Ah, scooters. How do I love thee. I love the cute styling, how they look all parked in a row or against some wonderful European backdrop. I love the freedom they exude, as they zoom along the streets. I love to capture them as part of a scene. They scream “Italy” and “Europe” to me. I never had any desire to ride a motorcycle, but after living in Italy for two years, scooters captured my heart.
I wrote a few months ago about my scooter dream and how I signed up for Motorcycle Basic Rider Training through Team Oregon in July to help me along in my dream. The purpose of this course is to teach basic skills to make a motorcyclist safer on the road, and by 2015 anyone in Oregon who wants to ride a motorcycle will be required to take it. By the end of the course, if you pass, you have met all of the requirements to get your license and the class completion card waives any further testing.
The training was this weekend. It started with a classroom session on Thursday night for two and a half hours, followed by Saturday and Sunday classes which each had four hours on the riding range in the morning and then 2 to 3 hours in class in the afternoon. It included a skills test on the motorcycle and a written test that you had to pass.
Let me be honest – this was the most physically and mentally demanding thing I’ve done in a long time. (It took all of my energy this weekend, hence no blog posts!) Riding a motorcycle takes an enormous amount of skill and concentration, especially if you’re new to it. You have to do different things with both hands and feet at the same time. You have to pay attention to the world around you so much more than in a car, because the hazards are so much greater and you are less visible. You have to learn to trust the machine below you and how to react quickly and safely.
I am not the most physically coordinated of people. I was always last picked in gym class, being small and slow. I was the one who would go out for a sport and work super hard, practicing a ton, just to become mediocre. The athletic stars would come in with no practice and exceed my skills by a long shot. But what I have learned through all of that, is that I have the determination and persistence to learn just about anything when I set my mind to it. I’m not completely uncoordinated, it just takes me more time to get it and more practice to master it than some others. I kept that in mind as I struggled with the controls and getting the sequence right. My past experience has shown me that I could do it, if I really tried.
I have to say, that this course was amazing. It took me (and others) who had never driven a motorcycle before, didn’t even know the controls, to riding a motorcycle and passing a skills test in two days of range riding. That is just incredible. By the end, I was swerving around obstacles and taking corners at 15-20 miles per hour (24-32 km/hr), weaving through offset cones at low speed without putting my foot down, able to take sharp corners. Oh yeah, and all of this – in the rain! The second day of class it rained the whole time on the range, soaking us but showing us that we could do this in the rain as much as the sun.
And guess what – I passed! I am so excited. I am so proud. This gives me a bigger feeling of accomplishment than I ever, ever expected. I overcame my fears. I learned something that was hard for me but my persistence and determination paid off. And the good news, driving a scooter is much easier than a motorcycle! No clutch to worry about, no foot controls, yet I know how to do those too now.
Today, I will go down to the Department of Motor Vehicles with my class completion card and get the motorcycle endorsement added to my license. Here is one thing I know though – I am nowhere near riding on the road yet. I have a lot of practice to do, and skills to continue building, before I be-bop around town on a scooter. I have a little 50cc Honda Metropolitan scooter purchased from a friend to practice on though, and some great basic skills to help me progress.
Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but an old Kat? If she really wants to learn it, she can.