This past weekend was a busy one for me and Claire. We decided to try a motorcycle training course to see if we liked riding or not and if we did we might get bikes of our own or at the very least we would get licenses that showed we knew how to ride a motorcycle if we really needed to. The course we took was the Basic Rider Course at MTII which is a school in South Florida that specializes in motorcycle safety and training. Since Claire and I are Consultants, our free time is limited to the weekends but it so happened that MTII had a Saturday/Sunday course that we could take. The course was 16 hours long, 6 in the classroom and 10 riding in a parking lot learning how to ride a motorcycle. I’ll admit that it felt like I was back in drivers education class when I was 15.
We had our instructor, Dan, show us the ropes and taught both the classroom exercises and the range exercises. The classroom stuff wasn’t too bad, there is a lot to know before actually hopping on a motorcycle so I was glad to have the instruction up front about some of the controls before I actually got to ride. The class was kept interesting with some videos here and there that showed what to expect in the range or what might be encountered in traffic. The classroom was split up into two sessions, Saturday morning and Sunday afternoon with a test at the end that would satisfy the State of Florida requirements to get a license. I was able to achieve a 100% on the written test so I was pleased with that. I didn’t even come close to that on my original drivers license test but that was 15 years ago but I got enough right back then to drive.
The range aspect of the course is where all the fun is, we were able to use actual bikes to ride around on to learn how to not to kill ourselves on the street. We rode Honda Rebel’s with 250CC engines for the first day and the next day I was upgraded to a Buell 500CC bike but Claire was given a Suzuki 250CC again. On the first day we learned a lot of basics of just getting the bike going like starting it up and balancing the bike. One of the more interesting pieces was learning the friction zone for the clutch. This is the same concept applied for driving a standard car but its more difficult since you have to use your left hand and will it to open slowly so the engine doesn’t stall out. We started out by doing power walking which was using the friction zone to get the bike moving forward a bit and then using big steps to get some speed going. After power walking we started putting our feet on the pegs and actually riding in a straight line which was pretty fun. At this point we also knew how to brake and stop the bike so we didn’t hit anything.
The real fun came into when we started to learn turning. Turning in a bike was all about balance and knowing where to put your weight. There is also a concept called counter steering that is pretty foreign in a car but is essential in a bike. At high speeds, you can’t turn the handle bars and steer a bike like a car, a bike needs to be leaned into a turn and the way to do that is to “press” the handle bars in the direction you want to go which is almost opposite of what you do in a car. By pressing and leaning into a turn the bike moves in the direction you want. The most important part was to look where you’re going and to accelerate while in the turn and not brake. Accelerating into the turn gives the bike more traction in the turn so that was a bit new as well. Claire and I did pretty well that first day, we both stalled out quite a bit because of that pesky friction zone but we were successful in getting the bike going, stopping, and turning.
Day 2 was a bit more challenging since we had to apply our previous days knowledge to the lessons we would do today. This involved learning a lot of safety things such as swerving, riding over obstacles, and braking quickly going in straight lines and if we were in a turn. For the second day, I got a different bike made by Buell which had a 500CC engine instead of a 250CC engine. This bike definitely had more power to it but it was also a bit harder for me to get going. Since the bike was new, I had to relearn where the friction zone in the clutch was which lead to a lot of false starts and lots of stalling which initally frustrated me. By far the most fun was doing all the swerving and the fast riding that we were allowed to do. We had to practice gear shifting quite a bit on this day as well with lots of up shifting and down shifting through the course and turns. The maximum stopping was really fun too, where else are you told to go as fast as you can in the distance given and then hit the brakes so you can stop in the shortest distance?? I will admit that I dropped the bike just once on the second day, I didn’t drop it on the first day. I dropped the bike due to my own stupidity of not remembering to put the kick stand down on the bike before trying to get off of it.
The last part of the day on the range was the actual road test. The instructors set up the range so that we would have to use all of the skills that we learned over the previous two days to show that we can operate a motorcycle safely and under control. The first part consisted of performing a figure eight in a designated box then a quick swerve around an obstacle. The next part was to do a quick stop after getting up to speed. The last part consisted of cornering around a turn at a given speed without going outside of the lines and by using the right techniques to get through it. This mostly consisted of braking before the turn and then accelerating into the turn. Everyone in the class was able to pass the road test although there are some people taking the course that I would be fearful of seeing on the road with a motorcycle.
The last part of the day consisted of going back to the classroom to finish going over some additional safety information and taking the written test. There was a lot of information on where the most dangerous areas are for motorcycles on the road and how to avoid people that probably don’t see motorcyclists when they’re changing lanes or going through intersections. The test itself was 50 mutliple choice questions which went over everything we learned in class. I was able to ace that one without getting anything wrong and I also learned I almost got a perfect score on the road test. I lost 1 point for not going fast enough through the cornering section of the test. Since I passed, I can now go to DMV and get a new endorsement on my license that lets me operate motorcycles! My wife also passed by acing the written and getting high marks on her road test as well. Now the last step for the both of us is to pick out a bike and to start practicing. So excited to try out my new hobby!