If you’ve ever visited our showroom, chances are you’ve met Betty Olson, our Clothing & Accessories Sales maven. When she’s not supporting Stef or helping customers find the perfect helmet fit, I often see her showing new customers around the shop on the grand tour. Yet like everyone on our crew, there’s more to Betty than her specific role in the shop.
For starters, it’s not just scooters and motorcycles Betty’s into. She’s all about the bicycles too. So much so that each summer, the Missouri native participates in Ride For AIDS Chicago where over the course of two days, she’ll pedal 200 miles to help further AIDS awareness and research.
Betty teaches Yoga, and we have it on good authority that she’s terrific at it. That’s not the only body movement connection on Betty’s resume. Betty loves to dance and perform dance. How much love? Well, Betty has her undergrad in dance and her Masters in Dance Movement Therapy. What’s that got to do with motorcycles? Well, you might be surprised.
Thanks to her credentials, Betty worked in a psych unit for four years, using Dance Movement Therapy to help people re-establish the connection between their mind and their body. She feels a real connection to that same impulse in Yoga, but also in motorcycles. “You need to be connected to understand what’s going on with every aspect [of doing what you do]. That’s a lot of what I teach in my Yoga classes. Listen to what your body is telling you.”
It was this relationship between mind and body that drew Betty to motorcycles in the first place. The connection was sparked for Betty when a friend described motorcycle riding as meditation — something riders around the world can relate to. That just brought her right back to mind-body connection. “When you’re on a motorcycle, what is your body telling you right now? Are you looking ahead? Are you paying attention? Are you in that moment or are you zoning out? ‘Cause if you’re zoning out, you’re going to get in trouble.”
The final thing to know about Betty, at least as it pertains to the rest of today’s profile, is that she’s just recently gone through the process of getting her motorcycle endorsement on her driver’s license. That’s right, Betty’s actually very new to riding motorcycles and scooters. I caught up with Betty last week and she gave me the low down on taking the Ride Chicago Basic Licensing Class for motorcycles, and also the Ride Chicago Scooter course.
NS: When you started at Motoworks, you didn’t have your motorcycle license yet, correct?
NS: You have it now though, right?
Betty: I do.
NS: Tell me about the process and what was like to make the journey from non-rider to rider.
Betty: Well I did the Ride Chicago course, and they were really phenomenal. The motorcycle classroom part was three hours and we went through everything you need to know. Prior to taking the class, you have to get your permit through the DMV, which I did. I took the 15 question test and walked out of there with my permit, clicking my heels and wanting to sign up for a class ASAP. After the three hour classroom session, you do two days of riding a motorcycle.
NS: What is the riding part of the course like?
Betty: The minute you arrive at the course, and you sign in, they have you immediately throwing a leg over a bike. Then it’s showing you all the things you learned in the classroom. Here’s this. Here’s that. Here’s the shifter. Which was exciting and thrilling to just be able to throw a leg over a bike after three hours in a classroom and getting my permit. It was phenomenal. Then they take you slowly around the parking lot. You start off just walking the bike. You start off with learning those controls and then pretty quickly get into taking your legs up and just riding. You learn how to shift, and do u-turns. All that stuff.
NS: So shifting. I think for a lot of people, for motorcycles in particular, the clutch and the shifting of gears is really intimidating. So you had the classroom element walking you through that ahead of time, but in actual practice and doing that for the first time, what was that like?
Betty: Well I actually had a standard truck growing up. I drove that for 11 years and it was really similar. On the bike, the shifting was my favorite part.
Betty: I was like, ‘[snick snick] I got this.’ So if you’re comfortable with driving a manual on a car or anything, you’ll definitely be comfortable with shifting on a motorcycle.
NS: So how do you feel like it compares to shifting gears on a bicycle. Obviously there’s no clutch, but…
Betty: Well yeah, it really is just being aware and paying attention. With the motorcycle, you can hear it and you can feel it when it’s ready to shift. Same thing with riding a bicycle. You know that “I need to take it up a gear.”
NS: Yeah, working too hard.
NS: So you did those two days out on the course learning how to do u-turns and learning how to shift and do all the slow speed basics. Coming out of that, how ready did you feel to take on a bike of your own and get out there and start riding?
Betty: It was a little intimidating, and I still want to do it just to do it. But I also went back and did the scooter course.
NS: Great. Tell me about the scooter course.
Betty: It’s one day, with no classroom time, and you are still able to take your M-class after that. So you can get your M-class on a scooter and then learn to shift later if you want.
NS: So in terms of that time you spent on the bike doing the course, what kind of drills did they have you doing, and what was different from motorcycle to scooter?
Betty: Nothing was different on the drills. You do the same thing on a scooter as you would on a motorcycle, other than shift. And actually, when I went back to take my scooter class I felt a little more confident on two wheels and they kept saying “slow down!” and to everyone else they’re saying “speed up!” They would pull me out of line and they’d make me get ahead of everybody.
NS: So it’s u-turns and stops? What else?
Betty: U-turns, you weave through cones, you do the swerving maneuvers. You do a lot of speed up then stop inside of a box. For the M-class license test, you have to do all of that anyway, so they get you out on the course doing all those things you’ll have to do anyway. The test course is painted right on the parking lot and when you’re doing it, they switch it up. One time they’ll say “Let’s go over here and you do the cone weave” and so they take all the test things and weave them into what you’re already learning, which is phenominal.
NS: So when you were done with the rider course, did that qualify you for your M-license, or did you have to take a separate class?
Betty: I had to take a separate test.
NS: Did you have to go do that at the DMV?
Betty: I took it on the Ride Chicago site, on their course. They slotted for a DMV representative to come to the site and you can take the test on the same bike or scooter that you rode [for the course].
NS: So that’s great. It doesn’t have to be your bike and you can do it on the course bike that you’re basically renting as part of your class fee.
NS: And same thing for the scooter course?
Betty: Yes, absolutely.
NS: So it sounds like it’s really accessible.
Betty: It is, and they [Ride Chicago] have two locations: one on Damen right by the United Center, and then there’s another one at Toyota Park. They also offer a course that I haven’t actually taken yet. It’s the “Getting to Know Your Bike” course. So it’s kind of an advanced training. Once you get your bike, you can go to their site and they’ll tell you what’s special about your bike, how to ride it, what you need to know. All that.
NS: So it’s your specific motorcycle, and them teaching you all the hard stuff.
Betty: Yes, and I look forward to doing that when I get my bike.
NS: Have you picked up your own personal motorcycle yet?
Betty: Not yet.
NS: What have you got your eye on?
Betty: I love the [Triumph] Street Triple. I would paint mine matte purple.
While Betty hasn’t taken delivery on her Street Triple yet, she’s out on the roads putting her two-wheel knowledge to good use and growing her riding skills. This week Betty even arrived at Pints & Pistons via scooter, a first for her:
So next time you’re in the shop, say hi to Betty. She’ll help you find what you’re looking for. And if you’re curious about being a new rider, or want to know more about rider education, she’s a great resource. But you’d better come talk to her soon, ’cause she’s well on her way to seasoned rider status.