After riding around with Hubs for a while when we were dating, I realized that motorcycles weren't the death machines I thought they were. Riding a motorcycle can be and is safe for many people who take reasonable precautions and know how to use their bike. As with driving a car, driving too fast and not stopping at stop signs will get you into more accidents. If you are a safe driver, the main concern about riding a motorcycle is being seen by other people on the road.
In addition to being more safe than I thought, motorcycles can also be cost effective due to high gas mileage and low insurance costs. You can read my second car article to find out more about this. Fur us, the motorcycle has made it easier to be a one-car family.
There were several reasons I chose to get a motorcycle endorsement. Just because I did doesn't mean everyone should. Here were my reasons:
1. We already owned a motorcycle.
2. Transportation was more difficult because I couldn't use the motorcycle.
3. The motorcycle got better gas mileage, and thus was much more economical to drive.
4. Training and endorsement was readily available and relatively cheap ($25, plus new gloves and boots because I didn't have any, and gas driving to and from class).
5. If I didn't learn, there wouldn't be much reason to keep the motorcycle after having kids.
Skills Test or Safety Course
There are two ways to get an endorsement. The first way- and this is the way Hubs did it- is to just take a skills test (starting and stopping, making a U-turn, swerving and riding through curves). However, you can also take a safety/skills course and THEN take the test after the course. I chose the second option, because I had almost no riding experience, let alone the ability to make U-turns.
The problem with motorcycle safety courses is that they fill up very fast. Most summer classes are filled up in January or February. However, the drop out rate for these classes is rather high, so instead of registering early you can just pick the class you want to take and show up as a walk-in. I found a class about 45 minutes away at a college. The college held the same class every weekend, so I simply picked the best weekend for me. The course included one 4-hour Friday night session, and then actual riding time on Saturday and Sunday for another four hours each day.
When I showed up on Friday night, there were probably 25 people in the room- eight of us were drop-ins. I filled out some paperwork, and then the rest of the class was spent going through the textbook that each of us were given. The teacher had each of the three tables read or summarize different sections of the book, and sometimes he would illustrate a certain principle on the chalkboard. It was kind of tedious.
I was surprised to see how many women were in the class. I would guess that 25% of us were female. It was interesting though because about half were were under 25- the daring/risk-taking kind of girl with tattoos and piercings and dyed hair, and the other half were over 60 (though more normal-looking). One lady I talked to was 65. I asked her why she decided to take the course. "Oh, I've always wanted to ride!" she said excitedly.
I think it's unfortunate that 'normal' ladies like myself tend to be scared stiff of motorcycles (to the point of forbidding husbands to ride), and the ones that do learn to ride wait until they are 60+ and only have five or ten years left. I think everyone who has a motorcycle at their house should learn to ride it sooner than later, for practicality's sake.
Similarly, some of the motorcycle jargon was lost on me, so when the teacher was explaining fuel-injected and non-fuel injected, I had no idea what he was talking about. The course is supposed to be good for complete newbies, but most of the students in my group already owned a motorcycle and had been riding for some time.
After we had been through hours and hours of drills, we did some practice for the test. I spent most of my time practicing for U-turns, because that is where I had trouble. Looking back, I should have also been practicing quick stops as well. I would recommend reading about how the test is scored. Our instructors gave some hints and tips, but I think I could have scored better, had I known what mistakes to avoid and which ones were less critical.
Apart from the quick stop, I did pretty well. There was one other mistake I made on one of the exercises that cost me five points. The U-turn I was so worried about went without a hitch.
The other part of getting a motorcycle endorsement is going to the Secretary of State office to take a written test. This test has 25 multiple choice questions. There are many sample tests that you can take online. I took these sample tests for about an hour before we went in to the Sec. of State.
This test, like the last one, was harder than I thought. The lady at the desk counted up all my wrong answers and I had failed. She was really nice about it and just gave me a new test. On the second test there were some different questions. I got fewer questions wrong on the second test and actually did pass. Then she took my picture and I got a new driver's license a couple weeks later.
Frugal Accomplishments Add Up
Learning to ride was actually on my list of goals last year, but now it's finally done and I can drive a motorcycle for the next 40 or 50 years.
Last week we had to pick up a rental car, and I was able to follow Hubs home with the motorcycle. If I had not been able to, we would have had to take the truck both to and from the airport. Thus, this ride alone saved us $6, or two gallons of gas, with no inconvenience to us. It's one of many small ways to save without sacrificing lifestyle. In fact, learning to ride a motorcycle has actually enhanced my quality of life. I would much rather take a 30-minute motorcycle ride than rewash 60 plastic bags or line-dry eight loads of laundry.
Do you like motorcycles? Do hate them? Why?