Suddenly I found myself sitting on my ass in the middle of my garage. Not five minutes prior the gentleman whom I bought the bike from had just pulled out of my driveway after being good enough to deliver the thing to my house, I was sitting on the floor of my garage wondering just how the f*** I was going to get this vehicle back upright. Being a newbie to the world of motorcycling, I was not about to attempt driving the bike 20 miles from his place to mine, and when I mentioned that I would need to rent a trailer and come pick it up, he kindly and immediately offered to bring it to me on his trailer. He’s one of those guys who just knows his way around motors and grease machines, and you would expect nothing less than for him to be prepared for any situation like this.
Anyway, back to me being on the ground, sitting there I thought “son of a bitch, I just messed this thing up after years of this guy taking pristine care of it!” What I wasn’t thinking about was how difficult it was going to be to get back on it tires. Turns out, the fall did absolutely nothing to the bike. But there I was trying to dead lift a 450 pound motorcycle in the middle of my garage. The efforts were useless. No matter how I tried I wasn’t going to be able to lift it outright.
God bless YouTube.com. After 15 minutes of struggling with the bike I thought, “there has to be some way to do this without calling my neighbor over for help and embarrassing the hell out of myself.” Turns out, there was. The first video I found was a demonstration from a woman on how to pick up your bike if you ever drop it and you are alone. Let me tell you, it’s fairly emasculating having to use the woman’s method to picking up your bike. But I will also say, holy shit did it work like a charm. Turning around backwards and using your legs to do most of the work did the job quite nicely.
Once I got the bike upright and had soaked myself in sweat in the 95 degree weather, I decided I had enough for one day and let the bike be for the evening. That being said, I couldn’t help walking out to the garage several times that night just to take a look at it. It was my first bike and I thought “how to cool to be sitting in my garage.”
I should probably mention what kind of bike this is since I have been going on and on about it. Well, a 2002 Kawasaki Vulcan 500. I know, experienced riders are thinking “pssshh”… but again, this is my very first bike, in great condition, and I got an amazing deal on it. Its special to me.
I took the motorcycle training courses. Months ago. Well before I got my own bike. They were great. But to be honest, they really only qualify you to ride around a parking lot on a 125cc bike. So I did as much due-diligence as I could, spending the next 24 hours just getting on and off the bike and going through the process of starting the engine properly and safely. Once I felt comfortable, it was time to make it move.
My street is very suburban, and probably gets about 3 cars per hour driving on it. So I felt pretty good about using it as a training ground. Slow, slow…. slow. That’s how I approached everything. I felt like my own mother cracking the whip, yelling things at myself like “You’re gonna kill yourself you damn idiot!” But it worked. Never before has it taken me so long to move something with wheels more 5 feet. But I have to say, dropping the bike in that first 5 minutes of ownership really made me respect the weight of the bike and respect you have to give the vehicle. For some reason, I kept repeating the line by Nicholas Cage from The Rock when he hands Sean Connery the string of VX poison gas – “The moment you disrespect this, it kills you.” Great movie by the way.
Over the next week I found the most desolate hours of traffic on my street to practice riding. Despite there being just about no traffic whatsoever on my road, I still managed to terrify myself over and over again. I refused to go too fast, and low speeds were difficult to control the balance.
I’m not out of the woods yet. I still have so much to learn. Soooo much to learn. And as terrifying as the prospect seems, the only was to really learn is to get experience. Jesus, it’s frightening to think about being on the open road with other riders. But if I keep doing what I’m doing, and training myself properly, and getting into advanced classes for motorcycle riders, I think I will be alright.