Princess Di’s First Ride

Diana loves her Sportster

Once upon a time, a date took me for an evening ride on his Harley — I was hooked for life!  I couldn’t tell you what it was about riding, I just knew that I couldn’t wait until the next time I might have a chance to hop on the back of a bike.  Then I met Jay, and months later he purchased his First Harley – The Painted Pig.  Still, it was a tease because he had a learner’s permit and wasn’t legally permitted to carry passengers.  But we zipped around in circles around the storage facility where he kept it garaged, and every once in awhile we would actually go for a ride.

As we cruised along I found myself constantly looking over his shoulder to see what he was doing.  I was fascinated.  After a month or two, I started looking into motorcycle safety courses.  I wasn’t entirely sure that I actually wanted to have my own bike or even get my endorsement, but I had to know how the thing operated!  (I’m the kind of person who always needs to be learning something new.)

This is where I ran into a little snag.  Due to the exploding popularity of motorcycles, brought on largely by the Discovery Channel’s extensive lineup of bike shows like American Chopper and Biker Build-Off, all of the courses in my area were booked solid through Halloween!  Well, I guessed it wasn’t that important, so I pretty much gave up on the idea….until Jay sent me a text message one Friday afternoon saying that he had just registered for the class at Cecil Community College, and they still had 5 openings in the class!

I called and left a message that I wanted to take the class, but by the time they left me a voicemail Monday morning, there were only 2 slots left.  I returned the call on my lunch break, and took the LAST space in the class!  Woo-HOO!  Mission accomplished — almost.  I couldn’t have even told you what a throttle was, let alone where it was located on a bike.  My class was a little over a month away, and somehow they were going to get me to be able to figure-eights, swerves, and quick-stops (while downshifting to first gear)–possibly in the pouring rain–over the course of a weekend?????  Yeah, right!!!

Herein lies the logic.  (I am a math teacher after all!)  I am going to need to at least familiarize myself with the vehicle and its basic operations before the class.  I am going to need to practice, a lot, after the class…otherwise it is a fruitless venture.  No one I know is going to let some psycho 37-year old chick practice learning how to ride on their prized Harley.  I am going to have to get a bike of my own!

I figured I just needed some little old piece of crap used bike that I could use and abuse and it wouldn’t matter.  One evening I logged on to eBay for the first time in my life, figuring that I wouldn’t actually buy anything but I could at least get an idea of the price range I could expect to find.  I didn’t even really know what I was looking at, but what I found was much more than an old piece of crap.

It was a four year old Harley Davidson XLH 883 Sportster Hugger (whatever that meant) with only 941 miles on it!  The photo glistened with lots of chrome stuff juxtaposed to the glossy black paint.  She was beautiful!  She was practically brand new.  She lived about a half-hour north of Philly.  She had one bid on her and a “Buy it Now” price!  Patience is not one of my better qualities, so I clicked “Buy It Now”.  A few moments later, I got a message saying “You have won!”  😀  How cool was that?!!!  Now I just had to figure out how to get my new beauty home.

Diana’s first motorcycle

I didn’t know how to ride her.  Jay wasn’t allowed to ride her on interstates (still with that darn learner’s permit).  Did I mention that she was 2.5-3 hours away?

I rented a cargo van and drove from Baltimore to Jay’s apartment in Elkton, MD on Friday night.  We got up at the crack of dawn on a ridiculously hot & humid Saturday morning in July and drove to American Classic Motors in Zeiglerville, PA.  The guys there were great, and they even threw in free t-shirts for both of us!  Jay had to work Saturday night, so I dropped him off halfway home. I drove the van back to my townhouse in Baltimore where I had to wait until my brother could round up a couple of friends the next day to help get the bike down out of the van.  It was much easier getting her in at the dealer with their ramp and everything!  After working up a pretty good sweat, we looked her over in the parking lot and all said “gee, what a pretty bike…anybody know what to do with her?”  We wheeled her around the house, lifted her over the curb, and rolled her in through the sliding glass door to my basement.  It was pretty anti-climactic.

Free T-Shirt

First thing Monday morning, I returned the rental van and went straight to the DMV to get my learner’s permit and register my new baby.  Then (after checking with Jay who said that the clutch operated the same way as in a car), I took her for a spin.  OK, I know, it was probably not the smartest thing in the world to do…but remember I said I am not very good with patience?

There was an elementary school across the street from my house.  All I needed to do was get around the corner to the parking lot, and then I could just ride around in circles and get acclimated.  I didn’t even have to shift out of first gear.  There is practically no traffic to deal with in the suburban residential area, so what could go wrong?  Well, I sat straddling my bike at the corner until I was good and ready, gave it just a little throttle, and let out the clutch.  That was when my baby lurched forward a bit faster than I expected her to, and I freaked out that I would never be able to get the bike turned left before I ran out of road and I hit the curb!  Well, I almost made it.  I was parallel to the curb just as I scraped against it, and toppled over.  My bike was scratched in a couple spots down the pipes, but she was no worse for wear.  The engine guard fileted the grass, and I bruised my leg on the curb.  I bruised my ego more.

Some guy driving by in a pick up truck helped me stand her back up again, then drove off as I insisted I was fine.  But the worst part was that I had flooded the motor or something, and she wouldn’t turn over.  So I had to tuck my tail between my legs and duck walk her back down the block to my house and put her away.

I learned a lot that day.  I learned that patience IS a virtue.  And I learned to respect the machine.  I would never push her to something we weren’t ready for again.  I have treated her well, and she has treated me to a couple thousand miles and smiles.  She showed me how to live.  I will miss her.

Diana rides her Sportster

Diana and her prized Sportster

If you know anyone who might be interested in taking care of my baby in the next chapter of her life, please email editor@roadcaptainusa.com

  • 2001 Harley Davidson 883 Hugger
  • Gets 70 mpg
  • 7000 miles
  • Lots of chrome
  • Good beginner bike
  • Would make cool chopper with drag bars or apes and cool pipes
  • Looking for $5000 or best offer