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Not so easy riding...

I’m pretty much finished my motorcycle lessons. Action Motorcycle has really done a good job giving me the basic skills I need to ride. I’ve completed my motorcycle skill assessment and had the “supervision required” and “no faster than 60 km/h” restrictions removed from my learners. And I took my very own motorbike out for its first ride today- the picture below was taken at about the mid-way point on my ride.

vulcan.jpg

But I’m not quite ready yet to take my ICBC road test…

I’ve been sick all week, so that means I didn’t get the chance to put any practice miles on my bike. When we did our road-ride today, I still felt clumsy: pre-occupied with the mechanics of riding a motorcycle instead of the finesse necessary to complete a road test. My instructor gave all of the students in my class the green light to proceed to the evaluation (i.e.: we are “safe”), but pointed out things we might want to work on first. All of us had room for improvement, and only one of us elected to take the evaluation immediately- the guy who was on his second time through the road skills part of the class, and who had failed his first ICBC road test.

After our road ride, I accompanied one of the instructors in the truck as another student completed a road evaluation- basically, a “simulated” version of the road test ICBC will run. I learned a bunch of things, things I should know before I ride the actual test.

My original plan was to book my road test immediately after completing my classes- that is, I might have been taking the road test this upcoming week. That isn’t going to happen now: my revised target is to have my full Class 6 license by sometime in June. I’m not really disappointed: I want to do this right, and I don’t feel ready. Action will give me the evaluation I skipped today on an upcoming Saturday- I’ll probably call them after next weekend and book it for the next available Saturday. Then assuming that goes well, I’ll book a road test.

So what do I want to work on as I ride over the next couple of weeks? I want to get all of my stops to be smooth- right now, I’m getting about 2 out of 5 of them well-balanced and relaxed; the other three I’m less balanced than I’d like, stopping early and “footing” up to the stop line, and similar things. Similarly, I want my starts to be consistent: I’m better with this task, but there are still times when I wobble a bit. My lane positioning on left turns needs some work, so I’ll be practicing that. In general, I want at least several hundred kilometers on my bike over a couple of weeks under a number of different conditions.

So what did it feel like to ride my own bike for the first time? In a word- fantastic! Some of the things I was most unsure about turned out great. Some examples:

  • Shifting: the Vulcan has a full “heel and toe” floorboard shifter, which means you don’t shift with just your toe like on most bikes. I wasn’t sure how quickly I’d pick that up- but in practice, the first time I shifted it felt perfectly natural, even easier and smoother than on the lesson bike I’ve been using. Within a couple of blocks I was shifting more consistently than I had been on the lesson bike
  • Weight: my bike is at least twice as heavy as the lesson bike- over 630 pounds. And when moving it around with my legpower, I really felt that- plus the balance felt imposing, like there is much more there to fall. Once I had about 15 minutes on my bike, however, the weight “disappeared”. I found the balance, and with the Vulcan’s low center of gravity it feels steady as a rock
  • Power: The lesson bike I’ve been riding feels like it is hitting warp 8 when I’m doing 70 km/h: it is actually kind of intimidating/scary in its own right. I hit 70 on the Vulcan and it felt quiet and steady as it did at 50. To be clear, these aren’t even close to highway speeds- however, I feel a lot more confident that I could get going at freeway speeds without feeling out of control

I need lots of practice, and will have to find some time to get some low speed maneuver practice in. Getting the bike up my driveway was… interesting. I will have to get better at that!

7 comments to Not so easy riding…

  • Shane

    Glad you are having fun with it. And there is no rush to get your test done, so you may as well take your time and do it when you feel “ready”. The bike looks great, the crash/highway “big shiny things on the side of the motor “bars look nice too πŸ™‚

  • Thanks, Shane, for the support! I knew I’d made the right decision after watching the other guy’s “simulated road test”: he made a number of mistakes that I would have made, and three of them were “instant fail” actions. Like our instructor said “You have a dollar’s worth of attention: if you are spending 90 cents on just keeping the bike stable and upright, you don’t have enough change left for the rules of the road.”

    Interesting road test “instant fail”/dangerous action facts that I learned watching someone else’s simulated road test:

    – zebra crosswalks (the ones with stripes all the way along) are like penalty boxes. Unlike normal crosswalks, you have to wait for the pedestrians to *completely* exit the crosswalk, not just your side of the road. Bonus item: you are supposed to do a full scan (left-right-left with clear head movement) as you approach all crosswalks- miss several of them, and you will fail
    – 1.5 meters minimum clearance on all maneuvers: if there is a right turn lane and a car is partially blocking it, you will fail instantly if you cut into the space and make the turn unless you allow a clear minimum of 1.5 meters between your bike and the car. A space that would fit a Smart car is probably too small…
    – Double school/pedestrian zones are killers: In Langley, there are a number of double zones: a school zone (School days: 8-5) with an “park” zone with separate signs inside (7 days a week, dawn to dusk). Exceeding the 30 km/h speed even once is a “dangerous action” and, like the other two, is an instant fail. And don’t forget the zone usually extends around corners: so if you turn and accelerate above 30 km/h, you will fail. Oh, and if you go under the speed limit to try to avoid missing one of these signed zones… you will fail if you do so for more than 5 blocks during your test.

    I’m glad I got those bars: if nothing else, they will protect the shiny bits a little if I drop the bike while parking πŸ˜‰

  • Sounds like besides learning to handle the bike you will have the hard part of “un-learning” all the bad habits all drivers pick up over the years.
    ( As I understand it here in Alberta zebra striped or not a you have to wait for a pedestrian to clear the crosswalk, which means getting to the curb, be that the other side of the road or a safety island/median. Of course we ALWAYS do that, right? πŸ˜‰ )
    I’m looking at all that nice chrome and leather … and I’m thinking you won’t be riding through the prairies soon… bug splatter πŸ˜€

  • Yeah, and each province has slightly different expectations/rules. An example is roundabouts. In Alberta, I was taught to signal on approach. If your exit was more than one around the circle, you’d signal left until you passed the last exit before the one you want, at which point you would signal right. In B.C., the current law is to signal for your exit only: i.e.: don’t signal on approach.

    As for bug splatter- it all cleans off πŸ˜‰ Although I want my bike to look good, I’m not a perfectionist, and I’d rather ride than be worried about how shiny it is.

  • Judy

    wow what a great looking bike!,sure glad you are enjoying the experience,picking a sunshiny day is always a plus!

  • Sunshine would be a plus, Judy πŸ™‚ So far the best day I’ve had for riding consisted of a couple of hours of sunshine interspersed with threatening clouds. I’m optimistic, though: One day will soon will surely be sunny.

    Of course, on that day I will have to work… or will be sick… or both πŸ˜‰

  • […] Kelly Adams: Sunshine would be a plus, Judy πŸ™‚ So far the best day I've … […]

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