We went out to the practice parking lot again so Margaret could get a bit more riding time in. It’s been a month since we were able to make time for her to practice due to weather and work. I will be fair on this point, some of the days we could have gone out for her to practice we went to a chapter event instead.
Upon arrival, she just rode around regaining the feel for the bike again. She practiced starting, stopping, and shifting for about an hour. While she did that I set up the cones for a 24 foot U-turn, a stop zone, and some cone weaves. I ran out of cones for the stop zone and weave so I walked along the roadside and found a bunch of empty soda bottles, aluminum cans, and a styrofoam cup that I filled with dirt so they wouldn’t blow away. Gotta do what you gotta do right? It worked well, and when I got it all setup for her she kind of looked at me googly eyed like I was crazy.
I hopped on the Kawasaki and went through a couple of demo runs on the course for her. She didn’t look very confident about it. Off she went, trying her best but not quite getting it all. The weave she did fine on, the stopping zone she did ok on, often stopping too short having her rear tire outside of the zone. The U-turn was the main point of focus. I knew it would be a challenge for her. Even when we have the HOG skills day you’ll see riders that have been on the road for years having difficulties with this. One reason behind the U-turn is to be able to safely and effectively turn around in the street. A typical 2 way street is 24 foot wide and a rider should be able to turn around in that space without issue.
I was on a ride once where a few of us were separated from the main group due to one of the riders having mechanical problems. We took a wrong turn and needed to go back. I watched them both, feet down, shake and wobble while attempting to get their bikes turned around. Neither of them were able to turn around in the street even with their feet down. They both ended up off the road, past the gravel edge, now struggling in the grass to get back on the pavement. They simply lacked the riding skills to make the u-turn properly. I whipped my Harley around in the road with plenty of room to spare and stopped to wait for them while they continued their struggle in the grass. Fortunately no cars came along during this….
This was a good situational example of how important it is to take time to learn your bike and practice riding techniques. It is my goal to be sure that Margaret has good riding skills before she gets on the open road. As I mentioned a couple posts back, what you learn on skills day on the closed courses you WILL utilize on the road.
After all that, lets get back to Margaret. Following a few failed attempts I was able to figure out why she couldn’t make the turn. As she came into the turn zone she would angle in towards the middle cones, then she would turn the handle bars and plow through the cones at the end of the turn. She was losing about 4 foot of turn space because of angling in before making the turn. I showed her what was happening and the very next attempt she maintained her straight line into the zone and made the turn successfully. After that she had little difficulty completing the u-turn every time.
Margarets Practice Session
She had planned on taking the state required riding class in June and had saved the money to pay for it. We went to the Ladies of Harley event at the dealership a few weeks back and one of the raffle prizes was a paid riding class. It was really kewl when they called her number out and she won the class. Hahaha, she jumped up screaming and ran to Kim and began hugging her and hopping up and down like a kid. Talk about excited, Wow!
Very soon we will have to make a decision on a bike for her. We have been looking for a few months already. At first when she started trying out Harley’s she liked the 883 sportsters. I didn’t think this was a good long term choice. The problem was that without modifications, the bike fit her and she was comfortable with that feeling. She soon changed her mind upon numerous visits to the dealership and started wanting a 1200 custom. The problem here was the forward controls were too far for her reach. The parts department showed us a reduced reach kit that would solve the problem. I still wasn’t sure about the 1200 custom. Its still a small bike, top heavy like the Kawasaki she is riding now, and its a 5 speed. It’s not going to be the ideal bike long term and definitely not for some good road trips. I tried to get her to try out some other Harley’s but she had it stuck in her head that the 1200 was the one. Then last Saturday, one of our chapter members was at Harley getting some modifications done for a bike he just got for his wife who is also learning to ride. It was a Soft tail deluxe. They had a super reach seat put on it. Margaret asked if she could sit on it, and when she did a smile came over her face and we knew that was the one. The stock controls were perfect, the handle bars only need to come back a couple inches which we can easily fix, and she will need the same seat. Other than adding a wind shield and crash bars that bike is perfect. It’s a 103 so it has the 6 speed for cruising and its heavy enough to provide good stability on the road, plus it has a lower center of gravity than the sportsters. We both didn’t want to get into this revolving trading up bikes to finally get the one she would stay with like so many new riders do.
We went to the dealership and talked to our salesman and the parts counter to get some solid information and test the seat again. They put a test super reach seat on the bike to try out and it was perfect. Shes excited about the Soft tail deluxe and were looking at getting it sometime in July (fingers crossed)