Thursday, December 28, 2017

Learning to Ride Large Motorcycles

I went to the driving school where I had once learned to become a motorcyclist. I went there to sign up for a new course. This time the course is for those wanting to ride a motorcycle whose displacement is 400 cc or more. I was taken care of by a young receptionist who recognized me immediately from my previous schooling nearly two months ago. I got a special discount for someone who entered the school within a year of the end of the previous schooling. I paid 20,000 yen less thanks to the discount.

On the day I got the paper work done for the course, the receptionist said that there had been some cancellations in the afternoon and that I could take some lesson if I wanted. I gladly took the opportunity.

My first lesson in the new course was with Mr. K, who is young and a highly skilled rider. He enjoys demonstrating advanced skills when he leads my way. I enjoy seeing him do all the tricks that I would never imagine myself doing.

He told me to push up two different bikes from lying position. They are NC750L and CB750. I successfully did both. He then had me ride one bike after the other. I first rode the NC750L and then the CB750 next. The former was powerful, and the latter was more smooth and stable. When he asked me which one I wanted to ride to practice, I said the NC750L because I wanted to get used to the power of a large bike. He said very well.

The first skill I practiced with Mr. K was riding a wave-like road. He introduced me to two different techniques. One is staying at the same point in the friction zone. The other is coordinating the use of the throttle and the releasing of the clutch. The latter seemed difficult, so I told the instructor that I wanted to try the first approach. It took me some trials and errors, but after a while I got the hang of it.

Next I practiced riding on a narrow bridge. It was not my first time to do it. When I practiced to get my motorcycle license to ride bikes whose displacement is between 51cc and 400cc, I did this a lot. But I failed at my first attempt as I was out of touch. But from the second try on, I had no problem. There is a new challenge, though. In the past, I had to stay on the bridge at least for seven seconds. But now I'm required to stay there at least for ten seconds. I must have a better sense of balance, and overall a much better control of the vehicle.

The last thing I practiced was slalom. Here, too, the target is slightly more challenging. Last time I worked for the license for a smaller bike, the target was 7 seconds. Now I must go though it in five seconds. One thing I learned today, though, is that if you skillfully use the friction zone, you can smoothly control the power of the larger bike, and therefore you can buffer the shock you get from turning the throttle to accelerate the vehicle. I don't think I was able to do it in the past. Now I feel confident that I can do it.

The first lesson came to an end very quickly. I felt my left forearm a little sore from too much clutch work. With a one-hour break, I took another lesson. The instructor was the same, Mr. K. This time, he introduced me to a cruiser by Harley Davidson. I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only did he teach me several technical details of the bike, but he also had me ride it!! I should be ecstatic, but honestly I was more nervous than excited. There are, though, some differences in terms of operation. For example, there is a blinker button on either side. This is a big difference from most Japanese bikes. They have a blinker button usually on the left side of the handlebar. Also, when the handlebar comes to the regular position after making a turn, the blinker automatically turns off. This almost never happens with Japanese bikes. Also, the neutral position is hard to find on transmission. So there are many things you have to pay attention to before you get comfortable with it. And you cannot forget the engine. The V2 engine creates a huge noise and vibrations. While I can totally imagine these qualities are signatures of the Harley Davidson brand, I was afraid it's not very suitable for Japanese roads where you get to be stopped by traffic lights every half a minute.

But, nonetheless, I appreciate the beauty of the monster, and felt excited about the thought that once I got the new license to ride larger bikes, I could ride the Harley if I wanted to. 

Today is the last working day of the driving school, and the winter break lasts until 
4th of January. My next lesson is at 8:30 a.m. on the 7th. But as before I might go to school early in the morning, and take a spot lesson in case there is cancellation.

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