Beginners Guide: Just Do It!

Getting over your fears and in on the fun

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor

“It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made,” Barbara Schmitt says about finally walking into the dealership and buying the used Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider shed had her eye on for two months. The decision was particularly meaningful to the 41-year-old who was still reeling from the devastation of the breakup of her four-year marriage. “Going through a divorce, you lose a lot of your self confidence. I think it says a lot just being able to have the strength and the courage to make a decision like that, to follow through with it, and to just get out and do it.”

Breast cancer and a divorce didn’t stop these women from getting in the front seat of a motorcycle.

This Colorado Springs, Colo., resident discovered motorcycling when her husband decided he wanted to own a Harley-Davidson. She became very comfortable on the passenger seat. When they got divorced, Barbara realized she didn’t want to stop riding. “I was hanging up my motorcycle jacket, and I was thinking how sad it was that I would have to give up being on the back of a motorcycle just because I got divorced. I started reflecting on things that I liked about being on the back of a motorcycle and decided there is absolutely no reason I have to give that up.”

beginners guide just do it barbara schmitt
Barbara Schmitt proudly shows off her first motorcycle, a Harley-Davidson Dyna Low Rider. “Riding gives you freedom. It lets you express yourself. I feel like I’m in control of this bike. I may not be in control of a lot of other things in my life, but being on this bike, I’m in control.”

So shortly after her divorce, Barbara, who works as an executive administrative assistant, got her motorcycle license and bought her first bike, the Dyna. “I’m pretty independent, but I had lost so much joy when I lost my marriage. Now the motorcycle has brought a lot of that joy back into my life.”

Assessing her desires and taking charge of them are what pushed Erin Muellenberg to sign up for the motorcycle safety training course and buy her first bike. This 50-year-old from Santa Ana, Calif., was hit with breast cancer and a divorce at the same time a few years ago. “Going through recovery from that, I reassessed my entire life. I was looking to start new things in my life.”

beginners guide just do it kawasaki ex500
Erin Muellenberg on her first bike, a Kawasaki EX500. “For me, the bike gives me indefinable focus. When you’re riding, you’re not allowed to think about anything other than what you’re doing, and that’s refreshing. When you’re done, you realize you put aside everything else. It really does help me when I do the rest of my job and go about dealing with other things.”

A close friend gave Erin a book to read. It was called “The Perfect Vehicle: What Is It About Motorcycles?” by Melissa Holbrook Pierson and explored a woman’s relationship with her motorcycle. “I thought it was an incredible story.” Erin, a health-care lawyer, says she then picked up a couple of motorcycle-focused magazines, including Woman Rider magazine, the predecessor to She remembers, “I thought this was kind of a neat thing.”

Erin’s decision to ride had her coming full circle on a seed that was planted years ago when she was working as a police officer. “I rode on the back of Harleys, so it was something I always wanted to do. Now here I was about to turn 50 and finding out that motorcycling is just wonderful. It is something I needed to accomplish for me.”

Full Steam Ahead
Erin and Barbara did not let life’s roadblocks stop them from pursuing the goal to ride. Too many times, women find all sorts of reasons not to hop in the saddle of their own bike.

The first reason we procrastinate is time.

Going through the motorcycle training class and shopping for a first bike does take a fair amount of time, and some women say they don’t have those precious hours in the day to devote to the process. The question is, how much do you want to ride your own motorcycle?

The second reason women procrastinate is money.

Unless you have a lot of disposable income, it can be hard to justify the expense of what some consider a luxury item. Most women riders’ response to that excuse is, “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Read more about common obstacles to becoming a motorcycle rider and how you can overcome them.

Click the photos above to read stories from women riders who have tackled common mental roadblocks to becoming a motorcycle rider.

Learning from a Veteran
Anne and Barbara joined their local Ladies of Harley group to meet other women riders and learn from them. “To me it’s made a huge difference,” says Barbara of her outings with more advanced motorcyclists. “I found myself getting into situations where I didn’t know what to do, like I’m facing downhill and I need to make a right turn. Just having someone there saying ‘OK, here’s how you’re going to turn into this driveway,’ is great.” She adds, “They bring an awareness you don’t naturally have being a new rider.”

