You don’t have to be the prototypical Biker Chick seen posed on cars and dressed in leather bras (sometimes) at rallies. The vast majority of biker chicks aren’t, I’ve learned. In fact, biker communities include some of the most down-to-earth, normal, and friendly people that I’ve met anywhere.
What does being a biker chick have to offer? Well, everybody wants to talk to a biker chick. People from all walks of life desperately want to commend the behavior. As a sport that offers you constant positive feedback and conversation-starters, it is unbeatable.
Is motorcycling really a sport? Yes, in my opinion, it is. You need an “athlete’s mind” the entire time you are on the bike. Good body tone and flexibility will help you be a better rider. Balance and awareness are critical. Long rides can be far more tiring than if you had been driving a car. But it’s still fun as heck; thus, I call motorcycling a sport.
Will you enjoy it? Here’s one way to know: if you think of driving as fun, you are most of the way towards enjoying motorcycling. If you hate to drive even your car, motorcycling may not be your thing.
What’s important for someone who decides to go ahead and take the plunge and get into biking? The most important thing I can recommend is to take a weekend course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) (http://www.msf-usa.org). They have a waiting list of several months during popular seasons, so you should make your appointment well in advance. After you pass the MSF course, you will know a lot about safety and basic bike-knowledge, and will feel comfortable stopping and going and turning on your bike. (Well, mostly with turning – that’s always a little tricky, and it does require a lot of practice before you get very good at it.) But you will feel competent to go buy your own starter bike. You will be excited and eager. And you will be scared to go out in traffic.
Traffic is sometimes intimidating and sometimes oblivious to bikers on the road. Drivers don’t always know how to behave around motorcycles when they see them. Ultimately, although some people forget, any time someone’s life is on the line, especially when they are travelling without air bags and seat belts and can easily become a projectile, a greater margin of safety should be allowed. But as a biker, you can only control the distance between you and the car in front of you, not between you and the car behind you. Accept that fact, and just do what you can to get yourself into a protective circle of safe conditions when you can. If you find yourself in a situation where you are not comfortable with the competence or behavior of a vehicle around you, find a safe place to get off the road and put some distance between them and you. It may slow you down, but you will be safer and more in control afterwards.
Many drivers are great – overall, you will be pleasantly surprised by how many drivers go out of their way to be biker-friendly. After all, many of them are bikers in their “errand-running vehicle.” Many of them will put a smile on your face through their consideration.
Know the roads that you are going to ride on. You’re not going to want to be driving through a lot of surprise construction, or your local Pothole Paradise, if you can avoid it. During your first few months on the road as a biker, know your route. Scope out hazards ahead of time, perhaps while driving your car. Always take note of things like grates in the road, traffic lights on hillsides, tricky railroad crossings, and irregular curves, so you will remember them the next time you are there on your bike. You will still be surprised by unexpected conditions from time to time, but if you try to plan ahead, you will generally have ensured your own pleasant journey.
Other tips: practice stopping and starting while facing uphill. Practice u-turns. Don’t rush your turns – the guy behind you may not be happy, but he won’t run you over. (Besides, no matter what you do, he will not be happy.) Stay upright in intersections – they really are often slicker than regular road. Think and be visible. Be confident. Don’t show off. (This is a good rule of thumb in life anyway, but it is particularly important on a motorcycle.) You should be concentrating on the road and the vehicles around you, as should everyone else.
Watch the weather. You will get caught in the rain someday, but why rush that day? Start out on a longer ride only if you know it’s going to stay nice.
Invest in quality gear. You should be comfortable and protected. This is not the right place to cut corners. Put some thought into your baggage-carrying solution. I like a magnetic tank bag, and I also have an awesome backpack made specifically for bikers. Other people prefer saddlebags. There are a lot of options out there; do your research and buy quality gear that excites you. Wear as much armored and protective gear as you can make yourself tolerate.
Maintain your tire air pressure. Mushy tires are bad, bad, bad for responsiveness and stability. Most gas station air pumps are seventy-five cents these days. While it is annoying to pay it, your life is worth it. If you are motivated to minimize your air budget, you *can* use a bicycle pump in your driveway at home. Or maybe you are lucky enough to know where a free air pump still is. But whichever method you choose, make tire pressure one of your very-regular checks.
You will find that at some point, you don’t feel like you need to be as diligent about planning your route ahead of time. You will feel confident enough to handle more road situations. You will have a few biker friends, who will have emerged out of the woodwork of your prior social circles, but you hadn’t realized before that so many people are actually closet bikers. You will be daydreaming about your *next* bike, and longing for spring. You will have truly become a biker chick. If you’ve considered doing this for some years, but haven’t gotten around to it, I ask…what are you waiting for? Be courteous, be safe, and have fun.