Recently I got back on a motorbike. Despite not riding for a few decades, I was leathered-up and down the road about fifteen minutes after my new bike rolled off the truck. It was relatively easy getting back on. Some things you just never forget. It was a bit like….well…..riding a bike.
A few weeks on, memories have returned from the time when a motorbike was my main source of transport. Being older, and perhaps a tad wiser, I’ve got a new perspective to riding. In case any readers are planning on implementing their own mid-life crisis on two-wheels, here are some of my lessons from the road:
Everyone wobbles at the beginning – the 50-year-old version of me is not the same as that girl of 20 who taught herself to ride on a compact 100cc, before moving up to a lightweight Kawasaki 250cc. My new 250cc Yamaha V-Star cruiser is a bit heavier than the bikes of my past; and so am I. The current version of me has the muscle strength, eyesight and reaction time of an overweight, middle-aged woman who has birthed four babies.
So of course there has been some wobbling. It’s not pretty, but its part of the learning (or re-learning) process. I plan on taking things easy, not be in a rush, and take the bends with care; until I’m more capable and confident.
Be prepared and gear-up – unlike the younger me who had not yet realised that I was mortal, I have learnt the importance of being prepared. That’s not to say that I can’t be spontaneous, it just means that I need to be a bit more cautious. Investing in the right gear, and making sure I use it, is essential. Thinking before I act is also a good idea. No one is immortal.
It doesn’t matter what others think of you – when I’m riding, I feel strong, happy and free. That’s probably not how other people see me. I’ve noticed the odd sour-faced look from women of my age. And I don’t care. Let them think what they will. I’ve found just enough courage to put aside restricting notions of body-image, femininity and ageing, and doing something that makes me feel alive. My life – my choice.
It’s not all laughing behind my back, though. In the first week of getting the bike, I got up the nerve to take the highway to the next town. With the road all to myself, I opened up the throttle to 80kms/hour for the first time. Wind in my face, I remembered why I love riding. Then I saw a biker approaching on a Harley. He gave me the nod. He knew what I was feeling. I smiled to myself, and nodded back.
Keep Your Mouth Shut – like bugs between the teeth, some words leave a bad taste. Its fun to ride with your visor up, but you risk a mouthful of insects. So its visor up and mouth shut. Much like life, really. It’s okay to be wide-eyed, see what’s happening around you, but it’s another matter to speak in a judgemental manner about what you think you’ve observed. I’ve noticed lately that the oddest statements sometimes come out of my mouth. I’m beginning to sound like a bitter old lady. I’m aware that its important to think first, judge less, and use the power of words well – I just need to work on that some more.
Feel the fear: do it anyway – I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the idea of getting back on a bike didn’t scare me. After ordering it, I thought ‘what the hell was I thinking?’ Fear is good. It keeps us from doing dumb things, protects us from harm. Letting fear rule your life is not good though. It’s important to try new things. It’s good for personal growth.
I’ve done a few new, and scary, things this year. I walked across the Cambodian border into Vietnam, alone, with barely any money in my pocket and no idea where I was headed. I went to a Rodriguez concert on my own. I went to Indonesia for the first time, travelling alone once again, to volunteer at the Ubud Writers Festival. I drove all the way to the centre of Australia, to see Uluru; sleeping in my car along the way. I approached some bookshops about stocking my novel. I attended a couple of corporate/networking Xmas functions alone, and forced myself to meet new people. And I bought a motorbike. All of these things were scary, especially for an introvert. These events, and others, all turned out to be enjoyable experiences.
Don’t get too cocky – my life is on a bit of a roll at the moment. That’s not to say that I haven’t had challenges and bumps in the road this year. I used to be scared when things were going well; wondering when the rollercoaster would plummet again. It always did. However, now I have a bit more resources (financial and emotionally) to deal with whatever comes my way.
I need to make sure I don’t get too cocky, though. I need to keep an eye out for hazards on the road. Even the smallest bump can be disastrous when riding a bike. When we get too cocky, mistakes happen.
Enjoy every moment – last weekend, the odometer clicked over the first 100 kms. I was on a country road, travelling back to the coast after visiting a few nearby country towns. I watched open fields and rows of vines flash by, observing the occasional bird ahead of me. It was at about that moment that I had an epiphany. It was just me and the road, sans the protective metal coating of a car and distraction of a car radio. Instead of feeling insecure, I felt one with my environment, and really alive. Yeh, that’s cheesy. It’s a great feeling, though.
I might still wobble in life, especially when learning new things, but I’m making the most of what time I have. I’ve learnt that you never know when your last moment is due. If I could only remember to keep my mouth shut, so I don’t get bugs between my teeth, then I’d be content with how life is progressing. And maybe I should stop procrastinating, so I can finish my second book. Another day, perhaps. For now, the open road is calling.