Learning to Ride a Motorcycle: A Valuable Skill During SHTF

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learning to ride a motorcycle

I’m probably the last person who should be trying to get a license to ride a motorcycle, but I did anyways. I’m a small woman in my fifties, a nurse, a wife, a mother of four adult kids, and grandmother to two grandsons. Why on earth did I want to do this? I decided I need to pick up an unusual skill, one that people would not expect of me… It’s good to let folks underestimate you; it may come in handy someday.

It all started when my husband surprised me and gave me a Honda Rebel 250 motorcycle for Christmas about 5 years ago. He has been riding since he was in his teens, so it’s second nature to him. He thought it would be “fun” to ride together. What was he thinking? I like to ride on the back of the bike, shielded from wind and bugs hitting you at 55 miles per hour. I was also a bit intimidated by its size and felt it was too much for a new rider.

But, I made a few attempts to learn to ride each summer in my large yard. I had a lot of trouble letting the clutch out and simultaneously increasing the throttle without killing the engine. I had trouble going uphill, stopping at a predetermined point, and starting out in first gear on a hill. There’s so much to learn and I realized that it was time for professional help.

I needed professional help!

I signed up for a well known motorcycle training course with an organization that provided the motorcycles, a trailer for indoor classes, and the parking lot where hands on training was held. We students had to wear long pants, a long sleeved shirt, shoes or boots covering the ankles,  gloves, and a motorcycle helmet. It was a three day course, from 8:00- 6:00 pm.

The first day went just fine, but quick. We went through an entire training manual and took the comprehensive written test. Then the next two long, long days was the motorcycle course on the bikes. Of course, it rained the entire weekend. It wasn’t just rain, but torrential rain. We had two instructors for our group of 12 students (I think). They were as different as night and day. I’ll call the mean instructor, “Jeff”, and the nice one, “Bob”.

We started by just riding in first gear across the parking lot, with our feet on the ground, not even up on the footrests. We progressed to riding with feet on the footrest and going into second gear. Our exercises increased in complexity as the day wore on. I still had a problem killing the engine. Jeff would yell at me every time, and I was mortally embarrassed. Once, he claimed he saw me take my ring and pinky finger off the throttle from across the parking lot. He yelled at me in front of everyone and asked “Why are you even here???” It  was like boot camp. At least it was raining, so people couldn’t see I was crying. This happened to me the whole day. But, I had only one more day, so I was going to try to push through. I didn’t pay $200.00 to fail or be verbally abused.

The next morning, I pulled up in the parking lot and the only other female in the class came up to me and said she quit. She had fallen off her motorcycle the night before while practicing, but told the instructor she was too hurt to continue. She told me she was finding another instructor because she was having the same problems as me.

My second day of training was even worse. I was so nervous that I made minor mistakes, which were all pointed out to everyone in the class, and I was told that I’d never pass the course. The torrential rain returned, and was so bad that most of us couldn’t see the lines in the parking lot because of the inch of rain we were riding in. We students performed more exercises, which were quite complex. We had to go around a curve in the downpour at 15-20 mph, slam on the brakes, stay between the lines we couldn’t see and stop in front of the instructor. We had to perform tiny Figure 8 patterns in a small square, and leave in second gear, then third, and go through patterns of traffic cones.

Motorcycle1
Jeff yelled at pretty much everybody, but I didn’t know it at the time. I thought it was just me. Finally, we had our comprehensive timed riding test, consisting of every maneuver we had practiced. One at a time, we took our test in front of everyone. I was in the middle, so I got to watch several people go first. I managed to do very well on the test and every time I passed Jeff, I stared him down. I didn’t want him to know how much he had intimidated me. It was such a pleasure to go back in the trailer and wait for him to sign my certificate, certifying that I passed.

Do you want to learn how to ride a motorcycle?

My story was not meant to discourage any of you – quite the opposite. It’s meant to show that perseverance pays off, even in difficult circumstances. I wanted to quit so badly, but I would have always felt like a failure. Don’t let anybody tell you, “You CAN’T do it”. Worst case scenario was that I would have to repeat the course, but I’d make sure it was with a different instructor.

So how will this help if the SHTF?

I know gas is cheap now, but if it ever goes back to $5.00 a gallon, it costs much less to fill up a motorcycle than a car. If I need to evade someone in a car that is following me, on my motorcycle, I can go off the road, through fields, yards, over sidewalks, etc. (I want to mention, my husband bought me a 1974 Honda 100. It’s a kick start, no electronics to be fried during an EMP).

I have thought if things get really bad during a collapse, those with the most skills, may be “selected” to survive. What if you were considered an asset to your group and you are abducted by another one, like becoming forced labor, forced medic, or cook? I’m not going to mention any extra skills I have, including riding a motorcycle. If one should become available, or be at the premises, I would wait for an opportunity and take off. Ladies my age don’t generally ride motorcycles, so nobody would suspect it by looking at me.

I know this sounds far fetched, but during a societal collapse and the years that follow, who knows what could happen? I’ve watched “The Road” and read “One Second After” and it shows how quickly things fall apart when there is not enough food, shelter and resources for people. I say, gain all the unique and unusual skills you can because who knows, maybe some day you will need them.

learning to ride a motorcycle

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Mary Blandford

Mary is a graduate from Purdue University with an Associates in Applied Science. Her work experiences in Nursing have included surgery, dialysis, prison and drug rehab nursing.

