Reader Story: In Need of Some Inspiring Words

The power to ride again

By Donna Guthrie, Jasper, Alabama

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I wish this story had a happy ending like so many others I read on here. This is where I look for encouragement. I, like many readers here, told my husband when he prepared to purchase his Harley-Davidson that I, too, wanted a Harley. In other words, dont expect me to ride on the back. The thought of back seat riding leaves me with a strong desire to stay home. The day of our Harley-Davidson purchases came and went. He loves his 2006 Dyna Low and I my 2006 1200L Sportster. I am 5 feet 4 inches and weigh 135 pounds. I took the Motorcycle Safety Course, beginner and advanced, and have logged more than 20,000 miles in three years. During this time I even managed to have shoulder surgery and a turned ankle.

Donna getting ready to head out on her 2006 Harley-Davidson 1200L Sportster.

We have burned up the highways from Key West, Florida, to the Blue Ridge Parkway, to the Great River Road as far north as Quincy, Illinois. Traveling with no reservations, a fully charged camera and an eagle eye for the next Waffle House, weve thoroughly enjoyed a new lifestyle. Our children being grown and totally dependent on themselves has allowed us to experience to the wide open road on our new bikes.

Donna touring through Nashville, Tennessee, on her way to the Natchez Trace Parkway.

My problem is, I have dropped my bike a few times at very slow speeds. It weighs 500 pounds and when it starts to go, its gone! I have read that if I build up my upper body strength I would have better control. I dont know that this is true for I have seen and heard of very strong men dropping their motorcycles. Their upper body strength could not keep that 500- to 750-pound bike from the force of gravity. I have also heard that my Sportster is top heavy and maybe I could lower it to have better control at slow speeds. And of course there is always practice, practice, practice.

Unfortunately, on our last trip to Blue Ridge, Georgia, I followed my husband through a stop sign with a roll. He didnt see the black SUV but I did. By instinct I turned my bike to the right but going only two or three miles an hour, down I went. Normally this would have been a small spill and I would have picked up my bike and gone on down the road. Unfortunately there was a curb to my right and my arm landed palm down with 500 pounds following! After that my crash bar kicked in. Only it was a little too late. My wrist was broken and almost three months later Im still sporting a plastic white removable cast removable so I can do my therapy and take showers.

Here she os packing for a trip to Mount Cheaha in Alabama.

I am not afraid to ride again but I do have a strong concern for my precious little arm. It likes to play the piano, type and write letters among many other things. My husband is concerned that spring will arrive and I wont ride. His first suggestion was to make my Sportster a three wheeler. After I balked at that he suggested lowering the bike. At this time I cant ride anything but spring is coming and I will heal. So Ill keep reading and searching for answers. Meanwhile, keep those letters coming, you never know when your story maybe just what someone else needs to hear.

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95 thoughts on Reader Story: In Need of Some Inspiring Words

  1. I just recently (last year) took the MSC at the local Harley-Davidson and shortly after my hubby bought my ’08 Kawasaki Vulcan 900 which seems to fit me perfectly. Right after the course, I practiced just the neighborhood. Not two blocks from my house I was practicing maneuvering the bike and while in a slow turn I made the mistake of front braking and went down. I had a small audience since all the neighbors were out enjoying the beautiful day so a couple of nice young men helped me get the bike back up. Now the dilemma: I have to ride the bike home. Very shaken and sore in the elbow and having to cart the broken mirror back home I decided it was now or never. I got it to start up and rode it home. The husband tells me that that was the best thing I could have had to do for it would have been very difficult to get back on if not right after the spill. Anyway, I’m telling you that today as a more confident rider and encourage you to go out there and ride. It’s what you wanted to do from the start. You won’t be sorry.

  2. Great comments gals. I, too, had a couple of bike drops, and the Deluxe was a winner. Awesome looking and so low, it is really easy to handle. I had a Corbin reach seat put on it and that actually stuffed me in a bit too close. I’m 5 feet 8 inches and 135 pounds. Got into touring with my hubby and moved on to a Street Glide, now on my third one. For long trips and keeping up with him, it’s zippy and comfortable, even with the stock seat. I added the forward reach bars and lots of motor work, so it’s a keeper!

  3. Donna,I too had a Sporty and found it to be more challenging than my Deluxe. I have put on about 7,000 miles on my bike and it’s a nice ride that handles good. However, I was traveling with about 200 other bikers; we were on our way to a funeral when suddenly traffic stopped on and several of us crashed our bikes on the freeway leaving me with a banged up bike, three broken ribs, collapsed lung, and a broken scapula. I didn’t hold up as well as the bike did but I’m here to say it has been repaired and I’m healing nicely. Honestly, that’s the name of the game for some, but I wouldn’t give up riding for anything. My bike has two guardian angels on the tank now to travel with me, we fly together. I tell everyone we are only traveling through in life so you might as well ride.

  4. Donna,

    I am another one of the many women that have written my comments to you; a 54-year-old, who had decided to get my own bike after 30 years of riding “bitch” as they say. I got a 05 HD 883 Sportster XL, and have gone down once since buying it. Yes, I was very scared and nervous to get back on her and ride again. But also very determined to overcome those feelings and get back out there and ride again. And I have come to terms with the bike, and have gotten back on, and have already ridden more than 300 miles much too early this year in an attempt to “get my grove back.”

    And why am I telling you all this? Because I wanted to tell you that my bike is the shortest, or lowest, Harley made. And it was made with women like you and I in mind. And that it is very manageable for us shorter women. Why did I dump the bike then, I'm sure you are wondering. Because I got too cocky and was going too fast with wet conditions on the road. And when I went to slow down to turn, I lost control and went down. It was more painful to watch my bike slide down the road on her side than it was with my minor injuries.

    Please look into the HD 883 XLs for a possible alternative to your bike. The XL stands for “extra low” for us height challenged women. And good luck to you, sister! I hope to see a follow up article on you in the near future on what you decided to do to be able to continue to ride along side your man, and not settle for just sitting behind him.

  5. I am glad everyone is or has healed from their spills. I have gone down once in a parking lot while trying to park. Got a few laughs from the patrons of Einstein's Bagels. I ride a Silver Wing Scooter which weighs 500 pounds and I am 5 feet 4 inches and about 250 but could not catch it! Although it was a minor incident it made me re-think its size and weight but I decided to keep on riding and work on building my confidence. Also did some research on other touring scooters; I love the lines, height and lightness of the Suzuki Burgman 400. After reading these articles though I am going to look into lowering my scoot and see how that works.

  6. Hi Donna,

    I just now read your article and really wanted to respond. I have only been riding for a year and a half. I have dropped by bike several times, and every time was in my gravel drive way going slowly to the garage. As I would turn to go into the garage it would start sliding downward and I couldn't hold it up. It was very frustrating. However, my worry isn't the dropping in the driveway, it is the sliding I always envision myself doing when I make a sharp turn, especially at a slow speed. I have tendency to look down, which I know is wrong, but I am looking for gravel, or anything that will cause me to slide. I'm not quiet at ease with my shifting from one gear to another when I do the turns, so I have so many things going through my head as I do the turn.

    I love to ride, and after 28 years riding on the back with my husband the freedom of having my own is wonderful. So all the suggestions that were offered for you I have taken to heart and hope to apply to my own experience of the ride. I would love to hear how you make out this season.

  7. Donna,

    When I started riding six years ago, my husband thought it would be great if I took his 1200 Sportster,. I think the intent was so he could get a new bike. When I rode it I knew I was not fit for this bike. It was way too top heavy for me and I am an avid weightlifter who can bench 100 pounds! So having upper body strength does not stop a bike that is going down. So seeing that I was not comfortable at all, we went out and I purchased a Honda 750 Shadow ACE. Itt was a great bike, but it had a few “downers” and still felt very top heavy.

