Saturday 22 October 2011

Testing Day 2.0

It's amazing how tense and nervous a person can be, even after over 5 decades of experience in the world. Friday was my second attempt to pass my motorcycle license test and, although I tried to project an aura of self confidence, I really was rattled. Thoughts like, "If I fail this time, how many more times do I go before I give up?"  and, "if I keep failing, will they make me redo my regular license as well?" I didn't sleep that well the night before and I had butterflies in my stomach most of Friday.

I went to Dave's place to pick up the bike and his son was there to greet me. He was an amiable guy and told me how he had failed his first time which his father, the motorcycle teacher, was not overly proud of! He gave me some words of advice including that he hoped that I had the two girls testing me again because the guy was really picky.

It was raining hard so before taking off to practice, I put on a pair of gortex cycling overbooties so that my hiking boots would stay nice and dry. They attach with velcro and have served me well on many a cycling trip. I then headed off on the Suzuki Marauder 250 for Poco.

I had about an hour to practice which I did. The heavens opened up with torrential rain which splashed around my face. I don't like the full face visor closed all the way so I kept it open about half way which protected my eyes but drenched the lower half of my face. I tried to cover all the route that I had gone on before and then, for the last 15 minutes, practice my nemesis, the U-turn.

If you recall from my very first time at motorcycle school, I fell off trying to do a U-turn. I think that one incident has scarred my for life as it was also the reason I failed my first attempt due to a too wide U-turn that nicked a lawn. My first 10 or so practices were OK but then I started to make them wide again. I finally discovered that cranking the throttle in short bursts gave me the needed speed to make the U-turn properly but without going so fast I was out of control or headed for the curb. Still, I was shaky and did not look forward to that part of the test.

When the heck do you need to do a U-turn anyway?

I sped over to the testing centre, parked, turned of the bike and promptly fell over.

What had happened was the flap on the bottom of the gortex overbooty caught on the peg on the left side. When I tried to get off, my leg wouldn't go and I was thrown off balance. I fell down and the bike fell over as well.

Sometimes, Buddha or Lady Luck smiles at me after having a good laugh. I practically bounced off the ground and picked up the bike (lucky it was only a 250) and then looked around. Nobody saw me! Two minutes later and a crowd of people were in the lot but at that time I was completely alone amongst the other vehicles!

Sporting a slight limp from my scraped knee and no longer wearing the aforementioned vortex overbooties, I first hobbled, then walked into the testing centre. After doing the necessary paperwork, I met my tester, the guy!

His name was Gary. He seemed nice enough but I secretly knew that he was the ├╗ber picky tester who could not be taken for granted! Actually, we chatted a bit before the test and he was friendly and sort of made me feel a bit at ease!

The weather for the test had turned, well, pretty nice. It was cloudy and the roads were wet but there was no longer any driving rain. I left the centre and proceeded to ride the first half of the test without incident. I was feeling pretty darned confident and thinking, maybe I'll actually pass, when Gary said, "When safe, show me your U-turn."

I remembered the trick with the throttle and worked really hard to look where I wanted to turn. There was only one chance at this and I knew that this was my pivotal moment. I went around the U for the first half perfectly. Then, I twisted the throttle a bit too much and the bike jerked. It jerked a couple more times but I stayed on and next thing I knew, I wasn't on someone's front lawn, I was on the road headed in the correct direction!

He continued to test me, taking me through a multitude of school and playground zones. At one point, I was going 50 kmh and I looked to the right and saw, right beside me, a middle school. Luckily it had a school zone sign without a speed on it so I was OK. Twice in the latter half, I lost Gary as I went through a yellow light but there was no way I was going to slam on the brakes and get an automatic fail.

During the final half km, I was going a bit slow when I realized that I had missed a playground sign. Luckily I was probably at the upper threshold for speed and I didn't get a fail due to it. We then made our way back to the centre where I parked the bike and got off, this time without falling to the ground.

He came close to my helmet so I could heart and said, "Well you've passed," to which I yelled, "Yes!" right into his face.

It wasn't perfect - he said my U-turn was a bit shaky, I cut a couple corners when turning left, and I was a bit too far right at one time but otherwise, I nailed it! I thanked Gary, got my photo taken for my new license and headed off, for the last time, on the Suzuki.

What a feeling of accomplishment! What a relief! Now, time to look at a new scoot in earnest.


Friday 14 October 2011

Testing Day 1.0

So today was testing day.

I had another teacher graciously cover my class so I could dump off my stuff at home, pick up my motorcycle and have a bit of practice.

First. I arrived to get my preferred motorcycle, the Honda 600, but, due to the signal switch falling off, the bike must have been in the shop. So, for the first time since my very first motorcycle lesson, I had a 250 Suzuki Marauder.

That wasn't such a problem, though. It's a nice bike and gives me a bit of an edge in terms of control. As I rode out to Poco, I thought that this just might be an OK day. It was beautiful - sunny, warm - ideal!

After practicing for about 1/2 an hour, including several good U-turns, I headed up to the testing centre. I paid my $50, took a deep breath, and waited for my test.

The way it works is that there is a car with a driver and a tester. You are given a radio that has pretty good sound and the instructor follows along behind while you follow the instructions. I had a female tester who seemed nice enough and was driven by another female.

After completing a safety check, we departed for the testing route. I felt pretty confident, although I had had enough difficulties in my practice rides to be ready for a fail. I was careful with my speeding, caught all the school zones, and didn't get caught up by a playground. As it was a beautiful sunny day, the one time I stopped a bit fast, there was no problem with skidding. I cruised by a bus which signaled just as I started to pass it so I had no problems there. I was feeling good, feeling confident. Then I was asked to do a U-turn.

