I knew you were trouble when you walked in

I had a class this past weekend. It was one of my Harley Davidson classes that start in the classroom at the dealership Friday evening and goes through Saturday and Sunday on the range at Honda. I usually enjoy these classes and most of the time the people can read I get have ridden somewhat.

Friday evening I still felt a bit ran over. I’ve been battling cold/allergy stuff. (Still am and I’m so over it) I sat in the classroom and waited for everyone to arrive. I wished I’d had stayed over at Moe’s a little longer lingering over dinner. Everyone trickled in with Harley bags and boot boxes. This is so typical and why the dealership wants to start class there on Friday evenings – so everyone can run out and buy a bunch of sh*t before class. Most of the stuff is just fashion no function, it amazes me. The price someone spends on one pair of boots they could probably buy a three season riding jacket online.

My co-instructor, Dan came in and we caught up. We hadn’t taught together in awhile. I went around the room and took everyone’s drivers license and checked them in. One guy- no kidding had a 15 character first name, he was from India. We went around and did introductions after that. As I listened to the three women I started to become concerned. One was very young, a Venezuelan princess wearing fury, Ugg boots, another was there with her husband, the last was an older woman who already had a Harley but was practicing on her smaller Yamaha in a parking garage to get ready for the Harley.

This slays me. People run out and buy a 20k motorcycle they don’t know how to ride, have never ridden and don’t even know if they like to ride. It’s all about image – “I want to look cool. I want a Harley.”

My thoughts: I’ve been riding for over 15 years and most of the Harley riders I knew didn’t look cool. They looked like big, fat, hairy men and my worst nightmare.

What people don’t know is that when you first start riding you make a lot of mistakes and……look pretty stupid. (Believe, me I speak from my own personal experience) It takes years of practice to be smooth on a motorcycle. Smooth even with a passenger on back.

They ask if they can wear their brain buckets half helmets on the range this weekend. I say no they can’t in the class but we’ll provide a full face helmet. They groan.

People also don’t realize that not wearing any gear isn’t cool. They want to wear their brain buckets with no face protection. Half helmets only provide 35% of the protection of the brain and that’s only if you land straight up on your head, which, is very rare and if you did land like that you’d probably break your neck and be dead anyway.

I think these things as I look around the room at the class who two of them have Harley’s sitting in their garages not ridden, two of them are in their late 60’s and early 70’s wanting to fulfill their bucket list (why not take a cruise to Italy instead?) the woman who’s only there because it was her husband’s idea, and 15-character who I know can ride because he admitted that he’s ridden his whole family on a bike (all 5). The rest is a crap shoot. It could go either way. Still, I’m worried about the women and my worries are confirmed when the princess approaches us on a break and asks if her Ugg boots are sufficient (well, she didn’t say that word – I doubt she knows it) we said, no they must go up higher and have more protection. She also wants to know if we can let class out at 4 because she has to go to work. We said, no. Class let’s out at 5 or later depending on the day.

Trouble, trouble….

My guts sometimes wrong about these things and I’ve had plenty of women in my class be great riders. But, most of the time…….it’s right.

The next morning everyone was there except the older woman [Judy] and princess. Dan called princess and she was just turning into the facility. Judy needed extensive directions and even got lost at the parts distribution warehouse parking lot next to our facility. My concerns were getting deeper. Judy was one of the current Harley-hardly-know-how-to-ride-but-own-it club members.

We finally went out to the range and started. Dan and I swapped off every two exercises one of us would read the cards and explain the exercise and the other rode the demonstrations. In the MSF world (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) we call it C1 & C2 positions. In the rider coach world we call it “You wanna talk or ride?”  Most of the time, I like to talk first because I want to drill neutral into their pea brains be very thorough in the first exercise so maybe later they won’t f*ck up as much.

So, I talked first. The first four exercises went well and we broke for lunch. Sitting around the table with the other two instructors Pete and Jeff having lunch we said, “How’s your class doing?”, “Ok, how’s your class?”, “Ok, too.” “Good, good!”

That was the end of that, though. We all met back up on the range after lunch and all hell broke loose. I was talking again and had them start up after the instructions and demo except I couldn’t get all three of the women out of staging (where we park the bikes on the range). All they had to do in this exercise was ride around the mutha-f*cking perimeter of the range in 2nd gear and after awhile do a loose (very f*cking loose) weave around some cones. No biggie. They started out of the parking area and one ran out of gas because she forgot to turn the fuel valve on, another went off to the side because she got stuck in neutral shifting up to second and it wouldn’t go anywhere and the third DID shift to second but didn’t ease out the clutch and was left just drifting off to the side revving going “It won’t go nowhere.”

Dan and I finally got them going. He was at the opposite end of the range from me. I was closest to Pete and Jeff’s range and they were running the same exercise. When they started theirs the second rider out of staging was a rather large African American woman who popped a wheelie and went crashing down. I had had my back to them while watching my riders but instantly leap around and backed up when I heard the rev. (It’s a rider coach instinct – we hear a rev and we immediately think we’re going to get ran over so we leap into the air and dive 20 feet away like there’s an explosion)

I then saw out of the corner of my eye one of the other women go off to the side near Dan. Pete and Jeff had gotten their girl up and was riding again. Then, almost exactly the same spot on our range one of our bucket list guys went down. I heard a rev and then a crash (very similar sound as when someone gets spit out into the ditch in the movie “Being John Malkovich”  – especially, if they happen to go through the fence). This was almost the exact place on the opposite range as the earlier woman went down. Pete stepped over onto our range and turned the guy’s bike off. I stopped our people and walked over. The guy was laying on his back holding is left side. I told him to just lay there a minute and try to breathe. Dan came up and we called 911. It had been awhile since I had a 911 class. Jeff and Pete were trying to run their exercise and get it finished before emergency came because we knew we’d have to shut both ranges down while they were here. Just as the fire truck pulled up the woman from before crashed in the exact same place again and was directly across from our guy who was already down. The emergency people went to her first with a backboard and we were like “Hey, hey – we called for our guy.”

