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Author Archive | Jennifer Hooper

Why gap spark plugs? A quick overview.

Spark plugs need to be gapped to operate properly.

What are spark plugs and why do they need to be gapped?

“He can check the spark plugs and see if the engine’s runnin’ rich,” said the woman behind the counter.

I’d never been to this shop before, even though I’d driven by it hundreds of times. I’d stopped because of the sign that read Certified Harley Mechanic. I was just a little too skittish to drive my bike all the way out to the local Harley-Davidson dealership because I was afraid of stalling.

The place looked rough, with its worn sign and wobbly handrail, but I took a deep breath and walked in anyway. The inside looked just as rough, with creaky floor boards and yellowish dog-eared posters on the walls.…

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Riding a motorcycle: it’s not about the destination


On a recent solo excursion I spent most of the time inside my head ruminating about why we, riders, ride.

I passed through rural communities and small towns…

Riding a motorcycle: it's not about the destination

…and I rode by the ocean.

Riding a motorcycle: it's not about the destinationAs I rode, I breathed in the scent of fresh cut grass, baking bread, and the sulphery-marshy fragrance of saltwater.

In traffic, my body felt hot and dewey inside my black riding jacket.  At 60 mph, the wind cooled and refreshed my skin, and I felt light and alive.  Sometimes, the air felt warm-cool-warm in just seconds.

I rode over bridges.

On back roads.

On major throughways.…

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Learning to ride a motorcycle: making progress


Two months ago I jotted down some notes for a blog post that I wrote.  I wrote the notes after I’d owned my bike for less than two weeks; about a month after my new rider class.   I just came across them, and as I read them, I was surprised by what I’d already forgotten.

Here’s what I wrote:

  • Scary leaving the confines of my safe parking lot.
  • Wide turns…into the other lane.
  • Mirrors weren’t adjusted….couldn’t see behind me.
  • Had never actually used my blinker until that day.
  • Still shaky on my stops.

Yep….all that was true!  But two months and 600 miles later, I don’t feel any of those things.…

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Am I having mid-life crisis?


When I first told a few people that I was going to learn to ride a Harley, a few said, “What…are you having a mid-life crisis or something?”  In the moment, my face blushed and shame whooshed through my body.  I was embarrassed by the notion that I could be making an irrational, selfish decision or going through some kind of predictable phase in my life that would soon pass and fizzle out like a deflated balloon.

I hid the seeds of doubt and the feeling of being small that the question evoked.  I didn’t let on; I just laughed and agreed: “Absolutely!

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The motorcycle learning curve: the bad and the good

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Last weekend (June25-26) was World Ride Weekend, a campaign promoted by Harley-Davidson Motor Company with a single mission: “Just ride of the love of riding.” Motorcycle enthusiasts were encouraged to keep track of the miles the rode and report them on the Harley-Davidson website.  Collectively, riders worldwide logged over 10 million miles.

I did my part.  My Instagram post says it all: “In almost two months, I’ve only ridden 278 miles, but 118 of them were just yesterday.  I think I’ve rounded a corner!”

For 84 of those 118 miles, I rode with a friend, but I did the final 34 on my own.…

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The fear of dropping my motorcycle

Fear of dropping my motorcycle

When it comes to riding, I possess a plateful of confidence and a dollop of fear.  There’s lots of reasons to fear riding a motorcycle (speed, invisibility, and traffic, for example), and I face most of them with caution and logic.  But the one fear that holds me back from riding alone is the fear of dropping my bike.

Dropping a bike—having it fall on its side—happens to every rider.  (Anyone who claims otherwise is lying.)  I dropped my bike several times during my motorcycle course, and earned a “Moto-Acrobatics” award because of it (not an award I’d hoped to achieve, but one I earned rightly)!…

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Riding motorcycles and bad weather


Since purchasing my bike about a month ago, there’s been rain, fog, or ominous clouds on 20 out of 31 of those days.  Many of those have been on weekends and evenings, the only time I can ride.  As a new rider eager to get out on the road, practice, and get miles under my belt, it’s been frustrating.  What’s a girl to do?

This girl’s been reading about riding.  Although it hasn’t helped me build competency, it has led me to uncover some wonderful resources in my home state of Maine:

  • Ride Maine is an annual print publication for motorcycle enthusiasts living or visiting Maine.  
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Riding a motorcycle involves risk


It was a few days before my New Rider Course.  My 17-year-old daughter was giving me a lecture at the dinner table. “Riding a motorcycle is dangerous. I don’t support this decision at all.”

In a single moment, I felt awash with warmth from her concern, but also stunned into speechlessness.  I stared back at her with no ability to form words or respond.  I’d been talking about learning how to ride a motorcycle for months.  Not once had she shown any signs of worry before now.

After a few moments of silence, I assured her that I would be a careful, defensive driver.…

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Fear of riding my motorcycle. But doing it anyway.


My pulse raced as I left the comfort zone of the big parking lot and took a right turn onto an actual street in the industrial park where I practice.  The synapses in my brain over-fired as I worked through shifting, braking, engaging the blinker, turning, and stopping.  Corners scared me, and stopping did too, ever since I dropped my bike.

It had been five days since I’d been able to get back out to practice.  For those five days, I thought about cornering and stopping, and every time I did, fear gushed through my body and my heartbeat accelerated.…

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