Many people are used to seeing photos of Tisma Juett, manager of Inclusion & Outreach for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, in firearms industry publications. Look out, world! This firecracker of a woman recently realized her lifelong dream of owning and riding a motorcycle.
“When I was 18 years old, I signed up for the motorcycle class but I didn’t have a car to get there … it took me 30 years to get to it,” explained Tisma.
Last May, Tisma made it to the Connecticut-state-required motorcycle safety class. Most of the students in the class had been riding for a while. The class is a prerequisite for getting a license and insurance to ride. After passing the exam, a rider can hop on a bike and get on the road – without any additional requirements.
“I started seriously looking for a bike in march. A couple of friends of mine who had been looking at Craig’s List ads sent me this ad and said, ‘I think this is your bike.’” The bike, a 2008 Suzuki Boulevard S40, came with low miles, a 650 cc engine and fell into the category of being a good starter bike for her area. “I believe they made these bikes in the late ’90s and I believe it was called the Savage,” said Tisma. “It’s a reliable model, and not a whole lot has changed.”
She continued, “I had a friend who had been riding motorcycles for most of his life. He test-rode it for me. I asked him if he checked this, this, this, this, and he said it felt OK.” She then purchased the bike and … signed up to take the beginner’s class again.
Why did she retake the class? “It had been almost a year since I took the class. When I took the class the first time, I had no knowledge. A few weeks after the class, I rode on the back of someone else’s bike once and they gave a kind of riding lesson from the rider’s perspective. Talking about lane position, where not to put your feet when you stop and other tips. I came home, read some books, watched some videos. I still wasn’t comfortable riding yet. I got the bike at the beginning of May and took the class at the end of May. After going through the class again, I felt more comfortable.”
“The reason it’s called Roger,” said Tisma, “is because I have a little pirate in me, and so he’s actually the ‘Jolly Roger.’”
The most difficult thing was confidence. “Just like anything else, if you’ve never done it before, you ask, ‘Can I do this?’ Just like anything else in a male-dominated sport or activity, there’s always that little devil on your shoulder that says, ‘No, you can’t do this,’ and the other person that says, ‘Watch me!’”
After Tisma took ownership of her new motorcycle, someone from the office rode it from the previous owner’s house to the bike shop so it could get new tires and new front brake pads. “My friend rode it to the bike shop, because I wasn’t ready to ride it by myself. Then, that friend rode it from the bike shop to my house. Later, I wanted to get another part added to the bike, but I still didn’t feel comfortable riding it yet, so he took it back to the shop,” recalled Tisma.
Then came the day, all the parts were ready, and she had to ride it from the bike shop home, which is about ¾ of a mile. “The shop called me and asked if I was going to pick it up today … having passed the class for the second time … and I’m still not sure I’m ready to be out on it by myself … the bike shop said it would be more than happy to have someone follow me home.”
Thanks to the helpful bike shop fellows, Tisma left with a newfound confidence. “The guy at the bike shop said I could do a few laps around the parking lot, and so I put all my gear on and I did a few laps around the parking lot. Now, it comes time to take the bike home. In order to get to my house, you have to go up a hill, around a curve, and down a little bit and then, up my driveway. Just when I get to the top, it looked like it was about to tip over, but I caught it.”
Since that day, Tisma says she has not stopped riding.
“It’s just like dealing with your local gun dealer or range. Find someone you feel like you can trust. You can ask questions, and you won’t get turned away because you’re a newbie or a female. Motorcyclists are like the shooting industry – if you need something, people are more than willing to help you out,” said Tisma.
When asked what she purchased in order to ride her motorcycle, Tisma said it’s all about the acronym that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation puts out, “ATGATT: All the gear, all the time.”
This list includes the following items:
She added, “There’s all kinds of gear and accessories you can get. I spend a lot of time at bike shops and going online to see gear. Bags are coming. I find them to be essential.”
Tisma belongs to the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the consumer advocacy group for motorcyclists. It also is the prime organization for racing and events, and offers roadside assistance. She also joined a local riding club. “Right now, I am a prospect member … and hope to get my official patch soon.”
“So far, the longest trip I’ve taken is 167 miles – across Connecticut. … as for the future, Sturgis is not in it. … You can’t consider yourself a motorcyclist until you’ve done an overnight trip, though” said Tisma. To that end, she’d like to do a 3-hour trip to Cooperstown, N.Y., to see the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. “Come next spring,” said Tisma, “after I’ve taken online video-editing courses, my plan is to do a motorcycle ride and review food kind of thing.”
“The biggest take away,” added Tisma, “is that if this is something you’ve ever thought of doing, do it. Live life with no regrets!”
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