27 September 2010


A couple of ya have written expressing concern for my whereabouts. Thank you, but I'm okay... I'm just recovering.
The last couple weeks have been tough on this old bag-O-bones. Lots of extra days at work to cover other guy's vacations. An extra day for mandatory BK ground school. And I've picked up a new student... Tim, my UPS delivery guy, who is now lurking here. Hi Tim!
Tim couldn't help but notice a few packages coming from "Sporty's Pilot Shop" among all those QVC packages, and being a commercial, multi-engine, instrument pilot himself, of course he had to ask. When he found out I was a helicopter instructor he decided to check off another item from his "bucket list". (Tim is also a radio-controlled helicopter pilot, so he's taking to the real thing like a duck to water. He's already hovering with only 2 hours in his new helicopter logbook1"

But getting back to my absence here at "Pitchpull"...
I'll soon be able to drive the Pizza Bike legally.
I spent this weekend attending the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's "Basic Rider Course". Folks who have never ridden a motorcycle (but know how to ride a bicycle), can walk into this course and, after passing the practical skills and written tests, walk out with a certificate to take to the DMV to add the "M" for motorcycle to their regular operator's license.
My course was scheduled for Friday night, all day Saturday, and all day Sunday... 29 hours!

Having ridden for almost 30 years I wondered what I would learn in a "Basic" rider's course, and walked in Friday night wondering if I'd be bored to death. I needn't have worried. About half the class of 36 folks were in the same boat with me...
Experienced riders looking to get their licenses so they could ride legally and insured.

Friday night was spent doing the initial sign-up paperwork, receiving the course study guide, and as a class, answering a few of the questions for the final written exam. Those of us that wanted to use our own helmets also had to show them to confirm they were D.O.T. approved.

Saturday morning we had to park a considerable distance from the course grounds because the instructors wanted the whole parking lot to be vacant. When I got out of the car I was struck by the sound...
Like a HUGE beehive humming. When I finally was able to see what was going on I could see 36 Honda CB 125t's lined up, all running to warm their engines for that day's class. They looked something like this:

You can't tell from the photo, but that ain't a big bike folks...
It truly is almost a bicycle with an engine. But it isn't a toy. It's capable of going close to 60 m.p.h..

They shut the bikes down and called the group together, then divided the class into three groups of 12 each and showed us how the big parking lot was divided into three "ranges". We were then each assigned a bike and were told to walk it to our assigned range. There, the practical instruction started.

And as you can imagine in a course that is teaching folks who have NEVER ridden a motorcycle, it was BASIC!
The first exercise taught us how the clutch works and how to use the "friction zone"...
The area in the clutch travel between where the engine is fully disengaged from the rear wheel to where it is fully engaged. In first gear, we were to release just enough clutch travel to allow the bike to move slowly forward to the point where our boots were on our toes, then we were to pull the lever back in and roll the bike back until our toes were pointed straight up, then let the clutch out again until our toes were again pointed straight down...
We did this for five minutes, and my thoughts were, "This may be a LONNNNNNNNNNG weekend!"

But soon we were riding the perimeter of our "range" in first gear. We then shut our bikes down in an area designated for our range and returned to the classroom for more study on test questions. That's the way the whole weekend went...
A little practical work on the bikes, then a little written test preparation in the classroom.
By Saturday afternoon we were no longer doing boring stuff... we were doing exercises that actually took a degree of skill to properly accomplish. I could see the value of the instruction and was glad to be part of the class.

Saturday night I went to bed early and got a good night's sleep.
Sunday morning when I got out of the car, the sound I heard was not bees, but WASPS...

We had graduated from 125cc bikes to 200cc bikes...
Still relatively small, but genuine, serious motorcycles.
Now the practical exercises got more difficult.
We repeated one we had done that had worried me on the little 125...
You had to drive into a 20X40 box painted on the lot, through a designated gate, drive to the end of the box, then do a "figure 8" in the box before leaving at a designated gate at the opposite end. Maximum test points could be earned by not putting your foot down, and not touching the painted lines designating the boundaries of the box.
It's not easy to do.
But it was actually easier to do on the bigger bikes than it was on the little Hondas.

And so it went...
Practical exercises on the bikes...
Panic stops... Using both brakes to stop in the shortest possible distance while also downshifting from second to first gear.
Accelerating out of corners while staying within a 3-foot painted arc.
More figure 8's.

Then more work in the classroom.

Finally, for 15 minutes we were allowed to work on individual areas we wanted to practice on before the practical test. I worked mainly on figure 8's and panic stops.

Each of the three ranges had two instructors that conducted the test, and it took about half an hour. At the end of the test we all had a pretty good idea how well we had done... we knew what was expected of us. But we didn't know if we had done well enough to not lose enough points to pass.

The written test consisted of 50 multiple-choice questions and was not difficult if you had been paying close attention to the classroom review. Most questions had been thoroughly gone over during class time.

After the written test we were given a break while the tests were graded. When we were called back into the classroom we were given our tests with the results from both the practical and written exams marked at the top.
I did very well on both... not perfect, but very well.
My certificate will be in the mail this week and when I receive it I'll immediately be headed to the DMV to add the "M" to my operator's license.

Would I recommend this course?
You bet. As a matter of fact, I'd recommend it to anyone who ever thought they MIGHT have an interest in motorcycles.
Four or five folks crashed during our "practical" work. They weren't crashing their own machine, and they weren't risking skinning up their own helmet.
Even the most experienced of us learned a few things in this class.
Me? I now have much more confidence in my ability to control the bike at REALLY slow speeds... a skill I was somewhat weak on.

My guess is that about 2/3rds of the class successfully passed the course. In our State if you fail the course you can retake it at no charge. Many I talked with were dismayed at the idea of having to devote another weekend to another attempt at passing, but they had improved so much from when they started, they knew they'd likely pass on another attempt. (One gal in my group was a return student, and was grinning from ear to ear when she got her results... SUCCESS!)

So, that's behind me.
My bike is insured.
I'll very soon have a legal license to drive it.

I'm gonna take John Kay's advice and "Get your motor runnin', Get out on the highway!"


cj said...

It does sound like a great course.

Glad you did so well.

Enjoy the ride, my friend.


The Old Man said...

Go get 'em, buddy. Loved the blow-by-blow of the course. Might have to look into one myself....