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  • Sarah Merrell

Hopping on a Harley

As we pulled out of the Harley-Davidson parking lot and navigated downtown Maryville traffic to get to Foothills Parkway where the shoot was taking place, I felt uncomfortable. Scratch that--I freaking hated it. On the Harley Bobber, I struggled to make turns and the clutch was difficult to get the hang of. I was worried I would dump the bike trying to make a turn. We stopped at a gas station and everything in me wanted to turn around and take the bike back to the dealership. But I committed to the video shoot and I was determined not to let fear get the best of me. So I sucked it up and kept going.

Once we arrived at Foothills Parkway, a curvy road snaking through the Smoky Mountains with panoramic views, we met the film crew and they gave us instructions. We had to do a lot of just back and forth from one pull off to another to get shots. As we did this, I found that each time it was easier to turn the bike. I didn't have to paddle my feet through the turn. I also began picking up some speed and as the shoot progressed I felt more and more comfortable. A few hours later the film crew hopped in the back of a pickup truck and we rode behind while they filmed us. As we rode up Foothills Parkway at a leisurely 45 mph pace, I realized this was the first time I was actually chilling while riding the Parkway and not bombing up it on my sportbike. It enabled me to look around and enjoy the scenery. I noticed things about the Parkway and views I hadn't noticed before. I also enjoyed how comfortable the bike was. The seat was cushy and I felt like I could ride it all day and not be sore. Also, once I had the bike going, it was surprisingly easy to handle in the curves, which I didn't expect.

After 5 hours of shooting, it was time to take the Bobber back. It sounds funny, but me and the bike bonded. I felt guilty for saying out loud to my husband that I hated the bike, because at the end of the day, I found I could appreciate it. It took riding the bike like it was meant to be ridden--and giving it a chance and open mind--to find that appreciation and enjoyment.

Will my next bike be a Harley-Davidson Bobber? No. For the type of riding I personally do it's not the right fit. But I do think that many motorcyclists are too quick to criticize a bike or an entire category of bikes. In my previous blog post, Riding & Appreciating a Wide Variety of Motorcycles, I discuss the subject of motorcycle prejudice and the importance of having an open mind when trying out different bikes. My takeaway is this: For those passionate about motorcycling, pushing your comfort zone and trying out a bike you wouldn't ordinarily ride can be a rewarding experience.

As for the video, it's currently being edited and the film crew expects to have a short sneak peek for social media available soon. We still have a "part 2" to film, so it will be a while before the final version is ready. I want to give a big thank you to the Big Slate Media team, Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson and the Smoky Mountain Tourism Development Authority.

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