Welcome to the group and thanks for reaching out. As a lady rider I can certainly identify with you, and I wanna apologize that it’s took me so long to get a reply posted. I’ve been riding motorcycles for 25 years, started early on dirt but as an adult I prefer asphalt. My husband (JackoftheGreen on TMW) and I ride lots of miles side by side on our matching set of Ninjas and it’s bliss. As a rider, years of experience or not there are several factors that can absolutely make or break your day of riding.
Cute boots aren’t practical on a bike. Lol, I can’t say that I haven’t Ninja’d around in sexy black stretch pants and knee high stiletto boots just to see if it’s possible, (yes possible but ABSOLUTELY NOT recommended). Get you some good sturdy engineer style slip on motorcycle boots with barely a heel, and you’ll want the toe to be slim instead of chunky, flat topped is better than any sort of leather detail so it doesn’t risk getting stuck in between your pegs and levers. I’ve made gear errors before based on fashion and trust me, nothing is worse than some deep elbow road rash or laying on the road stuck under your bike waiting for somebody to help you up, at that point promise your outfit ensemble will be overlooked. I keep cute shoes in my desk at work to change into when I get there, and when I’m traveling I’ll stick street shoes in my saddlebags or in my backpack depending on which bike I take. Speaking of packing stuff in your backpack, you should never be without either a crushed soda can or a hockey puck in case you need to park on gravel or dirt, just stick it under your kickstand and make sure its secure and you can assure your bike will be still standing when you’re ready to head out. When I park, I always take a second to survey my parking job, kickstand placement, bike stability (it’s always really windy in the parking lot where I work), key in pocket, both gloves present, cell phone outta my winshield bag and lol I usually have a hair clip on my bike somewhere that is necessary after my ride, a girl with a bike doesn’t require a hair dryer right? Wear your gear every ride, all of it, every time. Helmet that protects your face too, good gloves, I have better luck with good leather isotoners than armored gauntlets, stick with your instincts, sensible booys, long jeans or leathers (pipe burns hurt!! I wore denim capris once and regretted it instantly). Leather or armored jacket but make sure you can move around comfortable to always be able to check your blind spots. Backpacks straps need to be comfortable and secure every time, your focus needs to be on the road.
Practice makes perfect. Even seasoned riders can benefit from some slow course practice and I try to get in some often. Find an empty church or school parking lot and bring some sidewalk chalk. Draw a course similar to the one in your motorcycle license handbook. Use the stalls provided and practice figure 8’s, U turns, weaving and dodging pretend obstacles. Practice fast stops and riding really slow like you’re in stand still traffic on the freeway but you don’t wanna put your feet down and see how you do. Use rubber duckys instead of road cones if you really wanna do some tight technical stuff. If your pipes aren’t too loud you’ll hear them squeak if you hit them with a tire. It’s really fun. Take some friends with you and watch each other practice, you can gain a lot of experience just watching how other people succeed and more so how they didn’t. Lol
Street riding isn’t a competition. Ask your hubby to stick with you but you can’t blame him for giving you your space. Instead of the ideal that you should keep up, the two of you need to find a face that works for you both. If he’s a speed demon perhaps you could work out a break the limit arrangement in the straightaways but slow and steady wins the race in the curvies until you’re more comfortable. He can always go out and speed through the curvies during solo rides and you can do some solo to get in some practice. The objective is to have fun and arrive safely at your destination, both of you. Perhaps you can have a discussion about constructive criticism and help him understand how you need to hear his feedback. Would it help you if he sugar coated it? Or didn’t mention every little thing you did wrong but just bring up the big things? Everybody gives and received feedback differently and sometimes just letting a guy know, ‘hey baby tell it like it is but please consider my feelings’ can go a long way. Lady riders can achieve just as much as the dudes, I have a room full of trophies to prove that fact. Stick with it, practice and you’ll be keeping up with his stride before you know it.
My son is almost old enough to get his learners permit. While I know he’s absolutely skilled enough and responsible enough to operate an automobile on the streets, (that is if he can find his keys and remember where he parked lol) he constantly tells me about what his dream sports cars are and how awesome it would be to drive one school, I constantly say uhh, you’re gonna be driving either a ‘94 Ford Tempo or an old base model Honda Civic. I thought of my son when you explained how your ex used to supply you with a sport bike to get to work and back, and then a brand new Sportster under you while you’re learning. You stated that the riders course was a breeze and I’m confident that it’s because they put you on a Ford Tempo rather than a Corvette. If my son gets in some minor fender benders or takes out a curb in the Tempo instead of the Vette, it’s just another battle scar for his learners diary of driving. I wonder if you might consider getting your hands on more of a starter bike for a season or 2? Something light, 650 or smaller, Honda nighthawk, a small Suzuki Intruder, a Yamaha Varego or V star. Older modest bikes are easy to find, easy to work on and cheap to insure. You rarely find ones that don’t have any battle scars so if you add another you don’t have to feel so bad. They’re easy to resell because there are always people learning to ride and if you’re willing to deliver to a new rider waiting to take a riders course your offer will look better than the rest (been there done that!) Your shiny new sportster will thank you and that doesn’t mean you have to keep it garaged for years, if you wanna ride a starter bike to work everyday then take the sportster out with hubby for a Saturday ride and picnic do it. Just remember to take time to make a mental note of the differences and start out slow, getting accustomed to the feel of how your sporty handles, how the throttle picks up faster and how the brake reaction time differs. I was pretty concerned for your safety when you mentioned how you ended up in the lane with oncoming traffic, it was sure your lucky day when the other driver was aware of you. Purchase bikes at a low price during the winter months and sell right at the beginning of the season when the weather warms up and people have the bug to get wind in their hair.