    So after a few years of riding the Honda, I wanted to move up to ride a Harley, so I saw in the dealer showroom a Softail Deluxe. It was August 2005, and I fell in love with the color, Black Cherry. Well I knew I had to have that bike, even though I had not ridden it. I ended up purchasing it and I have got to say I have not looked back since that day. I am so comfortable on this bike, it practically stands by itself, it has a low center of gravity and it is such a dream to ride, cornering is effortless!

    The best part is that so far she has not gone down. We have had a few close calls but for the most part I was able to pull it back up. So for anyone looking for a nice ride that is easy to handle you should go demo a Deluxe. You will not regret it at all. The other bike that is similar and good as well is the Fat Boy, and this year they made a Fat Boy Lo. I have heard that is a nice bike for a women of smaller statue. Harley is finally starting to cater to women.

  8. Hi Donna,
    I hope you are healing well and not feeling as discouraged. I have only been riding for a few years, but I love riding and hope to be a MSF Rider Coach some day. I would encourage you, as Pam and some others have, to find a parking lot and practice using your friction zone. Certainly don't feel you have to start with your goal–which may be to make a perfect, slow, right turn—start where you are comfortable and gradually challenge yourself. I started out practicing the friction zone while riding straight lines, and gradually began to incorporate it on turns. (Which weren't tight at first, not at all.) It is amazing how much more control you will feel once you master this—and it's actually fun!

    I used to dread right turns, especially if there was any complicating factor like construction or lots of traffic, but now I actually kinda look forward to them, because with proper use of the friction zone and the rear brake, I now know I can put the bike right where I want to, at as slow a speed as I want. This is a great feeling, and I know you can have it, too. Parking lot time is key. I've probably put about 200 hours in, just practicing basics in parking lots. In fact, I just did an hour yesterday, because I've recently bought a new bike. (A Triumph Bonneville T100—my new love!)

    You can do this, girl, and lots of us are cheering for you.

  9. I ride a 2009 883L. I too am short so this bike is perfect as my feet are flat on the ground. I love my bike! Everyone tells me to get rid of it because it's top heavy. One day I wil,l but right now I am having a blast! Just got back from Daytona and in all that traffic had the best practice for using my friction zone.

  10. I'm going to be 60 years old next week and started riding when I was 56. My first bike was a Triumph Adventurer Triple 900. I did great in the parking lot while practicing but I lost count of how many times I dropped her once on the roads. Way to top heavy. I'm a strong woman with muscles that prevent me from wearing cute blouses cause the muscle gets in the way. So, believe me, top heavy is not the way to go.

    I traded the Triumph in for a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom. t sits so much lower. an't say as I haven't come close to dropping her a few times, but because she sits low, I haven't had any trouble pulling her back. I only dropped her once from a standing position because I wasn't paying attention and I was on an incline. I leaned into her and picked her right up again. I highly recommend the Riding Like a Pro. I still watch it over and over and over. The friction zone is everything. I absolutely love my Vulcan and though I get teased all the time by my H-D riding friends. I wouldn't trade my Vulcan beauty for anything. She fits me like a glove. I'm 5 feet 6 inches.

  11. Donna

    The first thing I'm gonna tell you is sell that bike. Sportsters suck! They are top heavy and ride awful on the highway, I didn't feel safe at all. I had one for my first bike and hated it. I thought I would never ride until a friend of my husbands let me ride his Low Rider. It was the best move I ever made. My husband kept on telling me the bigger the bike the easier it would handle and I didn't believe him. Boy was I wrong. I now ride an Electra Glide and although I am 5 feet 7 inches, a bit taller than you, I love it!. I do have a bit of a hard time backing it up but my husband is going to lower it this year. Good luck and keep on riding

  12. Donna,
    I also started out on a Low Sportster, and put 18,000 miles on her. I traded her in last July on a Heritage Softail Classic amd am here to tell you, she is easier to ride than the Sporty! The Heritage has a lower center of gravity, and even though she's 180 pounds heavier at 750 pounds, she turns easier and just seems easier for me to handle. A Deluxe is also very low, and I know lots of women who ride that bike. Keep up the good faith, and I hope you get back to riding soon.

  13. My problem has been with low speed turns on especially rough road conditions. I can't get my head around leaning into curves when traveling down the highway and leaning the opposite way when doing 180 degree turns. To top it off, I was turning off a highway, hit a hole, dumped my bike and dislocated my shoulder. I've been really defeated since then.

    Now cold weather has set in and I've been thinking maybe I need to get a “lighter” bike. My husband changed the gear ratio on my Kawasaki Vulcan 900 and I have a great Corbin seat which lowered my center of gravity. I've read several of Genevieve's articles about executing turns, that danged friction zone and the mental aspects of riding. I appreciate Donna's story and the comments of other riders. I don't feel like the lone female who's struggling to keep the shiny side up.

  14. First, I'd like to say that I hope you're doing better, Donna. I would like to reply to several posts that I read. I am a 55 year old, 5-feet 2-inch woman, and just got my motorcycle license in March after going through the MSF course. I had never ridden before. We bought a 2003 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500 before we got our licenses simply because we got a good deal on it and could flat-foot it. I wouldn't recommend doing it this way, but it's what we did. That being said, I will say I wouldn't change a thing now. It has a low center of gravity, is nimble and responsive, rides like an easy chair on wheels, and is wonderful! I did drop her a couple times in the beginning, but then I dropped the Honda 250 once in class, too. Guess what – they're all heavy when they're down.

    Since I started out very slow, they were easy drops – I just stepped right off. I learned the right way to pick it up (all 650 pounds!). Pam Redfern is right, the key to learning not to drop her was learning friction zone. I got the Ride Like A Pro videos and watched them over and over. They are excellent!

    Marion kind of missed the point. Big bikes may not be for him or his wife, but some of us like the ride of a big bike for longer rides. Whatever floats your boat. What is important is getting the bike that's right for you – both fit and personality. If you love your Sportster, lower it. If not, find a bike that makes your soul sing.

  15. I too am short, 4 feet 11 inches and did not feel comfortable on any two wheel motorcycle, yet I wanted to get off from behind my husband and ride my own ride. fter checking out different trikes, I finally bought a Can-Am Spyder. You cannot believe the freedom that came with that purchase! I figured I'd be ridiculed at the Harley dealership and the poker runs we enjoy, but that hasn't been the case at all. The biggest obstacle people seem to have is getting up the courage to come over and ask me about it. I've been told by the biggest and baddest bikers, it doesn't matter what you ride as long as you are riding and enjoying yourself. I figured I could keep trying to get comfortable on a two-wheel bike and probably been scared and miserable the majority of the time, or I could get the Sypder and start riding immediately with confidence and get out there and have fun!

    The Spyder, or any 3 wheeler, isn't for everyone. Just like a two wheeler isn't for everyone. But I'm happy with the decision I made and I can't wait for winter to be over so I can ride again!

  16. Great article. I too am only 4-feet-11 and have had my bike license for only a year. My bike is a Honda Shadow Spirit which weighs 550 pounds. I've had her go down slowly twice, when trying to back up to park. There is no stopping her, I've tried. I've learned that my problem was turning my head to much as I walked it backwards. I absolutely love my bike and lowered her quite a bit due to my height.

    The biggest modification we did was the shocks. A good pair of shocks dropped her 2 inches and then we took off the seat cover and cut down the sides so that my legs go down straighter to the ground and then put the cover back on. What a difference. I've thought about 3 wheelers, but these two simple modifications have made my bike low and comfortable. I can't wait for this Maine winter to end and summer to come around again.

