“OH, those air pockets are MAGICAL!!!” I yelled out to Tony, over the blowing wind, on our ride to Penn Yan on Saturday morning. One of my treasured memories of my Dad are from over lunch with him in late August 2000, listening to his stories of his ride with Mom to Petaluma that summer. I asked him what his favourite part of riding was…it was the air pockets. The varying temperatures from one metre to the next or the scents in the air, good or bad, that you will miss in a car. You can feel a half degree temperature change on your legs, the scent of hyacinths on a tree in a passing yard , or the less fortunate skunk that met its end the day before. I had zero idea what he was talking about and if you’ve never been on the road on a two wheeled motorized vehicle, there is a good chance you won’t as well. I certainly never “got it” riding a bicycle because you aren’t at the same speed.
Learning a new skill is always challenging and when that skill can potentially kill or seriously injure as the result of a lapse in judgement or split second’s lack of attention, the stakes are higher. My last post on this site was in early 2020, late February to be exact. After the Toronto motorcycle show where I purchased a new, much larger bike. So optimistic about a new way of travel on a Triumph Street Twin!! The bike and its sibling (Tony’s new Triumph Tiger 1200) in our stable were delivered the first week of the first round of COVID lockdowns.
I experience anxiety…Progressing from a 125 cc bike to a 900 cc bike at the best of times would seriously test me let alone a global pandemic that creates all elements of unknown. I was wholly unprepared for this confluence of situations when I took my new ride for a spin in our underground and promptly dropped the bike after riding for 50 feet. It remained parked the rest of 2020 with the exception of the times Tony took it for a spin, or the two times I took 1:1 riding lessons. That summer, I mostly refused to ride unless a pillion. Sitting on my Twin would trigger a panic I knew could be dangerous.
We made it through 2020 and a full spring/summer/winter of COVID. Humans are resilient – our fight/flight adapts when there is no perceived imminent personal threat so by spring of 2021, I was ready to consider riding again. But I remembered my conversations with Ginny during those riding lessons the summer before, I let go of my ego and admitted that I really didn’t like that bike, it wasn’t “just” a matter of my anxiety. So we sold the Street Twin and I went to a KTM Duke 200. I LOVE my Duke – it was truly love at first sit when I threw my leg over the seat in GP’s showroom. In a total of seven months of riding, I’ve put 6500 km on Dukie and grateful that I didn’t give up on myself. Tony smiles when I lean over and hug and pat the gas tank followed by some sort of verbal expression of love when we pull into our parking stall, expressing my affection and gratitude. I feel a responsibility for giving thanks to arriving home safely.
I am tremendously grateful for our adventures through Ontario and Quebec last summer when our options for travel were limited, keeping us land bound and we had to explore our own region on the bikes. These pandemic limitations and regional kilometres provided me the opportunity and mileage needed to build back my confidence and actual mileage required to feel comfortable obtaining my “M” license (shameless plug for the amazing Motorsoul team lead by Ginny!!). The lifted restrictions this year have allowed me to explore a little more across the border as our first big ride and looking forward to more to come this summer!