MICHAELA FENGSTAD

Writing about life as it happens, trends in career development and new inspiration

Tag: female rider

Honey, We Are Riding to California!

One of the first stories I remember is the story of the Bear that lost his tail. Well, one day, Mama Bear asked the Little Bear to go with her and try some honey from their neighbours, the bees. Little Bear refused and started crying: honey was not something he ever craved for or had any desire to try. No matter how much Mama Bear tried to appease him with stories about the sweet taste of the golden liquid, Little Bear wanted to have nothing to do with it. But Mama Bear never gave up. She kept on trying to convince him, until one day, tired of hearing the same stories over and over again and tired of Mama’s nagging, Little Bear gave up and said: fine, I will come with you to taste the honey. Mama Bear was thrilled and lost no time: grabbed his little paw and they both hurried to the bees’ heave to try the miraculous honey. Little Bear closed his eyes, and preparing himself for the worst, took a tiny little bit of honey on his paw and quickly licked it. Then he took another one, and another one, and soon enough he was biting off the honey comb! Honey was delicious! Mama Bear tried to take him away  but could not so she called Papa Bear to help her and both were pulling Little Bear by his tail until the tail broke! And that is why, up until nowadays, all Bears have no tail to be pulled by and they all love honey! I am just like Little Bear, but instead of honey, I got hooked to riding.

When my husband first told me that he would like to ride to San Francisco, I threw another one of my many temper tantrums. Yes, I am predictable: every time I feel I have no voice or I have a too weak of a voice, I throw a fit. And I hope my husband will listen. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. And this time it didn’t. He pushed along and with his amazing organizing skills and patience, researched roads and hotels, points of interest and history of the places, gas stations and coffee shops. Because a ride, just like a trip, is better with company, he invited some other riding friends to join us in this trip. Soon enough,  his vision for a vacation was not a vision anymore, but a very well planned and researched commitment to ten people on eight motorbikes.  At the start line, there were only five bikes, seven people and one “service” car.

I was hardly thinking about taking the training when he already was planning this trip. We all know that at the time, riding was really not my priority nor my passion or Bucket list item or prefferred means of transportation, ore my dream. It was just a frightening sport that I wanted to have little or nothing to do with.  Fast forward a bit over six months, and here I am, riding my own bike and embarking on an adventure like no other: a 10 day riding trip Vancouver to San Francisco and back. No, I am not riding my own bike yet: it is a little too much, too soon but I am a passenger on my husband’s bike which allows me to experience the riding excitement without the work. A bit of a cutting corners, if you want but nonetheless, daring for a middle aged woman who really has no adventurous bone in her body and still thinks that riding is not for the faint hearted.

In a matter of a year I not only learned how to ride a motorbike but I came to enjoy the wind in my face, the twisties and the hair pins along the way, the brotherhood of the bikers (the real ones not “the wanna be bad ass,  look at me in awe and fear” kind), and a new found connection with the roads and the nature. I still have my moments when I go in panic mood, and go through all the reasons and dangers why I should not ride but somewhere along the way, I lost my tail and now, I can not have enough.

 

 

From Scared Mouse to Feared Rider…

Mark Twain once said that “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” We are all afraid of something: spiders, heights, speed, deep water, birds, darkness, public speech, failure, you name it… and we all handle our fears differently. Some of us better than others… but if not mastered, fear is a debilitating ailment that will take over your mind and cripple your body to the point where you cannot see the way out, even if you are standing right in front of it. On the flip side, once kept in check, it will allow you to experience amazing places, people and feelings but most importantly, will take you one step closer to enjoying life.

According to the scientists, everything starts with the part of the brain called Thalamus, in charge with receiving and sending the sensory data that our mouth, eyes, ears, and skin collect and ends with the Hypothalamus, the part of brain that either activates the “Oh shit I’m gonna die” response known as “flight”or the “OK, I will deal with it” aka “Fight” kind. My hypothalamus was once brave but in time, has slowly given up on me and most often than not it sends the “Oh shit I’m gonna die” signals.

