Motorcycle course, part 1: preparation

Last weekend I took and passed the Ottawa Safety Council’s Gearing Up motorcycle course. I had meant to post an entry on Saturday night and an entry on Sunday night but I was too tired to think, so you get the whole thing in review instead.

Wednesday night was the safety lecture and equipment inspection. It was pretty unremarkable, mostly because I’d already read everything that was discussed either in the provincial motorcycle licensing handbook, the Gearing Up handbook, or David Hough’s Proficient Motorcycling which I took out of the library. This was also my first opportunity to see who else would be attending. The crowd was pretty varied, from complete newbies like me to nearly-new riders with their M1 license but a few hundred kilometres under their belt to riders who had had their license for a while but hadn’t ridden for decades or wanted the insurance advantage of having taken a course. The class was about 1/4 female, the majority of whom were married to or dating bikers and wanted to have their own bike instead of riding pillion, and only three or four riders were under 20. In total there were 45 students attending, way more than I had expected.

I got up at 5:30 on Saturday morning to head out to the General Dynamics parking lot [satellite view] in Bells Corners. (The three trailers at the back of the parking lot in the satellite view are filled with motorcycles!) The course started at 7:45 and we were split up into three groups. My group of 15 students and three instructors was composed entirely of riders with no riding experience. The other two groups chose their bikes from those provided and followed their instructors off to the parking lots on the other side of the office building, which meant we got to stay in the first lot where the canopies and picnic tables were, which was awfully nice during breaks, since Saturday was hazy and hot with temperatures reaching 35°C at the airport. Motorcycle gear, even vented, doesn’t breathe very well, especially at parking-lot speeds.

By the time the other groups had picked their bikes the selection was pretty limited: GN125s, Titans and a bunch of Honda Rebel 250s which aren’t shown on their bikes page but look like the Eliminator but with a bigger engine. I grabbed a GN125 because I knew I didn’t want to train on a cruiser but the Titans were all taken; I had hoped to learn on a dual-sport but they were all gone by the time the more advanced riders had left. I suspect that was by design, and the instructors prefer complete newbies to avoid the taller dual-sports. Getting a GN125 worked out well for me because it’s a smaller version of the early-80s standard motorcycles I’m looking at for a first bike.

(This is getting long, so I’ll split it up into a bunch of entries. Next up: the first day’s riding.)