Tip Jar: The Transition to Joyful Riding Print
Written by Petra Baer, VTwin Mama   


moto from above credit matthew maaskantI would be a very rich woman if I could accurately predict the amount of hours and miles/kilometers it will take each and every new rider on this planet to start having some fun on their motorcycle. Most of us start out having to think through all of the actual mechanical steps … every moment of every ride. So the million-dollar/euro question is not only when is it going to happen, but will it ever happen?


The road time before joyful riding often has three parts to it: the pre-ride jitters, the grit your teeth and do it portion, and the omigosh, I’m home safe and sound moment. Here is a poem I penned about working through the anguish:

Butterfly Jitter

by Petra Baer

I've got my bike
It's a beauty
I've got my gear
I'm a cutie!

But when I think of riding next
Butterflies start to fill my tummy
I know that practice is the key
No one can call me a dummy.

The butterflies flap their little wings
And churn away unending
Maybe I'll wait till another day
Mark my road experience "pending."

Oh good, oh good, it’s going to rain

Oh crap, now it’s too sunny

Are my excuses sounding somewhat lame?

They used to be so funny.

Because I know too many excuses
Can feel like a handy crutch
But if I continue to keep this up
The miles won't add up to much.

And then everything I've learned
And practiced so very hard at
Over time will rust and wither
A beautiful dream gone flat.

Oh the dream, the dream of flying
Down the road in exaltation
I'd do better turning my butterflies
Into ones of anticipation.

I'll see myself in happy glee
My face and knees in the wind
And smell the goodness of our Earth
And head to where I'm destined.

The journey is the very thing
The reason I got started
I'll make friends with my butterflies
Knowing soon we will be parted.


petra2“I remember so well feeling miserable and wondering when or if I'd ever enjoy riding,” said Rose D. from Long Island, NY. ” Looking back, I don't even know why I continued, but for some reason I was determined to learn to ride! I spent months and many miles with stomachaches and a constant jittery feeling. I kept at it, though, and finally one day I was crossing a bridge the Robert Moses Causeway Bridge when suddenly I realized I was having fun! It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and the view was incredible. The smell and sound of the ocean just filled me with such joy, and lo and behold my stomach didn't hurt! I was actually enjoying my ride for the first time. I was probably at about 3,000 miles and 6 months into my riding on that fateful day, and I haven't looked back since!”

“I had the stomach flutters and the shakes every time I set out for about 2 months, which was about 4000 kms, or 2500 miles,” added Karen G. from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. “I tried to go out on the bike every day and every evening, determined to get past that feeling of nerves and fear. I hated feeling like that every time I headed out, I just wanted to have fun, and I knew that laying down the miles was the only way through that stage. Then one day I had the sweetest moment … riding along and thinking to myself, ‘riding a motorcycle isn't that hard.’ WHAT? Was that me? Yep, that was me … having fun!”

Thanks to Rose and Karen, along with the thousands of letters I’ve received over the past nine years as an advice columnist, my humble opinion is that 3000 miles/4800 kms is an average point of transition, but only if the miles/kms have been done within a riding season/year. Nance Lee Mosquera from Minneapolis, MN shares why that is important:

“I remember my first month of my first season. I would pull up slowly to a light, concentrating on both brakes, downshifting, keeping my head up. Then once successfully stopped, I would stare at the red light, making sure that the moment it changed I would be ready to let go of the brake(s), smoothly let out the clutch and take off. All the while scanning traffic - where is that van going? Is that woman going to cross the street or not? Do I have enough room to make that turn? Billboards? Who knew they were there, let alone what was on them! Birds? If they were singing, I sure didn't notice them. I was laser focused on everything having to do with riding while the rest of the world was just - not there. I am not sure when it happened - slowly that first summer, for by the end of the season I was loving it. And though I feared after a long Minnesota winter that I would have forgotten everything, that very first ride out of the garage was just as fun as the last one before putting the bike away the prior season had been.”

But what if you’re nearing the average road mile/km of transition and it’s still not happening?

“Am I there yet?” wonders Jean Worthy of Decatur, GA. “2800 miles and I'm not really having fun. I've ridden in 40-degree weather up to 95-degree weather. I've ridden on back roads and the expressway. I've ridden in 32kt gusts and drizzle. I've ridden at 5am, 10am, 2pm, 5pm and 11pm. Riding is like war to me. You put on your armour and leave your home to face the enemy and when you make it back home, it's another battle won and you live to fight another day. No, it's not really fun but winning the battle is satisfying. For now, I'll settle for that.”

