My name is Julie Elliott, AKA Jules. First if all, let me give you a little bit of my background information, so you can get a good picture of what this experience was like for me. I am originally from Anderson, Indiana a fairly small city just northeast of Indianapolis, population about 60,000. The average high temperature in December is about 24 degrees. Some people get used to being in cold weather, however my opinion is, you can either handle the cold, or you cannot. I never built a tolerance to the cold. I am a total wimp! I moved to New Mexico about 3 ½ years ago for the warmer climate, among other things.
I landed the opportunity of a lifetime when I took this job for Quick Throttle. Who wouldn’t LOVE to get paid to ride? Although I have been in the Biker lifestyle since I was a teenager, I never got my endorsement. I even had a friend in Indianapolis buy me a used Fat Boy & had it painted purple (my favorite color), but I still never got my endorsement. I needed to change that! I was determined to be ready for riding season in the spring, so that I could attend all the upcoming Bike Events in New Mexico & cover as many stories as possible.
I was so anxious to get started; I contacted the New Mexico Motorcycle Safety Foundation & enrolled in the first available Basic Rider Course. The class began in the middle of December 2008. The first day was in the classroom and within the first 2 hours, it began to snow. I knew that no matter how cold it got, I was determined to finish the course.
I was a bit anxious about day two knowing there were several inches of snow on the ground; yet I was still determined to attend all classes. I do have to admit I was extremely relieved when our instructor called and said that day was cancelled. Day three I bundled up in my chaps & was ready for anything. The sun was shining and it got up to 54 degrees that morning, so we stayed as long as possible for everyone in order to make up for lost time. The instructors were excellent at giving everyone constructive feedback as well as the perfect amount of praise, allowing us all to feel as comfortable as possible. One phrase that stuck in my head throughout the class was “Respect the Bike, don’t fear it”. I will live by that!
The next day was quite a different story! After the first couple of hours, it began to pour down rain. We used that opportunity to take the written test under the canopy & in our cars. That day was finished directly after completing the test. The MSF offers an online practice test to help you prepare for the written test, & I took total advantage of that. I actually scored 100%. Reading the material helps as well.
The big day was finally here, & the temperature had dropped overnight. The mountains were covered with snow as well as clouds, looking like more snow in the forecast. The temperature was 28 degrees on my way to the course & I was not looking forward to this day at all. I wore 2 pair of gloves as well as all my leather gear. I was still freezing! We still had several lessons to cover before taking the skills test. Every 45 minutes or so, we were given the opportunity to warm up in our cars before the next lesson. I felt as though my fingers could literally snap right off. I was in so much pain throughout the morning that it made it somewhat difficult to control the hand gears! I was rather nervous about taking the test in these conditions, so I just kept praying for help to get through this ordeal. Remember, I don’t tolerate the cold weather! There were moments I actually considered waiting for warmer weather to finish the course. But my determination grabbed me by the gut and made me persevere.
The moment was finally here; The TEST! I decided to peel off one pair of gloves in order to control the hand gears more efficiently. Although my hands were frozen stiff, one pair of gloves made all the difference in the world! I could feel the ease of the gears in my fingertips as though I had been doing it for a lifetime.
There are several exercises included in the skills test. We began with the U-Turn Box, similar to the figure 8. I was sure that this was going to be the most challenging of all the exercises. The instructors informed us just before the test that this exercise counted the least. That definitely eased my mind. With all the adrenaline flowing throw my veins, the cold no longer made a difference. All that was on my mind was riding through the course with no thought of it being a TEST. I actually made it through with no mistakes! That raised my level of confidence tremendously!
Part 2 of the test was swerving around an obstacle followed by a quick stop. In this part of the test they observe timing as well as distance it takes to make the stop. I thought that part was pretty simple, so I was even more confident about the next phase. This was the part of the test that I thought would be the easiest. They watch & listen as you approach a curve. They are watching to see if you brake at the right moment, accelerate at the right moment & they also time you to be sure you’re not going too fast or slow through the curve. This is the most important part of the test because, crash studies show that running off the road, usually in a curve, accounts for about 37% of total motorcycle fatalities. This is the primary situation in which motorcycles have single-vehicle crashes. Well, that would explain the importance of this phase! I made the mistake of looking at the instructor as I approached the curve & proceeded to round the curve too slowly. I guess that wasn’t the easiest part of the test! I still passed the test with the 2nd highest score in the class. No offense to the men out there, but it seems that women make better students.
I’m not saying we ride better; just make better students. The top 3 scores in the class were achieved by the LADIES!
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation also offers experienced rider courses for those of you who just want to become more comfortable riding alone or with a passenger! I think I may take that course when it warms up a bit.
I am happy to announce that I am now endorsed in the state of New Mexico & ready to bring you all the exciting stories about our New Mexico Bikers! This just goes to show you that if you really want something bad enough; with that determination, you can accomplish anything, anytime. I can now finally do what I’ve dreamed about since I moved to New Mexico; Ride through the desert & mountains with the warm wind blowing in my face, in my own world, feeling free as a bird! Ride Safe!!!