What a ride!
Ever since my husband and I got back from Thailand in February, we've been talking about doing a motorcycle trip around Thailand.
Even though it was only for 17 days, it was one of the most memorable trips we have ever taken, and the thing that really stood out was the scooter we had rented in Chiang Rai. Chiang Rai was our last stop before returning home, and we had the best time there. I had never ridden a scooter let alone a motorcycle and it definitely left an impression on us.
So, upon returning home, we got serious and decided to get a motorcycle license. In order to do it safely, we thought it might be a good idea to take a formal training course. Also, we didn't have a motorcycle or any proper gears like helmets so when we learned that all the bikes and gears were going to be provided, we jumped at the chance and signed up.
My husband was into motocross when he was growing up so he had plenty of experience with riding motorcycles but for me, I had zero experience. I was a passenger once or twice my whole life and never attempted to do any riding myself or even thought about it. It was fun being a passenger when my husband drove the scooter in Thailand but I wanted to find out what it's like to actually ride one by myself. So, I took on the challenge.
Luckily, after some research, I found a company out in Woodland, California ( 15 minutes from where I live) that offered weekend classes. We signed up and took the course a week ago. The course is $240/person if you are over 21 years of age and $170 for those who are under 21. It's a three-day course from Friday evening to Sunday with the total of six hours of classroom training and 10 hours of riding with certified instructors.
First day: Classroom training
On the first day of classroom training, we learned a lot about the rules and safe riding. We started out with 18 students in the class with 5 of them (including myself) being women. The class went from 6pm to 9:30 pm.
Second day: Riding and classroom training.
On the first day of riding, we were out on the parking lot of a high school in Woodland with four instructors including one female instructor who my husband and four other students were assigned to. We were each assigned a motorcycle and started out learning the basics like how to turn on the engine. Honestly, I didn't even know how to do that. It was very intimidating. The bikes must have weighed about 300 pounds. I was scared and excited all at the same time. For the next five hours we learned how to operate a motorcycle to getting on the bike and actually riding it.
I ended up falling twice on the first day and had the bike land on me both times. I fell trying to stop my bike because I got confused about how to stop properly. Since the bikes are so darn heavy, I couldn't lift the bike off of me after falling. Nothing too serious happened except for some bruises. What happened was I keep pressing on the brake (I was scared that I might not be able to stop my bike and run into the person in front of me) while I had my front wheels turned which automatically makes the bike fall over to one side (I obviously learned this the hard way).
The most difficult part for me was learning how to use the clutch and the throttle. Even
though I have driven a stick shift before when I used to drive my Jeep (I sold my Jeep last year), I couldn't quite figure out how to use them properly and ended up stalling or losing my balance because I couldn't get my bike to go. It was pretty embarrassing when I fell. Both times when I fell, I had some other ladies in my group come and help me get the bike off. I felt like I was the worse one there. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I was going to survive.
Two hours into learning, one of the guys actually dropped out. I'm not sure exactly what the reason was but I'm guessing it just wasn't for him. Even though I was struggling too, I wasn't about to give up. I stuck with it and finished the first day of the riding class with some bruises and a lot of doubts. After lunch, we headed over to the classroom at an elementary school nearby. After another three hours of more lessons on rules and safety, they administered a multiple choice test consisting of 45 questions. When I signed up for this course, I had no idea I was going to be taking a test and I had to pass! I'm one of those people who are afraid of taking tests. I was never good at it. I always end up second guessing my answers and end up making the wrong choices.
Well, I didn't do too bad this time. I missed 9 questions and passed my written portion of the course. Unless I pass both written and riding test, I wasn't going to obtain a riding waiver with DMV. Without the waiver, one's required to take the riding test as well as the written test to get the M-1 license. If I pass the course, I just need to take the written test to get my license so it was crucial that I pass the course. How did my husband do? He got one question wrong. I just hate those people who always get straight A's :).
Third day: Final riding lesson with an evaluation
It was a final day of the course and we were out there by 7:15am on a cold, rainy Sunday morning. Even though it was May, it was still chilly and was raining on and off. The parking lot was wet so it made me even more nervous. Actually, few people had skid off the road few times. Nothing serious but scary regardless. After another 4 hours of more lessons on turning and stopping, it was evaluation time. We were told that if we didn't pass, we weren't getting our DMV waivers. It was pretty nerve-racking.
As we all rode around one by one, the instructors evaluated us and took off points when we made mistakes. The maximum points allowed for mistakes were 21 points and how did I do? They took off 16 points and I passed! How did my husband do? He wouldn't tell me. I'm guessing he got another almost perfect score :).
One of the students was an older man who used to ride in his younger days. He told the class on the first day that getting on the motorcycle has been on his bucket list. Unfortunately, he ended up failing his riding evaluation. Not sure what happens if you fail but he went home without his waiver. My heart went out to him as he walked away. Maybe he'll come back. I just hope he doesn't give up on his dream.
A lot of my family members and friends thought I was a little crazy except for my 84 year old dad. My dad always dreamed about riding a motorcycle but never fulfilled his dream so when I told him I completed the course, he was very proud (and worried). As far as my daughters, I think they were both proud and embarrassed at the same time.
I realize the danger it comes with riding a motorcycle especially after completing the course, but that's why I have chosen to take this course. I wanted to learn to ride safely.
I highly recommend it for anybody who's interested in getting a M-1 (motorcycle) license. I have already signed up to take another follow up riding course a month from now so I can get more practice before I actually go out on the road. My husband and I don't have any plans on buying a motorcycle anytime soon, but we'll definitely be renting one to go for occasional rides.
As far as the motorcycle trip in Thailand? It's definitely on our plans. Do I worry about my safety? Of course I do! Do I want to enjoy my life? You bet I do even if that means living a little dangerously. For now, I'm not 100% sure if I'm going to love it but I guess I won't know until I try.