Reader Story: Mentoring through Mishaps

An ode to my mentor, my husband

By Lynn McKenzie, Ennismore, Ontario

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My riding experience started by sitting on the back of my husbands new 1989 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic. While enjoying sitting on the back during 1989, I knew instantly this was not the place for me.

Lynn with her granddaughter on her 1996 Harley-Davidson Dyna Convertible.

I decided to take the Motorcycle Safety Course at Sir Sanford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ontario, in the spring of 1990. Prior to taking the course my husband bought what he thought was the perfect bike for me, a 1986 Honda Shadow 750, which I kept for one year.

He would take me to the local mall to practice. He would ride the bike there and I would follow in his truck. At first he would sit behind me on the bike and I would ride around the parking lot. One particular time I did everything he asked me to do, figure eights, right, left turns, roll forward and panic stops. Upon stopping perfectly, I became so excited that I had done everything correctly, I announced, “I did it!” He smiled and said, “You did great but you didnt put your feet down.” He had put his feet down and was holding the bike up. We laughed and he assured me I wouldnt forget to do that again. After that I would ride around the parking lot and he would sit in his truck reading the paper for hours. Never once trying to hurry me, only looking over and smiling which gave my more confidence.

He would come home from work and I would be waiting at the front door waiting to go for a ride. I was nervous about going out alone, but he insisted that I could do it and I had the time during the day. My ride consisted of the same route for the whole summer. I would be gone approximately 45 to 60 minutes. I could feel myself becoming more confident with each ride.

While on a ride on our street, he was in front with our son on the back of his bike. As I rounded our corner too fast, I knew instantly I had lost control of the bike and fell off as I watched the bike skid further down the road. Thank goodness I had a leather jacket, chaps and gloves on. Of course, the worst part was half the neighborhood was outside enjoying the sunshine. He immediately checked to see if I was OK, took his bike home which was only a few houses down and brought his truck back, I drove the truck and he rode my bike. An hour later he insisted we go for another ride after determining there was no damage, I didnt want to but he knew if I didnt get back on right away I may never. We went for a short ride. I could feel my heart pounding and my knees were knocking on the tank. If it wasnt for him I could have easily quit riding.

During my first summer riding, I was leading and I could see a rabbit on the side of the road. I had been told many times do not lose control over a very small animal. As I was approaching the rabbit it darted out right in front of me, I rode over it with ease. At the next stop sign, my husband told me how proud of me he was as I stayed focused and kept the bike straight; it was at that time I had to admit while driving over the rabbit I actually remember closing my eyes very tightly, and then immediately looked in my mirror. He just smiled.

My next purchase was a 1987 Suzuki Savage 650. With our son on the back of his bike, I aged him by years as I was supposed to turn left out of the restaurant parking lot but instead I rode straight across a two lane highway, in and out of the ditch and back onto the road without causing any damage but my husband had said that it was one of the scariest scenes hes ever witnessed.

Another day while riding I asked him to switch our bikes, with hesitation in his voice we did and that was when I knew I had to have my own Harley-Davidson. We bought the bike I still ride today, a new 1996 Harley-Davidson Dyna Convertible. It was on the day of our 20th wedding anniversary.

We have two children and we traveled as a family for many years on the two bikes. We have a trailer to hold all the camping gear and would be constantly away. During the winter we have hauled a trailer with the bikes and have spent different weeks in Florida, Texas, and New Orleans.

Lynn and her granddaughter in Daytona.

We have enjoyed most provinces and many U.S. states. Weve enjoyed the Cabots Trail in Cape Breton Island, off Gaspe, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Lake Louis, Banff, Jasper in Edmonton, and parts of British Columbia, Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee/North Carolina, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Ocean City in Maryland, Blue Ridge Parkway in the Virginias and so many others.

Ive been to every major motorcycle rally in North America, some more than once which include Sturgis in South Dakota, Americade in New York, Laconia in New Hampshire, Daytona in Florida, and many smaller rallies north, south, east and west.

The freedom of riding a bike with confidence is extremely liberating for me, even though Im “directionally challenged” and cant read a map with any certainty. Ive been lost more times than I care to remember but Ive always found my way.

Now we enjoy a granddaughter and another grandbaby on the way. She owns Harley-Davidson clothing from across North America. My favorite T-shirt is “My Grandma Rides A Harley” and “My Grandma is a Biker.” I believe not too many grandchildren will own one.

