Learning to be safe on the roads

Have you ever pondered something, put it off, finally tried it, then wondered why you hadn’t done it sooner?

Have you ever pondered something, put it off, finally tried it, then wondered why you hadn’t done it sooner?

I certainly have. Case in point—deciding to get my motorcycle license.

Now that I’ve been through the motorcycle training and have my Class 6, all I can say is, “Wow, what a ride!”

According to statistics, I’m one of the 23.7 per cent of new riders—I’m female and in my mid 40s.

I’m also one of the 55 per cent who have taken motorcycle training through V-Twin Okanagan, one of B.C.’s premier motorcycle rider training schools.

The 30-hour new rider course was invaluable, and consisted of eight hours of theory and 22 hours of riding.

Chief instructor Kim Young, the manager of V-Twin Okanagan, led us through the theory over two evenings.

Although he shared some startling statistics, he also explained how the advantages of riding outweigh the disadvantages.

The key, he told us, is riding smart and staying safe, which were my reasons for taking the course.

The theory was informative, but the four days of riding that followed were unbelievable.

Two days in the parking lot at Vernon’s Okanagan College, followed by two days of riding on the street.

Although most of the class had ridden a motorcycle at some point, the majority of us hadn’t ridden in years.

Knowing this and seeing how quickly we progressed still amazes me.

We went from pushing our bikes with the engines off to riding in the parking lot, in third gear, by the end of the first class.

What’s even more surprising is that by the end of day two, we had all taken, and passed, our Motorcycle Skills Assessments, an ICBC regulation and a requirement for taking the Class 6 road test.

By day three, we were riding through residential areas. We practiced hill starts, signalling, lane positioning, stopping and parking.

We learned to ride as a group, each taking turns leading then bringing up the rear.

And by day four, we were right in the thick of things—riding in downtown traffic, at 90 km/h on the highway and changing lanes in perfect formation.

This day, more than ever, the instruction we’d received in prior classes really hit home.

Lane positioning was absolutely critical as was watching other vehicles, their speed, potential road hazards, traffic signs and amber lights.

I also had to remember to cancel my signal, shoulder check regularly, and double-check before leaving an intersection, even when I had the right-of-way.

By the end of day four, I was exhausted but exhilarated. Since I didn’t have a motorcycle of my own yet, I signed up for a two-hour private lesson, to help keep my skills sharp.

As part of the course we were also entitled to a 90-minute pre-road test ride with an instructor, which I took with Kim.

Both of these sessions were invaluable, and I’m convinced they helped me pass my road test, which I took 10 days ago.

Now armed with my Class 6 license, riding gear and a cool black 250cc Kawasaki Ninja, I’m hooked. My only regret? I wish I’d done it sooner.

•••

Pick up a copy of ICBC’s RoadSense for Riders guide to prepare for your Class 6 or 8 learner’s permit. Check it out online at www.icbc.com.

Then, enrol in a rider training course.

•••

If you’ve looked at  accident statistics, they might change your mind about motorcycle riding—but don’t let them.

Kim Young, manager and chief instructor of V-Twin Okanagan, says the best way to mitigate risk is to take rider training, as a startling 50 per cent of motorcycle incidences happen to riders with less than two weeks of experience.

Motorcycle rider training in B.C. is unique as schools often include in-traffic training, a component that is generally not available in other provinces.

 

Maureen McEwan is a Capital News contributor.

 

 

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