I was happy to see a new Motorcycle Mentor Podcast episode available in my iTunes subscription. Then, awe… it’s about insurance… it won’t apply to me, but I listened and enjoyed it anyway! I always learn something when I listen to your Podcasts and it’s nice to hear a friendly, caring American voice. So I did what you ask your listeners to do, I commented, rated, and signed up for your newsletter.
One of your listeners
If you’re interested in your listeners, read on and I’ll tell you about how a 37 year old woman living abroad comes to motorcycling. I’ve lived in Germany for several years, not in the service, just a girl from the Midwest that went away and fell in love with the Alps. I kept coming back to visit, then to study, until I found a job and stayed. If I’d seen the Rockies when I was 15, I could’ve just as well ended up in Colorado.
Riding with Andy
I’d ridden on the back of motorcycles with friends, but really had a great experience last year when I rode with my boyfriend on the longest motorbike trip I’d been on to Croatia. After about two and a half days of riding over amazingly snowy mountain passes to hot coastal landscapes, we arrived at the campsite and met up with friends who had driven in days before us. I was immediately asked about how sore my rear must be and how I must have been bored out of my mind on the back of that bike for days. The truth was, I took off the helmet and couldn’t stop smiling.
My boyfriend, Andy, is a great rider. He’s been on several long trips and also participates in enduro rallies through Tunisia, Morocco and Greece. He’s been riding for about five years intensively. He’s smart, safe, and he’s also an engineer who tinkers, so he knows bikes and how to ride them. Riding along with him is great fun.
On amazing roads high along the coast, I found myself on the back of the bike, daydreaming for the first time ever about how it would feel to ride myself, thinking, “Oh, I would’ve been a little slower through that corner,” and “Look there’s a nice place Andy might like to stop for a picture and take a break while waiting for me.” Our friends who went in cars had missed out. The motorbike is the way to travel! Even riding along I didn’t get bored or sore. I was too busy taking pictures, looking at the scenery, singing, and daydreaming about riding myself.
Doing the unimaginable
A few weeks after vacation, Andy entrusted me with a secret thought of his. We’d been happily dating for about seven months, but he had an idea on the horizon and wasn’t sure how everything could work out. He told me he’d been wanting to quit his job and travel for half a year on his motorbike. He wanted me with him, but didn’t know how I could fit into his plan. Maybe I could take my vacations and meet up to ride along with him for a few weeks at a time here and there? Or would it be possible for me to take longer leave from my company? I said yes right away, which blew his mind a bit, and we’ve been planning ever since. We watched Ewan McGregor’s travel movies Long Way Down & Long Way Round. I bought Chris Scott’s Adventure Motorcycling Handbook.
The best way to do it, we decided, is if I can ride as well and we have two bikes. At first, we thought of going east. I’d love to see Mongolia, but we have to plan to arrive when it’s not freezing there. This means leaving in May, which in 2014 would’ve been too soon and 2015 seemed too far off. So we decided it will be South America.
We’ll fly the bikes to Quito, Ecuador in September, ride through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, down to Tierra del Fuego, back up through Argentina and if there’s time, a short loop through Paraguay, Brazil, and Uruguay. After six months of travel, we’ll ship the bikes back from Buenos Aires and fly home from there.
Learning how to ride a motorcycle
So, the first order of business for me was learning to ride a motorcycle. I planned an intensive training of about six weeks, usually 2-4 hours, four days a week to learn how to ride and get all the requirements fulfilled to make the German license. When I was in the States visiting my parents, I went for a weekend MSF training so I wouldn’t get totally out of practice. (This astonishingly qualified me for a license there — a few days instruction, on a small bike without rear view mirrors, never on the open roads — a complete contrast to the vigorous requirements in Germany! I am always amazed to discover new reasons it’s called Land of the Free & Home of the Brave…)
Just before the weather turned cold and wintery, I passed my exams at the beginning of November. That doesn’t mean I had great weather to learn in. Most of the October days I was training were rainy and cold. I was glad though to have tough conditions for learning. At least I had a trainer in my ear and safely in a car behind me, when trying out hard stuff like rain, starting on hills, accelerating on the Autobahn, etc. I listened to the podcast about riding in rain and the tips were great. If I’d learned in sunshine, I would’ve been scared at the first rain or night ride and your Podcast is surely a great help for sunshine-experienced riders.
So I had my license, and training began as soon as possible. I bought a Beta Alp 200 for offroad training in December, which I took to Croatia for initial basics. I am trying to make up a little for years of riding experience by riding as often as possible, handling my bikes in all sorts of terrain and conditions. The Alp is really excellent for this. I climb up rocky hills like a mountain goat, while my friends on enduro bikes fight their way up, keeping their powerful beasts under control. When we go to the cross tracks, they have some advantages, but I’m focused on riding for myself, going my own pace, reading, getting helpful tips, and practicing.
My first motorcycle
About two weeks ago, I bought my bike for the trip. A BMW G 650 GS, similar to Andy’s so we’ll save time and spare parts by having a bike he knows well. I’m riding to the office when possible and whenever I can otherwise. One thing I need to work on are hilly and mountainous curves. Unknowingly, I was lead down the Kesselberg Str. (see attachment), which I have since learned is a very dangerous and famous road for bikers. We were traveling downhill, as up hills is prohibited for motorbikes because of fatal accidents during illegal racing.
I made it down ok, but I talked myself through some of the corners and was nearly crawling through one of the hairpin turns. “This is what motorcyclists love!” I told myself. The good news is that the lanes are plenty wide and the road is in perfect condition, which surely won’t be the case on all mountain passes we’ll encounter. I’ve read about approaching curves, using the eyes and where I should be looking. If you have any experience from curves and corners to share, I’d be really thankful.
So that’s a really massive email. Your podcast has been with me throughout this new experience and has given me a lot to reflect on to help me improve my skills. I really appreciate your frankness, honesty and sensible approach to riding. You’re an awesome mentor!
PS. Since signing up for the newsletter, I’ve received your email about the loss of your father. I’m a stranger, an anonymous listener, who knows your voice and has been thankful to you for sharing your experience. I am sorry to read that your father has passed. I hope you find comfort and strength together with your family. As I wrote on your show page, take your time. I have subscribed to your Podcast and I’ll always be glad to see there’s a new Motorcycle Mentor podcast to hear you again — whenever it is!
Motorcycle Mentor Response
I responded to Christy and thanked her for her words of encouragement and feedback. I also asked if I could post her email and if she would share her story on the Motorcycle Mentor Podcast. She said yes to both. Stay tuned for an interview with Christy soon.