Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dirt 'n dust


Bungee jumping, sky diving, rally driving and motorcross all have one thing in common; they are sports invented by and for, absolute thrill seekers, speed freaks and fanatics. I am no such individual, not by a long shot. I am a serene-please type of person. Thus my decision to learn how to ride a motorcross bike took everyone, including myself, by surprise; a premeditated choice - I was to participate of my own free will, my own motivation - very empowering stuff.

My first lesson was a far cry from fabulous. You forget that you’re a beginner, so you get the ugly bike. No stickers, one colour, ugly pads. The kit is worse. It’s scratchy and itches beyond comprehension. It’s also been on a zillion other people before you – gross – but don’t think that your complaints will get you anywhere, you’ll receive a fast “It’s a good idea not to p**s off your instructor” in response.

Once you’re adorned in a shirt, pants, elbow guards, knee protectors, kidney belt, chest protector, boots, gloves and a helmet, you’re ready to go. Well, just barely because the kit feels as though you’ve been squeezed into too many layers of ‘uncomfortable’ to even move properly. The helmet is hot and heavy and it makes your head bob all over the place.

The lesson itself is fun; a series of steps that eventually have you feeling confident about the new contraption you’re seated on. I received a break down of what was where and how it worked with special attention paid to the ‘red button’; the life saver in panic-stricken situations – it cuts the engine. I rode behind the instructor, getting a feel for gear changes, brake strength and so on. When the instructor was happy with his explanations, it was my turn to mount the steed, nauseated at the idea that I was to get the engine going. To my relief, I was told “Not yet; respect the bike or eat dirt”. Uh, OK, wouldn’t want that. Honest.

To the amusement of everyone present I was then ‘pushed’ around the track, my instructor panting behind me. I had to get comfortable with the bike. Finally the time came for me to start up the engine. “Pull out the kickstart and get the bike going”. Not quite as easy as said. After what seemed like forever, the bike kicked to life and my leg, to death; I had to lift my leg over the bike with my arms because it was incapable of moving on its own.

With the bike rattling away beneath me, I started to get excited. My stomach started swirling around a little and then, I became utterly calm; not at all how I had imagined my reaction to pan out. I felt prepared, yet anxious at the idea that I was about to pull off on a two-wheeled monstrosity put on earth only to paralyze people, all by myself.

I put the bike into first gear and slowly started moving away. I made it up to third gear and about 40km/h. The gears were difficult, having to remember which one you’re in, whether or not you should press that ‘red button’ to save your life before nearing certain death. I managed to move around the small beginners track and circled round to gear down and come to a stop at my instructor’s feet, his face contorted in confusion. “You didn’t stall” he said to me. “Why, was I supposed to?” I replied. “Well”, he shrugged, his mechanic assistant nodding in agreement, “You’re a girl”.

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