Live to Ride? Get Lessons to Live! Part 1

Five motorcyclists have died on Canada’s roads in the past two weeks. Amid the carnage, I attended a motorcycle school that both taught and (spoiler alert) successfully qualified 14 other M1 license holders to M2 in just nineteen hours.

M1? M2? 19 hours? Just what does all that mean for you as a taxpaying user of our roads? For starters, keep your eyes open when you’re behind the wheel.

It’s shocking how easy it is to legally take any size motorcycle onto our roads.

In true Canadian fashion, Ontario’s 5-year graduated license system is, at once, restrictive and lax.

M1 is just an onsite multiple-choice test featuring such trick questions as, after passing the sign ‘Slower traffic keep right’, what should slower traffic do?

No riding is involved. The closest you get is an eye examination proving distance and peripheral capabilities.

SLOWER, indeed! If you answer this wrong, you should keep right off the roads.

Pass and, provided you have the right insurance and a helmet, you can take a motorcycle of any size onto any road in Ontario whose speed limit is 80km per hour or less (with a few extremely rural exceptions). Ride at any time during the day, from a half hour before sunrise till a half hour after.

There are restrictions, mind.

Your M1 expires after 90 days, during which time you must graduate to the next level, M2. This second test only involves riding skills. Plus, you can only receive your M2 after 60 days. Presumably, you’re practicing over the intervening period.

If you take a government-approved riding course with on-bike instruction and a built-in exam, you can pass the M2 well ahead of those 60 days. Learning Curves is just such a school.

I began three sessions of instruction towards my M2 exam just two days after getting my M1. So if I passed (spoiler re-alert, I did) after the 61stday I could double passengers, night-ride and access Ontario’s most dangerous highways.

Last Saturday and Sunday entailed exhausting intensive physical training on real motorcycles in a safe, sectioned-off parking lot, redecorated throughout the two days with different coloured pylons to simulate real-world riding conditions. That covers 16 hours. The preceding Thursday night, we met our three instructors in a classroom.

Our instructors, Vicki, Anne and Jen, you’ll surmise, were all women.

Their constant refrain was that practiced safely, motorcycling is fun. In that spirit, we learned how experienced riders continually practice SIPDE: Scan, Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute. “And once you make a decision, stick with it,” advised Vicki Gray, a world-renowned instructor subcontracted to lead the lessons.

The weekend’s practicums built us up from zero experience towards SIPDE conditions. “Live by SIPDE and you can prevent 99% of accidents,” Vicki insisted.

Or simply, live by SIPDE. Read Part 2.

This is a test