Take the Ride

My brain is right back in high school, sitting cross-legged on a chair at a desk where my open textbook lies. Except this time, it’s six years later, and my classroom is in a small town airport. My textbook? The Washington State Motorcycle Safety Manual.

Owning a motorcycle was something I wanted to do at seventeen years old—at least, I thought I wanted to do. Before then, I had never been a particularly risky person, until the eighteenth birthday I spent jumping out of an airplane. For me, a motorcycle just seems like a good way to get around. A really cool way to get around, but also a really dangerous way to get around. At seventeen, I quickly realized I wasn’t mentally or even physically prepared for that kind of responsibility. I pushed my dream into the pipe and let it rest.

I kept my reckless, two-wheeled ideas tucked away for a few years while I moved around and went to school. Well on my way to my twenty-fifth birthday, I moved back to my parents’ house near Seattle and quickly found myself in a quarter-life crisis. My job—an unpredictable life of freelance and fashion—was not satisfying me in the ways I had grown used to in Minneapolis. A big part of that was feeling trapped in a small town far outside the city. I had my mother’s car to borrow whenever I wanted, but with three people sharing it, “whenever I want” became “whenever it’s available.”

Not as often as a girl who goes out for coffee every two hours would like.

Soon after moving, I became a pretty dedicated lurker of the Instagram biker chick community—girls who wore more patched denim than flame-embossed leather, and rode little retro café racers instead of couch-sized Harleys. Girls who looked just like me in their leather jackets and Vans and skinny, ripped-up ankle jeans. Girls that gave me an ear to listen to the seventeen-year-old voice inside me: you can do that too. You can be that girl and find that road and feel that freedom.

I’m not sure why I never thought to take a riding skills class, but part of me assumed operating a motorcycle would be quite literally as easy as riding a bicycle. Coming from someone who has never operated anything with a clutch, my assumption was ridiculous, but who expects you to know details about a pipe dream? After finding a beginner’s class right in my county and an open weekend, I paid the surprisingly affordable class fee and started to get hyped. Google had given me a way. All it took was a "how to ride a motorcycle" search and I was on my way.

The thing I’ve heard most from my friends and family is that motorcycling is very dangerous. I answer with zero sarcasm: guess what? I know. It’s just about the riskiest way to get around on the road, but one thing a lot of the world has found is that it’s worth it. I’m a 25-year-old girl diving headfirst in a male-dominated industry (this, in itself, is a story for another day), and I want to find out too.

And I will, the next day in class, when we have our first range session, and I find myself seated on a very low-power 125cc Kawasaki Eliminator—massive and dramatically unfamiliar to me—all geared up and expected to go.