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Learning to Ride a 2-Wheeled Motorcycle, then Choosing 3 Wheels

Can-Am Spyder is a great first bike for this new rider

By Michelle “Smokey” Amicone, Youngstown, OH
8/15/2018

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Learning to Ride a 2-Wheeled Motorcycle, then Choosing 3 Wheels Spyder
Here's Michelle with her first bike, a 2015 Can-Am Spyder F3-S. It was a dealership leftover model—brand new with only 6 miles on it.

I wanted to ride a motorcycle and get a tattoo for as long as I can remember. When I was 9 years old, my brother, Eddie (18 years my senior), rode a Honda dual-sport motorcycle. He had strict orders from our mother that “the baby” was to never be on it. You should’ve seen Mom’s face when we pulled into the driveway, me on the passenger pillion. God love my brother, he had no idea what a motorcycle ride could do to a little girl with hair down to her bottom.

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After Mom’s initial onslaught of profanity, both directed at my brother and my hairbrush, she didn’t speak to him for a week. As time passed, the thought of me having my own bike would come and go. My mother would always throw in her signature response to the idea, “Wait until I’m dead, Shell.”

Learning to Ride a 2-Wheeled Motorcycle, then Choosing 3 Wheels eddies bike
Washing Eddie’s motorcycle; the bike that was responsible for Michelle’s desire to ride.

When I was in my 30s I told my brother that I was ready to learn to ride. He was so excited. We made lots of plans for the upcoming spring and summer. We made a short list of bikes, talked about his plans to teach me to ride and about all the places we would go together. Little did we know at the time that we’d never make it. Eddie passed away from a massive heart attack on March 11, 2016. He was 48 years old.

Maybe it was mortality hitting me in the face, maybe it was part of grief. In any event, I made the decision that I was doing it. Having only ever been a passenger, I signed up for a beginning riding course of which I was one of two females, the other taking the course with her husband. That first 50 yard straightaway was nothing but adrenaline. I did it. I balanced a motorcycle and rode it from one cone to the other. It may not seem like much, but as far I was concerned, I was the master of the universe.

Now I just needed a bike. Then again, there was the small fact that I had ridden a motorcycle for only a few hours at a maximum speed of 25 mph and I’d never ridden on the street with other traffic. There are some people that can just get on the bike and go. They get the hang of it as they go along. I’m not that kind of person. I knew that to get out there at this stage would be reckless. I was told on more than one occasion by more than one experienced rider that riding a motorcycle and fear don’t mix. I listened for once in my life.

When I picked up my new Can-Am Spyder, I knew I would probably catch hell for the bike I chose from my friends. But I didn’t care. I’d get the hang of operating the bike and the road experience in real road conditions while having a bit of an advantage in case I screwed up. Hairy George calls it my “backwards trike” mostly just to irritate me. But he, along with lots of other riders I know, also tell me it doesn’t matter what you ride as long as you’re riding.

Learning to Ride a 2-Wheeled Motorcycle, then Choosing 3 Wheels helmet
Michelle’s helmet, custom-painted to match her Spyder with her nickname added.

The ride home was 17 miles. I was nervous, of course, but there was no fear. An image came to my mind of an angel with massive wings that were wrapped tightly around me. It may sound foolish but to this day, every time I ride, I know in my heart that he’s there.

Everything can be accomplished with determination, and everything can be figured out. Don’t know a thing about motorcycles? Do the research. Don’t know how to ride? Take a riding course or ask a friend if they’ll show you the ropes. Don’t have the ability to get on two wheels yet? Get three. Don’t get discouraged. If you want it bad enough you’ll make it happen.

Learning to Ride a 2-Wheeled Motorcycle, then Choosing 3 Wheels broom
The Spyder’s license plate, inspired by Michelle’s boyfriend.

My loving boyfriend was headed out to work one afternoon when he turned to me and asked “are you going to ride your broom today?” Then proceeded to slap his thigh and laugh heartily at how hilarious he is. I don’t think he realized what he started with that little jab. It wasn’t hard to decide what to put on my vanity plate. Now get on your brooms and ride.

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