THE JOY OF BEING A NEWBIE RIDER

I have heard the statement she is a newbie or he is a newbie followed by conditions of when a newbie should ride, where they should ride, who they should ride with and even which bike rating they should ride among many other conditions attached to this name in the motorcycling industry.  Please don’t get me wrong, there is the utmost importance of these conditions for the safety and comfort of a beginner rider. Riding requires good training, fitment to your machine, safety and experience. The level at which we get comfortable on the road varies from one rider to another.  The size of the machines we ride varies from one riders to another and the ability to handle and manage your machine is of utmost importance. For sure a race track or the enduro off-road jungle is not the place for a beginner. It is not even the place for the majority of seasoned riders.

My friend Anna and I on her first ride on the highway.

However, we also know that this term has been used negatively to sideline the beginner rider, to give the seasoned rider their comfort space, to separate the “we” from “them”, for status and class. But who among riders dropped on earth with their “big machine”? Who among riders was never a newbie? You see, all your hands are down. Yes, we all started as newbies.

Being a newbie comes with some of the best experiences and joys of your entire riding life.  It is the time you get to live your dream, face your fears, earn the name biker. It is the time that everything you imagined, wanted and thought of comes to a reality. It is an amazing place to be.  I remember my first ride on the main road.  Those days we did not have community groups (Nyumba Kumis) or many clubs and groups. There was the Facebook group Africa Motorcycle Diaries and the Super Heros club with a WhatsApp group. These were the two largest bikers communities in Kenya.  Many seasoned riders will confess they got mentored from these two groups.  One had to wait for someone to leave the Super Heros WhatsApp group for you to be added as it was that full. Today, we have grown as a community and have quite a number of clubs and groups. Hallelujah!!  I can’t remember which platform I used but as soon as I passed my test and my license was stamped at the Karen police station, I looked for someone to hit the road with me. I was super excited. I was a ”BIKER”, I could now ride on the roads, I could finally experience the “two wheels move the souls”. Someone responded immediately to my request and within a short time they were outside my gate. A short text -“am here” and my heart started beating. My gear was all brand new. I picked my helmet, stood infront of the mirror and told the girl I was looking at, “you look damn hot! Lets Nduthis”… I walked out of the house feeling like Nikita of the movies, swinging my helmet on one hand and wishing all my neighbors could see me.  It was my time, it was my day, my first day to ride on the main road.

Shaping your first impression of riding on the highway. 

I looked at my bike, swung my leg over it and started the engine. I rolled out to the main road to join my riding mate.  Under my helmet I had mixed feelings, I was worried and excited at the same time but I was not going to turn back. I thank God for my friend because he was there to help me feel safe, comfortable and enjoy my first ride. He helped shape my first impression of riding. Riding in the training ground is very different from riding on the highway, I realized that day. He played a big role in my riding from that moment.  Don’t ever shun a beginner because, you could be the person that shapes their riding henceforth. Three days later, I joined a group ride.  My confidence to join the group ride was drawn from my first ride’s experience with my friend. The large number of riders when you are a beginner can be overwhelming but at the same time, you meet and make the best riding friends that will be your support as you get the groove of things.  I connected with so many people that we have shared so many rides and have remained friends to date.

Following this, I started riding to work. I would carry a change of clothes because of how i would sweat.  Sweat not because it was hot but because, the hustle with traffic and uncaring drivers not forgetting the pedestrians would just make me sweat. Remember that when you are on the road, no one sees a newbie or beginner, everyone sees a seasoned rider. Their expectations of you are “you got this thing together” but only you under your helmet knows the struggle.

Don’t ever shun a beginner because, you could be the person that shapes their riding henceforth.

I moved from short rides to long rides and would ride across counties.  It was no longer the cars and pedestrians, there was now the wind, the rain, the speed on open roads, the pot holes and again, my first long distance felt like my first ride again. Experiencing the all new again. I was once again fortunate take my first long distance ride with a new friend that I call hubby today. Is it how I got hitched —- mmmm, I have been asked this question too many times and your thoughts are not misplaced. When we left for the world tour, I crossed the first border to Uganda, but not before experiencing another set of new experiences. A much bigger bike, loaded with luggage, longer distances and no end date for the ride. I was all over again a newbie.

May be I have now experienced all my “news” may be not. May be there is more to come. Ooh yes, I have not crossed a river on my bike, I still have more. There are many of my newbie experiences that I don’t remember but there are those that will remain with me forever. They are the joys of being a newbie. They are the authentic experiences I have of becoming a biker.  I today, get on my bike and ride off without much thought of many things. Back then, every detail was given too much thought and attention, how is the front wheel turning, how am I releasing the clutch, how I break –  ooooh this one when coming to a stop used to be like hitting a wall. I would do hard breaking. Today most of these things are part of me and happen so naturally without a thought.

Graduate to a helping seasoned rider.

You see, we all graduate from being a newbie and upgrade to seasoned rider. But take a moment and think if you did not have anyone to walk the newbie path with you even for one day? Imagine if your rolling out to the main highway was met with fears, imagine if you did not have anyone to talk to after your first accident? Imagine if the world of riding was just you? It would be dark, lonely and not encouraging. This is why we should never look at the newbies as people who will slow us down on the road, as people who will demand too much of our time and attention as people who will be a bother. We all have come from there and we should be there for the upcoming riders. I am who I am today in my riding because of people who gave their time to mentor me.

May be we should even drop the name newbie!!!! It is a beginning, let us just use the name “beginner”.