The chrome and metal, the flames and all exquisite artwork on the motorbikes are meant to intimidate. Sure, if you talk to a rider, they will be quick to point out that this is just a small factor they considered the main being safety: the shinier the bike, the more visible. The first time I saw my silver Shadow, I fell in love. I fell in love with the classic look, with the extra comfortable Corbin seat, and with a vision.  With the vision that a conservative and princessy girl like me will potentially be able to control the silver beast. Wearing a cool motorcycle suit.

The sound of the double pipes, was another thing that sent shivers down my spine. No, they were not of pleasure but of fear. I remember looking up to my husband in utter panic, just to see his whole face inundated with glowing pleasure and pure ecstasy. I forced a smile and, as I did not have anything else, gave him a thumbs up while taking a couple of steps back. All I could hang on to was the vision of a very slender and younger looking me in a cool motorcycle suit.

The rest is history. I kept on freaking out and allowed the sounds and looks of the motorcycles to access the drawer where I keep all my biases and stereotypes. It seemed like I could never get over them or reclaim my confidence. I failed my first MSA test and it did not look like I would ever be able to ride. Shocking? Not quite as I could not see myself in any of the predetermined categories my mind was associating the motorcycle riders with.

Then I took my Shadow out. Going from a 250 cc to a 600 cc was a bit of a stretch at the time but I was able to ride it. After a bit of practice in a deserted parking lot I could even make eights, I could stop the right way, and I could shift. Then, we went out on the street. Sure I held the traffic back and 30 km/hr was all I could do but I rode a real bike on a real street. The next time we rode, I managed to take a corner in the 2nd gear and even leaned a bit. My heart was racing, but the disappointment that nobody on the street would stop and cheer on my accomplishment changed my mood from excitement to anger. My husband’s voice in the intercom brought me back to planet earth and I joined his excitement. It was a great day. I was ready for another shot at the MSA.

Going back to a 250 cc motorcycle boosted my confidence and took away the fear of power. I was now able to listen to instructions and follow them without worrying about how powerful and loud the engine was. I was now listening and feeling the engine, I was having a dialogue with my bike and I hoped I would win it. My shock came during the lunch break when the instructor looked at me and said: “you are doing a fantastic job!” I looked back at him, looked around and back at him. Yes, he was talking to me. I mumbled a feeble Thank you and parked my bike. At that moment I knew I was winning. Actually, I did win: I passed my MSA test.

My next challenge was the traffic qualifier. A combination of shifting up and down 1st to 3rd gear, emergency braking at higher speed (30 km/hr) with a slow controlled riding on a tight S-like portion. I knew the course. I tried it before and after 3 unsuccessful attempts I gave up thinking I will first have to make a pact with the devil and then try again. Well, this time, as the devil was busy with some other business, I had to try it again, by myself. And I did it! And I did it so well! All I had to do was to concentrate, apply all the things I learned and … enjoy! My excitement was so big at the end, that I almost dropped the bike in an attempt to jump off it into my husband’s arms! 🙂

Have I magically lost all my fears of riding? Definitely not! But I learned once again that fear in itself is illogical and thrives when you stay within a well-beaten path in your comfort zone. I also learned that being adventurous does not mean being stupid but rather being open to learning new skills with safety always on your mind.  I would often recite this out loud with that superior smugness whenever I felt it was fit, but I never really understood it. Riding a bicycle was as far as my adventurous spirit would stretch.

Now, I stand a bit taller, a lot more confident and I enjoy every moment a pedestrian stops to watch me  riding by in my pink jacket and on my silver beauty. I am now looking forward to the times I will be skilled enough to ride with our friends, enjoy the thrills of a twisty road and bask in the warmth of the many friendships we have made.

Baby Steps – My First Riding Jacket

I am not sure if I ever loved clothes as much as the shopping experience. There is something about the stores that make me smile even if I get there in a foul mood. I might be quite rude to the first couple of store assistants that don’t know better and come to offer the most spectacular discounts in their store’s view but I calm down quite soon after and enjoy myself. My shopping trips last anywhere from 4 hours to a full day only because I have to try almost everything. I must be one of the most frustrating customers as I try lots but buy a few. This is how my husband eased me into the world that he loves. He took advantage of my weakness for shopping.

