Readers and their Rides

The Sterles - A Family Affair

Written by  October 31, 2003

Meet Fred Sterle, his fiancée Christi Soderstrom, his son Brenton and daughter Amanda. Together, they share a common interest - riding motorcycles. Here is their story as told by Fred.

Our interest in motorcycles was sparked after we attended the 'World of Wheels' show in March this year in Kansas City. While we were there, my kids found a display of 50cc scooters and took an interest. After that, we made plans to take the kids to test ride scooters, however, we started thinking about dirt bikes too. After discussing it with the kids, we decided we would try to find a nice used dirt bike for them to share. While at our local bike dealer looking at dirt bikes, I began to admire some of the cruisers. That is when I started thinking about learning to ride so I could teach the kids to ride. At that point, the plan changed and I decided to look for a starter bike for myself.

I passed my written test in March and then went on a mission to find the right starter bike. I discussed the options with a good friend, Jason Swan, who is very experienced with motorcycles (regional sport bike champion), and I trust his judgment. Not to mention, he has been trying to get me on a bike for a few years now. I had him ride a couple of bikes for me, and I ended up getting a new 2002 Suzuki Savage 650. He gave me a few tips to get me started, and the next step was to start riding it. My plan was to practice riding the bike in the parking lot of a nearby school, however, once I took off on the bike, it felt natural, and instead of going to the parking lot, I proceeded to ride around the streets in my neighborhood. Within a couple of days, I was riding it through some of the busiest intersections in town. Within a week, I was riding it on the back roads. Once I made it past the 500 mile break-in period, I took it on the freeway. The key to this quick success, was reading the motorcycle safety manual thoroughly, applying the tips my friend gave me, and thinking positively at all times.

Within three weeks, I felt confident enough to take the road test. I passed the test the first time. I was very happy, and felt even more confident about my riding abilities. However, never feel too confident and forget to use the safety and defensive riding skills. I was fortunate to pass the test the first time with minimal practice, however, I strongly recommend practicing the skills test prior to taking the test, which will ease your anxiety. Additional practice will only improve your riding skills.

About two weeks after I purchased my starter bike, I also purchased a used 2001 Kawasaki KE 100 for Christi, Amanda, and Brenton. Since it was street legal, this bike was the perfect size for them to learn how to ride. Since we do not have a trailer, we were able to ride the bike down to an open field at the end of our housing development.

Christi was the first to ride the KE 100. She was a natural. Her prior experiences on ATV's helped her master the clutch and gear shift immediately. Shortly after she began riding in the field, she took her written test and passed it the first time. She then began riding on the back roads with me. She definitely preferred riding in the street vs. off-road. In April, she got on the Savage 650 and practiced taking off in our driveway. She felt more comfortable on it as it had a lower seat height than the KE 100 so it was very stable for her. We then went to a school parking lot nearby, and the rest is history. She rode the bike around the parking lot for about 45 minutes. I couldn't get her off it. At that point I knew she was hooked and I knew I was going to have to look for a new bike for myself. The Savage 650 was now hers.

By the end of May, I wanted something that was better for highway riding and more comfortable. I found a 2000 Suzuki Intruder 1400 with low miles, well taken care of and had a few accessories. As soon as I rode the bike, I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. I purchased the Intruder 1400 Memorial Day weekend. Since then, I have ridden about 2000 miles to and from work at least once or twice a week. That bike has me hooked.

Once I got the Intruder, the Savage was available for Christi to practice on as much as she wanted. It was a win-win situation for I got a riding partner, and she got to practice as much as she wanted. This really worked to her advantage. She rode all summer long and went to the road test site to practice. By mid-September, she was well prepared to take her road test and passed the first time. It was an exciting day and we were very proud of Christi for her accomplishment. She has now gone and test rode an Intruder 800. She loved it and is eager to get a bigger bike. I think we may be upgrading the 650 by next riding season. Does anyone need a great starter bike with low miles?

