we rode a long way, baby
“I didn’t think you’d be back,” the Ottawa Safety Council (OSC) instructor said on the morning of September 12, 2021.
It was day two of the OSC M1 exit course I had taken to get my M2 motorcycle riding licence. Day one had been a nightmare. I hadn’t been able to keep up with any of the drills. They moved on to the next skill before I had mastered the previous one. Everyone in my group had already been riding for weeks, months or years. I, on the other hand, was a terrified newbie. I dropped the bike trying to navigate through some cones. One of the instructors lost his patience with me after lunch.
“This is a simple exercise,” he admonished on my fifth attempt at an emergency stop.
I started to cry. I knew they were going to ask me to leave. The course coordinator and the impatient instructor pulled me away from the group for a tête-à-tête. It was the second time they had done so.
“I don’t care if I pass the test,” I said, tears rolling down my cheeks. “It’s hard for me to remember the sequences of what I have to do. I can’t learn them this fast. I have to think about everything. I just want to be able to stay upright and go around in a circle. I can practice the skills after the course.”
Their furrowed brows softened. Their mouths relaxed a little at the corners. If I hadn’t had my helmet on, I might have heard them exhale sighs of relief.
“I don’t care if I pass,” I repeated.
They allowed me to stay for the rest of day one. It didn’t get any better. Which is why they hadn’t expected me back on day two. They thought I would throw in the towel of my own accord, given how miserably I was doing.
They didn’t know me.
I belong to four Ottawa-area Facebook groups for motorcycle riders. One of them, the Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers – Ottawa Chapter #11, asks members to report their ‘mileage’ each season. It’s a national organisation; there’s a friendly inter-chapter competition each year. WindSisters Ottawa and Area also has a national arm, WindSisters Canada and International.
After I started writing about my own 2022 season, I thought it might be fun to ask members of the other two groups (Ottawa Motorcycle Riders and Ottawa Misfits Motorcycle Group) to share their mileage (and adventures, if they wished), to see how far we had collectively ridden.
Thirty-seven riders (including me) answered my ‘How far d’you go? FB post. Responses ran from less than 1,000 kms to more than 30,000.
“Not far enough.” Several people quipped. No rider would disagree with that.
Those who shared their ‘mileage’ range in age from – I’m guessing now – late twenties to early seventies; from brand new riders (less than two months in the saddle) to fifty-year veterans; from cruiser riders, to street and adventure bike riders to track racers; from students to business owners to retirees like me.
Before I share a little more of my story, here are snippets of some of theirs:
Thirty-four-year-old Master Corporal and soon-to-be-Sergeant Jordan McDonald got his M2 licence and his first motorcycle in August. “I’ve wanted one since I was a teenager,” he told me, “but I had a family so…” Now that his daughters are older (thirteen and eleven), he decided to indulge himself. He bought a 2019 Honda CB650R, which he rode 5,200 kilometers between mid-August and the first week of November.
Free-wheelie-ing, berry-picking Rick Begin, who has been riding motorcycles for thirty-five years, managed 15,000 kms despite almost cashing it in two-thirds of the way through the season. He and his 2016 Yamaha FZ09 got up-close-and-personal with a couple of wire fences after he misjudged a corner. I’m glad he’s still around to make up for lost kilometers next season.
Cheryl Schneider reported the most kilometers ridden: 34,010. That’s a lot of riding given that Cheryl works full time. “I did one great trip east to ride the Cabot Trail and most of the coastline of Nova Scotia, about 4,400 km,” she wrote. “The rest was all day trips with amazing friends!” Those friends included Maureen Hunt who also chalked up more than 30,000 kilometers.
A new rider who preferred not to be named commented that he picked up a brand new bike on September 25 and rode 6,861 kilometres before putting it away on November 11. Another newbie, who also wished to remain anonymous, clocked more than 10,000 kilometers in their first season. Impressive.
My friend James Amundson headed west in the spring to spread his father’s ashes and visit his sister in Saskatchewan. After he returned, he was unable to ride for three weeks due to gall bladder surgery and then another three because of mechanical issues with his bike. Despite being out of commission for six weeks, he rode 30,749 kms for the season. He rides a 2003 Yamaha FJR.
Francois Malo and a riding partner shipped their bikes to Calgary; rode through the Rockies to Vancouver, down the west coast to just above Los Angeles and then back across the United States to Ontario. “It was an awesome trip,” he says.
We rode alone, with partners and in groups on all makes, models and sizes of motorcycles. We travelled near, far and wide to destinations across North America including: New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Pennsylvania, Oregon, California, Colorado, Kansas, Indiana, Utah, Nevada, Québec, Northern Saskatchewan, Alberta, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and all over Ontario, of course.
Collectively, we thirty-seven riders rode more than half a million kilometers. Five hundred and fifty thousand five hundred and forty-eight (550,548) kilometers to be exact.
Which brings me back to me.
I didn’t pass the M1Exit test at the end of the September 2021 OSC weekend. But I didn’t give up. I rode 1,500 kms until my season ended abruptly on November 4, with a broken wrist, a broken and dislocated thumb and a bunch of bruised ribs.
I healed over the winter and got back in the saddle at the end of May 2022. I passed my M2 in June and took two one-day MotorcycleMasters courses over the summer (Register here for their free spring 2023 braking clinics in Ottawa). I rode pretty much every day, mostly solo. I’m grateful for having had a wonderful riding season.
I explored ever-expanding loops by myself and then I rode with one other more-experienced rider at a time. Once I felt comfortable riding with one other rider, I graduated myself to group rides.
I became a member of the Ottawa Chapter #11 of the Canadian Motorcycle Cruisers and I joined a few of their smaller rides (less than a dozen riders).
I also did a couple of longer trips on my own. One through Algonquin Park to a friend’s birthday weekend in Huntsville. I learned how to ride in the rain on the way back, which included four and a half hours in a downpour. Brrrrrr. I was soaked through to my soul by the time I got home.
The other solo trip, to North Hatley, QC, was a little over 450 kms each way. I rode nine hours to get there, stayed several days, and rode nine hours return on ‘back roads’ by myself.
In August, I collided with an SUV at an intersection between Almonte and Pakenham. It wasn’t my fault. One of the two police officers who attended the scene escorted TheFox and me home. I was fortunate to ride away unscathed.
All told, TheFox and I logged 21,000 kms in 2022. It was a great season full of adventure, new experiences, new friends, getting lucky and tonnes of lessons learned.
Can’t wait for spring 2023.
© 2022 Susan Macaulay. I invite you to share my posts widely, but please do not reprint, reblog or copy and paste them in their entirety without my permission. Thank you.