Perpetual Motion – Riding Within Your Limits

Diana Pillion Princess

In a recent post on Motorcycle Philosophy, Steve Johnson discussed with some friends some of the benefits of Learning to Ride the Hard Way.”  They were saying that if you have an accident you can take from it a valuable learning experience.   The philosophy being: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The problem is, this method of learning might kill you!  In the post, the question was raised How am I supposed to improve if I don’t try pushing myself? 

Here’s my take on the matter: 

When I completed the BRC at Cecil Community College in August 2005, I took a lot from my instructors.  After skills tests were completed, written test scores were tallied, and certificates of completion were issued, the lead instructor charged us with the following words:   

“When you all first walked into this room 48 hours ago, I would not have even imagined taking any of you out onto the interstate highway.  Now I would have no hesitation in doing so…with no other traffic, and all of the entrance and exit ramps closed off for several miles in each direction!  Just because you have met the minimum requirements to be eligible for your motorcycle endorsement, that does not by any means make you an expert rider.  Take it slow, know your limits and ride within them, never ride outside of your comfort zone.”

I took those words to heart.  My first rule for myself was not to ride on any roads with more than one lane in each direction or with a speed limit greater than 30 mph.  I wanted to ride my bike to work which was located on a 40 mph, 5-lane, very busy street.  This proved to be a challenge, but I formulated a route through neighborhood roads where I came out across the street from the high school and crossed Reisterstown Road at a traffic light, directly into my parking lot.  It took me about twice as long as it would taking a direct route in my car, but I got there safe and sound.  After work, I would generally take a few laps around the neighborhood before turning into my street for the evening.

 After a month or two of this, I was beginning to feel quite comfortable with the shifting, steering, braking, and general operation of the bike.  I decided it was time to step it up a notch.  I chose a stretch of road which was still only 2 lanes but had speed limits of 40 mph.  My entrance spot had clear visibility in both directions, and plenty of room for me to turn around and go back just in case I decided the traffic was too heavy or if for any other reason I felt like I needed to bail on the idea because I was outside of my comfort zone.  I made an easy right turn onto the road, and had several turn-offs available to the right that I could take any time I decided that I’d had it.  That never happened.  Instead, my little Sporty buzzed with excitement as I hit fourth gear for the first time ever!  Then in a flash, I could sense that she wanted to go to fifth!  Wow!  Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I sensed a euphoria never before experienced!  I was really riding

Now I considered riding my bike to places that I hadn’t before.  I rode to my hairdresser in the next town over who was soooo jealous I had my own bike and she didn’t.  She admired my new Harley, and then laughed as I mashed my freshly styled hair under my helmet for the ride back home!  I devised all kinds of routes that kept me off the main strips and on two-lane roads.  Speed quickly became a non-issue.  It was time to tackle the next step:  the 5-lane road… 

Next morning, I took my “regular” route to work–this time on my bike.  I entered Reisterstown Road by making a left turn at a traffic light.  I moved directly into the right lane, where I stayed for the half of a mile until my right turn into the high school parking lot.  After work that day, I pulled out of the lot and followed that big scary road (not any more) for the entire 2 miles until it drops down to 30 mph and two lanes, then I turned off through the neighborhood towards my house. 

Riding within my limits? always.  Out of my comfort zone? never.  Moving forward, improving my skills, becoming a better rider? absolutely!  (Last week I even rode on an Interstate!) 

As you practice skills or repeat experiences, they will eventually become routine…thereby naturally moving the limits of your abilities and comfort zone perpetually forward.  In this manner, you will always be improving your riding skills without ever having to learn anything “the hard way.”