Last but certainly not least, gravel is not your friend. I know many a proud rider to take a spill thanks to gravel and it’s a bad time. First thing I can advise is be aware, plan your route according to where you know there’s gonna be gravel, if you’re taking a day trip going somewhere you haven’t ridden for awhile, check in with other riding dudes to see what the conditions are like, Jack of the Green and I are members of a local Facebook group called Shut up and Ride, those folks are always friendly and respond right away, (also, you can always find somebody willing to take a ride with you at a moments notice.) Sometimes gravel (tarsnakes too) are inevitable and you just gotta be aware and be prepared. Be ready especially on country/mountain roads or during construction, near pullouts and on the edges of the road. If you find yourself on a road entirely composed of gravel and there’s no other route, going faster actually gives you more control than going slow, once your bike is on top of it it will handle better but be ready to react if theres trouble! On dirt bikes, when you approach an unavoidable obstacle theres some rules of thumb to follow, and it doesn’t hurt to use the same technique on asphalt. Get a good handle on your bars without applying extra throttle, make a good wide stance with our arms, put your elbows up and flex to brace for impact. Slamming your breaks are not necessarily the answer. My dad used to say, when in doubt gas it, that works if you’re approaching a ditch or an unavoidable small piece of lumber in the road but obviously this doesn’t work if you’re approaching a tractor trailer with it’s break lights on all of a sudden. If you’re going over a large bump or obstacle stand up if you can, make sure your feet are good and centered on the pegs (I ride with my feet like that all of the time anyway) and use your legs for stability (and suspension) just like your elbows. If your bike is gonna jump a little your butt best be off the seat and the landing impact will be much better standing rather than with your spine right on the suspension. Some bikes are easier than others, I can stand all day on my Ninja (having memorized some bad bumps in recent road construction) but my Shadow, lol she thinks I’m silly if I try to stand, but it’s doable in a pinch. You can practice this when you’re out playing in parking lots with the sidewalk chalk and rubber duckies
Always watch, always be aware, keep an eye out for escape routes, check traffic around you and watch the emergency lanes in case you need to use it. Go around obstacles if you can rather than trying to break for it. I love to ride in the mountains but deer / sheep crossing is always on my mind. A rule of thumb is if the animal is smaller than you keep on keeping on, if its bigger, avoid. I’ve never(knock on wood) had this challenge, but my hubby had the misfortune of a cat crossing the road when he was traveling at night at a high speed. He went with the rule of thumb, just kept going as it all happened to fast and there was nothing he could do on his big Kawasaki Vulcan and fortunately returned home to me safe and in one piece, the Vulcan was fine too but the poor kitty didn’t get lucky that day. I was so grateful he knew what to do instead of wrecking himself to avoid the obstacle. Ride defensively, always have the assumption that other drivers don’t see you, assume they will cut you off and pull out in front of you and not give you right of way. Pretend you’re Harry potter in his invisibility cloak and other drivers cant see you. If you do, you’ll never have a reason to explain to an officer, a loved one or your insurance agent that you thought they saw you. Look up the smidsey maneuver on youtube, ‘Sorry mate I didn’t see you’ it’s a thing where you sorta weave back and forth to make yourself more visible to other drivers while approaching an intersection or when you see someone is about to merge onto the street where you are, I think it’s highly effective and it’s fun. Although, lol some drivers shake their head at me thinking I’m just screwing around. They can think whatever they like as long as they see me well enough to not pull out in front of me
Always keep your phone with you in case of emergencies and I recommend joining a local riders in distress group on facebook if theres one available. You never know when you might need assistance, my opinion is biased but motorcycle people are good people, they’ll come when you’re in need.
Hope this info was helpful to you. Wish we lived closer, I’d love to ride with you and watch your progress but I'm glad you found a good group of gals to ride with. You’re gonna do great just stick with it. Your hubby will be proud.
Ride Safe and Have Fun.