Cones: The Bane of My Existence

How I overcame the fear of failure


Did you see that cone trip me?!

Earlier this month, I re-conquered a fear I’ve had for years.


It’s confession time, friends, and my confession is this:

I nearly quit motor school. Because I hate cones.

“But, MC,” you say. “You’re a prolific rider!”

Nobody likes a sycophant. Knock it off.

Okay, truth be told, I’m a damn  good motorcycle rider…but throw some cones in my path and tell me to not hit any whilst going real slow and leaning way over? It completely messes with my head.

Here is the story of my 80 hours in motor school:

They say if you make it through the first week, you’re good to go. I struggled through the first 40 hours dumping the bike innumerable times (which is to be expected in motor school). Where there was gravel, I saw boulders. Where there was a soft shoulder with a couple of inches of washed out dirt, I saw the Grand Canyon.  Still, though, I limped my way through the first week.  Probably because I didn’t run over the instructor, but that’s a tale for another time.

Friday evening came and I felt some relief: I was good to go!

And then Monday rolled around.

I hit every cone. I dropped the bike every time. I lost my patience and my cool. Repeatedly. At least that’s the way it felt when I called the Wife at lunch and said, “Honey, I think I should quit. I can’t do it.”

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And I was right. Those cones had it out for me…but only because I was letting them. I couldn’t do it because I was constantly telling myself that.

The Wife, as she is wont to do, very simply put me back on the right path. She encouraged me to at least finish out the day.  I decided to listen to her.

I went back to the training ground. There was no one around.

Just me. The bikes. And those mother f’n cones.

I told myself I could do it. I didn’t give any voice to the negativity that had been swirling in my head the previous day or that morning.

I got on that bike and I rode every cone pattern.

I never dumped the bike.

I never hit a cone.

From that moment on, I was solid. The remaining 32 hours of the class were remarkably more enjoyable than the previous 48.

That was 2006. Fast forward to 2015.

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I haven’t trained with cones in at least three if not four years, so when I was invited to train with some surrounding agencies, I decided it was time to put up or shut up. We set up a course and started watching demo runs.

I could feel the old voices of Fear and Negativity murmuring in my head, but I remembered that fateful call to the Wife on blazing hot Monday in July of 2006. I remembered her words of encouragement as well as the encouraging words of two of the best riders with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work.

I still hit some cones. I still dumped the bike (just the once, though). But, you know what?

By the end of the day, I was damn near on the rear tire of riders I consider better than me.

What did I learn from all this? How did I overcome my fear of failure?

I failed. A lot. And then I got back up and did it again.

Consistent training is imperative to keep one’s saw sharp and maintain one’s confidence level…and that isn’t mutually exclusive to motorcycles or law enforcement.

Whatever you want to accomplish is attainable with the proper outlook, supportive people, and the determination to see a job done.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

18 thoughts on “Cones: The Bane of My Existence

  1. Within the first few days of motor school I was so fatigued that driving home from school one evening in my pick up, I approached a construction zone and briefly started to maneuver around the cones, as if I were entering a MC course pattern.

    I hate cones. They should be used as targets on firearms qual courses, then you could hit them and it would be a good thing…

  2. Cones are like shooting the quals 25 yrd line. I kept seeing it as “so far away’ when finally an instructor got me to realize the ammo doesn’t “see” it like it’s that far away, only I “see” it that far. Shooting close or far is all in the head. Cones or no cones.. all in the head.

  3. We do semiannual qualifications on our proficiency course which is more than twice as long as a typical rodeo course. And we keep two sections of station parking lot set up with small obstacles (u-turn, 360, decreasing radius 360, tight transitions). Cone work maintains vital skills. I run that 30 second course every time I enter the station and every time I leave.

  4. No one likes cones at first. They should be treated like the firearms qualification in that we train the skills so well that the qual is a celebration of our abilities and is fun and low stress.

  5. hahaha funny thing is, sometimes those orange things would give me stomahe aches, and then I’d get in to the patterns, almost “dancing” and have a great old time..always went home exhausted!!!

  6. I LOVED cone work. Anybody can ride a bike in a straight line at speed. since they took our bikes away I actually think I miss the cones the most. The feeling of accomplishment when I would best a pattern that had my number.

  7. Thanks for this post. I tried out for our medic bike team last year and failed because of the cone course, was ready to give up but I’ll give it another go.
    I also thought about this: In everyday life, how many obstacles do we see and grow fearful of them instead of finding a solution and defeating them.
    Thank you sir. Be safe out there.

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