You can’t make this sh*t up.

Later, after they’re gone we started the exercise back up again. Dan had been lecturing telling the class the whole break under the shade tree about squeezing the clutch if they felt out of control, using the brakes with the clutch to stop, etc. We get back on and do two laps when princess goes off to the side near the curb and fence revving her bike.

It’s always this amusing yet alarming thing to watch. Someone has the clutch squeezed in so they’re not going anywhere but they have the throttle rolled on all the way and it’s screaming out RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR and it’s so loud, you can hear it a mile away, even the instructors on the other range jump at the sound thinking it’s going to run them over and the person on the bike is just sitting there with eyes the size of silver dollars thinking “What’s wrong with my bike? “ and they think it’s the bikes fault, like it’s POSSESSED, like it’s the Stephen King bike version “Christine” or something.

“No, it’s just your dumb @ss rolling the F*ck on the throttle and being an idiot!” – is what I’m thinking, watching it happen.


There’s no time for him to go running down there, flailing his arms, shouting “Roll off the throttle.” [Plus, we’re not allowed to run because that shows panic. We do walk very briskly, though, and jump really far] We’ve seen this hundreds of times and think they’ll just figure it out and go on.

I’m watching and she does it – she pops the clutch, making the bike jump up and hit the fence – BAM and then she slides down the fence. It wasn’t a hard hit, just a Blam and Slide. John Malkovich flashes in my brain. Dan went over. I was glad he was dealing with her. I kept the class going. They were finally weaving the cones. Would this exercise ever end? He finally got princess back onto her bike after lecturing her for 15 minutes about the clutch and throttle. He went back to his position down range. I watched her. She was looking over her shoulder trying to merge back in with the class. She merged and then hit the throttle again – RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRR and crashed right in front of Dan. At the same time Pete and Jeff’s woman crashed for the third time in the same place.

Will this exercise ever end?

It did finally end – I think we ran it for an hour which is a record for me. The princess was coached out of the class because she was visibly shaken. She couldn’t have ridden across the street from a serial killer at that point. After she left her Dad called Dan yelling at him about why we couldn’t teach his daughter to ride and that he was going to speak to Harley about us. Dan told him that we’d already had taken a guy out on a backboard and that his daughter was going to be next if we hadn’t have stopped her. I was like whatever, dude. Go F yourself. If you think you can do better then YOU teach her to ride. [It was a good thing he didn’t talk to me.] Jeff and Pete were standing in the shade talking to their 3rd timer coaching her out.

Our other two women seemed to cave after that. We finally made it to the last exercise  of the day – stopping quickly. Both Dan and I knew we could have a disaster on our hands. I sent them out of staging, splitting the group in half. At that point we were down to 11 so 6 on my side and 5 on Dan’s. Judy was in Dan’s line and she no more made it out to the lineup and did a stop and flop. Dan was already all the way downrange, too, and we were getting ready to begin the exercise. We both looked at each other and sighed. Would this day ever end? Then, we’re almost done with the exercise and he motioned me “one more” raising a finger. I nod. I wanted to get this day over before anyone else crashed. Then, Rosanna comes down, stops and crashes right next to him. Great. I decided to call my next one while he was dealing with that and it was Judy who – you know what’s going to happen –rode down and crashed next to me.

“How many accident reports do we need to write up?”

“Two for each woman and the [geezer] who went away in the ambulance.”

“Let’s do it tomorrow.”

“Yep, it’s Miller time.” Slapping his hand and walking out. Some days I never want to see that place again or look at another motorcycle.

The next day, Rosanna didn’t show up [Thank Goddess] and Judy didn’t pass. Guess that Harley’s going to keep collecting dust for now. She said she was coming back to take a dirt bike class but I’ll believe it when I see it. Dirt bikes aren’t cool – even if they do help you work on your basic skills. But, it’s not about that to them, is it? Having skills. No.

It’s about looking cool.


2 thoughts on “I knew you were trouble when you walked in

  1. Ugh, I don’t know how you have the patience to do this. I’m not a big fan of motorcycles in general, well the very loud ones, especially when my jerk neighbors rev them early in the morning (5-6AM), or the guys in traffic do it next to me while waiting at a stoplight. I guess those are the guys that are trying to ‘look cool’, or let everyone know they are a badass.

    Half helmet Harley wearers are all over Southern California. I see it all the time on the I-5, which is such a dangerous freeway in general. No safety jackets or gear on (I guess the appeal there is a cruise near the ocean). There really needs to be an additional test for intelligence for some of these motorcycle drivers! I can’t even count the number of young military guys wearing nothing more than a t-shirt, shorts and sneakers on a bullet bike going at least 100MPH weaving through cars. Death wish central!



  2. I take it they don’t use their own bikes during the class. That would suck crashing your bike before you even learn to ride it. I am not a big fan of motorcycles. I think some can really look cool but I don’t think they belong on the road with cars.


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