Tackling The Fear Of Riding A Motorcycle
Updated: Feb 12, 2021
I’ve loved being on two wheels for just about as long as I can remember. As a child I spent my summers riding up and down the streets surrounding my house, I rode my bicycle to and from school every day and I can even remember cycling to one of my first jobs as a teenager. It seemed only natural that as soon as I turned seventeen I would want a motorcycle, and I did.
What actually happened? I didn’t learn how to ride a motorcycle until ten years later. Now, there are a couple of reasons why I didn’t do it sooner. I moved away to go to university at eighteen and lived in a city centre where everything was within walking distance, plus I didn’t always have a consistent income. However the main thing that prevented me from doing this earlier was the fear.
The idea of riding a motorcycle was scary, so I parked the thought in the back of my mind and convinced myself that I was never going to do it. I was mostly afraid of getting into an accident or losing control of the bike (but I also don’t drive and don't know anyone that rides either so this only added to my anxiety) but the fear of riding a motorcycle is actually pretty rational if you think about it.
When driving a car you’re protected by a metal cage (and a bunch of other safety features like airbags and seatbelts) however on a motorcycle you are just inches away from the road with only your clothes and helmet to protect you. I don’t know if any of you remember the old ‘THINK BIKE’ ad campaign that used to be on the telly a few years ago, but that scared the hell out of me. For those that aren’t familiar it shows a car driver pulling up to a junction, they look both ways and it seems clear so they start to pull out but at the last second a motorcyclist crashes through the driver’s window at high speed. That one still makes my stomach drop even when I watch it now.
Unfortunately the reality is that motorcycling is statistically more dangerous when compared to using other road vehicles. Accidents happen and sadly these sometimes cost riders their lives so it’s totally normal if you’re feeling fearful about learning to ride a motorcycle. It’s also true that friends and family (mums in particular) might tell you that motorcycles are death traps and you’d be mad to consider owning one yourself. So what changed for me and why did I finally decide to tackle my fear?
(This might get a little personal here but in the name of encouraging others I’ll happily embarrass myself so here we go!)
Back in 2019 I started watching ‘Ride with Norman Reedus’ (it’s still available on Prime by the way and I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it already). I turned on the first episode and was thoroughly enjoying it, but as I watched Norman riding along the breath-taking cliffs of the Pacific Coast Highway in California my eyes began to well up and I felt a sudden wave of sadness wash over me as I realised that I’m never going to experience that.
This wasn’t the first time I’d felt like this, there were plenty of moments in the past where I’d seen a biker pass me on the road or watched people on TV doing amazing road trips on two wheels and wished it was me but it had never brought me to tears before. I guess I’d reached a point where I felt that if I didn’t learn how to ride soon I would never get to experience all of these incredible things that I’d dreamt of for the last 10 years. Luckily that moment was the boot up the backside that I needed and there was no way in my mind that I was going to let another decade go without doing this, so I changed my mindset from ‘I’m never going to do this’ to 'I WILL do this!’
Although I was excited to learn I still had some fears about riding and I'd never actually been on a motorcycle before (besides from riding on the back of my dad’s bike a few times as a child) so a couple of weeks later I went to my first lesson. If I could give you only one piece of advice about tackling the fear of riding it would be to go for a lesson at a reputable riding school. Don’t be tempted to let your friend with a bike show you how to ride as you could end up damaging their bike or worse hurting yourself or someone else, and if that happens it might put you off getting back on a motorcycle ever again.
If you go to a riding school for a lesson you’ll be in a safe environment with an instructor that’s going to look after you. You’ll be able to ride in an enclosed space so you won’t be putting any other road users at risk, plus you’ll be learning from a professional and experienced instructor that’ll teach you how a motorcycle actually works. You can make all of the mistakes that new riders make without any of the potentially disastrous consequences. I went to a school for a two hour session that cost £60 and after the first hour I was already riding round in circles, changing gears and having the time of my life (honestly my cheeks hurt afterwards from smiling so much).
The other thing I would encourage you to do is to educate yourself about bike safety. What’s the single biggest cause of motorcycle deaths? Being under the influence of alcohol. The point I’m trying to make here is that many of the accidents and injuries that happen to motorcyclists can be avoided. Practice wearing ATGATT (all the gear all the time), buy a bike that isn’t too powerful for your skill level, stick to speed limits, don't drink and ride, avoid popping wheelies and practice as much as you can. Heck, I even bought my own set of plastic cones so I could improve my slow speed manoeuvring.
The feeling of riding a motorcycle is so freeing. Its like pure, unfiltered happiness and until you’ve experienced it there’s really nothing you can compare it to. I don’t have any female friends who ride, but I’ve met countless women who tell me they’d love to learn but are too scared or don’t think they’d be able to do it and this was a huge driving point for me in starting this blog. Yes, there are going to be challenging times, you might drop your bike or even fall off a few times but that’s all part of the learning process.
I want other women to have the confidence to go out and learn how to ride and if you’re reading this and have been considering it for a while but are holding back because of the fear you should definitely try to overcome it. Honestly the only regret I have is not doing it sooner, maybe if I had done I would have had the chance to ride the pacific coast highway already. Luckily for me it’s not too late, and now I’m working towards making that dream a reality. So go on, book that lesson girl! What’s the worst that could happen?
As usual, any questions comments or suggestions I would love to hear so please leave a comment below. Keep safe and happy riding!