Getting Back to Basics
I’ve only been Harley-boot deep in this world for about eighteen months. Oh sure, I’ve attended Port Dover festivities for years and I’ve enviously watched riders from the sidelines for decades, but it’s been slightly more than a year since I parked my butt in the saddle and started my journey in earnest.
I took my M1 exit course with OMSA in May of 2013. It was a hot, sweaty and challenging endeavour, and I almost didn’t complete it. The bike got away from me halfway through the first morning and not only did I land on my fine yet ample butt, I also strained my left knee (meniscus) and bruised my developing, yet already fragile, ‘biker’s ego’.
But, I did it. I hobbled away from that weekend with the paperwork for my M2 and great big smile on my face. It was a moment of pure triumph for me for a lot of reasons, the least of which was that there were many who had looked at me with a mixture of amusement and doubt when I had shared my dream and goal of becoming a rider. After immersing myself in learning as much as I could about ‘the world’ during the year beforehand, I had reached the end of my beginning.
I had my M2.
I had adopted ‘Ruby’.
I was paying motorcycle insurance.
I had ‘arrived’.
There’s only so much advice that more experienced riders can give you.
Only so many tips you can absorb.
Only so many things you can remember.
After that? It’s only time in the seat and in the wind that can give you what you really need: Experience.
When I look back at my first season of riding, I’m almost embarrassed at the “I rode 3kms throughout my neighbourhood today!” posts I made on facebook. But, we all have to start somewhere, don’t we? Bit by bit, I ventured further and further out of both my neighbourhood and my comfort zone.
I tackled country roads.
I took on a 200kms-in-one-day challenge.
I even braved the 403. Clarification: I braved the 403 on a Sunday morning at 7am when there was almost no traffic and not one transport on the road, but it still counts.
With baby steps and little leaps, I have spent the last year moving forward. And then, on the recent Canada Day long weekend, I backtracked a little and went ‘Back to the Basics’ for a little bit of a refresher and a whole lot of ‘something old is new again’.
JP McArdle is a seven-time International Overall Police Motorcycle Champion, an ex US Marine, former member of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police Force (FBI Homicide Task Force, Motorcycle Officer, and Lead Motorcycle Officer on President Bill Clinton’s Presidential Escort Team) and creator / facilitator / lead instructor for a wildly successful police motorcycle training program for Deeley Harley Davidson (Canada).
On the Sunday of the long weekend, however, he was my instructor for the ‘Advanced Basics’ motorcycle course that I took on location in Burlington.
JP exudes a passion for teaching and although I was a tad intimidated by his impressive resume, he had slowly converted me into a believer... in myself.
“You can do this, Kat,” he said to me quietly when he met me in the middle of the course during my second go-round. “You just have to believe in yourself,” he told me, as he gave me a few pointers and told me how far I’d already come since the beginning of the day.
The only girl on the course that day, I felt like I had the eyes of the world on me. I hated the thought of disappointing my mentor (who had come along with me to cheer me on), making a fool of myself in front of the other (guys) taking the course, or not living up to my own unspoken expectations of myself.
Designed to build your confidence and improve your performance on your bike at slower speeds, the course took me through a successive series of obstacle courses that built upon each other, and by the end of the day, I was successfully navigating serpentines, figure eights, 360-degree tight circles, 90-degree turns in first gear (using the throttle and clutch – and no brakes – to control my speed), and more with a smile on my face and not the look of panic I’d had when I started out earlier in the day.
I learned how to lift a fallen motorcycle (a 900lb Harley, as a matter of fact), braking & cornering techniques, slow speed maneuverings, U-turns, counter steering, and even how to avoid a collision in an intersection.
I learned to have a little more patience and a lot more confidence in my own abilities. And I came to understand that when it comes to riding, there is no such thing as too much training, too much information, or too many questions. I may be a novice rider, but I am an ‘old soul’ when it comes to being in the wind.
I tackled more than JP’s course on that hot, holiday weekend Sunday...
I learned that you can actually move forward when you go back to a beginning.
I learned that whether you’ve only been riding for a season or you’ve been at it for most of your life, it always pays to work at improving your skills when it comes to the basics.
I learned that successfully navigating a parking lot is just as important (and sometimes even more difficult) as speeding down a highway or blowing out the cobwebs on the open road.
Hats off to JP and his love and passion for being on two wheels, and for reinforcing to this KAT that when it comes to riding, you only have one life. The tips and techniques I learned in his Advanced Basics course ensured that this is one KAT who has acquired the knowledge and the skills to always land on her feet if she practices what he preached...
Watch JP in action via the following links:
If you will be travelling in Ontario this season, why not consider adding a training course to your itinerary while you’re on the road? Here are some great options:
ProMo (Professional Motorcycle Training): JP McArdle
Canada Safety Council: Offers rider training courses across Ontario
Motorcycle Course.com: Has rider training locations throughout eastern Ontario
For a complete list of Ontario motorcycle schools and training programs click here.
KAT (aka KimberleeAnna) will be contributing to this site on a bi-weekly basis, and is looking forward to sharing her adventures with you. To reach KAT by email, send your questions, comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org