Brenton, who is 11 years old, started riding the KE 100 back in March. He had never ridden anything with a clutch before, and had limited experience with any type of recreational vehicle. After only stalling it a few times, he was taking off like a seasoned veteran. He did not even fall down. At this point, I was definitely smiling from ear to ear. The first few times out, he rode around the field in first gear. Once he mastered that, it was time to start shifting. After a brief explanation and example of how to do that, he was shifting gears without any problems. The next step was to learn how to take tight corners and do figure eights. He mastered that too. He now rides with great confidence, and is also safety conscious. I am very proud of him to be able to stick to it and master the skills needed to ride the bike.

Amanda, who was 13 years old at the time, started riding the KE 100 back in May. She, like Brenton, never rode anything with a clutch. Her first time, she took off without stalling. I was impressed. To make sure it wasn't beginners luck, I made her stop and take off again. She still did not stall it, and after about half a dozen starts and stops, I was convinced that she was a natural. After ten minutes on the bike, we had her shifting gears. At that point, I was an extremely proud father. I think I had a bigger smile than she did. Her many years of gymnastics was definitely a plus when it came to being able to balance the bike. She is already asking to take the bike out to a friend’s house to ride. I guess I will need to put a hitch on the car and get a trailer by next spring. At this rate, she should not have any problems passing her written and road test in a couple of years.

When the weather is nice, Christi and I like to ride on the back roads between Liberty, Excelsior Springs, and Kearney. The scenery is awesome, the roads are in great shape, and there are plenty of curves and hills to make the ride more enjoyable. Not to mention that Excelsior Springs has a neat little ice cream stand on the east side of town. We will definitely be branching out to other areas next year.

Between the Savage and Intruder, I have ridden a total of about 2,600 miles this year, Christi has ridden about 800 miles, and Amanda and Brenton have ridden almost 100 miles in the field. Not to bad for a group of beginners. I have a feeling that we will continue to rack up the miles for many years to come.

In a seven month time period, we have accomplished a lot. This is due not only to hard work, practice, and determination, but also understanding how the bikes work, the limits each bike has, respect for the bikes, understanding and respect of the safety guidelines, and a general respect for all others that share the roadways.

We hope that others will be inspired by our story and join the rest of us who have a blast riding motorcycles. Motorcycling is not limited to a select few. It is open to all those who have the desire to try it.

Goldie's Comments:
It’s great to hear success stories on riding, especially when everyone knows the patience it takes to learn. Top that off with the challenge of teaching three other members of your family the skill and safety of riding! Congratulations Fred and family!

Once you meet the Sterle family you instantly know, “a family who rides together, stays together!” Their story tells how their kid's excitement of wanting to ride motorcycles created a domino effect. First, Dad started riding, then Christi, Brenton and Amanda, and all within a couple months of each other. It looks like it’s in their genes to be skilled riders as easily as they caught on.

Christi told me she was terrified when she went to take her riding test, but passed with flying colors. When first beginning, her most challenging obstacles were curves and going slow. Now she feels confident in her riding skills and looks forward to the spring riding season.

Brenton said he was hooked on motorcycles from watching the X Games on television and he always wanted to ride.

Since Amanda has a friend who has a bike, so she had additional incentive for learning to ride. She thinks she wants to stick with a dirt bike versus a street bike.

Fred is looking forward to buying a trailer and taking his family back to his hometown in Northern Minnesota. He wants them to be able to ride around the lakes and see all the sights from the vantage point only a motorcycle can provide.

They are all looking forward to Christmas, hoping for lots of “bike stuff” in their stockings. Fred and Christi will need really big stockings, because Fred wants a Harley-Davidson V-Rod and Christi wants a Suzuki Savage 800. The kids want chrome and a new helmet. It doesn’t sound like anything is going to stop this family from enjoying the sport of motorcycling. They are on a roll!

Story by Fred Sterle
Commentary and Photos by Goldie Arnold