Scooter Underground

Vancouver Island Safety  Council

July-23-08

12:29 PM

Blog Post

Finally decided to get my act together and get some proper training as I move toward getting my full Class 6 Motorcycle licence. My interest is not so much in riding motorcycles as it is in riding larger scooters - and doing it safely. In British Columbia, you need a Class 6 motorcycle license to ride any scooter with an engine size above 50 cc's and I wanted the flexibility to ride the larger scooters that are capable of highway speeds.

At Scooter Underground, we have heard many good things about Vancouver Island Safety Council  (VISC) and we recommend their motorcycle and scooter courses to many customers. (Other reasons for taking the course were to ensure we are recommending a good thing and  to be able to tell our customers a bit more about what to expect.)

Before you start the VISC Course

Before you begin the VISC training, you must go to ICBC and get your Class 6 Learners license. To do this, you pick up the RoadSense for Riders manual from any ICBC office (also available at Scooter Underground) and prepare for a theory test.  You can also get the RoadSence manual online.People say this test is easy and many brag about passing without even reading the manual. READ THE MANUAL - STUDY IT...lot's of stuff you might have known at one time but probably forgot.

Once you get to ICBC, you take a number and stand in line. It's usually not too bad - I had to wait about 15 minutes. You need to have a couple of pieces of ID including photo ID. I had my BC Driver's licence and my SIN card and that was fine.

They send you over to a computer kiosk where you do a test with 25 multiple choice questions. You must score 80% to pass. You may skip questions if you are unsure and then come back to them. Answer the questions you are sure of first and then come back for the others.

Once you are finished the test, it tells you right away if you have passed. You then go back to the wicket and they print your Motorcycle Learners licence and point out the restrictions.

The restrictions are:

 

  • Operation of the motorcycle only between sunrise and sunset.
  • No passengers permitted
  • Must be under the direct supervision of an adult who holds a valid Class 6 motorcycle license
  • Speedlimited to 60 km/h maximum

For me, this is a semi-useless licence since I do not have a supervisor to ride with all the time. Time to take the VISC Skills course to work toward removal of the supervisor and speed restriction.

With this Class 6L Motorcycle Learner's Licence in hand, you are ready to go to the VISC Novice course - that's all you need. Well, it's not quite all you need - they will provide the motorcycle and the helmet - you must have all other appropriate apparel.

There are two more ICBC tests that you will need to complete before you get your full licence - a Motorcycle skills test, and a motorcycle traffic test. VISC, as part of the Skills Course, will perform the Motorcycle Skills test on the last day. If you are successful, they remove that restriction so that you can now ride with only two restrictions - not at night, no passenger.

VISC Skills Course

I took the class called midweek which took place over 4 days - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday. You can also take a weekend version which takes two weekends.

In my case, the classroom sessions were at the VISC offices and the practical sessions were on the track at Western Speedway.

Bill McLauglin was the instructor for the first theory session. This is a good point to digress a little and talk about the instructors. Bill McLauchlin, Dennis DeFrane, Don, and Alex Campbell, and one other gentleman who name escapes me since he did not preside over any of my sessions, were the instructors. THESE GUYS ARE GOOD! They all know how to ride, have tons of experience, good interpersonal skills, and take this training very seriously. They offer a ton of constuctive criticism and they are firm but fair. They take great care to make sure that you are always thinking like a rider and they are always helping to make you aware of potential hazards and how to avoid them.

OK, so the fist theory session talks a lot about hazard identification, the rules of the road, and identifying the important controls on a motorcycle. The morning passed by quickly and Bill made sure we were all engaged in the material. I think everyone was a bit anxious about what was going to take place in the afternoon and a lot of us were wondering if our skills would be up to par.

Do not be intimidated, there are people taking this class who have never ridden before, who do not know the first thing about gears, brakes, throttle, and clutch, and there are others who have ridden lots, own and ride their own bike, an have valid licences already. Everyone has one thing in common - they want to learn the skills to ride safely and they want to get a motorcycle license.

We got to the track on a blistering hot day. The first thing that happens is that they check to make sure that everyone is prepared to ride. That means, you must have your license WITH YOU, and you must be dressed appropriately.

Appropriate dress includes a proper full face helmet (which they can provide), proper jacket, pants, gloves, and boots covering the ankle with appropriate soles and materials (preferably leather).

Everyone learns on the same bikes - the bikes we used were little Honda 150's that were well maintained and performed flawlessly for our group.

Once you are assigned a bike, you learn the basic controls and then learn how to put it on the stand. In our case, the bikes had two stands, centre, and side, and we learned haw to use both.

I told you, they start at square one and do not take any shortcuts. At first, some of the experienced riders are rolling their eyes a bit but by the end of the course, I think everyone appreciated how methodical these guy were without taking any shortcuts.

We were divided into two groups of about 4 to 6 people. Each had a dedicated instructor but during some of the drills we flip flopped with either Dennis or Don.

The next thing you learn is how to roll your bike without making it fall over on you and once that is mastered, you get your first opportunity to sit on the bike. From there, you learn how to get the bike off the stand and ride with someone pushing you - no motors yet.

After a few push drills and slow speed turns and use of the rear brake, we are nearly ready to fire up the bikes.

After a bit more instruction, we learn about the clutch, the front brake, and putting the bike into gear. Most of the rest of the first day is spent riding through a series of cones at very slow speed in 1st gear. Tight turns, narrow turns, left turns, right turns, and stopping are all on the agenda.

Over the next few sessions, we expand on our theory, learn how to change gears, learn how to turn tighter and stop faster, and generally increase our comfort level on the bikes. The instructors are evaluating you all the time and keep written reports which they go over with you at the end of each day.

