Sunday, 10 February 2013

Motorcycle Training Course - Day Three

Every day while we were doing the cone hopping thing on the range, we would see Boeing 737s just lifting off the runway which ended right next to the training range. It made it a little harder to concentrate as I like to watch planes too.  

I remember when my dad had taken us to the Abbotsford Airshow (about 1977 or 1978) to see the SR-71 Blackbird. The organizers of the show put the pilots' voices on the loudspeaker so we all could hear them talking to the tower. The jet started out from Nevada and the pilots said, "Put the coffee pot on and we'll be there in 20 minutes!" And it was, and what an awesome sight, like something out of Star Wars.

(Google Photo)

Now we've never had anything like that fly out of the airport here but I have seen these flying over many times.
(Google Photo)
The pilots who go on to fly the C-130 Hercules and CF-18s and Auroras for Canada's Air Force all start at Moose Jaw down the road from us. Plenty of times they use my city as a visual reference to practice their precision formats for air shows across North America. They are known as the Canadian Snowbirds.

Okay, back to the three started as day two with the sore muscle thing, and the same -3 C temp. I also had a few new bruises to show for my efforts. It warmed up to 5 C as the day went on, so that by the end of the day, I had actually unzipped my jacket a little and stopped shivering!

This day the instructors set up a pseudo traffic scenario using painted lines as lanes and intersections. Here was a chance to stop, use your turn signals and rear brake to let someone know you were going to slow down before they piled into the back of you. Because I'm sure you all know by now that motorcycles have three brakes: Your front brake, your rear brake and the engine brake. Here's where I was reminded to tap my rear brake a few times every time I intended to stop

By the way, I have been practicing this for the last seven winters with my little car too, it's just so icy in places that if people aren't given enough notice to start slowing, they can't stop in time. A practice I picked up when I downsized from my Ford Crown Victoria. People can't miss that car, they were huge!

There were some tense moments watching people get the hang of making their way around the lanes. It was terrific practice before we headed out to do the real thing.

Then we had to do the U-TURN! Tighter than the "S" curve, I tried and tried and tried, but chickened out each time halfway through, always riding straight off the range into the grassed bumpy rutted area. It was a good chance to see that my balance riding off-road has not gone away, but that was not the point of the exercise. I had a few different instructors try to help me - they were so nice - but each one ended the same way. Off to the toolies I'd go. 

Maybe it was because I'd gotten brave and chosen the Suzuki 400 that morning which was bigger and more powerful than the trusty little Yamaha 200, but whatever it was, it just wasn't going to happen. In fact, on one of the re-entries back onto the paved range from the toolies -there was a bit of in incline - I didn't give the Suzuki quite enough power to get out of the dirt and stalled the engine, and then guess what? First guesses don't count! Yes, I dropped another bike! 

No damage whatsoever except to my pride. The  policeman who was taking the course too rode over on one of those Honda CBR 125 and offered to trade as he had seen what happened. I thanked him but told him I wasn't comfortable on those and he rode off. Well, he was literally back within two minutes with another trusty little Yamaha 200 and offered me that. I took up his offer and we traded. Before he zoomed off, he made sure I was alright. What a nice man, and I'm sure that's the quality his superiors saw in him to grant him his badge: resourceful and caring.  

About 3:00 pm that day, the instructors had half of us sit it out in the middle of the range to make more room. Most of us had gotten pretty good (some downright cocky)and there were some near misses with a small area to ride in. So there was a rotation of sorts to go through the obstacle course again - but with less riders you could go faster as your confidence soared. 

The lady with the new baby had been watching my son ride and turned to me to say, "Your son has no experience with riding? It must be so gratifying to see him achieve this!" I believe she felt that one day she would like to be standing there watching her son do the same. It was nice to hear as it was a leap of faith letting him try this.

The last part of the day was doing the "road test". As they walked us all around to show us what they were testing for, I was pleasantly surprised to not see a u-turn test. If that had been part of it, I would not have passed. I had decided earlier that day that that was something I would work at on my own bike in a parking lot after the course. Since then, I have done some figure eight work trying to get tighter and tighter but it is still a struggle.

The first test consisted of starting out from a little box, sharp turn right on a curve, gathering a certain speed and then stopping with your front tire in a little painted box. 

The second test was what I call the "be ready" test to swerve left, right or stop again, only you had to go faster. At this point, the instructor asked us not to run over him because he had had an accident the previous summer, and could not get out the way fast enough with a bungled leg! Those guys had nerves of steel to stand there in front of rookie riders!

The third test was to ride as fast as you can and then an emergency stop on a curve so that your tire was over a certain line and they could see the front forks go down. 

At the end of the day, the head instructor handed me my little certificate and pin and told me to spend some more time in parking lots before heading out onto the big roads. I assured him I had already planned that and thanked him for his lessons. 

Going through this experience restored my sense of fun and adventure. I will go forth with caution and practice. Already in two riding seasons since, I've noticed a change. 

Until I get back on my Suzuki in May, there's always some fun to be had drifting around corners in all the snow we have with my car. Now, there's a u-turn I can do!

Have a good one... 




  1. U turns....they are the bain of my motorcycling life...

    1. Thanks for stopping by Roger.

      I'm with you on u-turns, somehow I seem to have always found an alternative way to get to where I want to go without putting myself through those! I will still practice though as one day it will eventually "kick in". Have a great day...


  2. Suzu:

    I'm so glad you received your Certificate and "Pin" after all your "U-turn" stress.

    Must feel good now that you have much more road experience under your belt

    Riding the Wet Coast

    1. "U-turn stress" - I like that term, that sums it up nicely.

      The more time I spend on the bike, the more comfortable I feel. I just hate these "long breaks" as it takes me back a few steps each new season for a while. I have to live vicariously through other motorcyclists...

  3. I feel rusty just having a few weeks off the bike, I can't imagine having a few months off of it.

    Ahhhh U-turns. I still don't like them. For the most part I can do them on a one-lane road when necessary (if I turn my head far enough) but I prefer not to. When following hubby down back roads with no GPS sometimes there are more than a few of the little buggers and I get good by the end of the day, then I don't need to do one for a few months and I'm rusty again. Sure makes me appreciate the tight turning radius of the Gladius though.

    1. I have to ease back into it each's like a challenge to see how fast I can get over the hump again.

      Good for you for getting better at doing u-turns...I guess it really only does get better with practice. Right then, there's my mission for May, thanks for the inspiration.

      I have noticed the tight turning radius of the Gladius while I was doing figure eights, it's kind of awesome isn't it?

  4. Wow those Boeings look distracting alright!

    I hate U-Turns too, on the shadow I'm sure they are harder cause the bike is so much longer, I did my test on one of those Honda 125's and when we came to the U-Turn part it was paved all the way round with a gutter. You didn't have anywhere to go if you didn't make it cept up the side of a huge chunk of concrete ... I had to do it. And now where ever we go we get lost somewhere along the line and end up having to do a U-Turn, I'm slowly getting the hang of it as I'm sure you are :)

    Well done on getting your certificate, tho I knew you did it anyway, has been great reading all about your adventure getting there. Thanks for sharing a great story Suzu!

    1. You are a brave one to have done those during your course. I just have a mental block about u-turns that I will have to remove this year.

      Well done right back at you for getting your certificate too. It's not easy and a huge accomplishment.

      I know what you mean when you say you work on something each outing. Nothing like getting a motorcycle to force you to focus on only one thing at a time - they are therapeutic in a way aren't they?

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