My wife, the perpetual beginner

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by viverrid, Jul 15, 2012.

  1. viverrid

    viverrid not dead yet

    Jan 26, 2004
    Western Mass
    My wife tries to learn to ride on and off, years apart. Every time is close to starting over, but with slightly different errors. She never progresses enough to get beyond beginner, then quits. So the next time she tries, she's still a beginner.

    Some time ago, in her 40s, my wife became interested in learning to ride. It was NOT something she "always" wanted to do, or always thought was cool. Just that she saw me going out to ride, and coming back hours later, and wanted to see what is was about. She even thought she wanted to ride trail, since I talked about trails so much.

    She learned the basics of how a motorcycle operates on an XR-80 that one of the kids had. Then got her license through MSF and began rising on a DR-200. She's small, only weighed about 100 lbs., and thought the DR was high and heavy. She frequently had problems, and not just motorcycle-specific problems, but brain fade forgetting things she used daily driving a car.

    Like once we pulled into a small commercial parking lot and were going to turn around to park. There were 3 nose-in spaces empty, next to each other. I was leading, rode straight into the right side of the right-most space, and made a U, coming out in the left-most space but toward the middle space, plenty of room for my wife to swing around even wider. Instead of following my line, wife rides diagonally straight across the right & middle space before turning another 45 degrees and running out of space, now 90 degrees to the original direction. And then asks "What do I do???" Well, like you might do in a car while making a 3-point turn, turn the front wheel right and back up, then left and go forward. Instead she just drops the bike.

    After a number of other low-speed drops, she has a trail accident that results in an injury. She allows her upper body to be thrown forward going over a SMALL obstacle, her right elbow to be driven down, and this causes her to crank on WFO throttle, resulting in her hitting a tree. She breaks her thumb. The patch of missing bark on the tree was visible years later.

    She quits trail and her riding peters out. After it sits a couple of years, we sell her bike. A few years later, I ask her if she would try again with a smaller bike, because I can buy a TTR-125L with street paperwork. She says okay and I buy the bike, but it only has paperwork. No way will it actually pass inspection. I spend almost as much getting it inspect-able as buying it. 2/3 of it was shop labor since I had a shop do it. If I had cared to to wrench it myself, I could have done it for a few hundred $, including having the stator re-wound.

    She likes the lower height and lighter weight but always had issues with the kick start. One time she went out to ride, and for the next 15 minutes I heard various "PUTTs" and "PUTT-PUTTs" followed by periods of silence. She comes back inside almost crying, asking why her bike wouldn't start. We go over that the gas is on, the "choke" (really an enricher) is on, the switch is on (no key, just a switch). I go out and try it, and it starts and runs on the first kick.

    She asks me how I did it. I shut it down with the kill button (leaving everything else set up the same) and ask her to show me what she was doing. It was like her wrist was geared to her ankle. Every time she kicked, she twisted WFO throttle. The bike starts easily on the enricher AT IDLE. It can't take any throttle, much less WFO, until it warms up. I ask her why she cranked throttle and she says "I thought that's how you start a motorcycle". That's not how we started it last week.

    Then she has another injury accident. We are going down a 2-track on state land when we catch up to a Jeep. The Jeep stops so we can pass. I go around between the Jeep and a brush pile; nothing wrong with the line but there's not much room. Wife starts to go around but is afraid of the Jeep so brakes without pulling in the clutch, stalls, and falls over into the brush pile. She puts her hand out with the fingers spread, most of her hand goes through the pile but a stick catches her thumb and dislocates it.

    She quits riding again, and after the bike sits a couple of years, we sell it. Years later, I buy an XT-225 as my "sick bike". Similar concept to when an old guy trades his cruiser for a trike. For when I get really sick from my cancer, so I'll have an easy to ride bike even though it's too small for me, and maybe I can ride a little longer. I am moving bikes around in the driveway and she sits on it, says "Hey, I think I could ride this." So we try again.

    This time around she is confused by the kill switch. She turns the bike off with it, then walks away leaving the key on. I point out to her the lights are on. She goes back, turns the light switch to high beam, walks away again. I point out it's now on high beam, she switches the lights back & forth a few times, then blows the horn. So I point out the key position, and she replies "You told me the kill switch turns the bike off." She's had so many "forgets" on the {correction} kill switch that I put a piece of duct tape over it. It can still be used, just it's less visible.

