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Sharon's First Test Ride

Blog Date - 27 August 2018

Motorcycle Centre Orrell aka MCO are having one of their open days, promotional days, test ride days, call them what you will. Stephen Latchford is somewhat obsessed with Kawasaki's new retro modern cafe racer, the Z900RS. It's a bank holiday Monday. There's rain in the air but it's not lashing it down, not like yesterday. Let's go to Orrell.

Sharon on the day she collected her Kawasaki Z250SL from Orrell MotorcyclesSharon collecting her own 250 from MCO - that's over 2 years ago now.
Stephen Latchford on a new Z900RS cafe racer kawasaki
I think Latchy is lookinig forward to this test ride.

MCO don't go overboard with dancing girls and big screens and fanfares. There's tea and coffee, hotdogs, a welcome smile and a bunch of Kwakkers to play on. It's not overkill or a dazzling spectacular and I like that. 

Before the first group heads out Sharon has a sit on the Ninja 400. She's sat on a couple before and found while her little legs can reach the floor she's not "flat footed". She reckons it's about the same as her 250 before it was lowered. I jokingly suggest she takes this one out for a test ride today - while I book a ride on the 400 out of curiosity and the desire to write a review for this here blog.

Ren on a Ninja 400. He looks sill in his waterproofs and hi-viz
I am definitely NOT rocking this sportsbike look.

I take my turn on the 400 with a handful of other riders on a good selection of Kwakkers. A Versys 1000 and a Vulcan 650, a couple of the 900 cafe racer thingies and a Z650, you get the idea. Group riding is definitely NOT the best way to test ride a motorcycle but it is a quick and dirty chance to at least have a play on another machine.

As we return to the shop my thoughts turn to Sharon "having a go". It's probably not a good idea. She's done plenty of group riding but not with a group of strangers, some of whom appear to have no fear of speed limits or hospitals. On top of the stress of riding a different bike there's the stress of making an ass of yourself in front of strangers. It'd be best if she could do this in her own time in her own way at her own pace. 

I park the 400 and start to fill Sharon in on my thoughts about the Ninja. She's listening but she's also "doing" if that makes sense. Then she casually informs me she's next up to ride the 400.

WHAT!! In my head I'm like "noooo! you're not ready, it's a group ride, it's too big, you'll be scared, you'll feel pressured, I won't be there to help...." and so on and so on. I keep my trap shut though. She is an adult. She is 48 years old. She has been riding motorcycles for 4 years. She has 40,000 miles under her wheels. She's probably done more all year round riding in all kinds of places under all sorts of circumstances than at least half of these riders.

Sharon on the same ninja 400 - looking smart and like she belongs there
Sharon looks WAY more stylish on the sporty 400.

She's sat on the bike. She looks, well, erm, fine really. I can't decide if she's nervous or if I'm transposing my nervousness onto her. She starts the bike. She sets off. And then she's gone. 

I hang around talking and drinking tea. Meanwhile the small voice inside my head is a little worried. I hope she's not riding like a loony. I hope she can reach the floor at the junctions. I hope she doesn't drop MCO's shiny 400. And so on and so on. 

Logic versus emotion. Logically I know she has just as much chance of being just fine and dandy as I had when I took the test ride. I know she's a little shorter than I am and not quite so experienced, but it's not a tall bike and she'll never ever get experience other than by just bloody well doing it.

I'm also just a tad proud. I didn't need to cajole or push her into doing this, in fact I was going to suggest against it. We did not have a 4 day long discussion over the merits and issues of this process, she just made a choice and got on with it. Sometimes we both overthink things, we ought to just blooming well get on with it!

The first rider returns...then the next then the next...and there's Sharon. I can't see any damage on the bike and she seems fine. Phew. I'll let Sharon tell you what she thought of the test ride. We are going to put together a joint review of the Ninja 400. 

I ought not to make a "thing" about this. Stephen took a test ride too and I'm not making a song and dance about that. I need to stop seeing Sharon as a novice, as a little baby taking her first baby steps into the big world of motorcycling. She is just another rider, she is nothing special. She IS a biker (or motorcyclist...). She is still a hobbitses though.

We're looking for cool motorcycle related things to review. Contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Andy said :-
Ren, you should *never* reveal a lady's age!

Not that we believe you. Did you mean 28?
30/8/2018 10:49:55 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
HA! No Andy - I was providing you the dear reader with an opportunity to say "48!!! Blimey surely you mean 28?!?"

She's behind me isn't she...
30/8/2018 11:12:06 AM UTC
Pocketpete said :-
48 lbs ringing wet through..