The first thing after we bought his motorcycle, and I swore I would never ride with him or by myself, he asked me to help him pick a jacket. He found this store Up Your Leather that sounded kind of dirty and funny at the same time. My interest was  peaked! Plus, when you say leather jacket, any woman suddenly is interested. It is something about leather that makes us giddy and bit naughty. We went to the Langley store and  I pretty much tried every jacket they had. Now, as a woman future rider, I did not find the selection was breath taking. There were maybe 7 styles, with one coming in a few colours. Even so, I forgot why we were there in the first place: to find a jacket for my husband. We ended up buying a jacket for myself instead. I chose my first jacket based on how well fitted me and based on how much I liked the style. At the time, I knew nothing about what you are to look for, when choosing a proper riding gear. It didn’t really matter as we went to a specialty store and they guided us to what we needed.

 

 

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Fast forward 1 year, on my way to get my own license and having been around a lot of experienced riders and a lot of research I learnt that there is more to what you should be looking for when buying a jacket. And here is what I now know:

  • There are 4 criteria your jacket needs to fit: style, comfort, safety features and performance. And yes, style and colour are as important as all the other features. I would never go for style only, but, I will not ever wear a jacket I find ugly.
  • Your jacket should fit your riding style: you are a weekend/occasional rider, you are planning a touring trip with long hours riding your bike, you like cruising around on country roads, you enjoy off road riding, etc. For each riding style, there are certain features you should be looking for in a jacket.
  • Are you riding only in good weather or maybe in colder, wetter weather? Vancouver is one of the most beautiful places on earth but, here, all you need is 5 minutes and weather will change; planning for wet weather is a must even for a few hours rides;
  • Leather versus textiles; while leather is more resistant to abrasions and weather, the textile fibre jackets are lighter and more comfortable; leather will last longer if properly cared for but again, textile is more flexible and lighter. If you want a textile with the leather capabilities, you should chose a jacket with Kevlar padding – which is a high strength material. Some of its uses: bullet proof vests, military helmets, car tyres, fire proof clothing…
  • Your jacket needs to have elbows, shoulders and back padding and while shifting positions on the bike or just moving around, the padding must stay in place and not shift. In case of an accident, you need all these pieces to protect you as planned
  • Reflective material! This is a very important feature of your jacket. We all know how easy it is for a motorcycle to get into the blind spots of the other vehicle they share the road with. Anything that can increase your visibility on the road needs to be considered. Most of the jackets will have already reflective features but, if you choose a black jacket, add reflective bands around your arms , wear a reflective vest over the jacket as soon as the sun prepares to come down;
  •  Inside pockets – if you need to hide a wallet, sleeves that can be locked around your wrist to protect you from the wind creeping up your arms,
  • No unnecessary add-ons like flaps or  outside pockets that can easily get tangled on your jackets. Sometimes fashion is not necessary safe. See the beautiful 10 inch high heels that are still so fashionable. Don’t fall for a bit of unnecessary glam that could put your life in danger. Style is good but too much of it can kill you!
  • In the Internet era, research is just a given! Every item for sale has a bunch of reviews. Even i everything seems to be perfect, take the item to research your choice. Read the reviews and then, make up your mind. And don’t forget to give back to the community! You have your own opinion? Please share it with everybody else. Write a review of the product. Knowledge is powerful only when it is shared!

One thing to remember is that the jacket will not fit the same when you are on the motorcycle. The best way to try it is by taking it outside and getting on your bike. Get in the riding position with the hands on the steering bars. If it feels comfortable, everything falls in the right place, then you know you found the best fit!

My second jacket is a Joe Rocket. I liked the vibrant colour, the very sleek design and the way the padding matches my body. It is still new and I wore it only once but I think I made the right choice.

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Have you found your jacket? What was the feature you could not live without? Let’s hope now for a sunny season! Safe riding everyone!

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