Mammaries…light the color in my face…

Does anyone remember Super Bowl XXXVIII? Not so much the game itself, I don’t remember who won or even who played for that matter. Oh- but I do remember the end of the performance from Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake at halftime. My friend and I were left squinting at each other, wondering if we’d seen what we thought we saw. We had…it was a flash of boob. Not only did that little peek at a chunk of fatty tissue cause a lot of controversy, the incident eventually led to the development of the term “wardrobe malfunction”. I guess it’s the politically correct way to say that without meaning to, you had your privates flopping around in plain sight of the public.

Although wardrobe malfunctions can happen anywhere, they can obviously be an issue for any woman choosing to ride in the wind at high speeds on a motorcycle. Especially in the summer months when we’re not bundled head to toe in layers and leather to keep warm. In my somewhat embarrassing case, I hadn’t thought about how a change of bike design could affect the airflow around me enough to displace clothing. I first learned to ride on a Suzuki Savage, and when I switched to an HD Sportster, I found the breeze coming around the windshield hit me at a totally different angle. Instead of flipping back, my hair would fly straight up. Maybe that should have warned me some tank tops could do the same?

Instead, I learned my lesson on Route 33 near Ruckersville, Virginia one beautiful day. No particular place to go, just riding a loop before heading to work that afternoon. I was comfortable in a previously well-behaved tank top, and a hoodie zipped at my waist. That way the sweatshirt wouldn’t flap up in the air and stream behind me like a cape, while also keeping any lingering late-morning chill off my arms. Heading north on 29, I had to stop at a red-light before turning east at 33 toward Barboursville. A couple of dump trucks coming from the other direction had the right-of-way. They turned left in front of me, each driver giving me a huge smile and friendly wave.

I made the turn and as I followed them, I wondered if they waved because they rode too and were wishing they were on their bikes instead of working. Then I wondered where the next passing lane was because they were going so slow. Then I realized they were either losing some gravel out of the trucks or kicking it up off the road on me. I could hear occasional pings against my bike windshield and tank, so I wondered if it would scratch the paint. THAT’S when I finally looked down. To my relief the bike was fine, but um, hellooo-oo BOOBIES!! I did have a bra on at least, but STILL! Not exactly a full-coverage style. With the hoodie on and only zipped at the very bottom, the material flapping around my sides led me to believe nothing was wrong.

In actuality, my tank top had been blown up and was now scrunched under my chin like some sort of scarf. This left plenty of room to fall out of the open front. Red-faced and swerving, I clawed at the shirt to yank it back down as I pulled over and zipped the hoodie up to my chin. On rides afterward, friends I shared the story with couldn’t resist teasing and asking if I was “doing a boob check” when they caught me tucking my head and looking down to make sure everything was in place. Consider this your friendly reminder to get another type of boob check.

October, aka Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is on the way. It’s a good time to make sure your yearly breast exams and screenings are up to date. And if you find yourself with a wardrobe malfunction on the road, try not to let it bother you too much. In the grand scheme of things there are more important things to worry about. I’m just glad mine didn’t happen in front of a Superbowl-sized enough audience to prompt a whole new word for flashing!

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“Mid-Atlantic! Where the wind comes sweepin’ down both lanes…….”

As motorcycle riders we all love to be “in the wind”. Lately that phrase seems to take on a whole new meaning. Last year around this time, heading out for a ride involved constantly dodging raindrops. Now it seems like every other week I’m trying to stay upright in extremely heavy wind gusts. Unfortunately, this weather usually coincides with the garbage collection schedule once or twice a week, which leads to an annoying round of the how-many-houses-away-will-the-trashcan-be-today game. I don’t remember all these high wind warnings and advisories occurring as frequently or violently in the past. Actually before I got my own bike, I really didn’t consider how much the wind could affect a ride. It didn’t take long to learn that lesson.

I’d only been riding my own for a few months and was still on my first bike, a light little Suzuki Savage 650. When I met up with a buddy for a scenic ride in the country, he mentioned that the forecast for the afternoon was windy. We decided to head out anyway and although I don’t remember what speed the gusts were that day, I do recall feeling like the wind could blast me off the road or into the lane of oncoming traffic. At our first stop my friend asked how I was doing. Trying to keep my voice from shaking, I told him I didn’t mean to be melodramatic but I was truly scared of the wind pushing me into losing control of the bike. It was a huge relief when he reassured me that even with a heavier bike and more riding experience, he wasn’t comfortable either. Luckily, the breezes slowed throughout a lunch break and had gotten much more manageable before it was time to head home.

