Motorcycle Beginner: Rider Training

The Motorcycle.com Newbie goes to school

Unfinished Business

Unfinished Business

I was brought to a local hospital where a doctor determined I had an ankle sprain and thankfully not a fracture. I had to wait a couple of weeks before I could get on a bike again, but a fracture would have meant a much longer recovery time. To be safe, I gave myself a couple of weeks before returning for my re-test.

Students from that weekend’s course were completing their test when I arrived. After they were done, it was time for the re-test. There were about 20 other students taking part in the re-test, some I recognized from the weekend I first attempted the course. I could sense they were as anxious as I was to get this over with.

The re-test session was led by instructors Sasha Soloviov, Mario Angers and Anne-Marie Strillec. Sasha was the one who helped me up from my crash and filled out the incident report so he recognized me immediately.

We started with a warm-up exercise to get re-acquainted with the Viragos. The one I selected had the stock handlebars instead of the dirt bike bars I used the first time. The angled bars felt more comfortable which helped. The clutch was a bit more finicky however, with just a touch of the lever putting me in the friction zone.

After a few minutes of riding, we were divided into two groups and were given an hour to practice for the test. The instructors outlined the elements of the test again and we were able to practice each exercise.

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Mario was timing us as we practiced to let us know when we were going too slow. I was guilty of that myself. Mario urged me on, telling me I needed to go faster in the exam otherwise I’d get demerit points. I realized I was being too tentative. Though a couple of weeks had passed, my crash was still in the back of my mind. After a while fear gave way to frustration and then anger.

“You can do this,” I scolded myself. “Get over it, Dennis, and just do it.”

And it helped. I felt more comfortable the more I practiced, and comfort soon led to confidence. Our hour was soon up and it was time for the test.

I knew the first exercise would be the hardest. If I could get past this first part, get farther than I did last time, the rest would be easy.

When it was my turn, I lined up at the starting mark and took a deep breath. Engaging the clutch, I shifted out of neutral and into first gear. I did a shoulder check to the left and then to the right. I took another deep breath, rolled the throttle and slowly let out the clutch.

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Within every mistake is a lesson to be learned. We on the Motorcycle.com staff share our personal stories about our early two-wheel blunders and what we learned from them.


Patience is a virtue, and that’s especially true when on a motorcycle. I was once not so virtuous.

Having ridden dirt bikes for years and already with a year of street riding under my belt, I was fairly confident in my ability to handle a motorcycle. After watching a fireworks display with thousands of others, I tossed my girlfriend on the back of my bike and tried to navigate through a glut of car traffic that clogged the park’s grounds. Frustrated with the lack of progress, I spied an alternate route over an unpaved section. I cautiously made my way over the dirt until it dumped out onto a paved road.

I was internally jubilant that I was short-cutting our exit and was anxious to get ahead of more traffic as I turned onto the pavement. In an instant we were down on the ground, as the dimly lit surface obscured some gravel that had been tracked onto the road.

The mild pain I felt from the low-speed spill paled in comparison to my concern over my girlfriend who was an innocent passenger. I was relieved to find out our only injury was some mild road rash on our knees that snuck through our jeans, as we had both been wearing full-coverage protection, but it could’ve turned out much worse. My bike was still rideable, but it suffered $800 worth of cosmetic alteration.

The lessons learned that night still ride with me today. I regularly have to remind myself to remain patient when stuck in traffic, and I am always more cautious at night when visibility is reduced.

- Kevin Duke, Editor-in-Chief

 

Redemption

We waited by a trailer as the instructors reviewed our evaluation forms. I remember sitting just outside the trailer door only a few weeks earlier, holding an icepack to my ankle as I waited for the ambulance to arrive. My ankle was still a bit sore, but this time I was standing, having completed the exam.

After a while, Sasha walked over to the waiting crowd.

“Congratulations,” he said. “You all passed!”

Sasha called out our names and gave us our score sheets. When he called my name, he told me to look at my times.

“When you started today, you were going much too slow,” he said. “But look at your times: you got over it.”

I did score three demerit points for straying outside the path on my return trip through the first exercise, but otherwise, I was clean.

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Later, when I walked back to my car and tossed my helmet and jacket into the back seat, I heard a small explosion in the distance. The re-test coincided with Victoria Day, a Canadian holiday. Someone had set off fireworks in celebration.

I’d like to think that maybe some of those fireworks were for me.


Tell us about your experience in a motorcycle training course or let us know about your first crash either on our forum at the Reader Feedback link below or by sending an email to dchung@verticalcope.com.

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