Last Sunday I went for – and passed – my motorbike licence.
However, frankly, the thought of riding on the roads with my limited skills is terrifying!
On the plus side, bikes are efficient, good for the environment, cheap to run and thrilling to ride. The main negative is that it’s waaaay easier to die. I’m still not sure I want to regularly ride a bike.
I do think it’s normal to be nervous though. Before Sunday I hadn’t been on a bike before. It was like I was back in a manual car for the first time and all the controls are foreign and operating them required full-on conscious effort. I was fighting the machine for at least two-thirds of the day which was frustrating and tiring. Slowly – a lot slower than I expected! – I started to get a feel for it and it became more enjoyable.
If I do get a bike I’ll be spending a lot of time in car parks and back-roads to reduce the mental barriers to get the bike to do what I want.
For those interested in getting their licence I went with ***DECA in Altona. The format is that they teach you how to ride for most of the day and then, in the afternoon, you undertake a written and practical test. The written test is a doddle; a quick browse of the Vic motorbike handbook and you’re good to go.
The practical is harder.
It’s all low speed; you never get above 25 kph or higher than second gear. There are three tests and during the tests you cannot stall or drop the bike, put your feet down or touch any of the marked lines painted on the ground.
The first test you ride around in a circle, navigate a narrow left turn (remembering to use your indicators) then come to a stop with your front tyre inside a small (70cm square?) box painted on the ground. Pretty straightforward, even for a newbie like myself.
I found the second test the hardest. An eighteen-metre long box, not quite a metre wide, is painted on the ground and you’ve got to ride through it without touching the sides. The hard part is that you have to take at least 10 seconds, about walking pace, to ride from end to end. It requires striking a delicate balance between managing your throttle and clutch (keep the revs high enough to stop stalling but with enough bite to keep you moving) and some reasonably strong rear-wheel brake to slow you down. I stalled in this part of the test the first time through. Fail! Passed the second time but in only 10.09 sec – a little close for comfort.
The last part of the practical is the most fun – an emergency stop. Again you ride in a circle, this time navigating a tight right turn before accelerating to between 20-25 kph. At some point the instructor gives you a signal and you’ve got to come to a stop within seven metres. Not too hard on a bike; 2-3 metres is possible. This is the only part of the practical where you’re allowed to stall the bike as you come to a stop. Dramatic way to end the test!
You get two attempts at the practical. I failed it the first time, stumbling on the second test. I wasn’t alone – of the 13 people who went for the test 7 failed the first time.
Craig, my colleague at work and – now – in riding, organised the day and also passed (in similar fashion; a stall in attempt one also caught him out). Thanks for giving me the extra motivation to do it mate!
Mum has always hated bikes; Dad used to ride – until he got married. Due to a ‘clerical error’ Mum (and Dad) didn’t know I was going for my licence but when I called her afterward she took it well. She wasn’t happy about it of course but that’s fair enough.
Now I’ve got to start to get all the gear and a bike. Jase is convinced – once I get off my Learners – I should be astride a Triumph Street Triple 675:
What do you think? Can you see me riding one?