As an improv instructor, I stress the importance of putting yourself in (safe!) stressful situations as it has been scientifically proven to be healthy for you. I took my own advice and decided to go head first into something I’m actually terrified of: riding a motorcycle.

As an actor we often hear the advice, “Work on your craft. Update your resume with new skills!” So I figured this was an endeavour that would help me personally and professionally. I mean, I remember how terrified I was when I got my drivers licence, swearing I would never drive a car again, that I just got it for identification, and here I am decades later and I drive both automatic and standard with ease.

As an instructor at Durham College, we must call in to register with an agent, so after finding a weekend that worked with my schedule on line, I called in and found out it was their “Ladies Weekend.” I wasn’t sure how I felt about that, would women complain more? Would some of them keep us at a slow pace that would make the rest of us have to wait around while they finished crying? I’m telling you, I had ALL the stereotypical thoughts but I also wondered: would they be more encouraging to each other? Would the instructors be kinder? There was no real way of knowing other than going.

The first night was the class room night and we instantly liked our instructors; they were funny, and stressed how we would all have fun and would ALL learn how to ride motorcycles this weekend. They also immediately started encouraging us to return for the M2 exit course and to consider becoming an instructor. They kept saying, “We NEED female instructors!” I liked that, they made me feel like women riders were a desired and an important part of the motorcycle community and I realized I had another stereotype hidden that I hadn’t been aware of: I just automatically thought male motorcyclists thought women riders weren’t as good. Weird, right? Why would I prejudge these people I never met? Maybe it’s because when I look at a bike with a passenger on the back it’s ALWAYS a woman. I’ve never seen a women riding a man around. Maybe I just didn’t know about this culture at all!

Bright and early Saturday morning, we were in the parking lot with our gear and were asked to pick a bike. Yikes! Are we really going to get on these things?! I also have to stress that it was the HOTTEST day of the summer so far, a reading of 45 with the humidity and we were out in the sun, in jackets, jeans, gloves and helmets…was this even possible? The guys were fantastic about giving us lots of breaks, taking the lessons step by step that by the afternoon we had ridden, stopped, learn all our essential parts, how to get on and off, how to start them, all without even turning them on. That’s right, in all that gear, in that intense heat, we were pushing each other around to get the feel of braking and the bike itself. BUT, we survived and by the end of the day we were riding motorcycles!

Not one complaint, we women doused ourselves in water, talked and laughed during these breaks and commented on how the wind was exquisite and we did what women do: we talked! I got to know about them, their families, and why they all took this course. Some women had bikes, some were married to Harley riders. These women were, for the most part, just as nervous about riding, but they were determined. I was wrong about women slowing anything down, we did what I guess women tend to do without thinking about it: we listened, we didn’t question, we were cautious, we followed instructions and we did it without complaint. It was a great experience of no egos, no make up, everyone sweating and sharing sunscreen and stories. I got home, ate like an animal and crashed for twelve hours!

The next day, my arms were aching from the pushing, my butt was saddle soar like I had been horse back riding all day, I was exhausted from the heat, and I was SO READY to get back on the bike! Sunday, we did emergency breaking, slaloms, traffic avoidance, everything that would get us ready for the testing. I realized my love for speed and my pining for driving a stick shift was transferred onto this bike. Two of the instructors pulled me aside and asked, “You’re telling me, you’ve never been on a bike before?” and I would remind them I’ve only been a passenger once in my life and screamed the whole way. One of the instructors started calling me his “Favourite Student” so I knew I was doing pretty good. I was nailing the emergency breaking and found the extra action of down shifting (not required) was easy and I think I have to attribute it to my years of dancing; it was just an extra step, the whole mechanism just another dance routine.

Then it was test time. My only thought – they are timing you, get going and then gun it! I got big smiles and a thumbs up a few times. When they took me in to get my results I was shown my score sheet and they stressed, “This doesn’t mean you were absolutely perfect, but for anything we could deduct points for, you got zero on everything.” I was beaming! I took great pride in getting high marks in school, it never occurred to me I would get a perfect score, I just wanted to PASS, to not injury myself, and most of all, to not give up, but now…well, I am in the process of purchasing a motorcycle.

Getting out of my comfort zone was as exhilarating as I remembered it. The women were so fun, a few of them I exchanged contact info with, the instructors all got big hugs from us for making the weekend such a wonderful experience. I HIGHLY recommend the course at the Whitby campus.

So, M1 licence has been officially added to my acting resume. Now, on to face my second fear head on: I’ll be up in Uxbridge in two weeks taking my restricted and non-restricted firearms course….double yikes!

About the Author

Stephanie Herrera is a comedian, writer, producer, teacher, singer, actor, mother of 4, and shallow philosopher. She runs the Durham Improv & Acting Studio in Oshawa, Canada, is a professor at Durham and Fleming Colleges, and is an award winning performer. / / / (647) 899-3342  Durham Improv Group and Business pages can be found on Facebook and follow @durhamimprov & @antimommy