Sunday, August 7, 2011

The benefit of experience

I am fond of saying that experience is what you get, when you were expecting something else.

In many ways I have gotten what I expected back when I set out on my scooter commuting adventure last year.  But I have also gotten more than I bargained for, much more.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the more you do something, the better you get at it.

Riding is no exception.

My Vespa LX 150 motor scooter hasn't changed much since the day I got it, at least not in any way that relates to its performance.  It doesn't go any faster, or handle differently.

I have changed as a rider though.  Seven thousand-plus miles on two scooter-wheels changed me.

Looking back, it is easy for me to see how I have changed.

I am more confident now.

There are things that I can do more automatically.  I mean that I can do them with less deliberate thought.  Some are simple things like turning on or cancelling my turn signals, or being able to find the horn button in an instant, or routinely using the kill switch to turn off the motor.

Some things that I do routinely require more skill and knowledge.  Counter steering to get just the right lean and keep the bike on a safe arc while accelerating into a sweeping turn at higher speed, for instance.  Or slow speed sharp turns at intersections.  Last year I remember writing that those turns were always awkward and unsettling (click here).  Now I often handle those turns decently, and sometimes elegantly, which actually makes me grin with satisfaction inside my helmet when I feel the bike swooping through a slow sharp turn, both feet on the floor, with no fear that I might lose my balance and drop the bike.  Properly done, it's like a controlled fall into the turn, using the throttle to generate the centrifugal force that counteracts the fall and eventually rights the bike.

I am comfortable now on all city streets.  I know that I can safely travel in any lane, on any street I choose.  There was a time in the early days of my scooter commuting that I felt safest only in the "slow" lane.

The most recent step in my education has been expressway travel.  The first time I ventured onto a limited access roadway, the forces exerted by the wind at higher speeds were quite unexpected and took some time to get used to.  Today, I know that I can take an expressway without anxiety or discomfort.

The art and science of learning how to ride, and ride well, is enough of a challenge for me that it adds a new dimension to my life.  It is a source of pleasure and satisfaction, and gives me a feeling of real accomplishment.

In the end, the greatest pleasure is the feeling of freedom riding gives me.  As I improve as a rider, my horizons broaden.  I feel that I can go anywhere, at a moment's notice.  Trips that were once routine are now ripe with pleasure and adventure.

There is still much more to learn, many places I haven't been to that I need to visit on two wheels.

7 comments:

  1. I know what you mean, I've only been riding for six months and there is a huge difference from when I started. I have been riding on the back of my hubs motorcycle for 28 years and had the lean thing down and it felt so natural to be driving the scoot. I have had moments of fear, I used to have to really think through corners and s-curves, now I don't, I just do. Its cool when you get the rhythm down and starting figuring the riding out. I have been on vacation for almost 10 days and haven't ridden my scoot and miss it. I have been riding my bicycle a lot though. Its funny when I went for my first bike ride 8 days back I was subconsciously squeezing the grip where the throttle would be - lol. Glad your loving your scoot and enjoying life on it.

    PS today I went kayaking in Clayquot Sound only 2nd time in my life and I am hooked. It seems my scooer has turned me into a liver of life instead of a couch potato.

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  2. Dar: I saw your vacation pictures and loved them. It's nice that people share on their blogs. When I first heard of blogging, I thought that people had taken leave of their senses. Maybe we have. It seems right though.

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  3. I wholeheartedly agree! One has to grow a special Spidey sense for surviving the mayhem they call traffic on a vehicle that gets underestimated all the time.

    After 4 months commuting and almost 5,000 km I feel way more confident zipping through traffic, but still don't like speedways.

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  4. I am a new rider, still getting used to the bike. Due to some circumstances I had to upgrade from my Yamaha Zuma 125 to a Burgman 400.

    I know that I'll get used to the different size, the displacement. Yet I feel like I'm starting all over again, and looking forward to that adventure.

    Thank you for the wonderful writing and entertaining blog.

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  5. Robert, thanks for the encouragement, it's much appreciated. I think I'll soon be in the market for a Vespa GTS, hopefully a 300. Don't think I'll want to go bigger than that though. Be safe!

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  6. Thanks very much for this post. Very encouraging, and I think it makes everyone feel just a little less lonely :)

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    1. Liz that is so sweet. I'm impressed that you connected the dots between my recent comment on your blog and this post on mine.

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