Monday, September 24, 2007

Part III: Scooter guy gets hog endorsement. But why?

As DMV added a motorcycle endorsement to my Oregon driver’s license, thanks to my passing a week-end training course, I doubted I would ever again ride a motorcycle.

Let me explain.

Above all, the 15- hour course taught me healthy, possibly life-saving suspicion of motorcycles Some of the course was in a classroom dripping with cautionary tales; most was spend maneuvering these snarling two-wheelers around a parking-lot practice course.

In my first two Red Electric episodes about this nervy adventure, I mentioned a young woman who on the first day of trying out motorcycling, managed to overcome a bad case of literal foot-dragging and bike toppling. Yet by the end of four hours of patient instruction, she was zooming around the parking lot with the rest of us.

Well, on Sunday, the second and last day of in-the-saddle riding, she didn’t come back. She’d had it with motorcycles, a friend of hers in our class reported.

Hearing this, my first thought was “too bad,” and my second was “prudent decision.”

Now that I have passed the course and have my motorcycle endorsement, I’m with her. This is not a sane means of transportation.

The rest of my classmates would certainly beg to differ. They could hardly wait to get out on the open road, zipping around curves, blasting up hills, sucking up the asphalt. And I must confess I felt some exhilaration even on the parking lot, leaning into curves, hearing the rasp of the engine, feeling the surge of acceleration.

But I also took the warnings of our instructors seriously. This is one dangerous way to get from point X to point Y, and the fun parts can be the most dangerous. Solo accidents on motorcycles (ie. accidents involving no other vehicle) most frequently happen on those heady curves.

Want more abnormal? Try this: You shift with your big toe (an unnatural act if there ever was one), there’s a growling monster between your legs and the training manual is a catalogue of highway horrors and perilous obstacles— loose gravel, ruts, MAX rail grooves, wet pavement, wind, rain, bugs and rottweilers.

No, I’ve added my motorcycle endorsement in case I decide to purchase a heftier scooter for puttering around city streets. As is, I scoot on a small, 49cc-engined model, classified as a moped. My scoot is perfectly adequate, but I may want to explore scooter options at some point. For one thing, my scoot has a two-cycle engine, which pollutes than its bigger four-cycle cousins.

Riding motorcycles over the past couple of days did teach me a few handy lessons. Let's face it, riding a motor scooter is not a whole lot less dangerous than riding a motorcycle. I can apply new knowledge about how to spot a host of new dangers and about how to avoid them. I even picked up a few cornering, braking and maneuvering skills.

So I’m glad I took the Team Oregon Basic Motorcycle Training class, even for reasons that have little to do with motorcycles, except to convince me that I never want one.

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