Learning is generally harder for adults than it is children. Not because adult brains are incapable of processing and retaining new information but because it is harder for adults to get motivated and find the time to learn new skills. Learning a new sport may be especially trying for adults, who often lead a more sedentary lifestyle – confined to an office for forty or more hours a week for example – while children and young adults simply have more free time and stamina to be physical. Not to mention the fact that it can take longer for adults to bounce back from injuries both physically and psychologically. The embarrassment of not being able to master a simple skill in front of a bunch of 7 year-olds who got it on the second try, and/or peers who have been doing it for years, can be an effective deterrent to trying a new sport or activity.
I was aware of all this before I decided to learn how to ride a dirt bike, but I took it as a challenge I was ready to meet. At the time my riding ability extended to a bicycle and something else completely inappropriate to mention here, but I figured it couldn’t be that hard to learn to let a dirt bike do what it was designed to do – move using the power of gasoline. Not like I had to master the butterfly or the cabriole. How hard could it be? Well for starters, there is the matter of picking an appropriate bike (motor and power characteristics, bike weight and height), purchasing the needed gear, and finally bike maintenance. Luckily my boyfriend has been riding for decades. He took it upon himself to not only get me the appropriate bike and gear, but also very patiently teach me useful stuff like how to kick start the bike, where the front and rear brakes are, the purpose of the clutch, how not to turn the throttle even further when I actually mean to slow down, and finally how to shift gears. I’m still working on a few of those, but can now ride fairly comfortably even in pretty rough terrain.
Last Sunday however, like a novice rider that I am, I pulled the clutch and the front brake at the same time while going down a pretty steep, long hill. I was trying to slow down I think. Very dumb move. Needleless to say I flew off the bike, which first crashed into me and then slid down the hill. I sustained some injuries, laughable for the pros, but substantial for an amateur whose idea of strenuous physical activity mostly includes cocktails and sand between her toes. I’ve included a picture here, taken three days after the incident. My little injuries are healing well and I am feeling much better. Will be ready to hit the trails at Penny Pines in no time, even though most people including my own mother keep encouraging me to do something more age appropriate – lounge by the pool for example - I can’t wait to get back on the horse as they say.
It’s not easy to learn how to ride a dirt bike at thirty. There just aren’t very many women my age trying to do it here in the Silicon Valley, at least none that I’m acquainted with. However, I think it’s precisely because of that fact that I find it so gratifying. Feels good to challenge myself in a way I never even considered before. To challenge myself in a way people think is totally inappropriate and absolutely out of character for me. I generally feel more confident now and more alive than ever before. I know what it’s like to ride along the coast in Mexico, and crash on a hill at Metcalf – it’s awesome.