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Learning to Ride: A Wife’s Perspective

by Nanci Smith on 12/08/2016

A few years ago it was suggested to me that it might be a good idea if I learned how to ride a motorcycle, just the basics, so that if something happened while we were out on our street bike I would know what to do. Ok, Puget Sound Safety had the perfect class. Four hours long, bikes provided, strictly for beginners, never been on a bike types. One of the instructors was an avid dirt bike rider, along with her daughter. We talked.

When the class was over and my husband picked me back up he asked how the class was. I loved it! Oh, and I want a dirt bike! Now, he was, as he liked to say, a dirt bike rider in remission. Been there, done that, moved on. Well, two of the bikes were still sitting in the garage so he hadn’t totally moved on. I got “Are you sure? Are you really, really sure? It will take over our lives, we will do nothing but dirt bikes. I don’t want to be the husband that has a dirt bike for sale, ridden once.” I was sure and the search for a beginner bike started.

I did a lot of research on what would be a good beginner bike, and there are a myriad of opinions on what the perfect one would be. First off, a nice tame four stroke say a TTR125? Great if you aren’t tall, but at 5’9” I felt like I was sitting on a PW50. Looking through reviews I found that taller women liked the TTR230 or the CRF230. Off we went to try them out. Turns out the local Honda shop didn’t have a 230 and the salesman suggested trying the 250. Um, I’ve never ridden and I have no idea how to get on something that tall! He didn’t see the issue so we moved on to the Yamaha shop to see if they had a TTR230 available to try for size.

Now, I know there are a lot of you saying, nooooo, not a four stroke, nooooo, get a smaller bike it’s easier, or any other argument you can think of. For me the right bike is personal preference thing. What are you comfortable on? If you are more comfortable on a smaller bike even though you’re taller, then a smaller bike is the right choice. I didn’t feel comfortable on the TTR125, I felt cramped and awkward. When I sat on the 230 it felt right, feet can touch the ground, handlebars are at the right height and so on.

A little more debating just to make sure there were no other viable options for me and the decision was made. In March of 2012 we went shopping and came home with a new TTR230 for me and a new WR450 for him. The bikes in the garage were race bikes and can’t be following me around on a race bike! The journey to learning to ride a dirt bike had begun. Did I make the right bike choice? Yes, the TTR230 was a bulletproof and easy to ride bike, albeit on the heavy side. It has electric start so no matter how many times I stalled it (and I stalled it a lot at first) all I had to do was push a button. Bike upside down on the side of the trail? No problem, get it back upright and push that button, started every time. It was the perfect size, I could get my feet on the ground when I needed to but it was big enough that I could learn proper technique while standing too. Do I still have that bike? Yes. Do I still ride it? No. I have moved on to a Beta XT300 for a trail bike but more on that later.

Dirt bikes HAVE taken over our lives, that prediction was true and I have loved every minute of it. We trail ride, vintage race, attend assorted motocross events, and we do it all together. My husband didn’t have to be the one with the ad “bike for sale, only ridden once.” In fact we now have a huge collection of bikes and only the WR450 has left us, traded in on a new KTM 2 stroke better suited to trail riding at faster speeds.

In the coming months I will be continuing this story and sharing how my riding progressed from having never ridden to participating in vintage racing. It’s been a wild ride with plenty of bumps and bruises. (That instructor did warn me, “you will look like a domestic violence victim if you bruise easily.” I looked like that several times but I didn’t give up.) It’s addictive and I hope I get to keep doing it for many more years.

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