I received the following question via email
I never rode a motorcycle until I was 51. I took the safety class, purchased a Yamaha Virago 250, and went practicing around the neighborhood. On my third ride I ventured out onto a wonder country road near my house.
On the way back while stopping for a light, I crashed into the car in front of me. I fell over and broke the fender, but no bones. My ego however, was bruised black and blue. Since then I have only been on the bike twice.
I can’t seem to get my bravado back. My motorcycle seems more like an enemy than a friend now. Everyone says I just need to get out there. Practicing in parking lots and in my neighborhood isn’t much fun.
I got scared. Help. It’s a beautiful little bike.
Any suggestions? How do I get through the fear? The biggest problem for me is stopping. I Can’t seem to get the throttle and the break thing smooth so I hit the throttle when I pull on the break.
Here’s my response
Let me assure you that you are NOT alone. Beginner riders contact me all the time asking about this “fear” they have when riding. When I was learning to ride, I had the same fear. For me it was an uncomfortable feeling that cars were too close and that I wasn’t in control.
I made a promise to myself, “David, if this fear doesn’t go away, fast, I’m going to stop riding.” Fortunately, the fear subsided as I rode more and improved my riding skills.
Did the fear totally go away? No. But, within weeks I felt more confident.
In your particular situation it sounds like you’re struggling with the transition from throttle to brake. During my first MSF class the instructor made us practice this transition hundreds of times. It didn’t feel natural at first, but with practice it does.
What was our instructor doing? Through repetition, he was forcing us to make the transition from throttle to brake a part of our muscle memory… roll off throttle, cover clutch with left, apply front break pressure with right hand, prepare to downshift with left foot.
It sounds like your MSF instructor didn’t have you practice this transition enough. No worries. Take the class again. This time, tell your instructor what you’re struggling with. I suggest that you do this as soon as possible.
Consider requesting a different instructor this time. Getting unique perspectives from different rider coaches is better than sticking with one. When my daughter played competitive volleyball, she advanced more quickly when we used different coaches, instead of sticking with the same one. Taking the beginner rider course again will help you not only with the mechanics of riding, but also with the mental aspects needed to be confident about riding.
I imagine your accident has made you question things. Rightly so. Riding a motorcycle isn’t for everyone. If the fear doesn’t die down soon, maybe that’s a sign you should consider. Don’t feel like you have to ride a motorcycle. If you decide to sell it, life goes on. You’re the only one that can make that decision.
For me, I made a promise to stop if the fear didn’t go away. Had it not, I would have stopped. Simple as that.
I agree completely. And I’d venture to say that some level of fear is actually healthy when riding. Not when it gets to the crippling level but that fear is what keeps you aware, attentive and less complacent while riding.
Everyone has a story about dropping their bike and if they don’t, they very well might one day. At least you’ve identified what you’re struggling with.
I think the BRC would help immensely, as suggested. Especially if you can have the instructor help you focus on that issue. And riding in parking lots may not be fun but it’s so worth the confidence you could gain from the repetition.
Great points. Thanks for sharing them.
I teach a ropes course for the boy scouts and have found that telling them that fear in its self is not a bad thing helps them. Fear will be there and should be there when riding. It can be dangerous. If you are able to use the fear to your advantage practicing maneuvers, wearing good protective gear, maintaining your bike etc. you will be safer because of the fear. Letting the fear control you is were it is very dangerous.
Great points. Thanks.
A couple things I learned that were particularly helpful were to keep your wrist low so when you squeeze the brake your Palm is naturally pulling the throttle toward idle and to remember that you can always pull the clutch and disengage the engine. Then if the engine revs up its not going to do anything but make noise.