Lynns granddaughter outfitted in Harley gear

I was mentored with love and extreme patience and Ive in turn tried to be patient with new riders men and women. Women need to mentor each other as our riding styles vary from men in different ways. I just wanted to thank him for his patience and confidence in me because if it wasnt for him I wouldnt be riding today.

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20 thoughts on Reader Story: Mentoring through Mishaps

  1. I took the course and passed it. This April will be two years ago. I (right after that) got rear-ended in my car and it took a while for me to feel secure enough with a hurt back to hold up my bike (Honda Shadow 650). I have not been on my bike for at year or more. I was riding around the neighborhood and got pretty comfortable doing that but the first time out on the road my husband was in front of me on his Jarley and a car got all up on me. I didn't panic but where we live it is just too scary to ride. I need to get back on it and work at it. I really want to. I too have a patient husband but he sometimes just thinks I can just “do it” and not see that I am scared. Thank you for the encouraging story and I too will get back on my bike.

  2. Thanks for this article. I have had my license for about four months. I have progressed slowly and at my own pace. I decided I needed to venture out on the main roads with my boyfriend. I did crash my bike that day and broke my collar bone. It has been a painful recovery. I decided to not get back on my bike because of fear. However after reading this article I have decided to get back on and live out my life long dream. Thanks! I will try and find some other woman to ride with thet seem to take things slower and will allow me to go at my own pace.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story, because I really need the encouraging words. My husband has been terrific and very patient even though he can't wait for me to feel confident enough to get out on the open road. I am not quite there yet. I have a Honda Shadow 750 and it intimidates me some, but every day I ride for an hour or so and my husband is right behind me, just in case. I have had a few spills but have gotten right back on despite the shaking! It is important to have someone to support you when you are a new rider.

  4. Let's look for the day when Harley Riders can proudly say “My Mother taught me how to ride!”

  5. I loved the story! I am 51 and am enrolled in the Riders Edge Basic Riders Course set to begin on June 26th here in Alaska. I have always wanted to learn to ride and am finally doing it. I already own a 2009 Yamaha XT 250 but I really want something that allows me to put my feet on the ground easier. My sister rides our Yamaha and has had her motorcycle license since she was 16. I think we'll enjoy riding together, once we have two bikes, since there isn't anything else to do in the small, Eskimo village we live in here in southwestern Alaska. Again, thanks for sharing a great story!

  6. Thank you for the excellent and encouraging story. In reverse, my fiance recently decided to take the MSF course and get his license. He was sure he wouldn't pass, even calling me mid-day with his concern. I encouraged him not to quit and now he is addicted to riding. He would have never tried if I hadn't encouraged him to ride.

  7. My partner is a seasoned and skilled rider. Other than riding on the back of his Suzuki Bandit 1200 I had never been on a bike before, let alone rode my own. Yet all it took was one trip to Americade and I decided I wanted my own bike. Learning to ride a motorcycle has turned out to be one of the most challenging, terrifying, and rewarding things I have ever done – and I rock climb, white water kayak, etc.! I took the safety course, got my license, and now – four years later – I just returned from my third trip to Americade on my own bike – a Honda Shadow Spirit 750. Very empowering!

    Like so many of you I have been blessed with a supportive and patient mentor. One thing he has taught me is never let your guard down, no matter how long you have been riding and how experienced you (think you) are. I'm looking forward to many more years of riding.
    P.S. My grandchildren also wear “my grandma's a biker chick” t-shirts!

  8. Thank you for your story. I, too, have a patient and supportive husband. I spent five years on the back of his bike. My sister got her license, and that is when I decided I wanted to get mine. We bought a used Kawasaki, which I rode for one year and decided I wanted my own Harley. Two years later I can't wait to get out on two wheels and just go.

  9. This was great and I love that you have the courage to keep going even after going down early in your experience. I rode when I was young then took about a 20-year break as I was raising my five kids. Now with four granddaughters I am back in the saddle. I have ridden the past 15 years and have a Honda Silver Wing right now.

    I would encourage any women to get out there and explore and enjoy riding. I search on the computer a destination, Mapquest it and off I go. I ride by myself about 85 percent of the time and love it. I do belong to a retired group in Richmond, Indiana. It's 25 older gentleman and me!