  17. I haven't read everyone's comments, but absolutely lower that bike! Front and rear, both.I know Sportsters are called “the woman's bike” (acckk!), but they're higher than a lot of Harleys and only 100 pounds lighter than most. Lowering the bike lowers the center of gravity which is higher on the Sportster, and moves the center of gravity from above your waist to around your butt (where we're more naturally used to it) or between your legs.

    My husband had a '79 Shovelhead when I had my Sportster and even after lowering my Sportster, his Shovelhead was still lower. Shorter shocks front and back, and Progressive shocks on back allows for stiffening the shocks if your bike is loaded down with gear, like on a long trip.

    We both now have '97 Dynas and after riding mine with lowered shocks, even though he's 6 feet 1 inch, my husband lowered his to lower the center of gravity. It makes for a more comfortable ride, better cornering – kind of hugs the road better; it's like the difference in driving a Jeep or a sports car, especially in corners.

    As for dropping the bike, it happens. You just have to get back on. I dropped my Sportster 3 or 4 times, once in front of 4fourneighbor guys who got a good laugh. Just told myself at least I had a bike to drop! When stopping, watch out for putting your foot down in a hole or lower ground levels; stop in a spot on road where that's not as likely to happen. Another is to not grab the front brake hard or when coming to a stop on sand or grass…also watch for sand on the road and always adjust speed by letting off on the gas first.

    Increasing upper body strength may be a good idea, but strong legs are going to give a better chance of preventing the bike from going over. However, sometimes you just have to get out of the way to not get caught under it. Weightlifting is important for women riders — and it's fun when you ride on long trips with guys like I do, to hear them whining about how stiff and sore they are, when I feel great because I've been working out and lifting weights!

    Anyway, be smart, don't give up and relax and enjoy the ride.

  18. I have been riding since 2005, started with an 883, than a Dyna Super Glide. I am a women and I ride an 02 Road King, I am 5 foot 8 inches and weigh about 155 pounds and am almost 53 years old, and size does not matter. The key to handling any size bike at slow speeds, is back brake, friction zone and a little throttle. The reason a bike is dropped in a slow turn is the rider is using the front brake, you should be using the back brake. Not pressed all the way down, just enough pressure to keep the bike rolling at a slow speed.

    I suggest you go to an empty parking lot, with someone, never alone, and put your bike in first gear, hold onto the front brake just a little so the bike will not roll forward, slow start to let out the clutch, as soon as you feel your bike start to move forward, hold the clutch and pull in the front brake. That is your friction zone. You must practice finding your friction zone everytime you are on your bike.

    My boyfriend and I are Civilian Top Gun Precision Riders of Denver Colorado. We perform at bike rallies and events, and show the crowd that both men and women can ride at slow speeds and manuever their bikes through 24 foot U-turns to off set gates. Being able to manuever your bike does not have anything to do with the size of the rider it has to do with getting the proper training and perfect practice. We practice two or more hours a week in a parking lot and we are practicing all the time on the road when we are out just riding around. Never take your skills for granted. “Unpracticed skills are perishable.”

    1. Thanks for the tips Pam. For more information on the friction zone and other advice on becoming a better rider, visit WRN's Riding Right section (under the Departments heading).

  19. Well I must disagree to the last guy that said that big cruisers are too big and aren't nimble. I have had five Harleys. I started out with a 2001 Sportster, six months later traded it in for a Fat Boy, lowered it three inches. The thing was awesome. Then I got a chopper that was too top heavy. Got rid of that for a Street Bob and also had a Softail Night Train in that time. Finally decided that a Road King was the one for me. Lowered it 2 inches and guess what, I weigh 134 pounds and I am a girl with tiny no-strength arms. So bottom line, lower that thing or go big and lower it. I think the bigger the bike the easier the ride.

  20. Intruder alert! Yep, I'm a guy, but hardly typical. My thoughts (free, and worth every cent) distill down to: ride a lighter cycle. Wait, I'm not patronizing! I believe many people are riding cycles unnecessarily large, guys included. Sure, it's possible to ride a monster-heavy cycle, but if anything goes the least bit wrong, it's down and out. Lower center of gravity makes it easier to handle, but not necessarily easy. I've seen enough big guys struggling to lift their monster bikes, it can't be easy for women.

    America is the land of “bigger is better,” even when it's decidedly not! The assumption is that even if you start small, you go big later. Peer pressure – from the ones justifying the $30K their monster cost – can be hard to ignore. Well, bigger ain't better, it's only bigger, and heavier, more expensive to boot. Very often, smaller is way more fun!

    Me, I'm 6 feet 200 pounds (no fat), and my Vulcan 750 is about as big as I ever plan to ride. What would the extra weight and expense get me? Another 10 mph I'll never use? My wife's your size (Asian), strong and tough (mountain biker etc.) and yet has no interest in a big, heavy cycle. We're, in general, immune to peer pressure, fashion, and tradition, and pure slaves to fun and function.

    Fly against the wind! The lighter cycles are more nimble anyway. Most of all, good luck, and good riding!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts — and you're not an “intruder.” Tell where on this site it says “just for women?” Men are certainly allowed and we welcome male visitors and comments from men as it makes it more fun that way.

  21. Hi Donna,
    Sorry to read about your accident. Hope you're doing better. A couple of years ago as a passenger with my husband we had a security gate come down on us and the bike fell over. Hubby was fine but I broke my thumb and hurt my right shoulder. I ended up with a frozen shoulder that had to be broken to fix it. I had the procedure done last May. At the time I was thinking of getting my license but didn't know how the shoulder would be but I took the riders course last Sept and passed. The shoulder is still healing and I'm still doing therapy when I go to the gym. It still could take another year before I can have full mobility.

    I had dropped my bike a couple of times before taking the course and now have the fear of dropping it again. I'm only 5 feet at about 130 pounds. I have an 03 Honda Shadow VLX 600 and it's low to the ground but feels heavy. I have not been on the streets yet only in parking lots. The weather in Mass is finally getting better so I'm hoping to get over my fear and start riding along side of hubby. I really need to gain some condifence and get out there and ride. I wish you well and safe riding,

  22. I am 54 years old. I started riding again, after 30 years of not riding solo. I have a 2006 Honda Shadow Spirit 750. I took the motorcycle safety class and passed with flying colors. The second day I rode, I dropped my bike, in a similar fashion as you, slow right turn. The best advice I received was to purchase the Ride Like a Pro video and practice. Now, I am not worried about slow maneuvers. Good luck on a speedy recovery and ride safe.

  23. As I'm sitting here reading your story, I am sporting a row of seven silver dollar size bruises running from my ankle to just above my right knee, courtesy of my Ducati M696. A very top heavy bike and a difficult reach for a 5-foot 1-inch female rider, I dropped it on some uneven pavement in a friend's driveway last week. Just know you are not alone in having dropped a bike and you are among friends.

    While there is little to be done about the Ducati's weight distribution, there is hope with the Sportster. I am also a proud and very satisfied owner of a 2000 XL Sportster Custom, which has been lowered close to three inches in the rear, through modifications to the gussets and shocks, and by raking out the front fork, which has helped drop the front end. I've also found that mini-apes help lower the center of gravity by keep your torso and arms upright and further out. My Sportster has 13-inch ape-hangers, plus risers, and forward controls, which I personally prefer for a riding position on that bike, but these do take some getting used to.

    Regardless, don't give up on riding. As a friend once told me, your bike should be built to suit you. You should not be forced to suit your bike. With a little work and creativity, it is possible to build the bike that suits your needs. Promise!

