Joining A Motorcycle Organization

So you’ve taken the plunge and bought a motorcycle.  You have instantly become a part of arguably the largest fraternity on earth – the brotherhood of bikers…or have you?  You cruise down the road and other motorcyclists drop you a “low two” or give you a nod in acknowledgment.  People talk to you at gas stations about how cool your chrome looks, how many miles you get to the tank full, or how much they’ve always wanted to get a bike.  But somehow you always seem to be riding alone.

Somehow these “brothers” seem more like random passers-by than people with whom you share a deep bond.  But yet you see large groups of them riding together down the street, and there are all kinds of group insignia worn on the backs of the dudes at your local bike night.  That, my friend, is where my story begins…

There are countless motorcycle organizations across the globe.  Most are drawn together by some bond such as firefighters, law enforcement, military/veterans, races, religions, or even the brand of bike they ride.  Some are family-oriented.  Some worship leather, spikes, and tattoos.  The beauty of it all is that there are so many motorcycling organizations out there that you are sure to find one that fits your niche.

Once you find a group that suits you, you are very likely to get much more than you bargained for when you joined.  A riding organization or club can offer some of the deepest friendships you’ll ever find, a support system for whatever tragedies life throws your way, and a wealth of information on places to ride, motorcycle safety, gear & accessories, getting through the inspection lanes at the DMV, and even the best insurance, breakdown cover, and roadside assistance plans!

The best part of all is that when you are a member of a motorcycle riding organization, you will never have to ride alone again.

Women Riders Month

women rider month

This May marks its third annual designation as Women Riders Month, a celebration of women who have chosen to take the handlebars and inspiration for those who soon will.  Today women riders are nearly six million strong – one out of every four motorcyclists.  Twenty years ago only 3% of the riders on the road were women.  That makes females the fastest growing demographic in motorcycling for two decades.

Women Riders Month is filled with many significant events geared towards women who ride.  International Female Ride Day (this year on May 6th) is held on the first Friday of the month each year.  The concept was first introduced as a Canadian national event to “connect women with motorcycling” by MOTORESS International in 2007.  Within its first year the idea was embraced by thousands of women not only in Canada, but also in the US and several European locations – making it an international event from its induction.  Whether it is on a sport bike, cruiser, or any other kind of motorcycle, women all over the world will be seen enjoying life on two wheels that day.

Harley-Davidson Motor Company will sponsor several events celebrating Women Riders Month as well.  There will be Garage Parties at local dealerships all over the country where women can learn about proper riding gear, bike maintenance, choosing the right bike, and even how to lift a dropped bike in a non-judgmental, female-friendly atmosphere.  At the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, the very first Biker Boot Camp for Women will be held from May 9-14.  Women who attend will participate in a Rider’s Edge course as well as learn about the history of women riders and an introduction to the biker lifestyle.  The first bike night of the year at the Museum (on May 12th) will also be dedicated to women riders as they kick off the riding season.

Finally, Harley-Davidson is also sponsoring Women’s Ride Day on May 14th.  The theme is simple and clear:  get out there and ride!  Women across the globe are encouraged to throw a leg over their bikes and ride – by themselves, with a friend, or with a group.

I know there are a bunch of guys out there who are wondering what all the hoopla is all about, but there are equally as many who believe that a woman’s place is riding bitch.  There are likewise many women who lack the confidence in their own abilities to even try to ride their own (likely generated out of the aforementioned attitudes).  Face it, most bikes out there are made for men – all of the lowering kits, “reach” seats, and pulled back handlebars in the world just will not make some women be able to reach the controls on some models!

The odds are stacked against women riding their own.  Any woman who overcomes all of those obstacles deserves recognition.  And any woman who would like to ride but feels she can’t should be given the inspiration and encouragement she needs to see that she can.  That’s what Women Riders Month is all about.

Custom Flame Paint Job on Scorpion Half Helmet

I was shopping for a new half helmet last summer specifically for warmer days and saw all kinds of really cool designs… but the helmet I ultimately chose was only available to me locally in solid colors.  I considered putting on a few die-cut vinyl decals but decided it would be much less cheesy if I got it painted.  And I figured who better to paint my helmet than our own fellow moto-blogger Mr Motorcycle of Kulass Speedshop Paint!?!  So I drew a sketch and picked up a couple of paint chips at the hardware store to give him an idea of what color I wanted, and shipped the helmet off to him in Minnesota a few weeks ago.