12 thoughts on “Learning to Ride a Motorcycle: A Valuable Skill During SHTF”

  1. While I will have to say that your instructor sounds like a total dishing, consider this. If he hadn’t been so tough would you still have had as great a feeling of accomplishment?

    1. Mary Blandford

      I did get a great feeling of accomplishment, but my experience with this instructor tainted my whole experience. I think he’s just an angry impatient person in his personal life as well.
      I love teaching people new skills& would never berate a beginner. It’s just my personality. When someone is excited to learn from me, it gives me much pleasure to share my knowledge.

  2. I have been riding for ages, but when I moved to a new state needed to do the Motorcycle Safety Foundation class, which I believe is well-designed. But I also got an instructor that bordered on abusive, especially to the ladies. Of two, one quit and she was the better rider.

    Not everyone learns at the same pace, but the course is designed to move at a specific pace.

    I sail, paraglide, and have my pilot’s license as well. In the past I used to hang glide and skydive. Since we all learn at different speeds, it is essential that an instructor promotes enjoyment of a sport as being secondary only to safety. I have fired bad instructors who have either compromised safety or detract from a sport rather than promote it.

    Few people perform better while being yelled at and called names. And it certainly doesn’t make the process enjoyable.

    Now that you’ve been through the course, I strongly suggest some additional reading I suggest “Proficient Motorcycling”. Not only should we constantly be developing better skills, but our ability to anticipate hazards and avoid them is crucial in the long run.

    Congratulations! This is a great skill to add to your “double ought spy” skills.

    1. Thanks, Zoomer! I thrive in a supportive environment & that’s what I deliver when I teach small classes at my home. I specialize in medical & want people to have basic knowledge, a variety of skills & what to do in disaster situations.
      You certainly have many great skills & I commend you! If the world has a reset someday, your skills will be in demand!
      My husband is an A&P mechanic who will be completing his pilots license this summer. Maybe I’d better learn to fly a plane next, in case of any midair mishaps we may have. Remember, two is one, and one is none!

  3. I just had to laugh at your experience because mine was so similar. My instructor was not quite so abusive, but he definitely did NOT expect me to pass. My 1st motorcycle was a Yamaha Virago 550; my 2nd was a Suzuki 800; my 3rd and final was a Suzuki GSXR 1000. I would have loved to find my instructor and thumb my nose at him. My husband had a GSXR 1000 so I wanted one too. I am 4’10” and it was impossible for me to reach the ground on any motorcycle. But we lowered the forks, the seat, and bought built-up boots. And away we went – together. Zooming the freeways until we decided we were too old (we’re way past 50!) and thought it best to quit while we’re at the top of our game. 🙂 So good for you in learning an important skill.

  4. I’m a 57-year old grandma who rides a Honda Shadow 750. I got my motorcycle license several years ago and started off on one of those little Rebels for the first 6 months until I got comfortable being on the road. It’s lots of fun, but you gotta be very alert here in Florida or you will get run over by an old geezer…! LOL

    1. Mary Blandford

      I’m only a year younger than you, so we are both the old geezers. However, in Florida, we might be considered middle aged!

  5. I rode a bike for many years. My 1st was a Honda 175; we even did a Miami, FL to northeastern Alabama with it . My husband had a 350 Yamaha. Later, I rode my younger sons’ 350 Yamaha. And, yes! You had to be careful not to be run off the road by a windowed van!! I’m now in my 70’s.

  6. I’m sorry to hear how horrible your instructor was but I’m glad to know you made it through. I’ve been wanting to get my motorcycle endorsement for years. Every time I say I’m going to take the class and actually find a time to do it, I end up pregnant. Hopefully I’ll hit menopause soon and I can join you old geezers.

  7. I am so sorry you had that guy as an instructor. I have been riding off road most of my life. The state I live in requires the class you took to get an endorsement and my instructors were amazing. Of course I knew how to make the bike work, I was there to learn to ride on the road, but they never yelled at anyone, especially those people who had never ridden before.

    On that note, from a person who rides primarily off road, this is a skill that you need to practice. You need to go hit some trails, learn to hang on to the bike with your knees, hang on while going over rocks and uneven terrain and how to jump a log. If you have to take off across a field or down a dirt trail you will suddenly realize that your street skills leave a lot of gaps in the skills you need to go off road!

    Great job on your accomplishment! No go play in the woods…oh, and don’t forget some good safety gear (shin guards, body armor, tall boots, good gloves and a helmet)…you will fall…a lot!

  8. As a former site adminstrator to this course, I am so sorry your class had to endure this instuctor! The total lack of unprofessionalism never ceases to amaze me! Please be aware of other professional courses available for future riders in your area! Contact your local Harley Davidson dealer or the BMV for this springs classes

  9. I’m sure it felt amazing to prove Jeff wrong.
    I’ve been trying to get my significant other to take a motorcycle course for the longest time. It’s always been a dream of mine to take a cross country trip with her. I want her to see what it feels like to be absolutely “free.”
    Thanks for the in-depth story! It just shows when you put your mind to something, you can make it happen.

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