Back to training day two - it started with a too early alarm jolting me awake and then my muscles let me know that they were not happy with the previous day's activities. Holy cow! Every single one of my muscles hurt. A cup of coffee and breakfast and we were off to the training range again. There wasn't much conversation in the car on the way there, so I know my son felt the same way.
The temp was -3 C (27 F) and when we arrived at the range, the motorcycles were all warming up in anticipation of the day. I laughed out loud when I saw everyone else climb out of their assorted vehicles because they were all moving slowly and awkwardly too.
We had a half hour instruction in the trailer and then got sent out to practice for an hour. This went on all day - in for a bit, out for twice a long. Wouldn't have been so bad if the trailer had been heated so you could warm up, but that's not how it went.
Day two consisted of learning to change gears up and down, making big sweeping arcs around cones and practicing your stopping. Changing gears came back instantly. Riding around little cones was much more challenging...
I got told more than a few times to get my feet quickly back on the pegs when I started off each time. There was a tendency to keep them hovering on each side of the bike until I knew for certain I was moving fast enough I wouldn't need them quickly. I'm thinking that's leftover from off-roading when we were in gravel or sand, but it exasperated one instructor every time he caught me at it. By the end of the course, it was no longer a problem. We were told that by leaving your feet close to the ground, you may get your foot caught and twisted if something happened. Get them on the pegs quick and tuck them in.
Then we were asked to take the bikes around a fancy little tight "S" curve. Well, after three hours of trying all morning I was about ready to throw in the towel. I could not keep my front wheel on that little bit of white painted line.
The instructors had set up various stations so that we weren't all doing the same thing at the same time. There was an obstacle course - first get it into third gear as fast as possible and be ready to swerve either left or right or stop suddenly. Then carry on with the wide sweeping curves, then stop and wait for your turn at the dreaded "S" curve. Followed by cone hopping and then another quick emergency stop to make the front forks depress. If the front of the bike didn't go down, you weren't going fast enough or trying hard enough we got told.
We had lunch and watched a few videos of deer leaping across highways just missing motorcycles. Then some more lectures from the head instructor who mentioned we all looked beat.
He showed us what happens to your helmet when it is dropped just from desk height - a loud crack - said to replace it if this happens or it's five years old.
He said not to ride when you are tired, on medication, have been drinking or are distracted by a problem. I noticed that one of the young women had left by that point, she'd had enough. If she had come along with someone else, they could have given her some support that she didn't have to master it all that day!
Right, it was time to get back on the bike and conquer that "S" curve. I tried again for a bit and pulled off to the side for five minutes away from the group. This was the point in that whole weekend that stands out so clearly for me. I could not get that stupid thing, I was just about exhausted trying.
I sat there with the engine running contemplating my options...I looked across the range at everyone else. Some riders had gotten so good at the curve that their pegs were scraping the pavement with those legendary head turns. They were so graceful, it was almost like magic watching them. Others like me were just missing it. I really did think about riding the bike back to the compound and get in my car and wait for my son to finish for the day. As I've learned since, 90% of motorcycling is mental, the rest physical. If you don't focus, you won't succeed. I could see that my son had picked up the "S" very easily, he was a natural and was having fun. I decided then to try once more - what kind of example was I setting for him if I just quit because it got too hard?
So I took a deep breath, gunned the engine and lined up again for my turn at the curve. As I approached it, I turned my head to anticipate each next curve and arrived on the other side having done it! The instructors were jumping for me...I had finally done it and then proceeded to do it 20 more times, first in first gear and then in second gear! I even tried it once or twice in 3rd gear but I was catching up to the person in front of me too quick and had to slow down. The sun came out just at that minute, I kid you not.
My son lined up behind me for the next one and gave me a double honk as only the meep-meep horns of bikes can give. Why do they have such wimpy horns??
For the rest of the day, it was nothing but fun and when I did actually climb back into my car at the end of the day, I felt exhilarated!
The day was not totally without its mishaps however. While I was waiting to go on one of the "S" curve maneuvers, I had one foot down, the other on the shifter, the wind came whistling along and pushed me to the left. Down I went! I picked myself up, picked the bike up and noticed the clutch lever was broken. The instructor was not happy with me and we had to walk the whole range back to the compound to get another bike. He told me that a new lever would cost $400. He was quite upset, but I think he had spent the afternoon picking bikes up because the wind knocked everyone over that day, and they were probably worrying about all the repairing that was going to go on that evening. I felt bad and offered to pay for a new one but was told not to worry about it.
So I picked another bike of the same breed and started out again. This one's clutch lever was different than the last one and I ended up doing a wheelie. That freaked one of the instructors who was getting set to catch me, but I found the balance and put it down safely. I thought he might come over later and say something but he didn't. I was surprised and then elated - I had done my first ever wheelie without meaning to.
Back home for the night to get more rest for the last day - Day Three.