  10. I absolutely love your article as my husband was my mentor also. Talk about the patience of a saint. I was afraid of my new Suzuki GZ250. My husband would run down the hill with me on the bike without the engine on. When I would get half way down the hill, he would let go and I would coast down the hill. I felt like a kid learning how to ride their two-wheeler for the first time. It has been a slow process, but I now ride confidently on my own. My husband always rides behind me to keep cars from following too close. I thank him all the time. Thanks to his patience, I didn't give up and now I am totally addicted to riding.

  11. Thank you for your encouraging story. I needed that!

  12. What a wonderful article. I'm a brand new rider looking forward to the type of mentoring Lynn wrote about. I hope to find it through friends and community. So far, my mechanics at Mad Dog Cycle are patient, kind, and supportive. I owe a lot to them. My dealer contact, Jan, in Camarillo has never given up on me. She is a solid resource. I look forward to completing my Harley safety course in the next month. Lynn's words are very inspiring. Thank you so much for writing!

  13. Thank you for sharing your experience with all of us! I, too, had the patience and mentoring of my fiance when starting to ride my Harley. If it wasn't for his confidence in me and the encouragement he gave me, after a couple spills and a slide into him — knocking him over, I probably wouldn't have dusted myself off and gotten back on. It's really great to know that there are few good men out there. Thank you again for sharing.

  14. Your story sounds a lot like my first year on my Harley. The only difference is when I dropped my 2000 Fat Boy my husband didn't encourage me to get back on. I didn't ride or attempt to ride for over a month, lost all confidence in my skills to ride and came dangerously close to giving it up. After much soul searching I finally decided come hell or high water I would not be defeated. I marched myself to the garage, had a talk with God, said a few words to the old Fat Boy and haven't looked back since. Support and encouragement build's a great foundation for beginning riders.

    I commend your husband and son for their encouragement and support to you and I commend you for this story giving them their due. Ride safe lucky lady!

  15. My husband was my mentor as well, with the patience of a saint, he even came to my “graduation” from the rider course. Although I am still learning, I am lovingly know as his “wing woman.” There is no other person that I'd rather ride beside than this gentle giant. I'm glad to know that there are others like him out there.

  16. Great story! Runs almost parallel to mine only our family rides sportbikes and dirt bikes. My 9-year-old grandson has a T-shirt he wears proudly that states”My Grandma is Faster than your Dad!” He is already riding up a storm on his Yamaha 110.

    Really enjoy this online publication, Genevieve. Thanks.

  17. I LOVE this article. It will definitely go on my refrigerator for inspiration! I still have to sign up for riding lessons myself but am looking forward to it.

    After riding with my ex for many years and on different styles of bikes I have decided it's time to get my own. Just like Lynn, on the back of a motorcycle is not where I belong. I have been reading women's stories from all over, in all types of magazines, etc. but this one is a keeper. A girlfriend of mine put me on her bike (we didn't start it) and she sat on the back just to let me get the feel of the bike and showed me the gears, brakes, etc. That alone was scary but it isn't keeping me from wanting to ride my own. She is planning to teach me more and I am waiting for my real class training to come up. Now to look for that special bike!

  18. That was very heart warming and also very true of my experience. My husband bought my first bike in August 08, Triumph America. When I first started riding, I managed to go down at low speeds on a gravel driveway (our own) and a few months later on a gravel road. Both times he got me up, got the bike up because it's too heavy for me to pick up, made sure I was alright and then made me get back on. There were some mirrors that had to be rebent and a few scratch marks on the crash bars but now 5500 miles later, I feel like an accomplished rider. I hope every woman has that gentle and understanding mentor to help guide her.

  19. You are very blessed to have had your husband be a mentor/riding coach for you. And you are so right about women mentoring other women as not everyone will be that fortunate.

    My own husband passed away before I started riding and if not for the love and support of my sisters from Women in the Wind, I could never have done it.

    Every new rider needs support and help from more experienced riders. It is a significant source of pride and joy that I can now return the favor my sisters gave to me by helping newer riders, too.

    My granddaughter also wears a “My Grandma rides a Harley” T-shirt. One day I hope to be able to help mentor her.
    Great story – ride safe!

  20. Thank you for sharing your story. Very encouraging words. And kuddos to your husband for being so patient and loving.

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