  24. Great advice from everyone so this may be redundant. I found Sportsters way too top-heavy. I'm 5 feet 2 inches. My first two bikes were Yamaha V Star 650 Customs. Full sized cruisers that have a low center of balance and practically stand on their own. I totalled the first (learned lots of lessons and walked away!) and literally got back on to ride it to the break-down truck. I bought a new one as soon as the insurance company cut the check. I dropped the first bike on crowned roads twice, but never dropped the second by pre-planning every stop and keeping to the left of each lane.

    I finally chose to go with a trike. It's a 2008 Lehman Tramp (Suzuki Boulevard, 805cc), and is the most secure ride ever! I'm highly visible to other traffic, and plan on keeping it. With the exception of “training wheels” jokes, I receive positive feedback from many bikers, and lots of interest from non-riders. I chose not to go the Harley route due to finances, and have thoroughly loved my V Stars and Tramp. Check out the variety available out there. You may be surprised. Give them all test rides. You may not be thrilled with trikes, but the security may be just what you need.

    1. Many more riders are choosing trikes for just the same reasons as you, that's why I launched to cater to trike enthusiasts. Check it out.

  25. Hi Donna,
    I have had both an 883 and 1200 Sportsters and have dropped both bikes — lucky only minor damage to the bikes and bruised ego but I have carried on. At 62 years of age I still take pride in my riding. I only passed my bike test just over three years ago and I love every minute that I am riding. But as I am getting older my wrists are not as strong as someone a lot younger so to overcome any weakness, I wear wrist straps which look like fingerless gloves and my gloves go over them with no trouble. Maybe you can get something along these lines to give your wrist added protection while it heals fully.

  26. Donna,
    Hope you are fully mended by now. I, too, began on a 95 Sportster for nearly a year. But when I attended a demo day at the local H-D store in Lynchburg and rode a used Fat Boy the rest is history. As others have said, it is heavier, but the center of gravity is much lower and fuel injection is so much nicer. While I am 67, barely 5 feet 4 inches and have been riding nearly three years, I know practice is most important, determination imperative, but strength training is also key. Sounds like you have the tools to make a very intelligent choice. Enjoy every moment. I certainly do.

  27. Donna,
    I hope you're recovering well from your spill. There's lot's of good advice here. I hope you find some you can use. I'm 5 feet 1 inch and ride a H-D Dyna Low Rider. I have never ridden a Sportster, because I'd always heard that the center of gravity was too high. If I were to change bikes, my next choice would be the Softail Heritage. There are a lot of H-D dealers where you can rent a bike and try before you buy.

  28. Hi Donna,
    I am on my third bike. I started with a 250, up to an 800 and now on a 1300 Honda VTX, which I am absolutely in love with. I did have a slight crash once and fortunately it was in good enough condition to get back on it and finish the ride and I did not have one scratch or scrape! I am only 5 feet 1 inch and did not have to lower it. Sometimes I have a little problem if I park on an incline but all in all, it's a great bike and unless you are totally set on riding a Harley, perhaps take one for a test ride. I pondered getting a smaller bike but always change my mind when I get on and ride. I hope you heal perfectly and can get back to riding soon.

  29. Hi Donna,
    Although I never broke my arm, I dropped my Dyna Low Rider a few times when I first started riding. We lowered it a little more and changed the seat, but the center of gravity was never quite right for me. That bike was top heavy like the Sportster. I went to try a Night Train. It felt alright, but I was not in love. By sheer accident that day I tried out a Night Rod. Oh my God! I have never looked back. That bike is my new best friend. It is balanced perfectly and a great handling bike. Of course I absolutely love that I can leave my husband in the dust at each light! Keep looking, you'll find your perfect ride. Don't stop riding.

  30. Donna,
    You might want to look into a Honda 750 Aero. It is a good looking bike and balanced well. I know everyone thinks Harleys are the bike to have (mostly because of hype). My husband has one. The way I have my Honda decked out people look at my bike more then the Harley. It is a comfortable ride and goes down the highways with no problem. Just a thought. Good luck!

  31. Donna
    Don't give up! I have a 2004 883 Sportster and I still love riding it even though I have a 2005 Big Dog Chopper. I rode my chopper less than two months after I had surgery done on my left wrist and the tendon under the pinkie finger. I got my chopper in Feb. 2007 had the surgery near the end of June 2007 and rode the chopper to Sturgis in Aug. 2007. So don't give up, keep at it.

  32. When I was looking to buy my bike it was a choice between and Sportster or Dyna Low Rider. I got the Dyna and love it. I am 5 feet 3 inches and the same weight as you and I had the same concern about dropping my bike. The Dyna does have a lower center of gravity and although 200 pounds heavier, is much easier to control at low speed. It is personal preference, but at least test a Dyna before you do anything else. Don't give up and good luck.

  33. Keep up with working the wrist. There are lightweight wrist straps, because your going to still have stiffness. I cracked my ankle once and I think now I can tell ya when the weather's changing. But take a Motrin just before your ride this spring and yes you can and will ride. I have MS and I know the only way for me to ride is a trike. It's a Voyager add-on. It's awesome! I just started riding my own in 2005. Went from a 883 Sporty to a 08 Dyna Super Glide. Love it.

  34. Whatever you do don't give up. May I suggest that a shopping trip is in order? It sounds like your perfect pair of shoes has yet to be found. Finding the perfect match in a motorcycle is just like finding the perfect fitting shoes, you have to try several on before you find the perfect match. A test ride/rental might be the way to try out different bikes for your size, weight and riding style. I know for myself at 5 feet 4 inches and 110 pounds finding a bike I could get off the kick stand was a challenge let alone something I could handle.

    Like many of the other ladies I ended up with the Softail Deluxe because I could easily lift it off the kickstand, touch the ground flat footed, balance it with ease and it fits like a T. Yes, at first the shear size was a little intimating but the ease of handling is like no other. For you there might be something else out there that works better, but until you take them for a ride you will never know. Please let us all know what the end results are.

  35. Donna,

    I don't have as many miles logged on as you do but I would like to offer my two cents. It was a lifelong dream for me to get into riding. I wanted a Fat Boy and only a Fat Boy. After taking Riders Edge I started getting worried that I 5-feet-5 and 130 pounds couldn't handle such a big bike. I was so lucky, my instructor took me into a showroom and sat me on the Fat Boy and then the Sportster. Still concerned about picking up that much weight, I wavered. In the showroom on the day we (my husband and I) were buying our bikes, I was sitting on a Sportster. My sales gal said, “So this is your bike?” I responded with a yeh I guess. She talked to me a little more about my riding style and how I sat on a bike and said, “Ya, know, you should ride a Fat Boy!” I went and sat and a week later drove it home. I have never, ever regretted getting that bike.

    Take everyone's advice, go and look for a bike that fits you. Fits your style of sitting and how you drive and ride and I'll bet you find that bigger bike suits you. And by the way, after dumping my bike once, I took it and a moving blanket to a parking lot and practiced and little girls can pick up a big bike. It's leverage and rocking and butt action. I have little upper body strength.

    If you find a small bike like a low suits you better than do that or try lowering your bike. Aren't we lucky to have so much good advice on this Web site.

  36. Donna,
    Straighten your front wheel before applying the front brake. During a slow turn, you may use your rear brake. It is a common mistake for riders regardless of the model of motorcycle. It is true that Sportsters are somewhat top heavy, but if it were the fault of the motorcycle, all Sportsters would be on the ground all the time. It is rider error. I see it all the time in the classes I teach, both beginner and advanced. So, at slow speeds, if your front wheel is turned, stay off your front brake.

