I went to a motorcycle riding academy this weekend on a race track. I’m pretty much as new as a rider as you can be. And I’m on a tiny bike.
The first day I got very caught up and wrecked by all the “You shouldn’t be here” “You don’t belong here” input. And not only did that tank any confidence I had, it made me feel so beneath everyone else and like I was in the way and an inconvenience (at best) for being there.
The academy was not what I expected. I thought they would be going over basics of maneuvering your motorcycle; the proper way to brake and shift, perhaps some emergency procedures to get out of harm’s way if there’s debris or an accident in front of you. I expected to be taught more and learn more skills. I never came to this course to learn how to race, I came for the “learn to better control your motorcycle on the street” part, so that was a disappointment to me.
On top of that, people in my riding group (the SLOW group) were often complaining of having to go too slow (because of me) and it was embarrassing and frustrating. There was nowhere else for me to go (whereas they could have gone up a group) and it made riding that much more stressful because I was constantly worried about holding others up and having to hear the negativity. As much as I try to work on being comfortable when people are upset by me, it still feels extremely uncomfortable and yucky, and not the kind of hard emotional work I can balance with a motorcycle between my knees.
After my first ride around the track I almost called it quits. I was terrified. Some of the corners were terrifying and my lack of skills and experience were evident, and I was quite afraid and sure I wouldn’t be able to keep myself safe. I was fighting back tears, and not all that successfully.
I left the first day feeling sick and convinced I wouldn’t go back.
A shift happened when I looked at the whole picture. I saw the responsibility that belonged to others, and stopped putting it all on myself. Before signing up for this, I had asked all the questions – I told them how new I was to riding and they said it would be good for me – and I even persisted and asked “is there too slow for the track?” And was told NO! So, if that were their answers before taking my money, then that’s what I’m going with. It’s not my fault if I’m where I shouldn’t be – that part is on them. And due to my lack of skill (and lack of acquiring any more) I decided that I will go as slow as I need to to keep myself safe and try to learn things I can apply to my everyday riding while doing it. I stopped worrying about the people behind me, and the comments in our post-ride discussions. I might have been in the wrong place because of misinformation from others, but it was now my responsibility to get something out of that not-quite-right place I was in.
Which got me looking for what I can take away. I asked questions that were probably so novice others were rolling their eyes. I asked for feedback. I asked for more instruction. I did learn my lines better the second day; however, lines are for racing – not the road – so as happy as I was to be doing better on the track, it still didn’t feel like enough. So I kept searching and trying things – using my front brake smoothly, timing my shifting, and leaning my bike/weight. I think the biggest takeaway is that I will have more confidence in leaning my bike more on the road now that I know I can do it without falling.
The even bigger lesson though – that I have found comes up over and over – is to be able to accept when a situation isn’t what you wanted or needed, and to bring yourself to a place where you still get something out of it. To feel all the feelings associated with that; the disappointment, the anger, the frustration, the sadness – to be able to hold those without owning it all (as I was on day 1 when others were expressing their feelings towards my lack of speed and skill), or without being so focused on blaming others that you can’t receive anything from them or have any good experiences (like I would have done if I decided to just be mad at the organizers/teachers and not be friendly or ask them questions or for feedback, or to have simply left being resentful).
I am proud for going back on day 2. I am proud that I was able to hold the entire experience and not leave feeling like it was a waste or with my confidence tanked. And, bonus for leaving with all of my bones in place and my bike intact 😉 .