Every trip brings new experiences and obstacles for every motorcyclist. I am not sure of the exact chain of events that happened next, but before I knew it, I was down on the ground. It was quite humiliating.
This past weekend I set aside my fear of riding a motorcycle and traveled to Patriot Motorcycle Training at the Clay Port in Green Cove Springs, Florida, for the weekend to take my Basic Rider Course for motorcycle riders. As of July 1, 2008, new motorcyclists must take and pass the Basic Rider Course through a Florida Rider Training Program before they can have the motorcycle endorsement added to their driver‚Äôs license. My other half has been riding motorcycles for many years and I have always thought that it would be smart to learn HOW to ride just in case of emergency. Children as young as 8 years old can be taught to ride a dirt bike, so I thought that riding a motorcycle would be as easy as riding a bike.
I have never particularly liked riding on the back of my husband‚Äôs bike since there is no way to see what was going on in front of me. I thought it would be helpful to know what he was doing and how to do it. Balancing what is essentially a two-dimensional contraption with an engine seemed neither natural nor inevitable. And the longer you wait to learn, it seems, the more afraid you are of falling.
On Saturday morning at 7:30am, we met the rider coach, Travis. He explained that because it is August in Florida, we would do the driving in the mornings and the classroom work in the afternoons when the heat is unbearable. Although we all know that the mornings can be as brutally hot as the afternoon, we followed the instructor to the riding course.
The bikes are provided by the training school and were lined up beside a trailer on the course. We were instructed to write our names on the tape on the front of each bike. I had never tried to drive a motorcycle and so each instruction was critical to my experience.
We started off slow and learned how to mount and dismount the bike and what procedures to follow to start the engine. We learned of the ‚Äúfriction zone‚Äù and how to operate the clutch and brakes. There were instructions read to us before each exercise and a demonstration was done by one or the other of the rider coaches. One at a time we would perform the exercises until the rider coaches felt that we had mastered the exercise, or at least improved. By the time we got through the exercises of the day we could not only start the bike, but could actually ride it around in a circle!
I managed to make it through the first day of riding without any mishaps and around noon we headed back to the classroom for some videos and instruction. As groups, we took turns answering the questions in the book and at 4:00pm we disbursed for the day with a homework assignment of about 50 questions that would be due the second day.
Sunday morning came awfully early as we followed each other onto the old runway where the driving range is located. Our first exercise of the morning started out by having us drive the perimeter and then moving on to driving over obstacles. As I started out of the parking area, I inadvertently rolled onto the throttle and popped the clutch and suddenly my front wheel was about 8 inches in the air and I heard, ‚ÄúWhoa!‚Äù from the rider coach as I managed to settle the bike back down on the ground and continue to my designated spot.
My wheelie was just the first of my issues of the day. Although I am not sure that they are the reason, I had changed gloves and I kept over-revving the throttle. My shoe got stuck between the pedal and the shift lever and I could not seem to shift smoothly most of the time. I was quite frustrated with myself when I pulled up to the starting line for another exercise. This exercise involved starting off, shifting up to second gear and then stopping quickly after passing the first set of cones. I am not sure of the exact chain of events that happened next, but the next thing I knew, I was down on the ground. It was quite humiliating. The rider coach from the other range came over to pick up the bike and test it for damage and Travis talked to me a few minutes and told me not to worry about it and not to beat myself up over the mistake. I managed to get back on the bike and complete that exercise and the remaining ones leading up to the skills examination.
Following the sound advice of the rider coaches, I worked all morning on improving my shifting and practicing all of the required proficiencies during each exercise. Finally, it was time for the exam. I was quite anxious and making an effort to focus and mentally picture the steps in my head. The exam consisted of four separate exercises. I completed each of them the best I could. I did not complete two of them at a fast enough speed and I had to redo them, but that was not counted against me. I still did not know, as we left the range to continue the testing in the classroom, if I had passed the skills test.
Returning to the air-conditioned building to eat lunch was a relief. Wearing the required long-sleeved shirt, long pants, over-the-ankle boots, gloves and helmet makes a Florida summer day miserable. After lunch, we reviewed the material and then took the written exam.
I am now the proud owner of a card from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. I can take my card to the DMV in Yulee and have a motorcycle endorsement added to my driver‚Äôs license. I may be certified to operate a motorcycle on the road by the law, but I know that I need a lot more practice and confidence to be able to share the road with other vehicles. Every trip brings new experiences and obstacles for every motorcyclist. I am sore all over today from the weekend. In my opinion, learning to ride a bike is not that easy. For moreinformation about their classes, give them a call at 904-786-5900.