    Please consider the Softail Deluxe. It has the lowest seat height of all the Harley models and is perfect for your height. The weight of a motorcycle should not be a concern. Once the wheels start rolling, you can't tell the difference between 300 or 800 pounds. It's not about upperbody strength. It's about technique. I'm 5 feet 5 inches and ride an Electra Glide Classic that weighs 800 pounds. Take a one day advanced class again to refresh your skills and regain your confidence. Good luck. You can do it!

  37. I am sorry about your wrist/arm. I have been riding only since this past June. I love it and stopped driving my Mercedes the whole summer! I am 5 feet tall and 138 pounds. I have a '01 Sportster 883 Hugger. I have dropped my bike 3 to 4 times. once right in front of my work place! I needed help the first time and then after that someone said knowledge is power and it sure is! I looked for the video on how to pick up your own bike yourself and was able to get it up the next time by myself.

    I also got the “Ride like A Pro” video and did the whole positive imagery and practiced, practiced, practiced. I also found that …sounds funny but… riding my bicycle gave me more confidence in balancing and handling corners and I applied that to my scoot. Advanced MSF classes are really good too! I love, love, love riding and don't ever want to give it up! You go girl!

  38. I hope you recover soon and don't give up if riding is something you really love. I crashed my first bike in a gravel parking lot and it landed on top of my right leg, my ankle was bent back in an ungodly position and I was yelling for them to get it off of me! We bent the rear brake pedal back in place so I could ride it home. It was cold and by the time I got home I couldn't even bend my leg or walk alone. That was the longest and most miserable ride I ever took. I sometimes still have pain and stiffness in my ankle and scars left from that crash. It was scary, but I love to ride, so it didn't stop me. Don't give up, you can do this!

  39. Hi Donna,
    I'm 48 years old and got my license in January. I had never been on the back of a motorcycle in my entire life. I rode the Rebel a few weeks and now I have transitioned over to a Honda Shadow VLX 600. The Shadow is a bit top heavy but is fantastic at slow speeds. I too have got to remember to never touch the front brake. It's a mental challenge. The bike turns on a dime and is smooth. My husband did buy a Sportster in January and is already in the process of selling and is buying a Victory next week.

    My husband is 5-feet-4 and I'm 5-feet-2. It was always a dream to own a Harley. Forget about it! Harleys are not the best mechanical bikes and find their way into the shop more than any other bike. Honda's are the most reliable bikes. Victory is the Lexus/BMW of bikes but you get what you pay for. These bikes are almost 700 pounds and feel like a 250 Rebel between your legs. The Victory's have the lowest center of gravity and if you can't handle your bike with complete ease you will be very intimidated. Try shopping around on Craigslist and go and test ride a dozen bikes.

    My husband always rides in front of me. I am not experienced or a great rider yet to stay behind. I would not be able to get out of the way should he make a sudden move and he watches my back. He stays about 25 feet behind me and it's nice knowing he's got my back and can stop quickly if I make a sudden move.

    We also got Chatterboxes so that we can communicate. If there is something ahead in the road he can give me a heads up and if we are just riding we can decide in which direction to go. Good luck in your riding. A little prayer to God is what I always say as I hop on the bike.

  40. Dear Donna,

    I hope you have recovered from your fall and your wrist is all healed.
    Sportsters are very top heavy bikes due to the frame and where the engine sits, which is up high. These bikes are very tippy plus they have a lot of torque.
    I ride a Sporster 1200C and I often feel like it wants to tip over when I come to a stop.

    I have a friend who is about 5-feet-2 or so and she rides a Softail Deluxe. The center of gravity is low because the engine sits low on the frame (not because the bike was lowered). She can handle this bike without any problems.
    A Dyna Low Rider also has this lower center of gravity. If you can, test ride some other bikes and see which one feels comfortable. If Harley gets a clue they'll start making more bikes for women as starter bikes that have a different frame set up than the Sportster.
    Don't give up! You will find the right bike and you'll just keep going I know it!

  41. If you want a Harley with a low center of gravity, and handles great, you must test drive a Nightster. I'm a beginning rider, and I can turn the tightest circles with ease. I've read reviews of the Nightster. They've said it's the best-handling Harley they've ever ridden. I love it!

  42. Donna,
    I just got my license at the age of 51. I took the rider safety course and learned a great deal. You should have seen the faces on the rider coaches when I showed up for class. Once they saw how dedicated and willing I was to learn they were incredibly supportive and encouraging. I bought myself a 250 Honda Rebel and road 600+ miles in one month. I tried my daughter's Sportster and had a hard time keeping it upright at slow speeds because the bike, to me, is top heavy.

    Went to the 105th and bought a 2007 Softail. I stand 5 feet 3 inches and weight 115 pounds. It is amazing how well balanced this bike is and even easier to handle than the 250. I practice clutch control at slow speeds along with quick stops/braking in a very controlled environment as often as I can and feel quite comfortable. One thing my rider coaches drilled in my head was to keep my head and eyes up and look where I want to go. They take me out riding too and have been such a tremendous help. I know I have a long way to go, but with the right bike and support from experienced riders I'm well on my way.

    My only suggestion would be to try a bike with a lower center of gravity. You already know how to ride and have the necessary skills.

    P.S. Chris Robson's wife is telling the truth about coming to a complete stop without putting her feet down. I do it all the time. This bike balances itself.

  43. Donna
    I am so sorry about your arm. Make sure you take care of that first and get 100 percent before you ride again.
    I ride a Dyna Low Rider. I had the front and rear lowered since I am also 5-feet-3 and 120 pounds. I wanted a bike that I could reach the ground with. My husband had the crash bar installed and I am so glad he did. I have dumped the bike four times and always it is a right turn and because the front tire is not straight. Once it was because as my husband took the turn and I always follow him, a truck made a u-turn into my lane as I was starting to make my turn. I slammed on both brakes and down I went. I have never landed on the ground and I am able to pick up the bike by myself with no problem.

    The video is excellent, but most of the motorcycle safety classes have advanced classes you could also take. You use your own bike and they teach you advanced techniques, etc. You can also get one-on-one classes also.
    You take care of yourself and we hope to hear from you soon that you are up and riding once again.

  44. Wow, I feel for you! I'm still limping from a stress fracture in my foot last fall (I was behind my husband, he turned right onto an off-camber sloped driveway, I turned at the last minute and flopped over) and yes, I was wearing protective boots! I ride a Yamaha FZ6, which is only 350 pounds or so, and is a fairly well balanced bike. I've gone from a Pacific Coast to a VFR to the FZ6 thinking the smaller lighter bikes will be less likely to flop over on me, not! The most comfortable and confidence inspiring bike I've been on is my old Yamaha Seca II that I'm flat footed on. I talked to the local MSF instructor this winter, and he's promised to work with me in the spring. All I can say is good luck and keep your chin up.

  45. Sorry to hear about the fall and injury, but I'm glad to see you back up and at it.

    I've only been riding since last August, and dropping the bike as a beginner was also a concern for me. I went for the whole 10 yards and got the H-D Deluxe as my first ride. I liked the low center of gravity and equal distribution of weight (only 5 feet 2 inches). Needless to say, those engine guards came in handy my first month. In fact, I purposely practiced in the grass picking it up to relieve some of the stress. But the best advice I can give is practice. Tight U-turns are my biggest fear of dropping the bike. And I make it point to practice them at least once a week. It builds confidence.

    I also do what I call crawling. Moving the bike in the friction zone at low speeds and gradually add light braking with back and/or front to better myself with the changes in the motorcycle's control. This improves my balance and I learn to feel the bike not guess or force it.

    Motorcycle riding is supposed to be enjoyable. With everyday I practice, the experiences get even better.