On Friday I got an email saying that my helmet was done!  Yay, I couldn’t wait to see it!  Apparently Mr M couldn’t wait to show the world either because he put together a video slideshow of the whole painting process!  Check it out over on his blog… click here!

Personally I think it looks awesome!  And it will do a fabulous job of blending together the colors from my silver Harley® and the purple mesh Harley® jacket I wear in the summer. 

Fan-freakin-tastic job dude!  🙂

Motorcycle Endorsement!

Diana at New Castle DMV

I had a motorcycle permit, all my riding gear and a new to me Harley-Davidson® motorcycle. I had to ride it, even if I didn’t know how! My townhouse was near an elementary school.  I just needed to get around the corner to the entrance and then I could ride in circles around the parking lot.  I would never even have to shift out of first gear.  It was the perfect plan.

I figured the clutch worked the same way as in my car – give it a little gas, ease out the clutch, give a little, go a little.  And it did work that way heading up the slight incline on my road.  When I got to the stop sign I needed to make a left onto the street, so I waited until there was no traffic anywhere near before I started to go.  Gave it a little throttle and let the clutch out a bit.  I was headed slightly downhill at this point though, so apparently I really didn’t need to throttle at all! The bike shot out forward and was halfway across the street before I could blink! I now had only half the space to make the turn…and I almost made it.  My bike came to its intended forward direction about two millimeters away from the curb.  So I rolled along with the side of my tire scraping against the side of the curb for about 5 feet before the bike decided it didn’t like that and fell over.  My crash bar filleted the grass and sliced up a nice piece of sod.  I scratched the shiny chrome on my pipes, tore a small chunk from the toe of one boot, and got bruises on my elbow and hip. Before I could even refocus, a man in a pick-up truck stopped and helped me pick up the bike.  He made sure I was OK, then drove off. 

I knew I needed to put the bike away, but then it wouldn’t start up again…so I had to duck-walk it back down the block and into my house.  I learned a valuable lesson that day: respect the machine! After that, Jay drove down from Delaware to Baltimore once a week after he got out of work. He took my bike over to the school parking lot for me, and watched while I rode around in circles for hours on end.  By the time I showed up to the Basic Rider class, I could shift comfortably between first & second gears and could make a GIANT figure-8 in the parking lot.  That made the first morning on the range a piece of cake.

It was ungodly hot that last week of August, but somehow we managed to make it through the two day MSF basic rider class at Cecil Community College without getting heat stroke.  We quizzed each other at the swimming pool in the evening and until we fell asleep that night.  Jay scored 85% on his written exam and aced the skills tests.  I aced the written exam and scored 85% on my skills tests.  It was like a match made in heaven. We both received our motorcycle endorsement!

Diana MSF Basic Rider Class Completion Card

* This article first appeared in print in the January issue of Fast Lane Biker Delamarva and is the fith in an ongoing series of articles by Diana Green.

Shiny New Chrome

Diana loves her Sportster

Summer was flying by and I couldn’t wait for my Basic Rider class to start.  How cool was it that Jay & I would be taking it together?  I didn’t even know he had wanted to take the class…he already knew how to ride.  But I guess it was an easy route to getting his endorsement, so why question a good thing?  I read the manual they sent me in the mail, and took all of the chapter quizzes.  Some of it was completely foreign to me, so I asked Jay to explain it to me.

I ordered 2 jackets from HotLeathers.com, and Jay took me to Freedom Cycle in north Wilmington for some other gear.  I bought a DOT shorty helmet, some really cute gloves with studs all around the cuffs, and a pair of riding boots which miraculously fit my extra-wide feet.  I couldn’t find a pair of glasses that fit my face right.  They were either too big for my face, or they didn’t sit right on my cheekbones, or my long eyelashes would brush up against the lenses and annoy me.  I finally found a perfect pair at Mike’s Famous Harley-Davidson in New Castle.  They cost almost as much as my 2 jackets combined, but you just can’t argue with a perfect fit!

My course preparations also included searching for a cheap used bike that I could crash up and no one would care.  I was spending an afternoon on eBay to scope out what might be available and how much it would run me, when across my monitor appeared the most beautiful sight!  It was a 2001 XLH883 (whatever that meant), shiny black with sparkling chrome all over.  The bike was offered for sale by American Classic Motors in Zieglerville PA, and had a Buy-It-Now price of $4995.  I couldn’t believe that anyone could own a Harley® for 4 years and only put 941 miles on it…but that was their loss and my gain!

