– Chelsea Fryhoff
Most people’s To-Do lists include things like buy groceries, clean room, and do laundry. My To-Do list is a kind of bucket list collaboration between my boyfriend, Jacob, and I. This list includes things such as: do at least one pull-up, learn how to rock climb, and drive a motorcycle. But the thing that has been sitting at the top of my list for the last few weeks is: learn how to drive a stick shift car. This is something that at least two people have tried to teach me previously and I was in no way successful. But Jacob was persistent and finally convinced me to sit behind the wheel of his ’91 Subaru Legacy and attempt the impossible this past weekend.
My ultimate goal is to drive that maroon beast on the freeway, but we started slow on this particular day in the South Eugene High School parking lot. Hopes were high that I would be able to wrap my head around the idea and techniques behind a clutch, as well as figure out how to properly shift.
The clutch is the most important step to learn, without that skill, driving a manual car would be impossible and embarrassing. So, step one: learn clutch. Step two: learn the gears. Step three: attempt to put all the previous steps together and venture out onto the road. Or in my case, the other side of the parking lot. Here’s some tips I concluded will help any person daring enough to learn stick shift driving:
Tip #1: Find a patient teacher.
The thing that has always been daunting to me in regards to driving a stick shift is how to know where the gears are. The “H-pattern” is something that gets me every time (this is where that patient teacher comes in handy). Before I was even allowed to put my foot on the gas Jacob made me go through the gears, what felt like at least 20 times, so I could learn that dreaded “H-pattern.” After successfully going through the gears without his help a couple times, I was then allowed to release the clutch and start to slowly roll across the paint lines in the parking lot.
Tip #2: Take it slow.
Since I had ridden a dirt bike before I had an idea of how to feather a clutch, but doing that with your foot is so much harder than with your hand. Extremely gently, almost to the point that it seemed ridiculous, I let off the clutch. And to my surprise and excitement, I didn’t stall the car. We rolled slowly around the parking lot like that for a few hundred feet before I was instructed to break, stop, and do it again. I did this until Jacob seemed confident enough that I wouldn’t pop the clutch and then I was allowed to give it some gas and shift.
Tip #3: Don’t get ahead of yourself.
After figuring out the clutch and mostly understanding the “H”, driving stick wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be. But after doing laps in the parking lot for about 45 minutes, I was only confident enough to shift back and forth from first to second and once into third. Which was enough for me, for now. Stay tuned for when I learn how to shift into higher gears and how to shift on hills.