    1. Good advice. A great tool to help with the exercises you speak is the Ride Like A Pro DVD advertised on this site.

  46. I just read this and wanted to say that your story hits home with me.
    My husband came home from Iraq almost three years ago and wanted a Harley. I told him that I would not ride on the back and he was more than happy to accommodate. He came home with a Dyna Low Rider and a Sportster XL 1200 for me (after days of looking and working within our financial means).

    We have logged many miles together and, like you, I dropped mine a few times too. For me it was always at a stop, coming out of a stop or going into one. My weak points were stop and go traffic. I had a pretty bad spill in Kansas almost a year ago and it scared me for a while. I rolled right into a ditch after coming out of stop. I just did not maintain control after a car came upon real fast and almost ran me down.
    I was banged up pretty good, but my husband took one look at me and told me he was proud of me and that he would never let me stop riding. All this after he came running back to me and the color was draining from his face.
    I got back on (of course after the bike and I both healed). And have not dropped it since. If anything, that last drop was a huge moment for me. I have improved in leaps and bounds. I have moved to a large city and ridden all over South Central Texas and most of it, without my husband (he is gone once again overseas).

    I am glad you are riding again and doing well.
    It feels good to see you recover and know that I am not alone in going through all those feelings. Take care and as always ride safe!
    PS: By the way, I have taken to riding my hubby's Dyna Low Rider and I am afraid he might have to get a new bike when he gets home. If you are looking, try that one on for size. I am 5 feet 7 and it works for me.

  47. Donna,
    It definitely sounds like you need to master that clutch by using the friction zone. I'm much taller than you and owned an 883 that felt top heavy as all get out. As soon as I got serious about my Ride Like A Pro DVDs, I went to a parking lot with my cones and it all falls into place. You go where you look, so if you look at that curb, you will hit it.

    Keep your head up, not looking down at the pavement. You will be a new woman after you get a hold of that DVD, even if it's just in your living room doing the “positive imagery” previously mentioned. I truly believe in it because I've been there, sitting in my living room chair, feet out as if on the pegs, arms out as if in riding position, hands working the clutch and front brake, feet working the back brake and shifter, turning my head to the direction I want to go in… don't laugh untill you've tried it.

    As incentive, last summer I bought my dream bikem a H-D Street Glide and drove myself to Milwaukee for the 105th / 25th. If I could do that, so can you. Believe!

  48. In response to all of the comments above I would say
    #1 Donna, get a bike that you can put your feet down on the ground flat or almost flat when stopped.

    #2 If the thing feels top heavy, it is and lowering etc. will not change much. You need a low center of gravity, I think even more so if your short (I'm 5-feet-2 and 63 years old )
    #3 Get used to using thge back brake when slow or turning

    I have a Hyosung GV 650 and it is an awsome ride, well balanced, low seat, lots of power. 10,000 miles on it in one year. Check out the WRN video review
    Would not trade it for a Sportster or a Vegas low for anything and I've been on both.

    With that said “good luck.” hope you are all mended and ready to ride.

  49. Donna,
    I'm so sorry to hear about your accident, but that is clearly the reason that I did not buy a Sportster – the center of gravity is too high and I'm really a classic, retro type of girl! I purchased a Honda Shadow Aero and it is wonderful. It is so well centered that I mastered the slow riding before I even got out on the open road. I wasn't intent on buying a Harley – but if I did now it would be a Softail Deluxe which is similar to my bike in many ways. It's not the strength of the person or the weight of the bike. The rear brake and throttle/friction zone are the key as well. Good luck and ride safely!

  50. I don't want to join that club that Chris talks about. I've got 8,500 miles without ever dropping my V Star! Everyone says “you will.” But the Star bike is so low and centered. I can creep through town and even stop at stop signs without putting my feet down. It's so important to get that right fit. Don't let anyone tell you what you should ride. The best thing I ever did was go to the International Motorcycle Show and sit on every model.

    1. The International Motorcycle Show is a consumer trade show that travels to 13 cities across America during the winter months giving the public an opportunity to “kick the tires” on the new motorcycles. WRN has done several articles on these shows. Do a “search” on WRN to find them.

  51. Sorry to read about your accident/injury. I am a hand therapist and see your kind of injuries frequently — usually from slip/falls on ice, but in the summer time from motorcycles. I am an avid rider. Love long distance. I am also 5 feet 4 inches and 128 pounds.

    I have ridden the BMW 650 GS and just purchased the BMW F 800 ST. They are around 350 to 375 pounds. Great performing bikes, ABS brakes and incredibly maneuverable. You can pack them like a mule and then some. You may consider this option.
    Keep up with your therapy.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Shelly. Shelly is the owner of Girl Gear, maker of textile riding jackets and pants. Look for her in our Products & Gear Reviews page.

  52. Donna,
    Don't give up. I had a Sportster when I first learned to ride and I have a Heritage Softail now. The Softail is much heavier but much easier to handle with a much lower center of gravity. The Sportster is top heavy. I dropped the Sportster once or twice but haven't had a problem with the heavier bike. I am only 5 feet 4 inches. Hang in there and good luck.

  53. Hi Donna:

    I bought my first bike last year after three months of trying bikes out. I am 5 feet 9 inches and wanted to purchase only one bike, not wanting to trade up later. I did try a Sportster but did not like how it felt top heavy.

    I chose an 2008 Softail Deluxe last year and have been thrilled with my purchase. It has great balance and is easy to handle at slow speeds. I go to vacant parking lots and practice the slow turns. I ride as often as I can and am loving the ride, the country and meeting so many great people.

    Be safe, keep smiling and ride long, you'll have another 20,000 miles before you know it!

  54. Donna, I too am sorry about your accident. First of all if you ride a bike long enough you will drop it. I have had many bikes and the Sportster is the worst riding bike I've ever ridden because it is so top heavy. It surprises me the number of women who are encouraged by their husbands/friends to make this their beginner bike. Super bad choice for anyone's first bike. You need to find something with a low center of gravity. You will be able to tell what that is just by sitting on the bike and getting it off the kick stand.

    I personally ride an Electra Glide Ultra Classic and I think it is easier to ride than a Sportster. Go to a dealership and sit on a Heritage Softail. Get if off the kick stand and then walk over to one of the Sportsters and do the same thing. You'll see what I mean. Good luck girl, and keep on riding. Nothing like the freedom and wind in your face.

  55. Donna,
    I am 5-feet and ride a Yamaha V Star 1100. Instead of being brand loyal, we need to be loyal to ourselves and ride what fits us. The balance on my bike is much lower and really helps.

  56. Donna,

    Don't give up. I had a Sportster when I first learned to ride and I have a Heritage Softail now. The Softail is much heavier but much easier to handle with a much lower center of gravity. The Sportster is top heavy. I dropped the Sportster once or twice but haven't had a problem with the heavier bike. I am only 5 feet 4 inches.

    Hang in there and good luck.

  57. I too, started out on a smaller bike, a Suzuki Savage 650. It was difficult to travel at slow speeds, mostly because of the narrow tires. I live on a dirt road and have a dirt drive so I was afraid to try a bigger bike. My husband worked at a Harley dealership as a service tech and got to try out all the models Harley had to offer. He came home and said he had found the bike for me. I bought my Softail Deluxe in 2008 and I can honestly tell you the bike rides itself. I didn't even test drive it! It is extremely comfortable, low to the ground, I am only 5-feet-2. I changed the seat to a Reach seat and I can firmly flatfoot at all stops. It is heavy, but careful planning is necessary when parking. I can bring it to a stop at the light and not even have to put my feet down, it is so well balanced. You should really try a demo ride on one! I will never ride anything but a Deluxe now!

