Sunday, 27 January 2013

Motorcycle Training Course - Day One

The best way to get back on the road safely was to take a refresher course. You needed a learner's license to take the course but since I had kept the "M" endorsement on my driver's license all the years I wasn't riding, I did not have to rewrite the learner's exam. I just had to show up with my helmet, jeans, gloves, boots and jacket to the training range.

On the first day of registration - March 1 - I signed myself and my son up for the three day course. He had expressed an interest in riding so I made a deal with him: you go with me for the course and then you could buy a bike and we will practice together. Of course, I was very nervous as a mother to have my child out on a bike in the world of traffic that doesn't always give a hoot whether you need part of the road too, but I felt that I was giving him his best chance to stay safe by taking this course and becoming aware of the dangers.

This happened two years ago on April 30. The first day started at 6:00 pm with a meet in a cold trailer with 18 other riders. The trailer heater was broken the whole weekend, temp hovered about -3 to 3 C (26F to 37F) it was not warm, and it was very windy. I overheard one of the wives say to her husband, "You had to be in the very first class of the year didn't you!" She wasn't mad, just bugging him as she was just as frozen as me.

It was cold that weekend, but I was just as impatient to get going on the whole biking experience impatient that I almost foolishly didn't wait to take the course before picking up my bike from the dealership. The thing that stopped me was the dead battery. I had arrived mid April all ready to ride it home and the bike would not start. I had called ahead to say I was coming down but for some reason they hadn't checked it. So they would call me later after it was recharged. When I arrived back home disappointed, I got to was sign that I really should wait, take the course and then go back and get the bike to bring home. That day I listened to my intuition, but I really, really wanted to get the bike. If I had not listened, I may have crashed the bike in my haste by thinking it would be so easy to just hop on and go. I was not thinking clearly that day and the universe let me know. A life lesson learned that day...

Back to the training range...there were 6 instructors - one of them being a woman who had been riding for years and pulled up in a huge Ducati, she was a neat gal and inspiring.There were 20 students comprised of a mixture of genders and ages: 

--A married couple where the guy was getting back into riding and his wife wanted to try it too. He rode the little Honda 250 Rebel cruiser and was fun to watch because he was like 6 foot 4 and you can imagine him wrapping those long legs around that bike. By Sunday morning his wife confided to me that she was not going to ride her own, she'd be more than happy to be the pillion rider. I respected her decision as I knew she had tried really hard but just was not having any fun. She wasn't bad though, but you just know, don't you? 

 --Another married couple had two brand new Harley Sportsters and a new baby. She was very petite and I could not imagine a Harley being small enough for her! She did just fine, enjoyed it and was looking forward to lots of parking lot practice at the end of the course with her new bike. 

--Next was a mom and her daughter (early twenties) who were going to give it a go...and another young women who I never spoke with...there was always so much going on!

--A lady in her mid-fifties - who was told she couldn't do that by an uncle, so she was going to do it anyway just to show him. At one point I thought I might have to use my rusty first-aid training as I saw her going toward a steep ditch and narrowly miss it... I don't know if she passed the course, but I do know she had fun and had passed her goal to try it! 

--a couple of young guys in their late twenties who had not had a good day on the only 20 minutes they had spent on a bike. They had split the cost of the bike and knew at that point they had to get some training. They got really good once they got going!

--a mom with two teenage sons - they had ridden off-road as she had and she wanted them safe on the streets now too. 

--a police officer who had one of those gorgeous Yamaha Vstar 900s and felt he was now past his "going too fast days" in his late 30s. He told me he liked my jacket and asked how it worked for me in the women's version of his Joe Rocket

--the rest of the students were guys of various ages - a couple asked me what I ride and some others were just there because they had heard that you had to take the training course to get your full endorsement; otherwise they would not have bothered at all. (Yikes!) It is not a requirement at this time, although the instructors would like to make it that way to keep riders safer. As it stands right now, you can write your learner's exam and go riding out in traffic without any training whatsoever...scary concept eh?

The bike I rode all weekend was the Yamaha TRW 200. My son preferred the Honda CBR 125.  

That first night there was about an hour and a half   of in-class instruction and then as much riding time we could get in before it got dark. We learned to "rock and roll" which was helpful to remember how far to let that clutch out before you killed the engine, and then stopping instructions before we were allowed out in the giant parking lot to practice in first gear. Then like magic, I just popped it into second gear when the engine needed it without even thinking about it - that's a long buried muscle memory that just came back on its own. More practice going around and around and I was feeling somewhat okay with the experience but still quite nervous. The head instructor warned us again and again that what we were doing was a dangerous sport and that kept ringing in my ears as I rode around. I was dealing with an unfamiliar claustrophobic-feeling helmet that kept fogging up until I opened the visor one notch. 

