Thursday, July 22, 2010


In which our plucky heroine fails an MSF course discovers scooters and earns the respect of a one loud-mouthed co-worker.

When I was 47, a co-worker talked me into taking our state MSF course with him. I agreed to go, I guess in a attempt to “bond”... Well, as much as a 47-year-old woman could bond with a large bald gay man who would come into my office every morning and yell “V*****A!” or “It must be cold in here because, Girl, your highbeams are ON!”

And yet, I still thought this was a good idea...I blame menopause entirely.

Five months later, we went to take the course. (Yep, it takes THAT LONG to get in the MSF course in Chicago. They fill up FAST, so register online ASAP. And don’t be LATE or you will not get in the class. And DON”T cry or yell or call people names, it won’t help you, so suck it up and MOVE ALONG.)

Surprisingly, at the end of the first day, my coworker quit because he did not like the way the instructors yelled at us. Obviously, I am far more stubborn than he, and as long as no one was yelling “V*****A!” at me, I figured I could put up with it.

However, I did not count on the other factors—not being able to put my feet on the ground, a dirt bike the clearly did not fit me since it was cracking my pelvis. Honestly, riding that bike was like that Dude from those crappy Transporter movies was punching me straight in the Danger Zone, and oh yeah, I couldn't shift smoothly.

On the second day, towards the end of the class, the instructors decided that I was not keeping up with the class, which I suppose was true. I had never ridden anything before and just shifting while riding though the obstacles had me pretty busy. Chagrined, I could only agree with them. I went back to my car, head held high, but tears of frustration sparked in my wee bespectacled eyes.

Now, while I have various issues with the MSF course, taking it and washing out did do one thing for me. It made me determined to ride on two wheels. I had a taste and I wanted more. Riding on two wheels engages the brain like nothing else. It expands your mind. Suddenly, you are fully aware of movement, wind, velocity, the vehicles around you. Your slightest move has a direct effect on your ride. Also, what if there was a Zombie Apocalypse? How was I to save myself and my two fat dogs without fleeing on a motorcycle?

I called my co-worker to explain how I was a complete failure and he said, “It doesn’t matter. You don’t need to shift to ride because I have found the answer and it is called a “scooter.”

Cue choir of angels singing, “Alleluia!!!!!!”

I went home and googled “scooters”. Thus began my education. There is so much out there— thank you, Internet! A cornucopia of information was available, from reviews and forums on all makes and models of scooters, to photos and videos on gear, jackets, and helmets. There are also a plethora of videos showing you how to ride and how to choose your first scooter. Of course, part of the fun is doing your research first. So go on online, take an MSF course or Scooter School, and TALK TO PEOPLE. But nothing beats actual experience. Remember, mistakes will be made, but that is all part of the package.

For the next few weeks, my co-worker and I would e-mail Internet links back and forth regarding various makes and models of scooters and where to find them. We visited scooter shops together and discussed riding over lunch. So needly to say the bonding effort did work and the various inappropriate comments were reduced, slightly.

My co-worker and his partner had decided that a classic Vespa GTS from Chicago Motorworks would be the best for him. He also signed up for Chicago Scooter School. I followed a few weeks later. But I fell in love with an Ivory Kymco People 150. It fit my 5’8” frame perfectly. My sense from just sitting on it was a feeling of lightness and maneuverability. This was the scooter for me. Choosing a scooter is about fit, function and finally style.

My scooter was delivered to my house, my boyfriend and I went to the DMV and got our motorcycle permits, which allow you to ride in the presence of another M-class license holder. You can get a permit by reading a 40-page booklet and studying the highlighted hints at the bottom of the pages. The permit test is a mere 16 questions, and you only have to get 11 correct to get your permit. Scary!

After practicing in a local school parking lot and going to Chicago Scooter School, I had my coworker’s licensed partner, who had an M-class license, ride my scooter to the DMV for the test. Which was a breeze on the light and maneuverable 150.

I had my license, my insurance, my helmet, my Corozzo jacket, gloves and pink boots I was ready to ride! To join the ranks of Those Dedicated to Riding the Road. Zombies, LOOK OUT!

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