I spent this past weekend taking a safety course on how to ride a motorcycle properly.
Why did I decide to take a safety course on how to drive a motorcycle?
I bought a 2022 Harley-Davidson Sportster 48 two weeks ago and thought maybe I should get the proper legal permits to operate it.
And before you even ask- no I am not in a mid-life crisis. That boat sailed when my family and I packed up all our worldly goods and moved to Washington from Alaska with four weeks’ notice. Now, I am just enjoying the ride. Because if you can move from Alaska to the lower 48 in 32 days with no job prospects; I really feel you can do anything.
Here is my story on what to do and not do when attending a Motorcycle Safety Course:
1st- Do the on-line portion of the training before arriving! It is 4 hours long, but that is doable if you fit 2 hours before your lunch break and two hours after. The way the course is set up- your boss will think you are doing on-line training! Very convenient.
2nd- Prepare yourself for a very long weekend with no chance of getting grocery shopping, laundry, chores, or errands done. The course starts promptly at 6:00 pm on Friday night and last until Sunday afternoon. If you are lucky, or have read this blog, you will know to pack a thermos of coffee, a gallon of water, lots of snacks (none of which you will have time to eat), and pain pills. Understand, when you get home- you will be exhausted from sitting on your ass for hours while the 2-stroke engine vibrates the fillings right out of your teeth.
What are the pain pills for? I am glad you asked! It is for when you are on hour 5 of riding around the course and your ‘no-no’ spots start hurting and your thighs start cramping from clinging to the tank of the motorcycle with your legs for dear life.
3rd- Listen to what the instructors say. You will go through 3 hours of classroom material on Friday and another hour on Saturday afternoon- then they will tell you it is time to take the test! Shit! The paper test is 50 questions long, but don’t panic- that is the easiest part of the whole weekend! The questions are fairly easy- Why should you wear a helmet? Do you need to check traffic before pulling out? Should you drink and drive? You know- in-depth questions! I am so glad I woke up 2 hours early on Saturday to study before the 7:30 am class!
4th- Very important- get to know your fellow riders! You are all going to be operating a 300-pound piece of machinery on two wheels, navigating a course at high rates of speed, playing follow the leader. If you don’t get along with everyone- it could be sketchy. I would recommend bringing something to share for lunch on Saturday! Buy their love and support- and you may make it out of there alive.
5th- Remember to shift your motorcycle out of 1st gear! Coming from personal experience, while I love being cautious, taking a turn at 2mph, trying to lean and hold up the 300 pounds of machinery on two wheels does not work out. How do I know? Because I tried. My coach was in awe of my ability to keep the bike moving forward and upright at such a slow speed that he video me and is sending it off to the Guinness World Record Book for entry. However, that did get tiring, and I finally gave in to their very professional advice and turned the accelerator for the first time five hours into the course.
That first time you hit 10 mph- what a rush! Freedom in its fullest.
6th- You will get dizzy at some point. The course you will be driving on may be inside a box- but you will be doing a lot of turns. Left, Left, Left, Left. Right, Right, Right, Right. When you get really good you graduate to Left, Right, Left, Right or even Right, Left, Right, Left. At one point they sent us into a panic when it was Full Stop, Right Turn, Forward, Stop, Left Turn, Forward, Stop. Then they threw a piece of wood in our path and said ‘A cat just ran out in front of you! Save the cat!’ What did I do? Every man for themselves! I ran it over with no concern and continued on with my Left, Right, Left, movement. (I failed that test by the way- please swerve to miss the cat when you take the course.)
7th- Don’t think about the practical test! Until it is time to do the practical test. There are 5 different obstacles you need to navigate before they will sign off and make you legal. By all means- try to get into the middle of the pack, or you will have to bear the consequence of what I faced- being the last one to navigate the course. All eyes on me baby! And if you know me at all, you know I am by nature a cautious person. I am the one that does safety checks on my truck’s seat belts at least once a month. I never let my gas tank get below a 1/4 tank. I don’t typically speed, unless I have to go pee or get to the coffee house. I leave 45 minutes early to get somewhere only 12 miles away. And I NEVER quickly accelerate because I don’t have that type of gas money sitting in my bank account. I am a 60 mph in 1 minute type of girl!
Let me tell you, while the Coach’s appreciated my approach to safety- when the drill requires you to get to 17 mph in 40 feet, they get a little frustrated when you only get to 15 mph. You have 3 attempts on anything requiring a higher level of speed- and I took all three attempts. Now, by the time I got to the 3rd obstacle- I knew I could get up to speed, but their faces had me cracking up, so I pushed the envelope. I think they would have failed me, but I kept yelling ‘you can’t catch me’ and singing Highway to Hell, so I passed on personality alone.
Now I have my permit. In the state of Washington, I have to go back and take another exam and skill knowledge test which I think is smart and a bit much at the same time. My coaches very nicely handed me my permit and asked me to give them two weeks recovery time before coming back. I agreed, went on the internet, and signed myself up for the test this upcoming Friday night. It is supposed to only be an hour long, but I want to make sure we have enough time- so I paid for 3 hours! It’s only a 25-question test and two obstacles, but better safe than sorry!
I did go for a ride last night, on my personal motorcycle and at one point even made it up to 37 mph. I was like Evel Knievel- riding my little heart out all the way to the Wal-Mart parking lot!
There you have it. The Do’s and Don’ts of getting your motorcycle permit! You have any further questions- please ask anyone but me!
If you are nervous or scared of getting on a motorcycle- don’t be. Confidence in yourself is the key factor in becoming a safe driver and I am looking forward to being Great and something I am not so Good at so far- but I have hope!
And remember my friends:
Be Great at something that you are Good at!