don’t get it. At other times, the veteran may use terms and descriptions that seem like a foreign language to the new rider. They keep trying to do what they’re being told, but because it isn’t being explained well enough for them to grasp the concept, they don’t seem to get any better at the task. The resulting stress created by the disappointment of both of them can lead to a strained relationship.

A new rider class brings you together with others who have a comparable desire to become safe, responsible motorcyclists and who probably have an experience level with riding similar to yours. The structure of the course allows you to learn together with your classmates and to share your struggles and frustrations with them about operating the bike’s controls and maneuvering a motorcycle. The commonality of this experience helps you keep your perspective about your progress and lets you be more realistic about your expectations of yourself. The course provides a safe environment in which you can learn the concepts in a classroom setting and then apply that knowledge to riding a motorcycle in a controlled area. On top of that, you normally get to learn to ride and practice on someone else’s motorcycle.

Secondly, there is more to riding a bike than just the physical skills of making the motorcycle go, turn, shift, and stop. These competencies are obviously very important in riding and a rider course provides you with these basic fundamentals necessary to control a motorcycle. But a rider course also includes critical physical skills necessary to avoid problems on the road that are often found lacking in untrained riders. Beyond the physical proficiency to ride with some level of comfort in handling your motorcycle, a rider course also helps you develop the mental strategies necessary for interacting with real-life riding situations. These mental skills are designed to allow you to steer clear of troublesome incidents that require your use of the critical crash avoidance skills you develop during the course.

Finally, the course instructors conducting your motorcycle class are professional facilitators with a familiarity in guiding new riders toward riding competence. They have a plan that has been proven to be effective to help you learn to ride. Their system will guide you through the knowledge and skills you need in a logical manner that allows you to learn and to develop your riding proficiency. The building block approach they use in the course allows you to gain confidence in each new skill and then apply that skill in learning the next. Their process starts with the location and operation of motorcycle controls and builds in a structured manner to the more complex mental and physical skills necessary to be a safe and responsible rider.

Regardless of how you learned to ride, you understand there are risks involved in the sport of motorcycling. In fact, some of your friends and relatives (mom) might have thought you had lost your mind when you told them you were going to ride a motorcycle. But you learned what some of those risks are and you are willing to accept them for the feeling of freedom and the joy of your new found passion.

You struggled at times, but you persevered, and now you’ve begun to ride. You’ve overcome the seemingly impossible tasks of using both hands and both feet at the same time, all doing different things. You have gained the fundamentals and developed the basic skills of motorcycle operation. You’re comfortable with your new skills and you feel good about what you can do, but you realize you still have a ways to go before you become a competent rider.

Maybe you’re not sure how to make that journey so you can feel more confident riding your motorcycle. Your friends make it look so easy, but you’re finding that it takes work to develop your riding skills. Yet you want to experience for yourself the comfort level you see in other riders. You look forward to joining in on the promised passion shared by your riding friends.

Saddle Time is designed to provide you a pathway to follow in your journey towards competence. It will guide you through a process that will solidify your motorcycling skills and help you build your confidence. The book uses a procedure that will expand your riding abilities in a way that allows you to stay within your comfort zone so you can enjoy your travels. As you keep getting better, you will encounter tips and techniques in the book that will simplify your riding and enhance your riding enjoyment.

During your excursion along the course you have chosen to take, you may experience a broad range of emotions including elation, frustration, euphoria, disappointment, delight and self-doubt. You will undoubtedly encounter others along the way that will either help or hinder you in your quest to become a strong, competent rider. This book will help you in dealing with each of these types of people. You will also learn the value of having and working with a good mentor. This is not a book that you just read like a novel. It's the type of book that you refer to when you encounter a mental or physical low or sense of frustration in your development.

Saddle Time opens with a chapter on how to begin building your riding confidence and then addresses the change in feelings you are likely to experience as you develop as a rider. It contains a section devoted to learning from your mistakes and another to help you gain the most from your discussions with other riders during rest stops or after your rides. The book explores the importance of focusing on your own motorcycle, riding it as you feel comfortable, and not being influenced by the people who might be riding with you. You’ll also get help in working through the frustrations that many new riders encounter when they reach a plateau in their development. Often this temporary lack of growth impedes the progress of their development in spite of their efforts to climb past it.

Additional chapters examine some of the other concerns we’ve heard from new riders that aren’t necessarily related to the initial development of their riding skills. These sections will help you deal with new things as you encounter them including your first long trip and your inaugural seasonal layoff. Other sections provide tips on handling situations that can be nerve-wracking for new riders and ideas on how to make riding even easier for you. One chapter looks at the mental side of riding and reviews the skills that will help you enjoy your rides. Obviously the best way to learn to ride is to keep practicing, but sometimes that is not immediately possible. The book has a chapter that offers suggestions if you are forced to wait until you can get a motorcycle and continue developing your riding skills. One of the last chapters is devoted to successful mentoring and is directed towards those experienced riders who are willing to take on that role. Both you and your mentor will find valuable information in this section.

Saddle Time may well serve as your tour guide as you begin your quest for the excitement without the nervousness, the exhilaration without the trepidation, and the anticipation without the apprehension that you had when you first wrapped your fingers around those handgrips. This guide provides a process to develop your riding skills while dealing with the mental challenges faced by new riders like yourself. Presented from the perspective of a new rider, it is our hope that you will develop the necessary competence, confidence, and comfort to become the rider of your dreams.

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2006 167 pages