I fell in love with the idea of riding a power bike while watching Trinity pull some cool stunts on her Ducati in the first instalment of The Matrix. I loved how confident and sexy and strong she looked. The leather, the shades, the boyishly cut hair – they all spoke to the tomboy inside me. And I spent countless hours daydreaming about doing something I thought was so cool. Fast forward 17 years later, I finally learned to ride one. Of course, only after I had moved out of my parents’ house and could afford to buy my own stuff because no parent of mine would calmly sit by and watch me take up such a risky hobby. They still don’t know that I ride by the way, and I intend to keep it that way.
It’s been just over a year since I started to ride and I’ll tell you right away that I’m not nearly as sexy as Trinity, nor as skilled. But I have learned a lot about life on those two wheels.
- It might seem daunting or impossible in the beginning. But you’ll never be able to do it if you don’t try. It took me forever to eventually get on a motorbike. The important thing however, is that I did it. I wanted it enough to try, and I didn’t let my self-doubt get in the way. Apply the same to your goals and aspirations. Don’t wait too long before you try.
- Some fear is good. It keeps you in check, and prevents you from taking stupid risks – like going at a speed that you’re unable to comfortably control in the event of an emergency. Or making the wrong choices/decisions. But don’t let it overwhelm you so much that you stop pushing on. Some days when I get on my bike and my heart starts to pound like it will explode out of my chest, I come very close to changing my mind about riding. And with each time the fear wins, I have less confidence to draw from for the next time.
- You will fall. When you do, pick yourself up, learn from it, get back on and try again. I dropped my bike once during riding lessons, somewhere in the middle of the road, at a junction. I had stalled the bike, so there was no power to propel it forward. And it fell. Luckily, I got my leg out of the way in the nick of time. My riding instructor just looked at me calmly, and said “pick it up” like he was speaking to a 4-year old. I obeyed. And then he asked “what was your mistake?” and I told him what I had done wrong. He nodded his head and asked me to get on the bike and continue riding. I still stalled the bike at least three times that day, but I didn’t drop it.
- There are others who ride better than you do. Ride with them. Never underestimate the benefits of learning from others. The fact that there are people who have gone before you is a blessing. Use it to your advantage. While it may not prevent you from making mistakes, it will certainly help you do things better. I rarely ride alone, at least not long distances. And even on the short trips, I sometimes have someone I like to call my ‘guardian angel’ riding ahead or behind me. I can learn from what he does when he’s in front of me, and I can learn from my mistakes when he gives me feedback after riding behind me.
- Learn to deal with the curves. We are taught to brake into the curve and accelerate out of it. Braking as you approach the curve gives you a chance to maintain your balance through it. It’s the same when life throws you one. You’ve got to approach it from a calm and rational place, so that you can determine the best line of action. And once you’re clear on what to do, then you can move more swiftly, ‘accelerate’ out of the curve so to speak.
- Be open to getting help even from the least expected sources. The front brakes of a motorbike provide 70% or more of the bike’s stopping power, and they are the most efficient in bringing the bike to a complete stop. However, while the back brakes may not be as efficient, they are extremely useful in specific situations, like going down a slope safely or keeping the bike in place while idling on an incline. With life, the main propellant is you – you’ve got to get yourself going. But don’t forget that there are people around you who can provide support – friends, family, mentors, colleagues e.t.c. Don’t be afraid to seek and accept their help. They just might help you through a tricky situation.
- If you don’t practice, you’ll soon forget. Every time I let a time lag fall between my rides, I have to ‘re-learn’ the ropes to ride again. Of course, it comes back to me much faster, because somewhere in my head I know it. But the ideal situation is for it to come naturally to me the minute I get on. I can only achieve that by riding more often. You should do the same with everything that you’re trying to learn – Practice. Often. Exercise your ‘muscles’. The more you do it, the easier it becomes for you to do it.
- Not everyone is riding for the same reasons as you. Find the ones who are. “Show me your friends…” they say. This point is about principles and values. You’ve got to associate and spend time with people who share your values. If you’re riding for the thrill that comes from speed, you won’t enjoy riding with people who want to observe the scenery as they ride past. Be careful of moving with the crowd. Sometimes, you’re better off being in a class of your own. But if you must move with a crowd, find the right one.
- Ride your own ride. The riding instructors must have said this a million times. To be honest, I didn’t fully understand it until I got on the road. The fact that someone else is going over 200km/h does not mean that you can do it too. You’ve got to consider your skill level as well as your motivations for riding, and be sure to go at your own pace. Don’t be tempted to try catching up with someone who has just sped by. Focus on your journey. Be clear on where you’re going and how long you are willing to spend to get there. Once you have that down, you can ignore all the negative pressures around you.
I’m still learning from my bike. And I’m sure it’s still got a lot to teach me. I must say I’m looking forward to it – the spills and thrills and wounds that I’m sure will heal.