Princess Road Captain

As a brand new rider, I was always cautious not to outride my abilities.  I was also careful to keep that same philosophy in mind when I upgraded to a big-twin Harley.  With the Super Glide’s lower center of gravity and greater stability it was easy to forget that I had only been riding for 3 years, not 3 decades.  My confidence grew quickly, and with it my skills developed as well.  I put 10,000 miles on my new bike the first year, and fellow First State HOG chapter members told me often that I was an accomplished rider.  It was even suggested that I enter our Road Captain training program.

My initial response was that I didn’t feel ready yet – I did not have a wide enough range of riding experiences.  I had only ridden on an Interstate once, had ridden in significant rain only once, hadn’t crossed any major bridges, had never gone on an overnight trip on my own bike, and hadn’t really seen any truly challenging twisties.  So I set myself some goals for the summer, and as it happened I accomplished nearly all of them in a single week that I put over 1500 miles on my bike.  It was like a whirlwind of opportunity and accomplishments.  I decided I was ready, but all of that just went to my head.

In mid-August school was about to begin and teachers came in for a week of training and preparation.  I rode my Harley to work every day.  We got out of a meeting a few minutes early and had 90 minutes for lunch one day.  I decided to take my bike for a nice ride around a few of the local back roads then pick up a quick sandwich at Wawa. 

Not being incredibly familiar with the roads, I missed my turn.  So I rode down to the next side street and make a quick u-turn…a little too quick!  My front tire slid off the side of the pavement and dropped into the grass, my handlebars jackknifed, and I just let her go down.  I knew that I was no match for an 800-pound Harley!  Luckily, a young man came driving down the road just then.  He helped me get the bike upright, then dashed back off in his car just as quickly as he had appeared.

“When you get overconfident, that’s when something snaps up and bites you.”

– Neil Armstrong

Then the bike wouldn’t start.  Ouch, I really did it this time.  Not only did I get overconfident and stop paying as close attention as I should, but now I am stranded in the middle of nowhere with no tools, a completely misaligned footpeg, a loose mirror that wouldn’t stay put, and a bike that won’t start!  (I was lucky nothing was actually broken.)  I honestly don’t know what I did, but somehow taking the key out and playing with the clock/odometer display cleared out the error code and I was able to start the motor.

So much for my ride.  So much for my lunch.  I rode quietly back to school with my tail between my legs, bruised ego, and beating myself up for being so careless.  I had always been so careful to ride within my capabilities and to keep a strong mental focus while riding.  Geez, I am an idiot!

As it happened, it was that very evening that our new Head Road Captain called to officially invite me to join the training program.  Then he said something that made me wonder if he was wise beyond even his own awareness.  He said, “You are a good rider, but don’t get ahead of yourself.  Overconfidence will cause anyone, no matter how experienced, to make mistakes.”

“Trust me, I know,” I replied…