Back in the saddle: My journey to get on two wheels
In the last edition of the Pilipino Express, in my article Easy Rider – My journey to get on two wheels, I explained the first steps in getting a Class 6 (motorcycle) licence in Manitoba. So now, you’ve completed the ‘written’ test at MPI and have a Class 6M licence. Don’t get on your Harley just yet! Before you get on the saddle of your hog and hit our pothole-infested streets, you need to have a Class 6L licence. To do that you need to take the motorcycle safety-training course offered at Safety Services Manitoba located at #3 – 1680 Notre Dame Avenue. Their website is www.safetyservicesmanitoba.ca. On it you will find the information you need to get you one step closer to the freedom of driving on two wheels. They have a convenient online registration process that is simple to use.
You have two options, for those with previous riding experience, pick the 8-hour course or for those who don’t have any or little experience, the 21-hour course is for you. Since my only experience on two wheels comes from my many years of riding a Schwinn, I went with the 21-hour course.
Of the 21 hours, 17 of those were spent on a supplied motorcycle. For the shorter riders they had low seat height cruiser or sport bike styles that have small engines, or for those who have a bigger displacement bike waiting for them in their garage, they had some Buell’s which were closer to 500 CC’s. Whether you are just over five feet tall or the size of an NBA player, they have a bike that will suit your needs work for the duration of the course.
Before I go on, it is mandatory that you have the proper riding gear before you get on their bikes. Since the word ‘safety’ is in their business name, Safety Services Manitoba insists that you wear a helmet that exceeds DOT standards, full fingered gloves, boots with a heel and rubber sole that covers your ankles, a sturdy jacket (leather, denim or textile), pants (jeans are fine) and eye protection. And since Winnipeg weather can be so unpredictable, I would suggest investing in a good quality rain suit, you’ll need one anyways if you plan to ride in the future.
In each class, they take a maximum of 28 students. For the riding portion, we are broken up into two groups (naturally, I was in Team A). If you have ever driven by their building in the evening you may have noticed a group of riders, in full gear riding in the parking lot. This is where you will spend many hours receiving instruction from certified instructors who themselves have put many hours on their own bikes over the years.
Stressing the importance of safety were our instructors for the duration of the course, Bruce Curle and Roland Hufgard. Together these two have ridden almost anywhere you can think of and put on thousands of kilometres on their bikes. So if they tell you something that could potentially save your life, you will definitely listen.
For the first class, I chose to ride a Honda CBR125. It’s one of the smallest engine sport bikes on the road. It’s a cool looking bike, and when you sit on one of these, you can’t help but feel cool as well. After all, our instructor’s #1 rule is “always look cool”. We practiced the basics of starting a motorcycle, following a simple acronym that you can find out for yourself when you take the course. We practiced ‘rocking’ our bikes. This is where we play with the clutch and try to find the friction point. This is perhaps one of the more important points I took away from this course. If you’ve ever driven a manual transmission vehicle, then you will know what I mean. But unlike a car, if you pop the clutch on a bike, you can easily get the front wheel off the ground.
By the end of that first class, we were able to do slow speed starting and stopping. There was even a friendly competition of who can get to the finish line last. Huh? Last you ask? Yes, because the best riders aren’t the ones who can go the fastest, no, they are the ones who can drive at a snail’s pace without putting a foot on the ground.
Editor’s note: This is part two in a series of articles Dale is writing that chronicles the steps a person would have to take to get a motorcycle licence (Class 6) in Manitoba.
Next edition Dale will take us through the rest of his experience taking the motorcycle safety-training course.