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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them

Reader Story: Learning to Ride with the Tummy Tickles

Getting through the trepidation with grace

By Barbara Edlen, Fines Creek, North Carolina

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When we first moved to North Carolina and I discovered the cliffs at Pilot Mountain, it was like a brand-new, beautifully decorated package had been presented as a gift for me to slowly open at my own pace. At first, every time I approached one of the cliffs, my tummy would get that funny tickling sensation that lets you know you should be wary of what you are attempting. I perceive it as a healthy sense of fear that keeps you from being foolish, mixed with a quivering sense of excitement over meeting a new challenge.    

Rappelling down the cliffs helped with familiarity and the sense that I could manage them in controlled circumstances. Finding secluded niches of my own where no one could disturb me was ample incentive to explore and step beyond my comfort zone by climbing out on one. Sitting with my feet dangling over the edge was at first a cause for tummy tickles, too. But the sense of freedom and the magnificently encompassing views afforded me from my perches quickly quieted any sense of hesitancy. I didn't even notice the exact point when hiking along the cliffs became comfortable and something I just did.

Barbara Edlen in the mountains of western North Carolina. She says riding a motorcycle gives her the same sense of excitement and trepidation as hiking these mountain cliffs.
Barbara Edlen in the mountains of western North Carolina. She says riding a motorcycle gives her the same sense of excitement and trepidation as hiking these mountain cliffs.

Now, as I learn to handle my motorcycle, I am experiencing the tummy tickle sensation all over again. First, it was about getting down the steep, curvy driveway without tipping over and looking like an idiot—which I didn't. Oh no, I didn't tip it over until I was down the road in a neighbor's driveway (stopped, mind you) and trying to turn around. That's when I learned that I can't hold up 545 pounds of motorcycle and try to make a turn. While going uphill. On gravel. Sigh.

I learned a couple more salient facts that day. Gravel is tough to turn a motorcycle on, especially when you are just learning how to handle your new bike. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I also learned that there are definite reasons for wearing safety gear. Boots with more traction make a huge difference. Trying to handle all 545 pounds of my bike on a hill is not a wise move, because gravity is not my friend. Now when I need to turn around while stopped, I contemplate my moves ahead of time. Where you look is indeed where your bike goes. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructors repeated that a gazillion times for a very good reason.

The local mountain roads are proving to be a great teaching arena and a lot of fun. On my first day, I kept practicing circles and figure eights in a local church parking lot, as well as my "quick stops." I was making myself nuts trying to master all the slow-speed stuff, which is lots harder because motorcycles aren't intended to go only 5 or 10 mph. Then I was talking to my neighbor (who is letting me park my bike in his shop, as it's been kept inside before and God knows I don't want it to get cold or wet!). He told me I was thinking too hard and practicing too much and to just go out on the road and have fun. 
So that's what I've been doing.  

Barbara all geared up on her Honda Shadow.
Barbara all geared up on her Honda Shadow.

The past few months have been an exhilarating joy and have confirmed why I've wanted a bike for what feels like forever. I love it! I love the feel of taking a tight curve just right and the feel of my weight shifting down into my seat as I throttle up through the end of the curve. I smile so much when I downshift and hear the engine rumble like a big sleek cat. Riding up 209 from Fines Creek, where I live, on the way to Hot Springs was a major accomplishment. With 234 twists, turns and curves, it was an intrepidly fun challenge, and I was beaming with pride when I made it to my destination.

There are risks with just about anything—and with most things I am interested in, it seems. I just try to keep it all as manageable and as safe as I can and still not lose the tummy tickle, the shivery sense of excitement that means something amazing is on my horizon.

"When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement 
I don't want to end up simply having visited this world."
- Mary Oliver
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