Motorcycle Beginner: Rider Training

The Newbie goes to school

Test Day

Test Day

The second day of riding introduced more advanced skills including quick braking and emergency swerving. I was starting to feel more confident in my riding and I could see other students were making good progress as well.

The weather, however, took a turn for the worse as clouds rolled in and a light rain began to fall. The lessons however continued, and the instructors took the opportunity to talk about riding in wet conditions. The school’s policy is to continue with lessons rain or shine unless conditions get too dangerous. It was better to learn to ride in the rain under their watch, the instructors told us, than to do it for the first time by ourselves.

“Once the student realizes the motorcycle still handles in the rain, it boosts their confidence,” Hertel told me later.

The rain stopped after about an hour and the ground began to dry, but the rain started up again later in the afternoon. Just in time for the test.


The test consisted of a number of exercises using the skills we learned through the two days of riding. The instructors walked us through the different parts of the test with one teacher demonstrating the exercises.

The first segment involved a slow-speed right turn followed by acceleration through a curved path painted onto the pavement before coming to stop within a marked box. We then had to turn the motorcycle around and repeat the same curved path in the opposite direction. The timed exercise tested our ability to control the motorcycle at slow speeds, accelerate and come to a stop.

The second portion of the test is nicknamed the “boomerang” for the shape of the curve painted on the ground. Starting from one end, we had to accelerate and countersteer through a turn while remaining inside the painted lines. The exercise was timed so we needed to maintain a good speed through the curve. I knew from practicing that I tended to run wide while exiting turns so I reminded myself to push the inside handlebar out more when I go through the curve.

The next part of the test was the quick stop. Accelerating from a standstill, we had to ride through two pairs of pylons while keeping an eye on an instructor standing farther down the course. When the instructor raised his hands, we had to bring the motorcycle to a stop before reaching a third set of pylons. The trick was we had to ride fast enough to pass through the first two sets of pylons under a certain time limit so there was no cheating by riding too slow or braking early.

Following the quick stop was the obstacle turn, also known as the emergency swerve. The exercise was similar to the quick stop only instead of signaling us to stop, the instructor would randomly point left or right and we had to swerve around him in the indicated direction.


The final part of the test was the quick stop on a curve. Students had to accelerate along a straight path before making a left turn along a painted path. Sometime during the turn, an instructor will signal for a stop. The rider has to straighten the motorcycle and come to a smooth stop along the curve.

Errors such as straying outside marked lines or taking too long for the timed elements earned demerit points. To pass the test, you need to have 11 points or less. Dropping the bike, doing something reckless or refusing to attempt any part of the test will end the examination.

I knew from practicing I had the final three parts down pat. I had no problems with emergency braking or swerving, while the final curve provided plenty of room for a smooth, controlled stop.

Which made it all the more disappointing when I low-sided during the first exercise.

Lessons Learned the Hard Way

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

The most helpful attitude any rider should learn to embrace is found in an old proverb: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. When riding a motorcycle, it often seems like the world is out to get you. And by the world, I mean other vehicles, the elements, creatures of the natural world, man-made infrastructure, etc.

I wish I'd understood this better when I was new to riding. Indeed, I've kissed pavement a few times in the past, sometimes as a result of my own ignorance, or negligence, or by that of others.

I've learned to look into other vehicle's mirrors to see what the driver's eyes are telling me while I’m riding alongside. Sometimes you'll see that the driver has already seen you and is prepared for you to pass them. Sometimes they’re oblivious.

Also, be wary that the road surface ahead could be covered by some contaminant, like oil, diesel fuel, or sand and small gravel. Or, worse, water mixed in with one of the others.

Finally, wear the most and best riding gear you can afford. You needn't always wear a full leather suit each time you saddle up. But having had spills with and without full gear, trust my knees when they tell, more gear is better.

- Pete Brissette, Senior Editor


Next Page ... Unfinished Business

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