A few days ago I dumped my bike. I was riding with my friend Tobi (a super awesome moto-riding-plant-and-duck-guru-neighbor woman), and with Scott, on Skyline Drive near Bountiful Utah. The ride is incredible. 25 miles of rocky dirt roads winding through the Wasatch Front through high elevation wildflowers, Mud-Dog lakes, and sweeping views of the Great Salt Lake. The last 4-miles, however, challenged me with one of my great fears. A 1,000 foot cliff met the edge of the narrow road. I have a strange fear of heights and my annoying vertigo sent visions of me and my friends plummeting to our death through my mind.
If i went careening - what would I say into my bluetooth headset? What would my last words be as I fell to my death? Would my friends have last words as they met theirs? I hate fear.
Near the end of the road, as I tried to tame my brain and drive at the same time, we came to a hairpin turn. The entire turn was exposed to a cliff. At the apex of the corner, I hit a sandy patch and was afraid to accelerate through it, in the face of what some yet-to-be-conquered part of my brain was sure was imminent death. I could blame my sticky throttle, but the fact is that I dumped the bike. Maybe I could have saved it, but I was, honestly, afraid.
The worst part of dumping a bike is the embarrassment.
A kind man on a 4-wheeler stopped and picked up my 450 pound beast. I didn't thank him. The only thing I could say was "'shit.... I wanted to try to pick it up,' which was quite true; I wanted to pick it up but some of that stubborn I-want-to-do-it attitude also comes from the pressure I feel. The pressure that is put on me, and all women, who, well... do ANYTHING 'tough' or 'cool' or (the worst) 'manly.' We have to be extra tough. We must flip off the men who whistle at us from their trucks, and the ones who ask us out on dates at stop lights. We must excel, or be judged and called 'a girl' (this term should be one of high praise, but it's connotations make it into what is undoubtedly one of the most harmful colloquialisms of our times.) All eyes are on us. Can we hack it? Do we have the nerve?
Sometimes I project my ideas of others' perception of me onto them. It's not fair to them, I know. It's also not fair that my projections and perceptions come from years of living in 'a man's world' where I have experienced violence, sexism, wage-gaps, sexualization of my person, discrimination, and harassment. Only. Only because I am a woman. A strong, independent, round, intelligent, creative, problem-solving, real, woman. But let's move on...
I was also afraid the first time I rode my first motorcycle. The 350. A junker 1992 Yamaha enduro that I bought for a grand. My first experience with motorcycles was playing with the clutch on a slight incline. Then my neighbor took me to a parking lot and made me practice braking, skidding, and turns. Scary, yes, but northing like the first few solo-rides around the block that I took. A neighbor saw me and said she was afraid for my life. To be honest, so was I.
The adrenaline was flowing. I rode over train tracks. I warped my brake rotor. My hands shook for at least 10 minutes after I shut the engine off in my driveway. I told myself that once upon a time I had learned to walk and to drive, and that those things were dangerous and scary then, but now I do them without a thought. Riding a Moto - I knew - would be the same. So I practiced. I rode the Salt Lake City canyons with Tobi. I rode dirt and downtowns with my friends. New riding styles were a constant challenge and learning experience for me.
I fixed my brakes and it got better. It got brilliant, and, in fact, one day I felt the joy of the curves and I overcame the fear. I conquered. I accelerated.
The first time I rode the 600XT was a 235 mile solo ride to Moab. It was hard, and new. I had never ridden the bike, or ridden on a highway - but I determined that I was up for the challenge. And I did it. I dropped that bike too. Broken Clutch Levers I now realize are a part of life. Now, to me, a broken lever is not a failure but a symbol of success.
Difficult things are worth doing.
I have taken on a challenge. I have failed sometimes, but ultimately I have succeeded as I knew I could. The objective of this story runs deep and has little to do with motorcycles. Keep on my friends, my sisters; tackle the things that seem a universe away. Take on the impossible - the strength is in you. Don't listen to what society or culture tells you. Flip off the jerks, call them out, or just ignore them (the jury is still out on the best way to handle cat-calls and harassment). But what the jury is not out on is that it's in you. I promise - you are so, so, so worthy of your dreams. Jump in!
Heartfelt thanks to Tobi Werkhousen, Scott Hathaway, Scott Dixon, and Kevin Bell for challenging and teaching me how to ride.
Thank you, you most amazing women: My sisters (Darcy and Misti), Samantha, Megan, Jamie, Ashley, Shaquille, Thalia, Tobi, Eliza, Melissa, Danielle, and all of the other wonderful women in the world, for inspiring me to follow my dreams and crush the opposition. I believe in you.