A Beginner’s Perspective
Since I was in my teens I’ve wanted to ride a motorcycle, but for some reason I put off getting my license whether it be the stigma of a female rider or the "imminent death" promised to me by a majority of people I shared this dream with. Finally, a few summers ago, I decided at the age of 26 that being afraid of something I knew so little about was silly. So, I took the California Highway Patrol-sponsored course and earned my motorcycle license.
The major point they drive home in that class is to practice. Whether you buy, rent or borrow, don’t wait too long to get back on a bike so that your skills improve and you start to feel comfortable. Enter the Honda Rebel 250. I had been taught on a Yamaha Virago 250, so the transition to a Honda Rebel 250cc was an easy one and it’s certainly an ideal bike to learn on.
Beginner’s Motorcycling Update #1
My first ride on the Rebel was exciting. The initial thought that went through my mind was identical to that of the first time I rode a motorcycle in the CHP course, "There is no seat belt or anything to hold me on." I’ve always known I’d be a cautious rider, but there is a small part of my brain that went into a bit of shock and stress.
When I first pulled out I was unsteady and nervous, but quickly I realized that you truly never forget how to ride a bike. Shifting was smooth and easier than I remember on my learning bike, the Virago 250. I was able to steady my nerves quickly and restarted to enjoy the ride through my neighborhood canyons. I stuck to my neighborhood first ride out in order to get a feel for the bike. There is something about traffic that is intimidating and at this point I want to be confident when heading out onto busy lanes.
I did stall once. It was where I suspected I might have some issues–at a dead stop going up a very steep hill. Even though I’ve driven stick shift cars for years, it is different with a motorcyle. Both hands and feet are not only engaged in the process, but crucial. There is a level of focus I must maintain while driving that is something I haven’t had to have in awhile. I’ve also noticed that even though the Rebel is low to the ground, I still have a pretty good view when it comes to being able to see around cars. Looking forward to the next ride.
Beginner’s Motorcycling Update #2
It’s interesting how quickly you learn to adapt and feel comfortable. My second ride compared to my first were worlds apart. Everything came easier. My braking and dead stop starts are so much better. I didn’t stall once or panic in any situation. I’m still struggling with the dead stop start up hill, but I have no doubt that will come with time.
I took my first ride into main street traffic with stop lights and all. It was much easier than I expected, and even more so than all the riding I was doing up in the hills. I’m still a little out of sorts with my intersection turns, but overall it was a great ride. I’m finally ready to take my first real drive out of my neighborhood. I certainly don’t see any interstates in my near future, but after driving around today I’ve gotten a real handle on how quickly I can move and the bike has a great pickup. I even ventured to the front of a stop light and was impressed by how easily the Rebel was able to take off in order to get in front of all the other cars. It has quite the pick up when needed.
By the end, though, my fingers were really aching. It’s certainly taking my body awhile to adjust to the posture and amount of tension I need to have in my hands to work the clutch and front brake. The hand controls on the Rebel are great for a woman since they are not too far away or apart, but it might be helpful if the engagement for the clutch and front brake were a bit shorter in order to accommodate a woman’s smaller hands and fingers.
Beginner’s Motorcycling Update # 3
Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to ride in a couple of weeks and it is funny how quickly I forget and, then, how quickly I remember. After taking a few weeks’ break, I had forgotten simple details. The Rebel has a safety feature which for the life of me I could not figure out. Why wouldn’t the bike allow me to move forward after I got it started? As soon as I’d think I had it going it would stall immediately.
I was later informed by my experienced friends that Honda (as well as many others) does not allow a rider ride off while the kick stand is still down. Seems logical enough, but darn if it didn’t detour me from a day of riding. Clearly, I still have many things to learn about motorcycles.
Beginner’s Motorcycling Update #4
Now that I’ve firmly secured the kickstand rule into my memory, I’m up and around again. My turns are coming along quite well and I’m starting to feel much more comfortable on the Rebel, especially when it comes to handling the bike. It is a great starter bike, but low-horsepower doesn’t mask the weight. When I’m not perfectly balanced, it feels heavy. After seeing a number of other cruisers, I have a feeling it will take a lot of practice to get comfortable on an even heavier and longer bike.
With shorter limbs, I have a desire to not be as stretched out, but it is certainly a fun ride when I can cruise along a nice long, straight street. I feel a real security with the Rebel that I am not sure I would feel on a sports bike. I am low to the ground on the Rebel, and can feel the weight of the bike, yet not to the point where I feel like the bike is driving me.