Several years and another bike later, I was again caught by surprise on a blustery afternoon. This time, the ride to work on my Sportster had been relaxing. The return home however, was quite a different story thanks to unexpected gusts from 45 to 50 mph. I tried to stick to the backroads in the woods where there was a little more shelter. Inevitably, a break in the tree line would send me out into the open again to be walloped with another gale. I weebled and wobbled for a good 30 minutes, wondering part of the time if the driver of the van behind me was going to call the police and report me as a suspected DWI! Laughing about it afterwards at a local bike night, a bunch of friends teased me and said I probably wouldn’t like riding in the plains or flat parts of Texas. One buddy reminisced about a day-long trip he’d taken, spending the whole time leaning into the wind almost sideways to keep from being blown away. I can’t imagine.

Still, I dream of eventually getting the opportunity to take a cross country trip- different weather included as it’s part of the adventure of different sights. This season, to one extreme or another I’m sure we’ll get lots of practice riding in all kinds of conditions here closer to home. Practice makes perfect? I’d say any ride makes for practice that IS perfect!

What’s on your list of “firsts”?

Happy New Year! I’m not one for making resolutions anymore. It seemed to become this grade school-like exercise where the assignment is to list a bunch of your petty faults, along with a set of rules to follow to fix yourself. Oh, and if you’re not perfect by March then you fail! No thanks. I do love to reflect on my favorite adventures from the past year and look forward to all the new experiences and “firsts” to come in the next 365 days. There are roads to ride, places to visit, and people to meet for the first time. If riding your own motorcycle is on YOUR list of firsts, make this the year it happens!

I’ve mentioned the lady rider who inspired me to get my own motorcycle before, and with the I-can-do-anything-attitude my mom gifted me, I knew it would happen. But, where do you start? My advice to you is the same I received; take a motorcycle riding/safety course. Mine consisted of a classroom session on a Friday night, then a half day of training on the range Saturday and Sunday, with testing at the end. Passing the course, which met requirements established by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, meant I didn’t have to take an additional driving test at the DMV. Also, there were discounts available from participating insurance companies after receiving a completion certificate. Since it’s been… a while since that weekend, I thought I’d check with friends who are, or were class instructors to see if the experience is still similar. Ruth was an instructor in Central Virginia and confirmed that the course is still much as I remembered it. Like me, she’d ridden as a passenger before riding a bike on her own. She explained how that transitioned into becoming a RiderCoach:

I dated guys with motorcycles in my teens and rode as a passenger, but hadn’t operated a motorcycle until 1998, when I took the Basic Rider Course (BRC) in Charlottesville, VA.  A couple of years after taking the course, I got a job working in the Albemarle County Public Schools’ Community Education Department.  The Basic Rider Course was one of the classes offered through Community Ed.  I learned more about what a great service the DMV-sponsored course provided the public by the positive feedback from students.  Most raved about the course, the RiderCoaches, and what a great experience they had.  By 2007, I had enough riding experience and decided I wanted a better understanding of the course we offered, so I took the Motorcycle Instructor course through the DMV.  It was intense; a couple of very stressful weekends of studying, gaining and practicing skills that would assist students to safely operate a motorcycle.  I was the only woman in that group of 15 men to become a certified RiderCoach.

Coach Rod is still an instructor through this program and was inspired by Ruth to take a class and then go on to be certified as a RiderCoach right along with her:

My inspiration to become a rider coach started at the picnic table of my best friend’s bike shop. Several of my riding friends were talking about taking the basic rider course. It was a safety class I guessed but had NEVER heard of such thing and didn’t know it existed. They asked if I had taken the course and I was like NO, I’ve been riding 30 plus years, never been down what have I got to learn? They had ALL taken it and said you might be surprised at what you will learn. Ruth was one of those riders and she convinced me to take the class. It was a gorgeous September day on day one and it went well. It poured buckets on day 2 and was cold and miserable! What I learned about myself as a rider was amazing. I was a lazy braker, (usually just the rear and the front if needed), my cornering was marginal. There was just a lot I was not doing properly. After 2 days I was a better rider than I had been my entire life. At that moment I knew I wanted to teach this class. It was fun, exciting and it just might save a life.

Rodman also points out where you can get more details on taking a class, “You can pick a class by signing up for the weekend of your choice at opendoors1.org or visit the MSF website to find the classes closest to you. VA has 350,000 riders. We add about 7000 more each year through this program. For roughly 150 bucks you get great training and a chance to learn on someone else’s bike!!!  You only need a driver’s license and the proper attire. We provide helmets and bikes. Under 19 requires a parental signature. It’s a ton of fun and two days of great work.”

Rod’s brother, Clark, also teaches the course! He explains, “My Brother got me into being an instructor after he had been doing it for a while. His conviction on just how much one could benefit from the course did it for me. After taking the class myself, I realized that I wasn’t the rider I thought I was. Always room for improvement!”