  58. Keep healing both mentally and physically. Our kids on their own and we too have been on the road since 1997.
    I started with a 2001 Buell and moved up to a 2003 Low Rider customized with stock Road King bars that came back to me. I rode LR 6 1/2 years. Now a 2009 Street Glide, front end lowered, Reach seat, 2-inch pullback bars. I am 5-feet-4 135 pounds. Everyone's bike must be made to fit you and safe to ride. Thanks to my hubby my bike fits me!

    As for your hubby putting you in front –not a bad idea. Most men are always looking back and not paying attention to their own ride and putting them in more danger. Just remember if you are in front ride like he is not there. Don't worry about doing something wrong, just ride and enjoy.

  59. I sympathize. I started off after 15 years on a Ninja ZX-6R. You want top heavy-that thing's 31 inches at the seat! And I'm almost 6 feet tall!

    My hubby has an 883L and he's only 5-feet 1 inch tall. He loves it. Me, I traded the 6 for an XL883 Stage 1 last year, one of the last standard Sportsters with the 27-inch seat height, like a Roadster, which HD no longer makes. It feels rock solid to me and I love it, but I tried a Street Bob, and later a 2003 Springer Softail and wow-those are even more stable! And real comfy too, I wish I could afford a Dyna or Softie. Low rules for stable, comfy ride.

    You'll get better with miles. My 6 tried to kill me three times. After 1600 miles on the 883, I feel like I could handle a 600cc sportbike now but I don't really want one. I've really gotten to like that big V-Twin, and I'm hoping to get my financial act together enough to get a Dyna.

  60. I also started on a 1200 Sportster, and had the same feelings of uneasiness on that bike. We even switched out the shocks which lowered the bike quite a bit. But I believe that the Sportys are top-heavy and discovered this fact on an Adirondack Mountain trip with my husband. He jumped on my Sporty and told me to take his, then left me there and drove off on my bike! His bike was a brand new 2005 Road King Custom. Talk about shaking in my pants! I don't know how I gained the courage that day to get on and ride that thing, but it was a dream come true. I had such an extreme feeling of comfort on the cruiser bike that I couldn't believe the difference from my Sportster.

    Six months later I traded in and purchased my own Road King and have loved every minute of it. I ride with a group of ladies locally and many, probably all of us, have dropped our bikes. Getting over the fear and trying again is so important. Best wishes to you. Spring is right around the corner, get on and try again. I also recommend the advanced riders safety course. I did it last year and learned quite a bit that weekend.

  61. If you want to stay with a Harley, try the Nightster. It is the best balanced bike I have been on and it's my fourth bike. I had a Honda Shadow Spirit 750 and thought it was well balanced, but the Nightster has it beat and it's a 1200cc so I got more power and a better handling bike. Knock on wood, I've had this bike for about a year and a half and put more than 13k miles on it and have never dropped it – knock on wood again. It is so forgiving. I was the queen of dropping bikes until I got this one.

    My husband had a 2004 Sportster and it was very top heavy and when I've gotten on the bigger Hondas, I couldn't lift them off the kickstand or else I could have saved some money buying another Honda. Another bike I would like to own is the Heritage Softail if it's been lowered because I can lift it and it felt well balanced but that was just sitting on it in the showroom. I am only 5 feet 1 inch so I am really restricted in what bikes I can ride. Don't have a whole lot of upper body strength and have osteoporosis. Good luck to you and in your pursuit of riding. I couldn't live without it and can't wait for warm weather to get here.

  62. Donna – so sorry about your wrist. I hope it's healing well. You are right to get some RLAP videos and practice the techniques to help you keep that beautiful bike under control.
    As for your husband looking for you in his mirrors – mine had that same problem with me, and we found that there is a great deal of “freedom” in having a bike to bike communication system. It lets us keep in touch without jabbering all the time. If I am having trouble or just want to tell him I need to stop, it's so easy to just speak up. If there is traffic and we get separated, he does not jeopardize his safety by looking back for me. I keep him posted on my whereabouts.

    There is a lot of great advice here – thanks for sharing your experience!

  63. Hey Donna,

    Just east of you in North Atlanta — your story of buying the bikes sounds so much like mine and my husbands. To the point I got a Sportster and he a Dyna. I have a 2007 Sportster 1200L, I'm 5 feet 2 inches and love it.

    It is not about upper body strength but practicing those skills.I do plan on getting a Deluxe but am working on my husband so I don't have to give up the Sportster.

    During my MSF training, they emphasized that slow riding was the hardest so I practice coming up to every stop light, in parking lots, on my own street, etc. When I'm in the mountains, I'm always going the slowest around those tight curves. I have dropped mine but was going zero miles per hour — too tired and forgot to put my feet down (DUH!). Straight front wheel is essential when braking. I kept mine up after locking up the brakes by keeping that wheel straight.

    I do ride in Atlanta traffic during rush hour, the moutains are so much safer.

    God speed on your wrist healing and therapy.

  64. Great article and don't worry, we have all fallen at least once. My husband told me when we first rode together “it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when and how hard.”

    I've dumped my bike just sitting still and leaning over too far. I've also dumped it on the race track going at least 45mph.

    The best practice and experience at slow speeds that I had was competiting in a Battletrax competition. I did this when I first started riding. It's basically a course set up in a parking lot with orange cones to mark the course. It's a timed race and you have to get around the course (tight turns and all) without knocking over a cone. It took me a couple of runs, but learned how to keep the throttle on while releasing the foot brake to control my speed. Not sure I would recommend the throttle trick to everyone, but definitely practicing in a parking lot at slow speeds would help a lot. Keep at it – it will soon become second nature!

  65. I had to laugh at Donna Guthrie's comment about practicing just to put the front wheel straight before stopping. I dropped my Honda Shadow 500cc, which weighs about 440 pounds with liquids, three times all when coming to a slow stop. The good news is, I was going very slow. The bad news is, it is taken me three times to learn this.

    I just got my license through the MSF course this fall, rode the bike two weeks, and put 'er up for the winter. I cannot wait to ride this spring. I am single, in my mid 50s, and the only other people I have to ride with are from my church. But, they are all couples with only one lady riding her own bike; the other gals ride behind their husbands. They are kind to me, but I feel a bit out of place. I will be looking for some lady friends to ride with this year.

  66. I got goose bumps reading your story; this could have easily been me. For the past three years I've ridden a Sportster 883 and felt the same – uncomfortable and wobbly at low speeds. I actually only dropped the bike a few times but it always feels like it could go at any moment.

    Our MSF instructor advised against the Sporties for beginners, but I was determined to have the smallest, lightest Harley out there. Being a water skier and snow skier I thought I had good balance, but it proved me wrong. Changing the handle bars, seat and shocks helped somewhat but the center of gravity is what it is.

    My husband jumped on the bike one day to see what the heck the problem was — he rides a Harley Super Glide — and labeled it as “quirky.” The final straw was getting caught in a huge traffic jam at the end of the season last year and working to stay upright at barely walking speed for almost an hour!

    Since I'm hooked now and love to ride I decided to find a bike I feel comfortable on. After spending the winter months researching and sitting on everything possible, looks like it will be either the Harley Low Rider or the Victory Vegas Low. Once you get on one of these beauties, you just won't believe it, they really feel grounded.

    My thoughts are: don't give up – just move on up and change your ride. Best of luck and hope to see you out there!

  67. You guys are great! Just thought I'd let you know I rode my bike this past weekend for a few hours. I plan to make a trip to the Harley store and try out a couple of different bikes. (I might even check out the local Honda store.)

    I am going to order the Ride Like A Pro video. Every little tid bit helps. After listening to the reponses, my MSF instruction is coming back to me. In any curve or turn you must straighten your front tire before using the front brake. I need to practice until it is second nature. We always ride staggered and my husband is thinking about putting me in front with him following. This way he doesn't have to keep looking in his mirror to make sure I'm there. Thanks for your encouragement!

