Sunday, January 24, 2010

Riding a Motorcycle

I need your help.

I am working on my novel's revision, but there is one part I simply cannot describe. The sixteen-year-old girl, the novel's protagonist, must learn to ride a motorcycle. I had intended as part of this revision to speak with several people about riding, and even ride with the husband of a friend (who owned a motorcycle), getting over my own fear of being shoved off onto the pavement and having both arms ripped off.

I know my fear is likely irrational, but I was willing to overcome it for my novel in the same way I wanted my protagonist to face the fear and learn to ride the motorcycle. She faces a lot of fear in this novel, and with each test she becomes stronger and more self-reliant. I could describe her fear and her experience in almost exactly the same way I experienced it (and much of her fear I've faced and defeated in my own life).

Only I never got around to riding on a motorcycle. And my friend's husband sold the bike.

I still intend to take that motorcycle ride as soon as I can, before I start sending out this novel to actual agents and publishers, but I need some help right now so that I can complete this version and submit it to the contest. I will be calling my brother in Houston, since he has a bike and has definitely ridden it, so that I can get some details (where is the ignition, etc.), but I want most of all to know what it felt like to ride a motorcycle the first few times, especially the first.

I swear to heaven that I will experience it myself, and not just rely on your observations, but I have no way to do so now except through a Craiglist posting with a stranger (scarier than the motorcycle ride itself). Can you help? I welcome any description you might lend to me (I emphasize lend, though I also promise to put you in the acknowledgments).

So, what is it like to ride a motorcycle?


  1. I am going to assume you mean as the driver of the bike and not the passenger.

    The very first time, especially if you are not used to a stick shift in a car you turn the throttle and let out the clutch too and stall the engine. You keep your feet down just because you don't know better.

    Then when it stalls you are able to keep it upright, then the second time you don't over rev the engine and actually get it moving because you let the clutch out slower. There is fear here but also a sense of achievement.

    Once you get going the first time your heart beat picks up and you forget everything else except how to shift it through the gears without making the engine lug. (to high of a gear for the engine and road speed)

    The honest truth the fear of it is minimal when getting on it and getting it to move until you have to actually negotiate traffic the first time. that is where the first sense of "what the hell have I done" comes in.

    this girl is 16 if she has gotten to the point where she learning to ride her fear is going to be in traffic not the side street or the park where she first learns to get the thing moving. It IS like riding a bicycle in that balance comes naturally with the movement of the machine.

    In traffic though, cars are going to be cutting her off because they don't generally see a motorcycle. As she gets more used to the bike she is going to get more reckless because of the tremendous speed even a small bike (250cc) can achieve. It is when she dumps the bike or gets hit that the fear comes in.

    The thrill far outweighs the fear because you are closer to the pavement, the air, the bugs hitting your visor or face.

    If she is a dirt rider then the fear is going to be the hills and moguls going airborne that's where until experienced the butt tends to pucker up. What happens with that fear is they slow way down and never really get the weightless feeling most dirt bikers seek for the adrenaline rush.

  2. Wondering if a dealership might help give you some hands-on experience and info...?

  3. I am going to send you an email, my draft is to long to post here. i know you just wanted a discription, but i wrote it the only way it made sese to me...

    it will be sent soon. thx

  4. Thanks so much, Walking Man. You're right about the traffic thing, and she'll be dealing with this in later scenes, for she'll have to get to work on busy streets.

    Jean, I think you are right. I can at least see what's going on with the bike a bit more fully. I'm not sure what they'd do as far as driving/riding it.

    Thanks, Jeff! Any help you offer will be appreciated!

  5. I can't help with motorcycle sensations.

    But I can make a suggestion about getting the actual experience. Find a local motorcycle safety course - any local dealer can likely point you to one - and take it. They usually provide the bikes, teach you the rules in a relative safe environment, you will understand what the descriptions mean, and you invest no more than the cost of the course ($70-100). And no friend's bike is at risk.

  6. Good advice, Stephanie. It's not something I can do in the next few days, but I'll definitely work on making this an authentic experience before I actually move to get the book published.

  7. BTW, when you go back to the novel you sent me, if you have some questions on boats, you might also check with my husband on that. He's fascinated with them and did some work on a sailing vessel. I am NOT an expert.

  8. I will DEFINITELY be talking to your hubby about boats. But not right now.

    Besides, as soon as I have all my textbook stuff done (my next big task), I have to finish reading your novel...

    It will happen all in good time...

  9. No rush. Just letting you know. He loves to talk about boats.