Jean added that she spent a lot of timing reading about riding before getting started and she took to heart the constant message of super vigilance while riding. She also is finding that women and men communicate differently about their riding experience and that since joining the VTwin Mama message board, she has found a calm and laid back place to read about the positives of riding and share her own experiences.

The definition of the word transition is the “movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another.” I love this input from Toby Myles of Bel Air, MD, because it so clearly speaks about the nature of transition:

“I don't think I'm fully there yet, but I think I'm right on the edge. In mid October I did my first group ride. It was one of the biggies on my list of riding goals. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. I thought about it and worried about it everyday for the week prior. But once we were rolling my nerves calmed and I did just fine. I felt confident in all of my skills, including parking forwards and backwards and even U turns. There were no oopsies or even almost oopsies. There was no over thinking … there was just doing. Now I find myself counting the days until my next ride, and looking for excuses to go anywhere, instead of wanting to ride but looking for excuses not to. If the transition to joyful riding is like the down slope on a roller coaster, then I am right at the apex of the climb!”

Are all transitions created equally? Heck no! Otherwise years later we would all tell the same story around the campfire! Here’s a letter that every new(er) rider should print out and keep in their riding jacket pocket for inspiration:

“I remember right after I got my "M" and those first rides,” said Darcy D. from Kansas City, MO. “My stomach hurt and I didn't want to go! But, I also didn't want the bike to win. So I went and I rode with the butterflies. I was concentrating so hard the whole time! Remember to use both brakes, clutch and shift, check the surroundings!! I didn't have time to have fun … I was busy!!! But the key was, I kept going. One day I noticed that I didn't have to remind myself to use both brakes. Another day I noticed the butterflies weren't there. Then I noticed I was looking for reasons to ride. Finally, I noticed that I could shift without thinking about it!! I have found the joy of riding. The important thing for newbies to remember is that it's not going to happen all at once, it's a process.”

Here are some transition process pearls I received that I think readers will love: petra1

From Sue Fry in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia:

“I used to start out on my rides with a feeling of dread. Along with the odd moment when I actually dared think that I might be having fun, I've occasionally glanced at myself riding past a shop front window, and thinking, wow, that’s me doing that, isn't life just amazing!!!”


From Joan McClellan in Suffolk, VA:

“I ran out of excuses. That was 15,000 miles ago and 3 bikes ago. It took me a long time, but I don't care.”


From Tricia J. in Kelseyville, CA:

“I realized the occasional negative imagination with motorcycling was not unique to bikes but something people just fall into. There is a great saying about not worrying over something that hasn’t happened or might not ever happen … you get the idea … don’t double dip into the anxiety realm.”


From Susanne Koch in Glendale, AZ:

“I know the more I ride, the better it will get, so I will definitely keep going! My goal is to put at least 6,000 miles on my bike before next spring - and maybe then I can say I am truly enjoying every ride, every time.”


From Michelle Leman in Douglas, WY:

“I can't tell you when I made the transition from being nervous to being exhilarated and excited to get out and ride. The excitement was always there at the end of the ride, always wanting to keep going but knowing it was time head for home. The pre-ride butterflies just seemed to disappear one day and were replaced with anticipation.”


From Ellen J. in Vermont:

“I've only been riding for about 4 years and there's always something more to learn and some skills to improve, but I think that's one of the things I like most about riding. I always felt nervous in new situations because I wondered if I would have the ability to deal with issues automatically. I discovered that I had more ability than I gave myself credit for, and that a new situation was easier than I thought it would be. It's never boring because it's not only exhilarating; it involves an ongoing development of skills.”


vtwinmama logoI hope that in reading these stories you, dear reader, have found some added inspiration to continue working towards your goal of joyful motorcycle riding. If you liked my little poem about the jitters, then by all means, use it to your hearts content!


“Having read these stories I know that I am not alone,” concluded Leonie Johnston from Dales Creek, Victoria, Australia. “It's all part of the experience and I know I will become more relaxed with time.”




Photo credit for top image: Matthew Maaskant

Other image credits: vtwinmama.com