A New Hobby; A Birthday Present to Myself

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.

The Course

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.

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  1. Ashlotte says:

    Haha what the hell…You can ride a bike in Canada just by taking a written test?!?

    That’s insane…Here the written and the driving test are the same thing and you take them both during your off-site course. Honestly can’t remember if anyone failed in my class…I don’t think so…Well at the very least I don’t remember anyone crashing!

    Interesting that Bikes cost more in Canada…never would have guessed that.

    Ah yea crashing…Happens to us all. I didn’t manage to tank mine quite as fast as you, but yea I think I ran my first one into the ground about a month or so after I got her? But yea crashing has the weird effect of making you more confident it seems. People thought I was insane for buying another one after I wrecked my last one, but I dunno I don’t feel nervous at all on it. *shrug*

    • Aka says:

      Yeah, your M1 test lets your ride any motorcycle without a restriction on power or size all by writing a test. Now I should add, that’s only Ontario, I don’t know what other provinces require. They do try to recommend you take a riding course but there’s no requirement to do so. The M1 does however restrict when you can ride and where. For example, on an M1 license you can’t drive on 400 series highways (think Interstate Highways), and you can’t drive at night. I suspect it’s a carry over from the past before there were courses widely available everywhere as well as to keep costs down as if it became a requirement it would cost considerably more to get a bike license than a car license. Though I’m of the mindset that courses should be manditory for all vehicles to make entry much more difficult thus hopefully limiting the tools on the road and making everyone better drivers.

      Everything costs more in Canada than the US, and it’s a throw back to when our currencies differed. When the US dollar was worth more the prices made sense and through exchange rates they were similar. However with the exchange rate near 1:1 all the time, our prices are thousands of dollars more for the exact same vehicle. Example, I saved ~$3000 by buying my bike from the US rather than Canada. Same bike. Part of the problem is used vehicles, if you lower the cost of the new car you devalue all the product already out there. So it’s a slow process and prices have been coming down to combat the growing import market.

      I think through dropping the bike I realized that… it’s not as big a deal as I thought it was. Embarrassing, but no biggie. Overcame the fear and embarrasment and rode it everyday I’ve been able to since then. In fact, they said rain today but I don’t see any so I might head out with my camera.

      Edit: I take that back. It’s raining now.

  2. Tian says:

    It’s interesting to see the perspective of someone just starting out on a bike. My friends who ride them all took classes beforehand so they were pretty good when they bought theirs.

    To be frank, if you just want a bike because it looks cool, you’d better sell it now. Riding bikes is a grueling battle of endurance, constant fear, unhealthy paranoia, and technique. Especially now that the summer months are upon us, you’ll have to be ready to face the sun. I don’t know how much riding gear you have, but that shit’s gonna get hot when you’re sitting at a red light or stopped at some other place.

    I have plenty of friends with all sorts of varied interests, but once they started riding motorcycles, it instantly became their #1 passion. From their experience, I can guarantee that you’ll be facing a lot of hardship and pain from your new hobby. But you’ll also be in for some crazy, amazing adventures. I’m 99% sure that by this time next year, if you’re still alive, you’ll look back and say this was the greatest (and most terrifying) birthday present ever.

    • Aka says:

      You must have skimmed the post, I did take a course on how to ride and passed it successfully. It wasn’t that I don’t know how to ride, it was that I was nervous and tried to rush myself on the first day. For example, had I stopped like you’re supposed to at the edge of the road the first time I was on the bike rather than thinking I can roll through right onto the road, I would have been more likely to downshift into first via habits created in the course. But I was worried about accelerating onto the road more.

      I’m quite confident that I do not look cool perched atop my bike, so that is most certainly not the reason I purchased one. If I thought I looked cool on it I might have have posted a picture of myself on it ;). Having ridden now over 1000 km (in the first week) I’m quite aware how hot one gets while wearing the gear but I’ve always opted to wear it in it’s entirety each ride (save for the rain gear). That means I’m wearing the proper gear, that is jacket and pants with protection, proper boots, gloves and of course a helmet. Mind you, I did not buy leathers I bought synthetic gear and understand the protection differences of the two.

      I can completely understand your friends change of interest. I can easily see myself headed in that direction already. Any spare time I get goes into riding the bike somewhere and it doesn’t matter where. And boy was I ever sore the first couple of days but now I can ride a couple hundred km without too much issue. Soon I’ll be trying to head up out of Northern Ontario where we have much more interesting roads (and of course more interesting obstacles to overcome).

      I’ve also already encountered many obstacles in my first week such as deer jumping out in front of me, and other drivers being completely terrible, one woman passing me in a bicycle lane in a school zone. That’s like three violations in one pass, passing on the right, passing in a bicycle lane and speeding in a school zone. Probably the least dangerous car related encouter though. The oncoming traffic trying to pass while I barreled towards them was probably far more dangerous.

      … I hope I’m still alive this time next year.

      • Tian says:

        You know what? Everyone looks cool on a bike. It’s true.

        I’m glad to hear you’re taking the safety gear seriously. Every time I see some doofus riding in a t-shirt, jeans, and no helmet, I kind of want to knock him over with my car door.

        Anyway, I personally am firmly in the car camp. I salute you for your purchase, and I completely understand the appeal, but I think the lot of you bikers are crazy ๐Ÿ˜›

        • Aka says:

          Well if you say so! But I think until I get leathers I look like a n00b.