    This morning she gets confused with the e-start. She comes to me and asks me why her bike won't start. She says the gas is on, the bike is in neutral, she's turned the key but it won't start. I walk over, press the starter button, and it fires right up. I ask her what happened when she pushed the button and she says she didn't. She forgot about it. Thought turning the key would start the bike. That's not how we started it last week.

    So today we went on a mixed surface ride. I'm worried about her slowing down enough before a blind downhill dirt road left curve so I make a big deal about flashing my brake lights several times before the crest preceding the turn. She makes that one okay and I accelerate around the following uphill right turn. I continue up the road but she doesn't appear in my mirrors so I stop and wait. She still doesn't come along so I turn around and find her bike in the ditch off the left.

    She ran wide on an UPHILL visible turn, across the oncoming lane and into the ditch. She says her helmet hit the ground but not hard, and the handlebar hit her in the ribs. The bike isn't banged up much. She is game to keep riding and we continue our loop, which includes a lunch stop. Tonight she is feeling sore and I tell her she'll probably be stiff tomorrow. I hope she keeps riding this time. She doesn't really know how/why it happened. Says she didn't accelerate, but I don't think she braked either, just coasted wide until she ran out of road.

    This isn't really a rant, just a dunno WTF.
  2. Offcenter

    Offcenter On The Road Again!

    Jul 5, 2012
    Northern New Jersey
    I've taught quite a number of friends and relatives to ride over the years. Most of them
    have done just fine. Some like my friend Jeff were naturals at it. Others became good
    at it because they stuck with it and paid attention to what I was teaching them.
    But there was one, Jeff's brother, who I concluded would NEVER "get it" and didn't
    belong on a motorcycle.
    I'm sorry to say that you wife sounds like she fits that group. Be very careful
    and keep a close eye on her. I don't know why some people are like
    that, but they are. Based on what you've told us, I'd find another hobby for her.
  3. Contevita

    Contevita Cigar Adventurer

    Oct 25, 2011
    Gulfport, MS
    You've got a lot of patience. Get a side car and place her in it or let her ride pillion from now on; maybe she'll catch on later............or maybe not.
  4. morena67

    morena67 Adventurer

    Sep 9, 2011
    Acapulco. Mexico.
    -Maybe riding a scooter for some time would help...
    Or maybe another SMF course if she's going to be riding the motorcicle.

    One of my sisters took several driving classes in order to ride a car, but she was always so nervous, until she decided to quit, she can not ride a car. ( Her desicion).

    I believe it's only your wives desicion, nobody elses desicion.

    -Sorry for my bad english and good luck...!!!
  5. azia

    azia Adventurer

    Aug 20, 2009
    Toronto, Canada
    I think Offcenter has the right of it. I admit your seemingly endless amount of patience but at the same time, also your wife's willingness to delve back into a hobby/sport she's been unsuccessful at continuing with time and time again, it seems. But perhaps this is just one of those cases where you're just trying to mixin' oil and water....shake it up in a bottle and it seems to come together for a few seconds doesn't.

    On the other hand, there may be hope....

    I do want to ask since it wasn't apparent in your writeup.....exactly how long does she ride during each "get back into riding" episode? It seems like only after a ride or two, she "quits"? I don't want to put any blame on you...or her...but I wonder if there just hasn't been enough time each time around, for her to actually make an informed decision.

    It also seems like each time, she's not road ready. What has she done before she got on the road? Were there plenty of empty parking lot and slow side street practice sessions before she got on the road?

    I'm wondering if again, Offcenter is right and this sport just isn't for her or if it's really just a matter of needing to try a different approach to helping her learn how to ride or more practice before riding out on the open road and/or with someone who obviously has more experience than herself.
  6. carp

    carp Adventurer

    Jul 23, 2007
    My wife was interested. Problem was I started her on an xl500. She was doing ok, stopped by the side of the road and fell into the ditch. She didn't want to ride anymore. I think of encouraging her to ride, but when she drives car she is not paying attention. I think, why would I want her not paying attention on a motorcycle. She isn't a good match for a motorcycle. I think that some folks don't have the alertness needed to anticipate the worst -that would be my wife..
  7. ray h

    ray h Been here awhile

    May 3, 2010
    Waynesboro, PA
    I hate to say it but I don't think she has a real desire, hense no aptitute to ride. I have basically the same experience with my wife. Long story short, a few years ago my wife indicated that she wanted to get her endorsement and start riding her own bike instead of riding on the back of mine. She went through the MSF basic course and I bought her a little TW 200 to play with. I even traded off my Shadow for a KLR so we could do some trails because I feel thats the best environment to learn and because confident. She dropped it a couple of times while off road (no injuries), which I expected and wasnt bothered at all but she was really upset by it. As many times as I told her just to have fun with it, she was always worried about dropping it. She took her bike out of the garage maybe five times in three years and she never really got on the road with it. The last year we had the TW200, I was the only one who rode it so I told her one day that if she didnt want to ride, I was getting rid of it because this crap of getting on the bike once a year for 1/2hour was more dangerous than anything and she wasnt getting anything from it. Bottom line is, maybe its time you had the tlk with her and basically lay it out, if riding is not something she wants to do than she needs to let it go.
  8. Student Rider

