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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…

The next steps

Suffering the nonsense.
I saw a story the other day that motorcycle sales are on the decline in Europe, with the number of bikes sold in the United Kingdom having dropped 13.4 percent over last year (and moped/scooter sales having dropped 17.1 percent). I can't really speak to the experience of riders in other countries but if their licensing processes are as convoluted, multi-tiered and expensive as the one in this soggy realm, I find the numbers not at all surprising. Whereas I can see how the UK licensing system better ensures the safety of riders than the one I went through when I was 18 years old (1), I can't help feeling it so wrapped in red tape it forces a person to be nigh fanatical to want to put him- or herself through it.

Honestly, if you are simply looking to be able to get from point A to point B, why would you even consider the five-step motorcycle-licensing process over the less complicated process for car drivers? But as is evident from this blog's URL, I am one of those fanatics. I am hellbent on trundling through the great bullshit machine, so I can be allowed on two wheels.

As I say, there are five steps:
1) Earn a CBT certificate
2) Take a multiple choice theory test
3) Take a video-based hazard perception test
4) Take a closed-course on-road test
5) Take an open road on-road test.

I am actually getting off light, thanks to my advanced years. Were I younger than 24 years old, there would be additional steps and restrictions.

The first step I completed not too long ago. On a rather cold (but sunny) Saturday morning, I got up early and spent the day swearing a blue streak at a little 125cc Yamaha. At the end of the day, I was given my CBT certificate.

The next day, I bought study materials for steps 2 and 3: the theory and hazard perception tests. And last night, I booked myself to take them at 8 a.m. on 12 March –– the earliest slot available. The ball is rolling quickly now. I feel wound up with nervousness. The British love giving tests and I am notoriously poor at taking them.

Then, just half an hour ago, the stress level jumped even further. I got a text from my instructor: he has booked step 4. That's an on-the-bike test conducted on a closed course, known as the Module 1 test. The date for that one is 19 March –– the day before my 37th birthday and only a week after my theory and hazard perception tests. If I screw those up, the whole house of cards will collapse.

I believe the phrase you're looking for is: "pooping myself." 

–––––

(1) According to a friend in Texas, it is even easier there. I had to ride around some cones to get my motorcycle endorsement in Minnesota. In the Lone Star State, however, one need only take a written test – no on-the-road element required.

Comments

  1. There is a scene in the movie "What Dreams May Come" in which Robin Williams' character leaps off a cliff (it's OK, he's already dead...) and, to his dismay, discovers he can't fly.

    His companion (Cuba Gooding Jr.) shouts after him as he falls, "I bet you're saying 'Oh shit' now!"

    I've always felt that specific scene sums up the feeling you're experiencing.

    Anyway, you've got the bug, so you're going to pass those tests and there's going to be a new terror on the roads of Britain.

    ReplyDelete
  2. In the 1980s, in California, I only had to ride around some cones, and I was cleared to ride. I dread that the motorcycle endorsement process in the States will become like that of the UK.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I had the same sort of test in Minnesota in the 90s. I don't think it prepared me for the road at all. To that end, I think there's a bit of value in the UK system, but it could definitely stand to have less red tape.

      Delete

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