As I said before, I practiced this maybe 10 times before the actual test. I was fine. But during the test, my U-turn became incredibly wide and I actually ended up going up the curb and grazing the grass of a lawn on the side of the street. I couldn't believe that I had done that! I thought, well, maybe she'll give me another chance at that, but she didn't.

I continued on with the test, thinking, maybe I'd lose a couple of demerits or maybe that'd be it. I didn't know. The rest of the test went well. I had a few times where I missed a shoulder check and one left turn which I cut a bit close but nothing serious. I also rode a bit slow in some parts, but I'm not surprised as I was trying to see all the potential hazards on the street.

Finally, 45 minutes later, we arrived back at the testing station. The tester told me that I hadn't passed because of my U-turn - it was a DA - Dangerous Action.  When I think dangerous action, I think running a red or skidding out but a crappy U-turn was all I needed to blow the test.

I wasn't completely surprised that I had failed but I had hoped that it wasn't serious enough to actually fail.

I was wrong.

Now I've got to wait a week and hopefully do better next time.

I was pretty bummed out but a few glasses of wine and blogging about this has definitely made me feel better. I'd be lying, though, if I didn't say that I was actually looking forward to hitting the sack tonight.

Better luck next time. Now, what do I tell the kids at school?.......

Saturday 8 October 2011

Fail, fail, fail

Friday was my last ride with Dave before my test. He's heading off to sunny points over the border after the weekend while I'm in the Okanagan this weekend for a family Thanksgiving with my wife's relatives.

I met him on Friday for a tune up ride going over the test route. I was feeling pretty positive and hoped that my confidence would be reflected in a clean ride.

The ride started off well enough. I remembered my shoulder checks and intersection scans, rode smoothly on the motorcycle, and was careful not to make any careless errors. I was humming along nicely for the first half of the ride and thought, yes, I am going to nail it today!

And then I broke the signal switch.

Not intentionally, you understand, but when I pushed it in to cancel it, it first wouldn't cancel, and then, after a couple more attempts, fell off onto the road. We stopped, rescued the piece that fell off, and then Dave told me to continue with hand signals.

That one small event sucked the confidence out of me and I started to make mistakes.

First one was I turned right on a yellow light but is was red by the time I was turning - not good.

Then, I stalled in an intersection while turning left and couldn't get it started for about a minute. FAIL!

A couple minutes later, I was turning left again and while the space on the crosswalk was clear, there were still people who had not actually stepped onto the sidewalk. Sorry - FAIL!

Then, on a faster section of road called the Mary Hill Bypass, I was trying really hard to relax and ended up zooming up to 78 km/h in a 60 km/h zone. FAIL!

Now, except for the stalling in the intersection, I rode the motorcycle well. My riding skills were fine. However, my driving skills were just plain careless. I know that the problems started after the stupid signal switch fell off but I also know that I can't let something like that affect my riding so severely!

I had a difficult time getting to sleep, as I beat myself up over the ride over and over in my head. Finally, though, I reasoned that stressing about my test is not going to be helpful. I am confident that I have it within me to pass - and I just have to make sure I don't screw up!

In the meantime, gotta relax....

Sunday 2 October 2011

Meh... and some pondering....

So, a catchup and some pondering as I sit out a beautiful day when I'm so supposed to be on a ride.

 First, last Tuesday, after school, I was lucky enough to be the only student for our ride. I got to lead, of course, and we did the whole driver testing route starting at the DMV building. Although I stalled the bike once, and I didn't stop for a pedestrian waiting at a crosswalk, I did remember most of my shoulder checks and intersection scans. I got all of the school zones and playground speed changes as well.

I was a bit unsure at times, not like last time, because I was leading - it's a lot easier to get all of the parts of the test right when you are following somebody. When you are on your own, however, it is more stressful and more demanding - and a lot easier to make an error!

We rode for an hour or so and then returned. Instead of, "You nailed it!" I got the comment, "I don't see any problems," which looks good as I type it but didn't quite sound the same.

The expression "Meh", as far as I can tell, means it was, well, OK, but not great - and that's how I feel about the ride.

 One positive comment Dave said was that I am focussing on the road to make sure I get everything right and so am not so caught up about the actual riding of the motorcycle.

Today, I was supposed to go for a nice long afternoon ride. The weather cooperated - it was a sunny day, not too cold - and ideal day for "get comfortable in the seat" riding. Unfortunately, I woke up with a killer sore throat and, worse, a woozy feeling not caused by a couple glasses of wine. So I had to cancel. 

Instead, I have been pondering a question David Masse (Life on Two Wheels) asked me last entry - scooter or motorcycle? I have been thinking about this a lot and I really think that I will stick with the scooter. A scoot with a bigger engine - even a 150 - will allow me to keep up with traffic and go farther afield. I know that some of the reading I have been doing has cautioned against riding on a major highway with a 150 but I'm not sure why….

I also love the styling of a scooter - and by that I mean a Vespa or a Stella or a similar design. I've looked at the Piaggio and it has similar parts to the Vespa (after all, they are made by the same company) but looks different enough to make me have second thoughts. The Burgman, MP3 and other scoots are nice looking machines but I don't know if that's what I want.

I see the PX150 or the Stella or even the LX150 and I think that I really like the design. But the PX150 is 2 stroke so I don't want it and the LX150 is $1500 more than the Stella so, at least at this point, I'm leaning towards the Stella.

Hopefully I'll have my license in the next little while and then I can start looking in earnest.