I was thinking this morning about a statistic I read last year about how many people have a motorcycle license as opposed to those who actually own a motorcycle. I can’t find the specific statistic now, but this article talks about “sleepers” and goes into some of the reasons behind this truth.
The above-referenced article, however, doesn’t talk about a major factor that I feel is a big contributor: “Class Fatigue”.
During the riding course, it’s all rush, rush, rush through the lessons. The class is chock full of “the box” and swerves and waiting your turn and staring at lines on the ground while being told to keep your head up. “You’ll ride here, turn there, stop there, make a left turn” instructions wear you down trying to remember them all. (While I was the only one in my class that got a 100% on the skills assessment, the instructors put me at the end of the line so I could observe and not have to remember! I’m more visual in nature.) In all fairness, though, these are supremely important lessons, but it’s really all you can get in a class of 12 people crammed into a 2 to 3 day period.
After 15 hours of this one ends up hot, sweaty, dog-tired and ready to quit for the day.
I call this “Class Fatigue”. If all someone has done is take the classes, completed the course and gotten their license — it’s easy to see why they might not go out and buy themselves a bike and start riding. The classes are stressful! They are full of learning about things that you just aren’t really going to do 99.95% of the time. Mastering “the box” and other techniques can be difficult but are major class-passing feats you’re going to have to accomplish. To be honest, though, “riding the straightaways” is easy. It’s all the other lessons they are teaching you that are the hard things. You use them less, true, but they aren’t any less important. But the classes don’t teach you the most important lesson: The pure joy of riding! There is just so much more to riding than what you can get in the class or that can even be communicated!
Once you begin to “ride for real” on streets and highways, riding for longer periods becomes less of a problem. You can stop on your own schedule when you’re getting a little tired or saddle-sore or need a bottle of water or a cup of coffee. Or just stop and enjoy the scenery at a given location, take a photo of your bike amongst the Texas Bluebonnets or against an old decaying barn or a mountain backdrop. (Parking lots tend to lack the beauty of the open road.)
Sure, get through the classes, pass the test (given by the instructors or at your DMV) and get your license. My challenge to you is this: Don’t just don’t stop there. Go buy a low-CC used bike on the cheap, learn how to ride it “for real”. Get out on the streets. Gear up, to be certain, as a new rider. But enjoy the ride and gain the confidence that comes with experience. Don’t feel like getting the “M” endorsement on your license is the end of the job. Why did you bother taking the class? I would suspect that it’s because at some point you saw others riding, or were a passenger on a bike or just thought it would be cool to ride. and wanted to be a part of that.
You must complete the process… which involves getting a bike and to start riding!