If you have no experience on motorcycles, even as a passenger, don’t let that deter you from taking the class. One such student stands out in Clark’s memories as an instructor:

This student came in with nervous enthusiasm. She knew in her heart she was going to get that Ducati monster after getting her permit. She insisted on a bike that was a bit taller than we would have liked but handled it with determination. She did well all weekend and had a near perfect riding exam. When we handed her the permit and gave her her score she gave us a huge smile and said, “So I did ok for never having ridden before?!” That weekend was the first time she had ever sat on a bike!!

Maryann was also inspired by a family member to become a riding instructor in Northern Virginia:

I have been riding since my college days. The summer of 1969. We used to go hill climbing when we weren’t in class. I had a 3 gear 120cc Suzuki. It had a shifter that would cut the gear ratio in half for trail riding. I raced TT Scrambles in Lodi, CA – on a 100cc Hodaka. I didn’t ride after my oldest son was around 2 until my kids were grown. Then it was only street riding. My son-in-law was the one who wanted to become an instructor. I went along because it sounded like fun. And it was! We taught a lot together. Lots of mother-in-law jokes. It’s a great course. Within 3 days I watch people who have never been on a motorcycle become decent and safe riders. That is the most fun. Watching the light bulb go on. Changing from someone who is afraid to lean the motorcycle to someone who can ride a curve, or swerve, with good form.

Anyone else in the area looking for more information on this class can go to nvcc.edu, and search for the basic motorcycle rider course. No matter what state, once you do some investigating, you’ll find a course convenient to your location to suit you along with awesome teachers like Ruth, Rod, Clark, and Maryann. One thing these four instructors have in common is their advice to new riders. All of them stress the importance of practicing basic skills and riding your own ride. In other words, don’t get pushed past your comfort zone by other riders as you gain experience.

These coaches have also mentioned that a big part of what makes teaching fun is when a student is successful, and they see the rider “get it” for the first time when it comes to learning a new skill. Be that student! Worried about looking “foolish”? Check out Ruth’s recollection of a student who stood out for the wrong reasons:

My most memorable event as an instructor was when a student came back to class Sunday morning with a hangover and still a little intoxicated.  While attending a party, he had passed out in a theater and wasn’t sure what happened to his riding attire. He came to class wearing Shakespearean tights, mismatched socks, colorful slippers, and a see-through mesh shirt that didn’t quite cover his belly.  He said he grabbed clothes from the costume closet.  He fully expected to finish the course in that state and seemed stupefied that we sent him away.  

After that example, I think it would be more foolish to stay home and not take a chance on yourself and reaching a new goal. I might see you on the range too, looking back on the fun I had in my own class, this might be the year I take my first refresher course!

Where to?

1-Do you want to go for a ride?

2-Where to?

Luckily the answer to question 1 is almost always an immediate “yes”. However, getting an answer to question 2 can be a bit trickier. It’s similar to asking someone what they want for dinner. If you’ve ever argued with your family over that decision you probably already know what I mean. And if you are riding solo, there are still times question 2 could be hard to answer. It’s like the options become overwhelming. If you’ve ever made your closet resemble a ransacked crime scene while you argue with yourself over what to wear, you surely know what I mean! My fridge is once again getting pleasantly wallpapered with flyers to remind me of nearby events, rides, and rallies now that spring is here. However, when some free time comes along where a ride is certain but the destination is not, how do you answer the question, “Where to?” This year, I’m finding solutions as well as new roads by taking part in a season-long run.

The 2018 Marble Run, to benefit the Frederick County Chapter of ABATE of Maryland,marble run Inc., is underway and wraps up with an After Party on October 6th in Frederick. This scavenger hunt of sorts is simple: buy a book, ride to the participating locations, keep track of your marble colors in the book, have a good time at the party, and see if you win a nice chunk of gas money! While cash would be nice, I think the biggest payoff of this run is the adventures I’ll have, discoveries I make, and people I meet along the way. There are marble stops in Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia, some at places I already know and make a point to ride to often. Yet some are at cool spots that I didn’t even know were there. For example, I pass through the town of Lovettsville several times a year. Turns out there’s a great coffee/tea/shake shop just around the corner and off my usual route, that I might not have found out about if I hadn’t ridden there to score a marble.

In addition, it’s my opinion that anyone who rides a motorcycle should be involved with and support a motorcycle rights organization like ABATE. Are you unfamiliar with ABATE (A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments)? Having been a member of the organization in three different states now, I can tell you it’s made up of a group of women and men who fight hard for our rights and freedoms as motorcycle riders. I encourage you to find out more about ABATE in your state, find a chapter meeting near you to attend, and join! If in Maryland, see www.abateofmd.org. Also, try your luck on the Marble Run for a chance to win at the After Party. There will be live music from regional classic rock favorites Special Delivery, a good time with others in our riding community, and the knowledge that you’re helping to protect our rights on the road. Because freedom isn’t free.