The bikes all had duct-tape all over them and you could tell they had been dropped many times. By the end of that first evening, I dropped one myself when I went to swing my leg off and forgot to put down the kickstand...oww. One of the older guys ran over to pull the bike off me before I even got out from under it. I thanked him but was mad and embarrassed at doing something so stupid. Bruises on knee and calf but did not break anything on the bike thankfully. It was at 9:00 pm, dark, cold, I was very tired and it was raining. My first doubts about what the heck I had signed up for began to creep into my consciousness...Perhaps this was not something I should be doing?  

As I drove home with my son (who was having a blast and doing well for someone without any experience with riding), I told him I had to give it my best shot that weekend. If at the end of it, the instructors told me that I really should not be on the streets, and I was not feeling competent, I would not carry on with this journey. But with the knowledge that I had tried, I would not regret it.

Day Two next...


  1. Isn't it funny how we feel embarrassed about dropping a bike in the training classes.

    I took mine in the pouring rain in September and locked up the front brake on a quick stop exercise ad dumped the bike. Bruised shin and pride, but I got back on it. I have performance anxiety in front of crowds on my bike now.

    Looking forward to hearing about day 2.

    1. Yes, we shouldn't feel embarrassed but we just do. We know we're all learning, we're not going to be perfect, lots of other bikes were dropped too - it just surprises us when in a few seconds we're laying on the ground and wondering what happened.

      When I dropped mine, I got back on like you, the best thing to do I think! People respect you more for that and I decided I would get past this little hiccup. You did too, look at how many miles you have put on Max!

      Have a good one...(temp at -9 C today, woohoo!)

  2. Suzu - you made an excellent decision to retrain. I did the same. I wish that more "born agains" would think about it.

    1. Talking to the instructors, they really feel that the licensing regulators should make training mandatory before people are allowed out on the streets, there's just too much at stake for an inexperienced rider...

      Good for you to retrain too...I discovered I knew some stuff already, some I had forgotten and learned some new stuff too. It was a good use of $425.00.

      When I hear of someone thinking about riding, I give them the "lecture" in the hopes it will keep them safe...

    2. Suzu - I've a friend who's a rider trainer in Saskachewan ... lucky for you it only costs $425. It's nearly double that here in Ontario, but still well worth it! (I also think rider training should be mandatory ... the UK is a great model.)

  3. This is indeed a moving piece of information. Your son must be really proud of you. Am glad that you were patient enough through your beginner's course.
    On the other hand Motorcycle Street Bikes are the best motorcycles for street riding. Congratulations for buying a new bike and i hope that you got the right accessories installed.
    I hope that you have much more fun filled rides with your son.

    1. Thanks for stopping by...the course was a good way to spend a few days with my son where we both learned something new and gained even more respect for each other...

  4. Hi Suzu,

    Rider training isn't compulsory where I live but it is only 100km up the road, why? because there's no one in our town who will do the courses. Doesn't seem like a good enough reason eh, so I went and did the training in the next town over so I would have that knowledge.

    There were a lot of women in that group, how wonderful, when I did my training I was the only woman.

    Dont worry bout dropping the bike, sheesh I've done it so many times now that I can actually drop her and get myself out of danger .. Terry says it looks amazing how fast I can move when Roxy is starting to tilt too far :D

    Great read Suzu and I cant wait to find out about day 2.

    1. Good for you to make an even bigger effort to get proper training at the next town knew it was that important!

      Yes, it made me feel a bit better to see some other gals out trying too and just as nice to read their blogs too. To hear/read of the fear and excitement as they slowly master that magic balancing act. Most of the guys in the class were supportive too, so it was all good. I hope yours was good that way too..

      I saw lots of dropping bikes over that weekend - it was so windy, the instructors must have been crying behind their clipboards because they knew there was going to be some "repair" time back at the shop.


  5. Suzu:

    What a letdown, them telling you that you were not competent and should not be on the streets. That must have made you very sad, but I guess we know the final outcome, don't we ?

    What a cliff hanger , now we have to wait for Part 2 . . .

    Riding the Wet Coast

    1. Hey bob, I think you may have misunderstood...the instructors did not say was what I was thinking...if at the end of the course I felt I was not competent or they told me I should re-think riding on the streets, then I would give it up.

      Although on the other hand, they did not tell me to go sign up for the next MotoGP race either with Brett McCormick from Saskatoon.

      "Practice in a parking lot some more before you hit the streets" were the words from the head instructor as I left the range that day.

      How's all the fog out there?