Back in the Saddle: Motorcycle Diaries 2010

Despite holding a “license to ride” for a year, I haven’t found myself on the seat of any motorcycle since I took a beginner’s safety course last summer. And with plans for our 2nd annual Latham Freedom of Independence Ride well underway, I was itching to get back in the saddle!  Two facts were holding me back:  (1) I don’t own a motorcycle; and (2) I’m not confident enough to ride past my driveway, even if I had a one.

With the goal of purchasing my own motorcycle and the objective of feeling comfortable enough to actually ride it in a future Independence Ride, I decided to take a refresher motorcycle riding course.

My friend Lu told me about the Rider’s Edge Safety Course being offered by Silver Eagle Harley-Davidson/Buell in Waterloo. She, too, was interested in taking the course as a way to build confidence in her driving abilities.  She had also taken the beginner’s motorcycle safety course last summer in Hampton and earned her license.  But unlike me, she purchased her own bike and actually has been brave enough to take Sunday drives with her husband.  Lu’s enthusiasm for the class – coupled with the $100 savings coupon she dangled in front of me like a carrot before a horse – prompted me to register and make the 90-minute commute to class on Thursday, July 22.

Our class was taught by a husband-wife team.  From the moment they introduced themselves to our class of 10, I knew I was going to like their style!  They did a great job of getting everyone into various small groups for the first two nights of instruction, which made the classroom studies far more interesting and also created a sense of team.  By the time we all met at the range on Saturday morning, a rapport existed between all the students, who ranged in age from 16 to nearly 60.

The range instruction began with getting familiar with our 450-cc Buells.  One of the first thoughts I had as I mounted my bike was, “Bubba Blackwell rides a Buell.”

Bubba Blackwell, the American Daredevil, will be entertaining the crowd following the hog roast at this year’s Freedom of Independence Ride. And, I couldn’t be more excited for his performance!

I grew up watching Evel Knievel on prime-time television.  My brother and I were captivated by each of his death-defying tricks.   I have to admit that I was especially intrigued by his flashy motor clothing, while my brother was more likely trying to figure out how he could rig up hay bales and plywood to try his stunts with his dirt bike.

Flashy motor clothing and all, Bubba Blackwell has broken every known record set by Evel Knievel.  In January 2000, he completed the longest Harley-Davidson motorcycle jump in history by sailing his 400-pound, XR-750, over 15 tour buses with room to spare.  That same year Blackwell noticed the Harley-Davidson inspired Buell motorcycle was generating a lot of attention, so he expanded his show by adding a European style of riding called “Street Fighter” with an American flare.

Blackwell is the only motorcycle daredevil to have beaten all of Evel Knievel’s jumping records, using the same type motorcycle and the same sized ramps. In 2008, he broke the last known record held by Evel Knievel when he jumped over 52 cars at the Deep South Speedway.  Click here for a complete listing of Blackwell’s record-setting stunts. For the opportunity to see him live in Boone, Iowa, on Aug. 30, register for the 2nd annual Latham Freedom of Independence Ride.