    Student Rider n00b

    May 28, 2012
    I would have to agree with ray h,
    Your description reminds me of my wife in many ways, is it possible she has no real interest in riding but is trying to show some interest to please you?
    My wife has no interest in riding except for an occasional two-up and she has told me so, many women are not as direct as my wife, bless her heart,
    Your wife knows how much you enjoy riding and that you want her to enjoy it as much as you do, but maybe some things are not meant to be.
  9. viverrid

    viverrid not dead yet

    Jan 26, 2004
    Western Mass
    She thinks she wants to ride. She enjoys it when she does ride. She doesn't have much time to ride and it is the first thing to go when things get busy. Like right now she is working 6 days, and pretty long hours so thre is only one day a week to ride, but there are a lot of other things she'd also like to do on that one day.

    She is NOT going to commute to work on the busy paved roads with traffic, nor does she want to go gear on, gear off at the numerous stops she makes in a day (she doesn't just go to one office and stay there all day). Our rides are routed onto sparsely trafficked dirt roads and back roads.

    I have gone over a lot of "friction zone" exercises with her at home. We have a 400 foor dirt driveway and a parking lot. Like walking alongside the (running) bike up a hill, propelling it with a slipping clutch. And demonstrating and then having her do it, that with the idle only slightly turned up, a rider can start the bike rolling in gear without revving the throttle at all, just with very careful clutch control. She can drive a clutch car just fine, start on hills, etc., But the motorcycle clutch she still tends to rev it high before the clutch is engaged, then as soon as the bike moves at all, to dump the clutch suddenly.

    As we are usually on dirt, this results in either a jerk and a little roost, or a stall if she also backs off on the throttle at the same time. Despite her ability to accomplish the practice exercises, when she's actually out on the bike, she has great difficulty moving it forwards (say) 3 feet; will rev it up and then after a long delay without moving, either stall or shoot ahead 6 or 10 instead..

    Today at lunch we pulled up at a local place where the dirt parking lot on the side of the road where the restaurant is, was pretty full (there is a second huge dirt lot across the street). But there was plenty of room on the grass, right next to their Motorcycles Are Everywhere sign. So I ride around the sign and park facing the road at a 90 degree angle to it. Instead of riding around the sign (there was about 4 feet between the back of the sign and a fence).she rides along the shoulder in front of me and stops right in front of me and asks what to do.

    Since the grass I am parked on slopes down very gently from the edge of the road, I suggest she pull forward (on the level) about 6 feet, and then back in next to me. It takes several mnutes and several stalls to move ahead, which ends up being more like 10 feet than 6. Then she is mystified as to how to back in parallel to me. I suggest she turn the bike off and dismount first. And then as she struggles with neutral, that it is okay to turn the bike off while it's still in gear. It doesn't have to be in neutral to back it up, as long as she holds the clutch in. (It's an easy backup as it's slightly downhill.)

    Like I said, she can drive a clutch car, but is mystified by the bike clutch. It took about 10 minutes for her to pull forward and then back into the space. While we were there an old guy on a Harley pulled up and did the same thing in 10 seconds. I did not push her to take up riding again, but since she decided to, I do push to get her to get seat time. Like today I said "do you want to ride this morning?" And she said no, she's goning to yoga this morning, she'll ride this afternoon. I reminded her that thunderstorms were predicted for the afternoon, but it was nice now. So we did ride in the morning and to a lunch stop.

    The first time she tried to learn to ride, it did make her a much better car driver. Before she was very unaware of road conditions, was reactive rather than proactive in her responses to conditions encountered. She was much more aware after she tried to ride, so it was worth it just for that.
  10. viverrid

    viverrid not dead yet

    Jan 26, 2004
    Western Mass

    I'm really not looking for her to be my riding partner. My specialty is technical off-road, particularly rocks. She will never do that. I've shown her some of the trails I ride and she was appalled. I've been doing more road only since I got older, plus more recently having been weakened by cancer.