Helene Hodge has been riding for 15 years. As someone who gets paid to ride a bike, Helene is put into situations on movie sets, commercial sets and photo shoots where she may be riding next to someone with less seat time than she has. For example, when once asked to ride for a photo shoot for Woman Rider magazine, Helene rode next to Erin, a less experienced motorcyclist who’d never even been on a cruiser-style bike before. Helene took the time to counsel Erin on the nuances of riding in front of a camera.

beginners guide just do it Helene Hodge
Longtime rider Helene Hodge of Los Angeles with her Harley-Davidson Springer Softail and her BMW R 1200 C Cruiser. “An experienced rider can give the new rider a valuable peek into the world where traffic situations, weather and road circumstance, bike performance, and unpredictable events jump into the path of your two wheels,” she says.

Out in the real world of riding, a more seasoned rider can share so much with a beginner. “A veteran can be a window into the fulfillment and satisfaction that comes with time,” Helene says. “Every longtime rider loves to pass down advice learned the hard way.”

Erin was grateful of the experience gained from being part of the photo shoot. She says she’s found that the community of women is one of sharing. “Helene is very much like the other women that I have met that ride—supportive, caring and wonderful.”

Staking a claim in the motorcycle world means staking a claim in a community of motorcyclists who will become friends, mentors and confidantes. Not everyone has the wherewithal to put aside life’s obstacles and follow through with getting properly trained to ride and purchase a motorcycle. Those who do are rewarded for life.   

Looking for more information on how to get started? Return to the Where Do I Start? section of the WRN Beginner’s Guide.

Related Articles
List of Women’s Motorcycling Clubs
Beginner’s Guide: Common Obstacles and How to Overcome Them
Beginner’s Guide: 10 Steps to Becoming a Motorcycle Rider

11 thoughts on Beginners Guide: Just Do It!

  1. I am a new rider. I took the MSF class 3 years ago so I could have my license for my 50th birthday. My husband at the time was against my riding (unless I was on the back of his) and would not let me ride after I got my license. I have been divorced 7 months now and have been out on the 650 Yamaha cruiser once on my own. I recently purchased a Suzuki dual-sport to practice with a month ago.I can relate to another comment that when I’m on the bike that is where my whole focus has to be. Everything else fades away. I love the confidence riding gives me. I still have to “talk myself up” before going out for a ride, but the joy I feel during and after is unbeatable. I am in a very rural area and am looking for a riding buddy or group to ride with.

  2. I’m so glad I read this article. I’m 50 years old and have been riding as a passenger with my husband for about nine years now. For the last few years I have thought about getting my own and learning to ride. Well, I finally did it! I got my own last week. Of course now all of the nervousness, doubts, and concerns have started to kick in, especially the fact that I’m 50 and never ridden before, and if I can really do this. But I’m taking the training course next month and so far my husband has been a wonderful mentor. I just hope I am able to do it!

  3. I love this article and hearing their stories. I began to ride after my divorce and my kids were grown up. This has been a secret passion of mine for so long and now I’m living life. I went to through the class and felt so good about everything. Then got my own bike with my own funds as I am a financial consultant. I have no one to thank for my happiness but myself and my bike. My first bike was a Suzuki Savage 650 and now I have a Honda Shadow 1100. I would not change a thing. Go for it you strong independent women!

  4. I’m a new rider. I’ve bought my dream bike, taken lessons, and have gotten my license but I still need to practice and don’t want to do it alone or pay for private lessons. Are there any new rider groups in the Long Island, New York area that you know of?

  5. Barbara’s story is almost exactly as mine. I have always loved motorcycles and one of my bucket list items was to own a Harley. I wanted the Harley-Davidson 100th anniversary bike so when I got married in 2011 instead of an engagement ring I got a 100th anniversary Dyna Wide Glide. Well the marriage was a mistake, I got divorced and ended up paying for the bike myself, but now it’s all mine but because of a lower back spine surgery in June 2014 an now a cervical spine surgery this month has kept me off my bike. It’s been sitting in my garage teasing me for a year now but one way or another I’m getting back on it! I’ve had to have friends come and ride the bike for me but that will stop soon I pray!

  6. Very encouraging! “JUST DO IT.” There actually is nothing that compares to the two-wheel ride! I dirt bike and street bike and love them both! My greatest joy is using my dirt bike on mountain trails.

  7. I bought my bike two years ago and was scared at first. I have slowly got to the point of not being so scared and I have basically went ahead and went riding despite what I felt. I even laid it over one day and got some road burn but climbed right back on. That was last summer. I’ve now been riding several hundred miles since. Just do it!

  8. Encouraging articles that make you feel like maybe it’s not a crazy idea.

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