Friday, May 7, 2010

Another New Beginning

So I've officially entered the world of motorcycles. Yesterday I went to Seattle Cycle Center to check out gloves and helmets. I bought a $50 pair of black Powertrip Grand National gloves with carbon fiber knuckles, and just putting them on made me feel cool. Next up was helmets, and I was amazed (though I shouldn't be) that if you really want to, you can spend $900 on one. My head is worth it but my wallet hasn't yet caught up to the idea. On the opposite end of the scale (mine) was the equally DOT-approved $80 version from HJC. Good enough. I probably should have picked it up, but since a helmet will be provided for me on the riding range this weekend, I decided to wait for the tip can to fill up a little more before buying it. A white helmet would be safer, but I like motorcycle gear just like I like my_________.

A. Women
B. Coffee
C. Metal

It can be a bit intimidating walking into a world where you know absolutely nothing, but I've been there before with paragliding (not to mention birth), so essentially this is no different. I was fortunate to meet a nice woman behind the counter named Lisa (from Montana, no less) and started off by saying, "I know so little about motorcycles I'm not even sure how to ask an intelligent question." From that point we just started talking about getting the right size bike for a guy my height and getting a bike with enough power to get out of trouble on the interstate. Evidently a 250 isn't going to cut it, whereas a 500, 650 or higher will. I envision myself riding back and forth between Seattle and Issaquah a lot this summer to paraglide, so I want something strong enough that I don't get blown off the road. On the recommendation of a friend, I'm looking at Kawasakis, but after visiting Renton Motorcycle Company tonight, it's obvious that Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki all make similarly bitchin' rides.

Renton Motorcycle Company is an enormous place filled with beautiful motorcycles of every variety. Given my Asian persuasion, I was naturally drawn to all the crotch rockets. Cruisers are cool too, but I'm sick of always settling for less than what I actually want in life. This time my desires are going to follow the compass to true north. After sitting on a dozen different bikes and talking with a salesman, my class with "Roger" (my instructor) and eleven other people started. We introduced ourselves and quickly launched into all the basics of motorcycling for novices like me. You can see my student handbook here. Surprisingly (or not), most people there also had zero experience. That made me feel better, as I've always sort of assumed that everyone interested in motorcycles has been riding in the dirt since the age of 6, or younger. There were only two women in our class, the rest dudes, and ages ranged from early 20s to mid 50s. Class was three hours long and we spent it receiving instruction, talking about risks and safety, participating in group exercises, watching videos, learning the pre-ride checklists, and identifying everything on the Honda 250 Rebel that was parked in our classroom. After years of motorcycles being a complete mystery to me, it's nice to finally have an elementary grasp of things such as where the fuel supply valve is, and what it's for.

Saturday and Sunday I will be on the range (a parking lot by the airport) learning how to actually ride, and hopefully not running over too many cones. Roger has been a great teacher thus far and I expect he will be equally good when we fire up the engines this weekend. I'm really looking forward to it. After driving home from class tonight I felt excited and confirmed in my feeling that despite everyone's warnings of danger and dire consequences, doing this is right for me. When you're by yourself, pumping your fist and saying "fuck yeah," that's a sign your soul's on the right track. Being a fan of skydiving, paragliding and guns, it's only natural that I would one day end up on two wheels. I'm aware of the risks and I'm confident that I'll be able to learn how to manage them effectively. I've learned from paragliding to err on the conservative side, and judging from tonight's class, many of the same mental skills apply to riding.

In the quest to live a life that matters, I've had to ask myself, "What's important to me?" There's different ways for me to answer that, but I must be challenged in something I enjoy learning and doing. There's gotta be a certain level of excitement to it too, or those buttons in my brain just don't get pushed. If I don't keep expanding, my experience of life withers. I like hands on activities -- writing, typing, playing the guitar and keyboard, flying -- things that require manual input or dexterity. There's also certain things that I just have to do before I die to express my adventurous spirit, and riding a motorcycle is one of them. In my mind, as with paragliding, this is another exercise in good judgment, thinking before I act, and considering the consequences of my actions. It's simply a matter of slowly building that up until I'm able to enjoy it at higher speeds. Even at low speed, I'm keen for the freedom and independence of riding. I can already tell it's going to be a great feeling once I hit the open road.

One of the things I learned tonight is "SEE," an acronym for "Search, Evaluate, and Execute." Whatever you're doing, it's a tool worth remembering. My focus now is on the execution. This is as they say, where the rubber meets the road. There's probably no hell more dreadful than an unlived life, and thus the consequences of not taking action are far worse to me than any fears of people who don't want me to die. I don't want to either, but one day I'm going to anyway, and that's why it's time to ride.