My First Ride in Traffic: A Horrifying Experience

written by David Mixson

I vividly recall my first ride in traffic.

I had just purchased my first motorcycle, a bright red Honda VFR, and wanted to take it out for a spin. I borrowed a helmet and riding jacket from a friend and ventured out on my own.  

Everything started out fine. I did a few laps in the parking lot of an apartment complex near my house, and from there, I ventured out to a side street at a nearby shopping center. 

I felt a little nervous, but nothing too bad. 

A short time later, I decided to venture out into traffic. I exited the shopping center and turned right onto Highway 72, heading west. My heart started racing. Cars were all around me. I felt anxious, awkward, and incredibly small. My mind became overwhelmed. 

What if I dropped it at a busy intersection? What would it feel like if I crashed? What would I do if someone came into my lane, or pulled out in front of me, or stopped abruptly? Is this really a good idea? Did I purchase the right motorcycle? Am I selfish for wanting to ride, especially since this whole thing makes my family nervous? Do I even enjoy riding?

And then I thought: If I die in an accident today, my motorcycle mentor (an avid reader) will certainly find out. The headline reads:

“Beginning Rider Crashes During First Ride in Traffic.”

I rode a five-mile loop that afternoon, making only right-hand turns because left-hand turns seemed too hard. How could it be that such a short ride physically and mentally consumed me?

I felt under-skilled and vulnerable. When the ride was over, I took off my helmet and made this promise to myself.

If this fear doesn’t go away, I’m going to sell this thing and stop riding.

* This article is an excerpt from my book Motorcycle Smarts.

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About the Author

David Mixson writes about the topics other motorcycle books gloss over. He worked as a NASA engineer for over thirty years and is the author of three books.

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