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When we first moved to North Carolina and I discovered the cliffs at Pilot Mountain, it was like a brand-new, beautifully decorated package had been presented as a gift for me to slowly open at my own pace. At first, every time I approached one of the cliffs, my tummy would get that funny tickling sensation that lets you know you should be wary of what you are attempting. I perceive it as a healthy sense of fear that keeps you from being foolish, mixed with a quivering sense of excitement over meeting a new challenge.

Rappelling down the cliffs helped with familiarity and the sense that I could manage them in controlled circumstances. Finding secluded niches of my own where no one could disturb me was ample incentive to explore and step beyond my comfort zone by climbing out on one. Sitting with my feet dangling over the edge was at first a cause for tummy tickles, too. But the sense of freedom and the magnificently encompassing views afforded me from my perches quickly quieted any sense of hesitancy. I didnt even notice the exact point when hiking along the cliffs became comfortable and something I just did.

Barbara Edlen in the mountains of western North Carolina. She says riding a motorcycle gives her the same sense of excitement and trepidation as hiking these mountain cliffs.

Now, as I learn to handle my motorcycle, I am experiencing the tummy tickle sensation all over again. First, it was about getting down the steep, curvy driveway without tipping over and looking like an idiot—which I didnt. Oh no, I didnt tip it over until I was down the road in a neighbors driveway (stopped, mind you) and trying to turn around. Thats when I learned that I cant hold up 545 pounds of motorcycle and try to make a turn. While going uphill. On gravel. Sigh.

I learned a couple more salient facts that day. Gravel is tough to turn a motorcycle on, especially when you are just learning how to handle your new bike. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I also learned that there are definite reasons for wearing safety gear. Boots with more traction make a huge difference. Trying to handle all 545 pounds of my bike on a hill is not a wise move, because gravity is not my friend. Now when I need to turn around while stopped, I contemplate my moves ahead of time. Where you look is indeed where your bike goes. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation instructors repeated that a gazillion times for a very good reason.

The local mountain roads are proving to be a great teaching arena and a lot of fun. On my first day, I kept practicing circles and figure eights in a local church parking lot, as well as my “quick stops.” I was making myself nuts trying to master all the slow-speed stuff, which is lots harder because motorcycles arent intended to go only 5 or 10 mph. Then I was talking to my neighbor (who is letting me park my bike in his shop, as its been kept inside before and God knows I dont want it to get cold or wet!). He told me I was thinking too hard and practicing too much and to just go out on the road and have fun.

So thats what Ive been doing.

Barbara all geared up on her Honda Shadow.

The past few months have been an exhilarating joy and have confirmed why Ive wanted a bike for what feels like forever. I love it! I love the feel of taking a tight curve just right and the feel of my weight shifting down into my seat as I throttle up through the end of the curve. I smile so much when I downshift and hear the engine rumble like a big sleek cat. Riding up 209 from Fines Creek, where I live, on the way to Hot Springs was a major accomplishment. With 234 twists, turns and curves, it was an intrepidly fun challenge, and I was beaming with pride when I made it to my destination.

There are risks with just about anything—and with most things I am interested in, it seems. I just try to keep it all as manageable and as safe as I can and still not lose the tummy tickle, the shivery sense of excitement that means something amazing is on my horizon.

“When its over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement
I dont want to end up simply having visited this world.”
– Mary Oliver

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12 thoughts on Reader Story: Learning to Ride with the Tummy Tickles

  1. Nice article. I enjoyed reading about your love of riding. I live in Hendersonville but I just happened to be in Hot Springs yesterday. I ride alone most of the time, well, me and my dog. If you would be interested in riding sometime drop me a line.

    1. Hi Angela,I see in your comments to this and another reader story that you’re trying to connect with the authors of these stories. These are older stories so I’m not sure if the authors of these stories will see your request. The best place on Women Riders Now to reach out to other riders in your area is the WRN Forum. I encourage you to sign up and start postinga about meeting other riders in your area. Good luck.

  2. I’m with Amber – getting ready to buy my first bike and I’m scared and thrilled! This article made me feel a little less fear.

  3. Love your story. It’s good to know that those kind of feelings are normal and a good thing. Thanks

  4. When I saw the tummy tickles, I thought, that’s what I felt when I started riding, but never could come up with a name for it. Actually, the tickles sometimes went through my whole body. I started riding when I was almost 53 years old and and now 62 and still love it. I don’t ever want to give it up. I too, had a Honda Shadow Spirit 750 as my fourth bike, but when it didn’t have enough power to keep up with my husband’s Harley, I traded my beloved Honda in on a Harley-Davidson Nightster 1200. Being so short didn’t leave many options for the kind of bike I could get that had more power. I love seeing women out on bikes and have seen a dramatic increase in women riders since I started riding. So all you women out there who want to ride, get out and do it. If I could learn at 52, anyone can. Just beware of those tummy tickles because it’s excitement that you’re on your own bike and a healthy fear to go with that excitement.

  5. Your story touched my heart in many ways. I too own a Shadow and recently purchased a Cam-Am Spyder. So, whether I’m on two or three wheels, I feel the same way each time I go for a ride. I hope that I never really lose the tummy tickles. They make the ride worth it!

  6. Thankful to hear that this is a normal feeling. I am looking to buy my first bike and I am just as scared as I am thrilled. But to hear stories from other women, helps so much. To all my sisters…ride baby ride!

  7. OMG… I have recently learned to ride and getting ready to get a bigger bike, boy am I nervous, but back to topic. I never understood what the tummy tickle was until I read your story. I get it every time. I just thought something was weird with me, or nerves, but to hear others get that too makes me smile. I am upgrading from a Honda 250 Rebel to a Suzuki C50 Boulevard. Nice story!

  8. Great article. I remember getting that tightness in my tummy when I first learned to ride. North Carolina mountains are a challenge and I admire her for her courage.

  9. I really enjoyed this article. I plan to share it with other female motorcycle enthusiasts. I still get the tummy tickle. Love my bike and the open and curvy road.

  10. Wonderful article written by a wonderful person. Thank you for putting this online

  11. I think this is a great article. It really shows your appitude for writing.

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