  68. Donna,
    The ladies are giving you really good advice, and so is WRN. As a motorcycle safety instructor, I have heard this strory many times from women riding Sportsters. Your determination to keep riding will pull you through if you follow all this advice. Ride Like a Pro is great stuff, learn how to pick the bike up the right way, make sure you straighten the front wheel before applying the front brake (if possible), trade to a Heritage or similar, and think about leaving more following distance between you and your husband. By the way, I am hoping that you ride staggered with him. Never ride side by side. Good luck!

  69. Donna,
    I'm sorry about your accident but don't give up. I am 5 feet 2 inches and I have an 2009 Sportster 1200 Custom. It's my very first bike so I don't have anything to compare it too but I'm always telling my boyfriend that going slow is a bit of a problem. He doesn't understand because he's riding a Road King. What helped me tremendously is the Ride Like A Pro video. It teaches you how to ride and control any bike while riding slowly. A lower bike might surely help, but there is a technique that will help you ride the Sportster you have and feel much more confident about slow rolling!

    Get the DVD and then practice the technique. It's all about the clutch, throttle and back brake…it's amazing! Education is power. Order the DVD and start watching now, before it's time to ride and you'll be back in the saddle before you know it! Good Luck, my sistah!

    1. We've reviewed the Ride Like A Pro DVD on WRN. You can do a search for it by using our search WRN link. The story is located in the Apparel & Gear Reviews. You can also visit Motorcycle Videos. We produced a video of the women of the Ride Like A Pro team.

  70. So sorry about your arm! You might want to consider something besides a Harley. The Sportsters did feel top heavy to me and the larger bikes I couldn't even get off the kickstand. I ride a Honda Aero 750. It's got a low center of gravity without weighing a ton. I still ride it on the highway and interstate and it keeps up fine with my friends Harleys and Gold Wings. Plus it looks sweet. It's all about you feeling comfortable. Just a thought.

  71. Hi Donna,
    Sorry about your accident but it could of been much worse. I have a trike and love it. It's not for everyone, certainly perfect for us who have vertigo and suffer occasional dizziness when turning your head. Hopefully you'll get on that bike and enjoy riding with your husband. Lots of luck.

  72. I have a friend who is just a little shorter than you; she went through several different bikes, two of which were the 883L Sportster, and the 1200L Sportster. She dropped her bikes on a regular basis (parking lots) because she is so short, and her bikes were top heavy.

    Now she has a Heritage Softail Deluxe. You might consider trading up. The Softail has a lower center of balance. I have a Heritage Softail Classic, but I am tall and need all of the leg room I can get. But from my riding experience – these bikes handle like a dream, especially doing the slow manuevers.

    My friend had a situation very much like yours on her new Softail; her husband decides to make a right turn in front of her when the plan was to go around the corner to the left. She braked quickly and nearly dumped it, but as soon as she let off of her brake the bike stood right up and she then was able to make a controlled stop. She swears that if she had been on her Sportster she would have gone down. Needless to say her husband was in the dog house for a day or two. Please don't give up. Consider a bike with a lower center of balance.

  73. So sorry about your wrist. It will heal soon and you will be back to all the things you love.

    Kathy from Vancouver has a good point. I just recently traded up from a lowered Sportster 1200 to a Softail Deluxe. I traded up because I was told the lower center of gravity would make me feel more stable and provide better control. The size/weight of the bike concerned me until I was told I would ride the bike and not carry it!

    I can tell you that even though I have only ridden it a couple of times (winter in St. Louis is not usually very agreeable) I feel a lot more stable and am more confident at slower speeds. Just backing it out of the garage is different – I sit on it and roll back without that topple feeling. Good luck and ride on!

  74. So sorry about your wrist and I, too, have dropped a bike on a turn. My mistake was touching the front brake at slow speeds, a big no-no. Now it's friction zone and rear brake. I say lower that bike and keep riding! Twisting that throttle will be the best therapy for your wrist and your soul. Best wishes coming at you!

  75. The great news is that your physical injury wasn't such that you could never ride again. At least you have a choice to ride in the future should you choose to do so.Having said that, try this…close your eyes and think of the joy that riding brings you. Think of all the fun trips, rides and memories and block out the negative ones.

    Somewhere deep inside, aren't you craving to get back on your baby and get in the wind after a long winter? If the answer is yes, use positive imagery to get you through this rough spot and know you have a cyber-sisterhood supporting you and cheering you on.

    Once you do, I am certain the fear will dissipate and you will be healed both physically and emotionally just in time for the 2009 riding season!

    Be well & stay strong!
    Your friend,

  76. I ride a 2008 Cross Bones that has a springer front end so I know what you mean by “heavy” bike. He weighs about 700 pounds from what I'm told. I am also the same size as you — height and weight. My suggestion is to get the “Ride Like A Pro” video and learn about the friction zone and proper use of the rear brake. This is the key to how you win those “slow” races.

    When I stepped up to a bigger bike (a V Star 650 Classic) a few years ago, the video is all I had to teach me and give me tips on riding. I watched the video and learned things I hadn't learned in my MSF class. After watching it, I got on that bigger bike and handled it better than I did my little Honda Rebel 250. You'll be amazed by what you can learn by watching, listening and practicing. I encourage you to watch this video and keep riding. Best of wishes to you and “you go girl!”

    1. WRN has a video showcasing the women behind the Ride Like A Pro video. Click on Motorcycle Videos on the links on the left to view it.

  77. Donna, hang in there. Maybe you should look around at other bikes? Maybe your Sportie isn't the best fit for you? I think women who want to ride Harleys often are pulled to Sporties because they are “lighter” but I do think Sporties are top heavy and you are right, when they go, they go down fast. I ride a Wide Glide and my bike seems much easier to ride and control than my friends Sporties. Have you tried other bikes? It might be an option.

    One other option is to take an advance motorcyle safety course. I believe Harley offers one where you practice on your own bike at really slow speeds. I have heard wonderful comments about them, although I haven't taken one myself. It may be something to consider.

    Hang in there and DON'T give up!

  78. Donna,
    I purchased my 07 Sportster Low new and dropped it with only 800 miles on it. I was devastated. I ended up putting on Progressive shocks to lower my bike and I also dropped it down about a 1/2 inch in the front. I ride with a 3-inch heel boot, and had padding taken out of my solo seat all to feel more comfortable and in controll.

    At slow speeds in a parking lot I still keep my feet down and look awkward I suppose. I feel like it could go over very easily. Practice does make for better riding, but how long that takes each person is very individual. I am only 5- feet-1 so I'm even a little shorter than you. Just stick with it, take it slow and every year it gets a little easier. I have only been riding for three years and I have seen improvement each year that goes by. I know I will most likely not get a bigger bike. I give woman all the credit who ride the big twins but for me my Sporty fits just fine. Good luck.

  79. Donna,

    I understand your pain both emotionally and physically and also have dealt with my wife's issues with “top heavy” Sportys. My wife has had the fear of going down when she rode a Sportster and we thought it would be better when she bought a Low Rider. Her term “this bike wants to take me out,” baffled me until I understood what troubled her, exactly what you describe — dropping the bike at low speed.

    The Low Rider lasted only two months, and even though she is a casual rider, she chose a bigger and heavier bike, a Softail Deluxe. This solved her slow speed fear because of the lower center of gravity and lower seat height. Also the bike balances like a dream for her, sometime bragging she can come to a complete stop without putting her feet down.

    Please don't let this iron horse spook you from climbing on and riding. Anyone who hasn't fell or dropped a bike hasn't truly ridden enough. Welcome to the club, and wear your scars with honor!

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