          I do not feel comfortable on the bike with just jeans and a t-shirt, I haven’t tried it but even sitting on it it feels like something is wrong.

          I was firmly a car person until this winter but perhaps I’ve hit my quarter-life crisis or something and felt the need to feel young again or something…. I’ve already had the bike sideways around a corner too. Something I thought only crazy people did but here I am… crazy like a fox!

  3. Chag says:

    Oh man, as a new driver, I can very well imagine that horrors you were experiencing. Even though I’ve passed my G2 test, I am still absolutely terrified of taking the family car out on the highway to prepare for my G test, let alone a vehicle I’ve paid with my own money. Reading about your dejected return to the dealer reminded me a lot of my father when he bought his first car in Canada. The pride and enthusiasm in the morning had all but vanished in the afternoon, and it turned out that he dinked up the front of the car by rear-ending a large truck on the way home from work! Stuff like that does brutal things to one’s self-confidence.

    It’s great to hear that you’ve since snapped out of it and have been riding your metal stallion hard and fast, as expected from someone who takes his new bike straight onto the highways. Have fun with the bike, and stay safe on the track days!

    By the way, you should come down to Toronto again one of these days! I’d love to see you in your bike gear =)

    • Aka says:

      Remember what I said about a certain ethnic group of drivers? ๐Ÿ˜‰ j/k

      I’ve had a lot of fun on it so far, today however I went in for my first service and boy did they screw up my clutch. I mean, it works fine, it’s just not where it was when I got used to the bike in the first 1000 km, so now it feels wrong and terrible. Almost dropped the bike a couple of times expecting the clutch to engage and it not doing so until much later. Oh well, I’ll just have to readjust it.

      Are you implying that we’ve met before?

  4. It was a few weeks ago when I talked to one of my forum buddies at a local car meet – he got his bike not too long ago as well and was really excited about the new hobby. He was telling me how it differed from the car scene – with cars, you can get all sorts of people claiming this and that. But with bikes, he found people to be more modest and that people actually admits to being scared of these pocket rockets.

    I’ve always been interested in bikes, but quite honestly don’t know if I have the balls to ride one. Plus, I doubt my wife will let me – my friend has his license and gear; he was all set on getting a CBR but then got married. Well, the closest he’ll get to a bike now is wearing his helmet at home in front of a mirror. LOL

    I applaude your commitment and being able to get back on after your little incident. I think if it happened to me I would’ve got back on the bike too, but it must’ve been so embarassing bringing the bike back to the dealership and saying “oops”. But seriously, I think the most courageous thing about taking up this new hobby is facing the danger on the roads. There are just way too many stupid drivers here, I don’t know how they passed their driving exams.

    Like you, I’m always careful about my stuff, particularly my car. I always check for scratches, chips, dents, etc. Every little fault bugs the hell out of me, until one day I got rear-ended. =*( Luckily it was superficial, paint was cracked and chipped with a slight crack in the bumper. I always thought I would freak out, but I didn’t. I felt like “meh” and it’s been like this for awhile and I haven’t bothered taking my car in to the bodyshop to get it re-painted yet. Maybe I feel this way because the damage was only superficial, but since then I’ve been more relaxed about the exterior condition of the car.

    Ride safe! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Aka says:

      I haven’t really done any meet up type stuff with any group of riders, but I have stopped a few places where riders gather such as the Forks of the Credit and they all seemed like nice people no matter what they drove or how ‘hardcore’ they looked. I think the least nice people, at least in relation to sport bikes are the leather santas, they don’t even bother to wave like everyone else does. But everyone seems to be all “Oh hey nice bike!” regardless of type or age, it’s something I never experienced in the car scene.

      That seems to be how it works, at least basing it off all the used bikes for sale. Guy gets a bike, rides it for a year, gets married and isn’t allowed to keep it, or needs the money for the wedding or whatever. It’s kind of sad really and really makes me never want a wife even more. (Mai waifu is ok though)

      It was definitely embarrassing. Quite possibly the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever had to do.

      I think what I realized after dropping it was, it’s just a toy and it still works. I can still have just as much fun on it with a scratch as I can without. I look like a n00b either way so whatever it doesn’t bother me in the slightest. What bothers me is when I took it in for service they changed where my clutch engages! GAaaahhH!!!

      I most certainly do not want to be rear-ended on my bike.. or anything on my bike to be honest, just safe and fun! Sucks that your car got hit, and I love the colour of it, I’d hate to see a crack in it! Don’t ever show it to me! ๐Ÿ˜›

      PS: Get a bike, I need some riding buddies.

      • I’ve noticed the comradery amongst bikers while driving. Well, the mostly amongst the sport bike folks, they usually wave at each other when they pass by. The ‘other type’ of bikers just keep riding cuz they’re so bad ass. lol

        It kinda sucks about that clutch change, but how’re you getting use to it now? On the bright side, the bike is still new and you can learn the new clutch position. Any idea why they changed it?

        Well, as long as you don’t look at the ass end of my car up close, it’ll be okay. I think I’ll go get it re-painted next week. It’s such a pain in the ass colour to match.

        If I ever get a bike, I’ll let you know! ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Aka says:

          Sport bikes definitely, but a good amount of the ‘others’ do as well. Hard to judge so far who’s going to and who’s not.

          I think they just tightened the cable, as over time it’ll stretch so it’s probably a good place. I’m used to it already.

          Yes please do! ๐Ÿ˜›