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1. When you want to do something, dive right in without thinking.
I was waiting tables outside in the East End of Portland when I saw them. Five extremely beautiful women maneuvering a bright purple Yamaha and a sexy black Honda Rebel with an attached sidecar into one parking spot just five feet away from where I stood on the sidewalk. They were laughing and beautifully-sunbleached-hair-tousling as they took off their retro chic helmets and strutted into the restaurant. As the door shut behind them, one man on the patio said what we were all thinking, “DAMN!”
Three weeks later I was hoisting my leg over a 2004 Honda CRF150f that I had tracked down in Auburn, Maine. My toes barely hit the ground and I could feel all 240 pounds of the machine sitting awkwardly underneath me.
“Ya look real cute on her!” offered the man trying to sell me the thing. He was standing on the sidewalk with his big arms crossed over his big chest, wearing a United Steelworkers sweatshirt. His two preteen sons stood silently by his side. “Should we load her up or what?” he asked.
As I shut the truck door and rolled down the window to wave goodbye I heard him yell, “When you’re done with this one, get yourself a Harley!”
2. Learning something new is not easy.
Kick-starting a dirt bike that you can barely sit on is difficult. Kick-starting a dirt bike that has been sitting in a garage all winter is even more difficult.
I definitely cried a little bit. I felt stupid because I was wearing a brand new Honda sweatshirt and I couldn’t even start my Honda that I had withdrawn from my savings account to buy. And I’m 25 years old and can barely afford to shave my legs.
I blamed it on the boots I was wearing (totally unrelated). I jumped way too hard in frustration and the bike fell on me, and pinned me awkwardly against a wheelbarrow, and I had to yell for help.
Basically, I acted like a huge pussy.
But after two days and maybe 267 kicks, I got her started. (Then I cried again because I was pissed it took me that long. And I didn’t even feel like riding anymore.)
3. Don’t confuse things for things that they are not.
Do not confuse a clutch lever for a front brake lever. A clutch lever is never going to be a front brake lever no matter how much you want it to change.
4. Always be prepared.
Get everything you need to give yourself confidence. The triple-certified helmet. The new tires. The extra clutch levers. What’s that kid got on? Fucking badass-looking boots? Get the badass-looking boots.
5. Don’t pay other people to do your dirty work.
Because literally thousands of single teenage boys who haven’t gotten laid yet are on YouTube. And they have spent their quality time making detailed how-to videos on oil changes so you don’t have to walk into a motor sports shop and ask, “What is oil?”
If you’re going to ride a machine, learn how that machine works or it will ride you.
6. Power is a beautiful and addicting thing.
Once you taste a little bit, you’re going to want more. And dirt bikes are a gateway drug.
You can start small, but don’t start too small. If you’re like me, and you can see yourself absolutely killing it on a 1968 Bonneville T120R in a few years, then start on something you can grow into. (Even if it takes you two days to start it and an entire month to get it into third gear.)
7. You are going to fall.
There are two types of people in this world, those who have gone down and those who are going down.
8. Don’t envy a badass. Be a badass.
When I stood on the sidewalk in a mustard-stained white apron and evidence of a keg-explosion splattered all over my chest, I was almost pissed when those women walked by me. Some cynical, bitchy, scared part of me was a little bit angry that women that tragically hip even existed.
So I took a leap. And I can tell you from experience, coveting a 249cc engine in the parking lot is nothing compared to strapping one between your thighs.