    She seems to really enjoy the scenic aspects of dirt road riding so, since she expressed an interest, I was hoping to get her trained well enough to keep riding on her own after I'm gone (I don't have much of a life expectancy due to the illness).

    This is one of my routes that I sent some other guys on. That's not me in the pic, it's the guy I sent up there.

    <a href="" title="2012_0324AD by V84x4, on Flickr"><img src="" width="1024" height="768" alt="2012_0324AD"></a>[
  11. Scootard

    Scootard Scraggle McSquarely

    May 16, 2012
    My beloved is a new rider, I have ridden for 40 years. We both ride scooters, and I have implemented a few simple practices. When we head out I get us pointed in the right direction then slow down and wave her past so she is in the lead. She sets the pace and it's usually near the speed limit.

    If I pass her she slows down to way below the limit and shrinks in my rear view. I only pass if we have to make a change of direction left or right, or exit to another road.

    When lane changes are necessary I will "clear" the new lane and move over, then slow down a little to give her room. To communicate, she will signal then pull off, or I will close distance, beep at her and pull over.

    In the city, I lead and always do less than the limit. On 2 lanes if traffic builds up she pulls over and I follow suit to let it pass.

    These few simple procedures encourage active participation, and increase the "comfort factor" for my sweetie. Works for us Might for you. :
  12. viverrid

    viverrid not dead yet

    Jan 26, 2004
    Western Mass
    We have tried it both ways and I need to lead. If she goes first all I could do would be to watch her get in over her head. One ride, I had her go first, and she went way too fast on a local paved road, leading into a sharp right. She went in way too fast to make it on DoT knobbies and ran way wide into the other lane at 50+ MPH. Good thing nobody was coming.

    I go first to try to prevent her overcooking into corners, show her the line in loose conditions, etc.. But today I guess I was not successful, since she rode into a ditch. Though it wasn't really an overcook. She was going uphill on a mild bike coming of a preceding slow corner. I made it around the second corner going much faster. She just stopped turning half way through, and coasted straight across. It was quite makable at the speed she had to have been going. It's NOT decreasing radius and is quite wide. She said she didn't think it went around that far and just stopped turning at the point where she expected the corner to end. Even though you can see further around it.

    But anyway, it's worse when the noob goes first, because the noob doesn't know what's a safe pace to set or line to take. And when the experienced rider sees they need to be out front, it might not be possible to pass in time. As far as I'm concerned the experienced rider goes first to show the way, except for specific training maneuvers where you might say "okay, let me watch you do this...."
  13. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

    Nov 19, 2005
    right here on my thermarest
    It doesn't sound like it is reasonably safe for her to continue riding. That's perplexing.
  14. ntm1973

    ntm1973 Been here awhile

    Mar 7, 2012

    Your wife sounds like a trooper. She may not be cut out for motorcycles but you gotta give her credit for trying. I think this is a tough sport to pick up later in life, especially if you don't have a backround on two wheels.

    Does your wife have a good basis on the fundamentals of clutch control, braking, etc? At what point did you know she was ready for the road?

    I only ask because my wife is trying to learn and making good progress but is in no way road ready yet. I followed her in the car (in case there was an emergency) to our practice spot and she was a little shaky but getting better.
  15. viverrid

    viverrid not dead yet

    Jan 26, 2004
    Western Mass
    I would be askeered to follow in a car, I could give no guidance by example as to what speed she should use or line she should take, and I might run her over if she took a surprise biff.

    I route us for where there are lightly traveled dirt roads connected by as few paved roads as possible. She does okay in a practice exercice but blows it in actual riding. I don't think she would learn by continuing to circle the school parking lot. It's like you can hit all the balls you want on the driving range, but you have to actually get out on a golf course sometime.

    I would like to teach her on trail, but the trails here are too rough and technical. So we use the dirt roads. She has a dirt road loop from our house that she can ride by herself but how much is she going to learn by continuing to circle the same loop.

    She has very little mechanical ability (like, can't figure out how to use Vise-Grip pliers) and somehow this seems to translate into difficulty operating a motorcycle. She also has an awful time trying to latch down her Givi topcase. Will try it incorrectly the exact same way 20 times in a row.
  16. flying_junk

    flying_junk Adventurer

    Aug 29, 2011
    S.W. Florida
    Obviously the two of you have known each other for a while. Her riding behavior probably could have been predicted by the way the relationship was handled before.

