I made it through the first day of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation basic course, but only by the skin of my teeth, by manning up, and by acknowledging but not being influenced by the little deaths that bring total obliteration. The fear was not very bad, a collection of small whinging fears, really. But the little fears diverted me into a place I have not been for a long time, a mindset of failure and pre-emptive quitting. A self-sabotaging persona was definitely in play, and he/I almost convinced myself to bail on the riding part of the first day at the point they make you shift into 2nd, then immediately back into first gear.
There were excuses, my friends, and very good ones. I was the tallest student by at least 3 inches, and we were riding dinky little Suzuki 250cc bikes. My right foot wouldn’t fit on the peg normally without pressing the rear brake, and I had to cock the left leg out at an extreme angle to maneuver my boot around the shifter. I told one of the instructors that I had trouble managing the small footroom on the left, and he said, “Got big feet, eh? So do I,” and waved me on.
So I went on. I was by far the slowest student in the set for the first few exercises. Bike stalls. Pressing the starter button instead of the engine turnoff. Jerky throttle, weaving and wobbling. Finding neutral from first is a bitch.
There has never, in my entire life, been a time when I was the absolute worst at something I tried. Even in middle school tennis there were a guy or two below me, and I once beat the number 2 guy with a series of ridiculous aces and winners.
All I have chosen to do are activities where I excel. Sucking sucks.
Fear sucks. Self sabotage must not be allowed to exist. Do or do not. I managed the gear shifting exercises, and we moved on to the faster, funner, curvier ones. And there, my friends, I blossomed like a twenty-something divorcée finally relieved of the burden of catering to her abusive beer-swilling husband’s every whim.
I like cornering. Pushing the handlebars in the direction you want to turn and accelerating as you lean into the turn sounds wrong, but it feels so good. The instructors put me in the slow group, obviously, and boy were we slow. Speed up (in 2nd), then brake until you are about to enter the turn. Look all the way to the end of the curve; I’m serious, turn your head 90 degrees; push your bike and roll the throttle so smoothly as you careen controlled in the arc that when you roll throttle deeper you swing around and up vertical looking at the next decision you need to make, and you brake to the speed you can enter the next turn looking hard where you want to be. And the guy in front of you never accelerates on the straightaway, so you dawdle where you can, to make time and space for a rushing throttle roll and a time-narrowing brake to just the speed where this time you push a little too hard on the handlebars to see how it works.
Where I am going, I turn my head to see my path, and the fear is nothing, and I remain.
Thinking, “Faster, man, go faster!”