A couple of weeks ago I inched another year towards death; I had a birthday. To help hasten the slow inevitability of death I decided to get a dangerous new hobby. I purchased a motorcycle. Admittedly not a very fast motorcycle by some standards but comparatively quick to mine automobile. With a weight-to-power ratio of 3.5 kg per kW (with me perched atop no less) it’s nearly twice as fast as my Saabaru.
I’m not sure what brought on the want for a motorcycle, it had never been atop my wishlist of vehicles, in fact I wanted to buy a second car strictly as a track vehicle. But sometime this past winter when I decided to use one of my off days to renew the stickers on my car and on a whim decided to write the motorcycle driving test as it was only $17.50. Assuming I’d fail I quickly wrote the test and waited for the results not really planning too far into the future if I passed. The lady at the counter said this was an odd outlook on things, being so pessimistic and assuming one’s failure and perhaps she was right. The test was simple, basically a rewrite of half the normal automotive beginners driving test I took over a decade ago along with some additional motorcycle related questions. After passing the test it was explained to me that my beginners motorcycle license (M1) would expire in 90 days and that I would have to pass my level 2 driving test (M2) in order to keep my mild effort safe.
It was at this point that I decided to book a motorcycle training course, having never actually ridden a motorcycle before I felt this was imperative to my success and safety. Ok, so I’d ridden a dirt bike once in a field for about 30 minutes and was hopping logs in no time, but only after crashing in a rut once first and being unable to kickstart the bike back on. This however was the entire extent of my experience and it did not include any speed over perhaps 30 km/h or real roads. Getting back to the course, it was a 3 day course at a local college where they provided you with something like a Yamaha XT225 Dual-Sport and an open parking lot. The class had something like 20 students of varying ages and skills and overall was a pretty good course to take. Over the three days they built up your skill level far beyond what the M2 level testing would be, so much so that when we all did the M2 test at the end we were astonished at how pedestrian it seemed. In the course we’d been doing slaloms, tight figure-eights, hazard avoidance, things you’d need to know to control your bike safely. The test however required us to accelerate, turn once, brake and then turn around and do it in reverse. Then do it in a straight line, and then a very mild curve. Crazy simple and I can’t believe they allow people who pass this simple test to go on the highway and ride with passengers.
Almost everyone in the course passed save for two individuals. The most interesting thing about these two individuals is that they both already owned motorcycles. The one individual, an older lady owned two bikes and from what I can gather they were likely something similar to a Harley if not a Harley itself. She would ride these using her beginners license (completely legal!) and would just keep renewing her M1 every 90 days when it expired. Having failed the course once before she was reattempting to take it while I was there and for the second day she wasn’t too bad, however the 3rd day she crashed into the curb and injured herself, not badly but enough to scare her and convince the instructors to send her home to try again in the future. The other individual, well, he was a boater and decided to sell his boat and buy a motorcycle. He too was an older individual and didn’t seem one bit scared of the motorcycles. So much so he’d hold on even while he was out of control dangling off the bike careening across the open parking lot until he hit another rider injuring both of them. Again, nothing severe and the one rider went on to finish the course successfully without issue. The older gentleman however was told he had to leave as he was too dangerous. This man had bought a $20,000 motorcycle and couldn’t ride a dirt bike. Scary to think these people are on the roads using M1 beginner licenses.