    The question I would like to ask is, do you usually tend to do something for her when she thinks she is incapable of doing it, or when you feel that she needs help?

    Because it looks to me as if she is always waiting for you to help her or assist her in some way. That is a learned behavior. I could be wrong in my assumption but that's why I ask.

    Also, for her to be successfull at this, it will take work and effort. I believe she feels that she is somehow entitled to be a master at riding a motorcycle, and hasn't put in quite the effort. Think about how long it has taken you to master the kinds of trails you ride, or the style you have. The little mistakes you have to pay attention to, and correct for next time. From reading this, I feel as if she isn't the type of person who enjoys focusing, learning, and adjusting all silmultaneously. Not saying that she shouldn't ride, but definitely something to consider while going out and sitting on a machine that will go 60 or 70 + mph.
  17. woofer2609

    woofer2609 Been here awhile

    Sep 7, 2011
    Extreme Pacific SouthWest (of Canada)
    I just took my wife out tonight to see if she liked riding; that way I can ride to a friends place for dinner and have a beer or two, and she rides home, or whatever:D. I trust her completely, as I know how she drives, and she is one of the few people I am relaxed with when sitting in the passenger seat. I think how a person drives will dictate a portion of how they ride. She used to ride 100cc scooters in Asia when she lived there, (not quite the same, but similar.) She's ridden Pillion for a few years, and is really comfortable riding bicycles in city traffic. When we first met, she hadn't rode a bicycle that much, while I try and ride half as many miles as we put on our truck each year. I didn't want to be the over bearing boyfriend who made it no fun for her. I did build her a bicycle up, and left it in the basement, ready to ride. Soon enough, she started riding it, and also we did as a couple, with the agreement that we meet at home if we're separated, and make phone contact if one person is home for 10 minutes before the other arrives. We have since gone on multi day bicycle/camping trips, and it has been really rewarding. Mountain biking, on the other hand...she just did not want to go there! Her words were "I think I talked too big!" about wanting to go. That's cool, I LOVE sharing certain things with my wife, but it just cannot always be. Actually, it's not completely cool, because I pretty much live for the singletrack, but there is so much that is right, that just like you, I'm willing to overlook it:norton In my experience, I have found that having women spend time doing these activities with other women is what gets them up to a level where they want to ride with their partner. Women seem to learn best from other women. Has she ridden with any women friends?
    Are there any female riders you know who would be willing to take her out?
    She was smiling from ear to ear after getting into second gear today, so that is a good sign. From here on in I said to her that I would rather she learn from professionals rather than me.
    For some of us riding is a past time, and for others it is the best thing on Earth. Keep us posted, it sounds like you are an extremely patient person.
    Do you go to Yoga with her, or do a lot of other things together?
  18. atomicalex

    atomicalex silly aluminum boxes

    May 21, 2012
    Detroit mostly
    Meh, she sounds like my husband. No mechanical ability at all, and even less foresight.

    Give her a break - congratulate her for her efforts and confine her to the parking lot for a while. Maybe another BRC when you aren't around to observe. Then make a decision. She's going to get herself hurt at this rate. :(
  19. WVhillbilly

    WVhillbilly Long timer

    Oct 20, 2010
    Sounds very much like my wife.
    She wanted to ride, I bought her a bike.

    Rode it once in a while for 2 years, usually following me.

    A rider was killed by a left of center SUV a few years ago about 5 miles from our house.

    Now she doesn't even want to ride with me unless we are on dirt roads.
    Selling her street bike, but now she thinks she wants a dirt bike.

    I honestly don't think she needs to be on a full size bike, as I fear she is going to badly hurt herself.

    I bought a scooter to ride around here in Miami because I got tired of trying to park a Silverado HD in the city.

    Took the scooter home a month or so back when I had to set up another job and when I came back here she kept my scooter :cry

    Rides it all over town, usually wide open (50cc) and loves it.

    Me, I don't understand. She said she would ride in a sidecar rig with me but when she rides on the street with me now she will not lean into a turn.
    Says it feels like we are going to fall over if she leans, so I lean and she tries to sit up straight.

    Told her she was going to get both of us hurt, so I ride alone now. It's faster that way :D
  20. Barry

    Barry Just Beastly

    Oct 4, 2002
    Fredericksburg, Va.

    I don't think bikes are for your wife, or possibly good for your wife. My wife is like that with mountain biking. Been riding waaaay over a decade. Still find her in a big gear on a hill, working harder than she needs to. Me "why are you in big chainring"? Her "I don't know".