Imagine the fear and exhilaration of learning how to ride a bike and learning how to drive a manual car all over again, except at the exact same time, and on terrain that you would never normally learn on?
Welcome to dirt biking!
And let’s be honest…if you’re going to learn how to dirt bike, why not go to a company that might know a thing or two about dirt bikes, motorcycles, having fun, etc.
Welcome to the Honda Colton Rider Education Center!
When I first signed Nick and I up for a dirt-bike riding class, I had no clue what I was getting myself into. I mean, when we went quadding in Pismo a few years ago, I had fun and it was easy for me to pick up on.
But I’m also a really big chicken when it comes to mechanical things that are loud, go fast, and that I somehow have to control. So I was a little apprehensive about doing this, but I just kept telling myself, how hard could dirt biking be? I mean…turns out I got this kick-ass outfit to wear…
And, as I’ve said before, any sport that has its own shoes can’t be bad, right?
And the class size was perfect. There were six of us plus our instructor.
Teaching these classes will clearly be the death of you! 😆
Each person introduced themselves, talked about their previous riding experience and mentioned reason for taking the class. Some people had friends that had dirt bikes, so they wanted to be able to join in the fun; others wanted to use this as a starting point for street-bike riding.
Me? My goal was being able to ride in a straight line by the end of the day without crashing. Some people would say I have low expectations, I like to think of myself as realistic.
Then it was time for class to begin.
We started with the basics of the bike:
- Right hand: Throttle to control the amount of power you give to the bike (very, very little)
- Right hand: Hand brake (this is going to come in handy when I panic and can’t find the foot brake)
- Left hand: Clutch (if I ever get to a point where I even need to shift gears)
- Left foot: Primary brake (nope. definitely using the handbrake and risk launching myself over the handlebars)
- Right foot: gear shift pedal (tiny pedal, big boot. Who designed this stuff?)
A few observations….
Number 1: Do not be fooled by their little size – those dirt bikes are HEAVY!!! As in, I nearly dropped the thing when I kicked up the kickstand, heavy. Definitely not the same as the little Schwinn bike I learned to ride several (I won’t say how many) years ago.
Number 2: Contrary to how awesomely cool I looked in those boots, they are also heavy, which makes it a bit tough to swing one’s leg over the bike the first time. Granted not as heavy as the bike, but they are a bit bulky and awkward when you’re first getting started.
Number 3: I forgot number three. I was desperately trying to concentrate on not getting myself killed when the engine fired up and the entire bike started making loud, roaring, vibrating noises at and underneath me 😯
Then it was time to ride.
As I said earlier, do you remember learning how to ride a bike – a two wheel bike with no training wheels?
Remember learning how to drive a manual transmission?
Remember how both scared the crap out of you the first time you tried either one?
Now put them together. Except this time without dad there to run behind you holding the fender of the bike for balance, or sitting beside you helping to find the sweet spot in the clutch (never mind that the clutch is in your left hand and not your left foot), and you’re not 5 or 15 any longer and you have a much greater awareness of your own mortality and death, and lord i hope i don’t fall because i really don’t want to break any bones or end up in the emergency room because i just paid off my credit card and i can’t afford the deductible on my health insurance right now and is that a rock, no that’s a boulder, please don’t let me hit the boulder, holy crap i’m going to die, this thing is going to kill me all because i should have listened to my mother and never gone near anything motorcycle related, oh my god how did I get myself roped into this..aaaahhhhhaaaayiiiiiiii!!!!!!
And then, all of a sudden, I was cruising along in first gear.
Balanced, feet on the pegs, and not setting any speed records – but still moving, cruising along in first gear.
And then I stopped and found myself shaking uncontrollably from a combination of fear and adrenaline.
Try again…step-step-roll-throttle-release clutch-feet on pegs-little more throttle and I was rolling along again. Time and time again I practiced. It was exciting. It was frightening. There were moments where I couldn’t believe I was actually driving a motorcycle….and then I’d do something stupid and start back at square one. Sometimes I would stall (OK..quite a few times I stalled), other times I accidentally gave it much throttle and nearly launched myself into another time zone, and my turning radius was on par with that of a whale (who may still have a tighter turn than I do).
In the end, I met my goal. I was able to go in a straight line without crashing. In fact, I went in several straight lines, and turns, and shifted gears, and was able to mostly stand up on the bike, and find the foot brake at least twice.
I’d call that a pretty successful day.
As I changed out of my awesomely cool gear (and those boots), I caught a glimpse of the next level nearby. Hmmm. Is there the slightest chance of more riding in my future? Maybe something faster, leaner, meaner? Can you see me zipping along in traffic on one of these beauties?
If I can stay in first gear the entire time.
Big thanks to Nick and everyone at the Honda Colton Rider Education Center. If you’d like to learn more about dirt biking or street riding, check out their website HERE!!