My apologies for not posting yesterday. I was so exhausted after a day of riding motorcycles in extreme heat while wearing black leather, jeans and a helmet, that I barely knew my own name by the end of the day. Most of it was heat exhaustion, but there was a fair amount of just plain old physical tiredness too. I have to say, I had no idea just how tiring driving a motorcycle could be.
We spent yesterday learning the basics, from "how do you turn the bike on?", to learning to shift, do turns and do figure 8's without knocking over all the pylons. I have so much more respect now for what goes into driving these things, it's incredible. It's much more physical than regular driving...there's no power steering to turn the wheel for you, you are physically moving the front tire when you do slow speed maneuvers (not like at higher speeds where a lot of it is in the leaning). The thing that hurts the most though, after 2 days of this, are my hands.
Overall, I drove somewhere between 30 and 35km this weekend, and never got higher than 2nd gear. I'd say about 90% of it was in first gear, and on a motorcycle, you ride the clutch in first gear a lot more than you do in a car. The clutch is a lever on the left handlebar, like the hand brake on a bicycle. So I was clenching on the clutch for the majority of the time spent on the bike. My thumb is so sore, it is ridiculous.
However, all the pain is worth it. A lot of the time I was concentrating so hard on getting things right that I would forget what I was doing, but then I'd have these moments of "oh my god, I'm driving a motorcycle!" It was so fun, I can't even describe it.
This morning they taught us emergency braking and swerving to get around unexpected obstacles. It was pretty easy compared to the complicated low speed maneuvers we had to do yesterday (and we got to drive faster, 20km/hour!). I was still pretty exhausted from yesterday, so I was glad that the morning was relatively easy.
After lunch we started the testing. First came the written test, which was ridiculously easy. If you had a pulse during the class, you could pass the written test. The practical test was another matter entirely. Two of the guys in my class already had their beginner's license (they were doing the course for insurance purposes), and they said that the DMV road test for a motorcycle license was essentially prove you can start the bike, and do a figure 8. I could have passed that test with what I learned yesterday morning. The safety course test was a whole other story.
It consisted of 5 different exercises, some of them timed. Now, I hate timed things. They panic me. You should see me trying to play video games that have timed tasks...I'm freaking out while I try to do them, even if I have way more than enough time to complete them. Knowing that some of the tasks were timed had me feeling pretty queasy while we were setting up. Even when they were explained to us, and I knew I had the skills to do them, I was panicked that I wouldn't be able to complete them in the time given (which we weren't actually told, btw). We also would not be allowed to redo tasks, and weren't told as we did them whether or not we'd passed them.
The first task was definitely the worst for me. I got through it ok, but I had no idea if I'd done it in time. I'd also had a pretty shaky start, having to put my foot to the ground a few times as I tried to get around the first corner. The worst was that at the end, we had to shift up to second gear, then back down the first as we came to a stop. The gear shift is a pedal on your left foot. To go to first, you put your foot on top of the pedal and push down. When you are in 1st and want to go to 2nd, you have to put your foot under the pedal and push it up. So I'm in 1st, put my foot under the pedal and shift up to 2nd. Then, I need to shift back down to 1st. I go to move my foot back on top of the pedal...and fail. My boot got stuck. I managed not to panic and did eventually get it free and stopped in time, but I was sure that in my panic I had slowed down too much and took too long. I was pretty nervous about whether or not I'd failed the task due to the time limit, despite having sucessfully done all the maneuvers.
The other tasks weren't bad at all, even when they were timed. The first exercise was the hardest of them anyway, and getting through it restored a bit of my confidence and soothed my nerves a bit, since everything else was so much easier. I felt pretty good about these four, but didn't know if the first task could make or break me.
So after all the test we had to wait a bit while the head instructor tallied up our marks. The two assistant instructors stayed with us and answered questions we had. It was a pretty nervous group of people there, because while the pass rate is high, there are often a couple of fails. So the head instructor comes back out of his office a few minutes later, and says they consider the pass rate to be a reflection of the instructors, which means that they must be great instructors, because everyone passed! There wasn't any cheering, but a lot of relieved faces and smiles (I was one of them).
He did take us all in one by one and go over our test results. He told me that you could lose a maximum of 11 points, and the average was 7 or 8. I had only lost 5 points, and all 5 of them were on the first exercise! I am perfectly fine with this, because I know the first exercise reflected my nerves more than my abilities, as I'm confident I can do the things that were required. I had done similar exercises in the class without any real issues. I was just nervous and flubbed it up a bit in the test.
So I am now the very proud owner of a motorcycle beginner's license, which I can trade in after 30 days to get my full license. I will not longer be a plain old class 5 driver! Alan is jealous that I know how to drive something he doesn't...I am sure he'll be taking the course next year. It was so fun, and I am so proud of myself for doing this, as it was very intimidating, and I tend to put things like that off.
I also need to put in a plug for Saftey Services Nova Scotia, the people who put on the course. The instructors were great, and the course was paced in such a way that each exercise felt like natural extensions of the one we did before. I learned so much, and can not imagine trying to learn to drive a motorcycle on my own. I definitely recommend them if you've ever considered getting your license.
In related news, dad has offered to take a Saturday with me to look at bikes and help me find one to buy. All the ones I've seen on Kijiji that I might like have been far out of town, and dad said we'll drive all over the province if we have to. Thanks dad :)
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