I'm sure that's what you neant
30/8/2018 6:39:41 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
48 kilos Peter and you'd be about right. When it's windy we have to peg her down.
30/8/2018 7:11:21 PM UTC
Rod said :-
OK, That's enough about Hobbit disrespect!
At 5' 4" I am probably about the same size as Sharon.
Hobbits are quite capable of riding bikes bigger than 80cc, we just use a different approach to taller people.
We can not get both feet down, so we lean the bike to one side when we stop at junctions, and get one foot down. This works OK until your mate is riding pillion, and decides to help at junctions by putting both feet down!
I hope the Hobbit comments are because Sharon is small, and not because she is female.
30/8/2018 8:51:06 PM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
5 feet 4 inches!! You are a GIANT of a man Rod! Sharon dreams of such dizzying heights, if she were that tall all her prayers would be answered. Sharon is but a mere 5 feet nothing else tall, and that's only if she stands up straight. You might think she is a long long way away, but she is a lot closer than you think. This often catches me out if it make a rude comment and I suddenly find I'm not quite as safe as I thought I was.

On a slightly serious note not only is Sharon small but she is of slight build too. As such she doesn't have quite the same strength to battle with a bike that's come a little more off the vertical. My legs are used to hauling 80kg or lard around, Sharon's only have to support 50kg.

If my bike gets out of shape as I pull up to the lights I throw my foot down and I have the grunt to hoist myself out of trouble. Sharon needs to be precise otherwise with a heavy bike the strength ain't there to save it. It's not JUST height it's strength too.

The hobbit comments have nothing to do with gender or height. It's her hairy feet...
30/8/2018 9:15:44 PM UTC
Rod said :-
I will send a straw for your food intake first class!!!!
30/8/2018 9:35:30 PM UTC
Sharon said :-
Aww Rob I don't mind being called a Hobbit because I am tiny.I came to terms with my small statue a long time ago. Even used it to my advantage on occasion like travelling on the bus for 12p in my 20s.
I am well aware of the limitions my size and strength put on my choice of bikes. I can ride them bigger bikes when lowered but the weight will always be a issue. I like to know I can move my own bike around.
I don't mind everyone knowing my age either.
I do however mind being accused of having hairy toes. I do not have bloody hairy feet. I have hairless tiny nice feet thank you.

30/8/2018 9:57:34 PM UTC
Borsuk said :-
I have an inch on you Rod but short legs. I found out the other week there exactly what it feels like to lean over to plant your foot and not find ground when you expect to. Also a Z650 is a heavy beast when you are underneath it.
On a less toppling note, how long do you have to hold a license for before they let you test drive bikes. Using MCO as an example.
31/8/2018 2:35:38 AM UTC
Borsuk said :-
Ren Said, I am definitely NOT rocking this sportsbike look..
Your right mate. You look like a dayglo sack of spuds. The seat looks a bit small on you as well.
Sharon is rocking it though.
31/8/2018 2:47:17 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
Thanks Rob - although I suspect I shall be dining intravenously.

As for test rides Borsuk. It really really depends on the shop's insurance. However it has been my experience that most seem to require you to have passed your test for over 1 year. It is also worth noting many shop's insurance policies seem to exclude certain professions such as travelling fair workers and journalists. The only way to be sure is ask each shop.

A daylgo sack of spuds?! It's a good job I know beneath that - erm - dowdy exterior is the body of Adonis and chiselled looks of Russell Crowe. Otherwise my ego may never recover. But yes, that is perhaps all too accurate a description.
31/8/2018 7:07:30 AM UTC
Ros said :-
I'm 5ft3, forty something years old, and have been riding for 6 months. I agree with Sharon about being able to touch the ground and manoeuvre the bike around. On one of my first rides I went to put my foot down and it didn't reach the bottom of the gully I stopped over. I was just able to save my cb500xa. I can put both toes down well enough to reverse.
Thank you for your beginner stories Sharon, they were comforting to me when I felt my early learning was taking too long!
6/9/2018 8:35:49 AM UTC
Ren - The Ed said :-
I'm a oh-so-slightly shorter than average 5 feet 8 so I daresay all but the largest machines are within my reach.

I think you did blooming well to keep the 500 upright Ros, well done you. I've had a couple of moments where the floor was not quite where I expected to be and these do indeed get the heart racing somewhat.

One thing Sharon and I have discussed is that shorter riders actually have to be better slow speed riders. I can make a mistake and mess up but with a leg out and a heave it's unlikely anyone will notice. Sharon has to be spot on all the time every time otherwise the bike has a little lie down.

I'm glad Sharon's stories of her struggles have inspired yourself and it seems quite a few others to persevere. There are those to whom motorcycling came quickly and easily and it's easy for them to scoff and for the strugglers to feel inadequate. I guess you've had to work for your reward so I hope it was all worthwhile.

Enjoy the ride and keep safe.
7/9/2018 6:34:24 AM UTC

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