Diana’s first motorcycle

The weekend came and it was time for the adventure to begin!  On Friday I rented a cargo van from home and drove it up to Jay’s apartment in Elkton MD.  We got up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning with our maps & directions to find American Classic Motors.  The guys there were very helpful in loading my little bike up inside the van with lots of tie-downs to keep it secure.  When Jay headed off to work on Saturday night, I drove the van back to my townhouse in Reisterstown MD where it sat until the next day.  I had to get my brother and a couple of his friends to help get my bike down out of the van on Sunday.  (This was a much more difficult proposition than loading it had been, since we didn’t have any kind of a ramp.)  It was kind of surreal as four young guys and I pushed the bike around the house and in through the sliding glass door in the basement.  No one knew how to ride it, or even how to start it, but it belonged to ME!

The next day I returned the cargo van, went directly to the MVA, got tags & a learner’s permit, and came home to ride my bike!

* This article first appeared in print in the December issue of Fast Lane Biker Delamarva and is the fourth in an ongoing series of articles by Diana Green.

Ride Your Own Ride?!

A phrase that motorcyclists hear quite often in reference to group riding: “Ride Your Own Ride”. What does it mean? How do you do it when you are riding in a group?

Obviously the group dynamic prohibits a rider from completely riding his own ride.  If each member of a group were to ride his own pace in his chosen lane position and for that matter to his own destination, there wouldn’t be much of a group involved in the ride at all!  They’d be scattered all over, some on back roads and some on highways, some cruising merrily along while others attempt to break salt flat records, and they’d probably never even come into contact at all over the course of the day.

OK, let’s suppose that a group has decided on a common route and destination… we still have a disorganized, inconsistent, and I daresay dangerous combination of riding styles, all attempting to share the same roads at the same time.  Riders pass each other haphazardly, ride up next to each other in the same lane (whether the person ahead is comfortable with that or not), leave giant gaps in the formation, and even perform stunts (a la “Look ma, no hands!”) in close proximity to other riders.  This is the exact scenario I have found at many “open” events.  That is not to say that the typical rider lacks riding skills or has reckless disregard for others, but more likely that they’re not experienced in safe group riding practices.

As a new rider I was reminded to ride my own ride during the safety instructions at the beginning of practically every chapter ride. I often wondered what exactly it was supposed to mean.  After all, each rider must hold his own position in the pack, follow the pace and directions of the road captain and all other riders in front of him, and pass back signals as directed.  While riding sweep and near the back of the group, I have witnessed the beauty of a group of twenty plus bikes cruising along the asphalt in a perfectly harmonious formation… like a symphony of rolling thunder.  However, holding the good of the group in high priority certainly does not seem to facilitate any of the individual riders doing their own thing.  And yet the near constant reminder to “ride your own ride”.

After nearly 25,000 miles in the saddle, the vast majority of it ridden in groups ranging from four to thirty and more motorcycles, I have deduced my own meaning for this seemingly incomprehensible phrase.  Even when following strictly regimented practices of group riding, motorcyclists must remember that they are not sheep obliviously following a shepherd; they are ultimately responsible for their own individual bikes.  Do not run a red light for fear that the forward part of the group will leave you behind.  Stop at intersections and check traffic for yourself instead of just rolling blindly right on through.  Watch for pot holes, road kill, and other hazards for yourself instead of relying on a signal to be passed back.  If you need more space or perceive it appropriate to go single-file when it has not been designated by the group leader, feel free to signal your intentions to the other riders in the pack and then do it.  Do not out-ride your skill level just to keep up with the rest of the group.  Trust that the ride leaders and road captains will do their job and make sure that your needs are met by pulling over at a safe location to allow you to catch up, adjusting the group pace to compensate for lesser skill level of newer riders, and so on.  Do not assign responsibility to them for your carelessness and naive indifference to your own riding safety.

So does ride your own ride mean you are free to do whatever you feel like? Definitely not!  Does it mean to take responsibility for yourself as well as deferring to the safety of the rest of the group? Absolutely!  When each rider pays diligent attention to the latter you have the makings of a successful group ride!  On the contrary, the former creates nothing but a bunch of individuals riding in a cluster.