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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

But it's not that easy

So, I've come up with a clear and compelling case for getting a motorcycle (I'll go crazy if I don't get one). And I can even produce solid evidence that motorcycle ownership is a responsible and practical thing to do. In the United Kingdom, especially, motorbikes are a wise move in terms of transportation because they are (generally) cheaper to insure, cheaper to maintain, and cost less in taxes and MOT*. Add to this the fact that they require a fraction of the petrol (gas) that a car would use and they are not only cheap but environmentally friendly**.

Indeed, as far as commuting practicality is concerned, one can't help but feel that to not own a motorcycle is downright foolish. And yet, I don't own a motorcycle. The obstacles in my way are threefold:

1) I'm not licensed to ride a motorcycle in the UK.
2) I don't have a lot of money.
3) My wife isn't all that fond of the idea.

The first issue is easily fixable. I've trained before; I can train again. The system in the United Kingdom is quintessentially British in its circumlocutory bureaucracy, but a motorcycle license can be attained within a handful of weeks - faster if the rider is particularly keen. But, unfortunately, to do this "is gonna take money," in the words of George Harrison. Whole lotta spendin' money.

The Cardiff region has a handful of reputable training schools, with 1st Class Rider Training being the one I'm leaning toward. I like it because Andy, the owner of the school, is a former cop (which makes me think he'll be well versed in the laws). But also, from his blog and Flickr and Facebook accounts one gets the sense that he's genuinely pleased when another of his students succeeds. I'd like that kind of support.

I've calculated it will cost roughly £800 (U.S. $1,285) to go from beginner to fully-licensed rider. That's a sum that makes my eyes go funny. There's a possibility I could turn out to be a super amazing student, somehow remembering perfectly all I was taught 18 years ago, and thereby not need as much training, but I think it's wiser to expect the worst.

So, the first issue standing between me and a motorcycle is exacerbated by the second issue. And that second issue is a motherhugging mountain of an issue. So much so, that I'll save it for another post.

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*For those of you reading outside the United Kingdom, MOT stands for Ministry of Transport. All motorised vehicles have to pass a rigorous yearly MOT test to ensure they are road-worthy.

**That's based on the simple equation that less consumption = less waste. Some people will counter this argument by pointing out that motorcycle engines don't burn as clean as those of cars. That's true of older motorcycles, certainly, but modern bikes face increasingly stringent environmental standards, so the green argument is ever stronger for motorcycles.

Comments

  1. Wow, $1,285 for rider training?? Either UK is way too expensive or that trainer is way too expensive. Or maybe that's they're way of preventing rider deaths.

    ReplyDelete
  2. No, I've looked around. That's pretty much the average cost. The licensing system here has several tiers that a person has to go through, each costing a little more. It is a major pain.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It might be worth doing the CBT to start with and then the instructor will tell you the best route to take.

    a 125cc bike might be all you need for your commute which means you can ride on L plates for up to two years after doing the CBT and in that time save enough to do the full test.

    The CBT is about £125.

    (A CBT is a one day test where the instructor will decide if your skills are good enough to ride on your own with L plates)

    ReplyDelete
  4. Baggy - You bring up a good point and for a long time I was planning on going that route. But then I started looking into the costs of insuring someone with only a CBT as opposed to a full license. Adding it all up, it started to seem a bit silly to not just go toward the full license.

    Once I've got that, there's no rule against my getting a 125 and getting really comfortable before moving up to a larger bike. I'm thinking I might do that, or go so far as to get a 250 but nothing too much larger. I want to make sure I'm comfortable and confident. After a few years I can then move toward the big bikes I daydream about.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I reckon one of the reasons it's so expensive to learn in Britain is because every road is twisty and turny because we don't believe in straight lines. Also every road has a mandatory 10 pot holes per 5 metres, so you need more skills to avoid them.
    You Americans and your straight roads! ;)

    ReplyDelete
  6. You ain't kiddin, Dan. There's a road (can't remember which one) that runs from Caerfyrddin up to Ceridigion that never straightens for more than 20 feet. Worst road ever to be stuck on with a hangover.

    ReplyDelete

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