By day 4, the big item on the agenda is passing the ICBC motorcycle skills test to remove the supervisory and speed restrictions from your learners license.

You have practiced all the skills required and many more in the preceding days so as long as you don't have a meltdown, you should be able to pass this test which takes approximately 10 minutes per person.

As I recall, the main elements of the test are: putting the bike on the stand, taking it of and walking it, stopping, getting on the bike and starting it, driving slowly forward in first gear. You then stop, make a slow speed u-turn, slalon at slow speed trough a few cones and then stop. Next, you do a right hand turn and accelerate to about 30 km/hr and must change gears. You then drive a fairly wide turn and come to a straight area where the examiner will signal you to do a controlled stop. You must stop without locking up the wheels and be in 1st gear ready to go again. That may not be exactly the sequence but it's pretty close. The examiner reviews you results with you and if you completed the course with few enough demerits, you get a pass.

You take this piece of paper to the ICBC office and they will remove the restrictions from you license at no charge.

Traffic Skills Course

I decided to take the traffic course right on the heels of Novice rider course - finished one on the Friday and started the other on Monday and Tuesday.

This course started with about 45 minutes in the classroom where the instructors again stressed hazard identification and proper riding techniques. A lot of the discussion focussed on group riding techniques, lane position, and what to do if the group gets broken up.

After the brief orientation, we went off to the VISC facility at Westen Speedway to choose our bikes. Many people were a bit nervous since all the initial training was done on the 150cc Honda's and now we were selecting a motorcycle that was a minimum of 250cc's. Most of the bikes were cruiser style or dual sports. A good selection from Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, KYMCO, Kawasaki and a Harley 883 Sportster.  I chose one of the bigger bikes, a Kawasaki KLR 650 Dual Sport. I was a bit nervous since this was far bigger than anything I had ever ridden. As big and unwieldy as it felt when trying to  wheel it around, I was amazed at how easily it handled once we were underway. I think most of the class quickly got accustomed to their larger cc motorcycles and the skills we learned on the smaller bikes translated very nicely to our new rides.

The first day of riding in traffic was a little stressful since not alll group members were at the same level. It quickly became apparent that one slower or less skilled rider in a group can create stresses for the entire group. Our instructor was great at providing lots of feedback and coaching to get everyone up to speed. It was amazing that the ragtag group of the morning was looking quite respectible on the road by the afternoon.

We rode well over 100 km and stopped about every 10 minutes for feedback. We took turns being solo rider, group leader, and at various positions in the pack - great experience.

We were being prepared for morning of the next day when we were going to be put through a mock ICBC road test.

The second day rolled around quickly. We did a pre-ride check of our bikes - tire pressure, spokes, cables, signal lights, brake lights, fuel, etc. Amazing what you find - one person had a staple in the tire but it was not serious and a few members need to top up tire pressure.

Back on the bikes, we drove out to the parking lot of CanWest Mall where we gathered to discuss the mock test route.

The route took about 10 minutes to ride and had a bit of everything - stops and starts, lane changes, school zones, play zones, stopping and starting on hills - all conducted in fairly heavy traffic. One person was a solo rider being tested, followed by the instructor/examiner, and then the rest of the group.  Altogether, you end up riding the route 5 times. Each person was provided very constructive feedback. One person rode a nearly flawless route only  to come to a "rolling stop" at an intersection before making a right turn. This would be a certain failure of the ICBC Road test since any legal traffic violation is a fail.

Another student became very nervous and uncomfortable in the traffic. As they became more stressed, gear changes got missed, signals got missed, and you could see how stress makes someone less safe. When they finished the circuit, they were upset and did not feel safe in the traffic. The instructor immediately consulted with the student  and they made the decision that their riding would end for the day and they would arrange more one on one coaching at another date. We all went for coffee to relax and debrief and then accompanied the rider back to home base to drop them off. All in all, a very responsible decision made in a great way that allowed the student to feel good about what they had accomplished to date.

The new, slightly smaller group headed back out on the road. I think we were all amazed at how much better we were as a group now that we were on the road with people of similar skill levels.  Everything just started to fall into place. We rode out to Sidney, on the back roads, on the highway, and then on the very scenic Munns Road back to the speedway. The instructor continued to provide feedback but it was becoming more and more positive as we gained confidence and things like lane position, signalling, and shoulder checks became almost automatic.

Back at the VISC compound, we had the opportunity to swap motorcycles and try out any different styles of bikes that we wanted.  In short, different strokes for different folks - I loved the dual sports, others couldn't  stand them. I thought the Harleys steering felt like wresting a pig after being on the KLR - others didn't seem to mind it.

Like we have always told prospective purchasers of scooters, a test drive is critically important.

We got a final debriefing at the track to stress some of the key point of our training and to prepare us for the ICBC Road test. Most of the student had booked an ICBC Road test through VISC within the next few weeks. Almost all student s were planning to borrow the motorcycle from VISC that they did their traffic safety training on - that is part of the VISC service.

I now feel very confident that I have all the skills to pass my ICBC Road test and to ride safely which was the objective of the course.

Bill, Dennis, Don, Alex, and nameless other guy :), were true professionals and I am very confident in recommending this course to anyone who want to ride anything on two wheels on the road.

Another thing that I noticed at the end of the day when I got into my car, the road awareness I learned in this course has really improved my car driving  - just another benefit of the excellent Vancouver Island Safety Council Course.

Posted July 23, 2008 by Michael Stevulak

Scooter Underground, Victoria, BC

www.scooterunderground.ca

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