It has been a long time since I have made a personal post on here, but after finally finishing a task that has taken me 2 years (Thanks Covid19), I figured I would make a post about my adventure.
The featured image should give it away… Maybe not… if you are not from Quebec, you might mistake this for a regular censored photo of a Drivers License, you would be partially correct. So for those from my home province, and others outside of La Belle Province, I will explain this little gem, and the journey I took to get it which started in early 2019.
So, explanation of the image. The very top you will see the words “Permis d’apprenti conducteur”, roughly translated, “Learners Permit”. A little further down, and you will see “Classe(s): 6A”, this is the key part. A regular Drivers license shows “Classe(s): 5”, for Ontarians, that is your regular “G” class license. 6A on the other hand, is equivalent to your “M” class license, or for those outside Ontario (and Quebec), a Motorcycle license. Class “6” is for Motorcycles, the “A” means I can drive any bike:
- Class 6A: any motorcycle
- Class 6B: motorcycles with a cylinder capacity of 400 cc or less
- Class 6C: motorcycles with a cylinder capacity of 125 cc or less
I am very proud of this, as, like I said, I started this journey 2 years ago. So lets go way back, back to April, 2019.
It was the year I was celebrating my 40th birthday, and I decided that to celebrate the milestone, I would get my Moto License. I looked up the best Moto Drivers Ed in Montreal to see how much it costs. The reason for this is, in Quebec you have to take a 26 hour Drivers Ed course (Plus six hours of lecture) before you can get your learners. More on this later when I describe the differences between Ontario and Quebec. Through my search I found Morty’s Driving School (I highly recommend them) which has an office not to far from where I was living (One Metro [Subway] ride away). My first class, which was a theory class, was scheduled for April 24, 2019. I figured they way things were going, with the course taking about a month or so to complete, I would have my learners by my birthday on June 12. Sadly I was mistaken.
After my first lecture class, I went to the SAAQ to take my “written” exam, which was 100% multiple choice on a computer. I passed the test, however when I went to pay for my class “6R” (restricted, can only ride with an instructor) they asked me if I had any medical conditions… I of course said, thinking nothing of it, “Nope, just Diabetes”… Well now… No license for me… Not till I get a Doctor’s not saying that my Diabetes is under control, and an eye exam to make sure Diabetes hasn’t made me blind. If you have ever tried to make an appointment with a specialist, you know it can take weeks, nay, months to get an appointment. So I booked an appointment with my Endocrinologist (blood doctor) and got my eyes checked, but by the time I got all the paper work… it was the end of August, four months later.
After finally getting my little dinky piece of paper saying I could ride a motorcycle legally with an instructor, I finally booked the first of four, four hour closed track sessions. The four sessions took me two weeks to complete, eight hours per weekend (one session per day). So I was done by September 8th, but for what ever reason (I do not recall) my next three hour lecture for Road Prep was scheduled for September 27th, (almost three weeks later).
Once I was done my last in-class prep course, I scheduled my first two hour road session on September 28th. (A side note here… you would think that your first time on the road, they would take you down the back streets to get used to the bike, and turns and you know, generally being on the road… Nope… Right onto the highway, full speed ahead!!!! Ok, back to the story) This was getting to the end of the season, and the SAAQ was closing up its testing for the learners. And instead of scheduling in my last two street rides (two four hour sessions at the time), I made the decision (without regret) to go to Ottawa to see my favourite bands from high school play (Moist, BushX, and Our Lady Peace). So I would have to wait till next season to complete my training and get my license. Again, sadly I was mistaken.
Enter Covid19, the killer of all activities for 2020. The creator of Work from Home en-masse and the destroyer of jobs for those who could not work from home. The year from hell for most of us. No, 2020 would not be the year I complete my course. Instead, 2021 came along, and with Covid19 finally starting to take a back seat in our lives (still there, just not as a driver), I decided it was time… time to complete my journey. So I called up Morty’s and got myself scheduled… well… sort of. It had been two years since I got on a motorbike, so I had to book a refresher course so they could see I retained my training before they would let me on the road. Understandable, as the last thing they want is an accident on their hands. So I booked the closed course refresher and passed with flying colors, but that was only the start of the joy that was the next eight hours of motorcycle rides.
After finishing the refresher, they booked me a few days later on May 9th, for my first session back on the road. (With 2 hours behind my belt back in 2019, I only had eight left, but instead of two four hour sessions, the ministry changed it to four two hour sessions…) Sadly I ended up being late for the session. The reason is, in the last 2 years, they moved their motorcycles from the north side of the island (accessible by Metro and Bus) to Vaudreuil, an area off the west side of the island, with no bus or metro access… and a 45-60 minute drive from my home. Thankfully one of my best friends was able to give me a drive out there. But due to road closures and GPS inaccuracies, I was 5 minutes late. Now 5 minutes is not all that bad you may think, but really, it means I missed the change to warm up. Everyone was already on their bikes and about to hit the road. The warm up is a very VERY important part of the ride, it allows you to get used to the bike, practice slow maneuvers, and tight turns. Missing this bit me in the ass hard.
Once I got on my bike and joined the group, our first stop was the gas station, another important part of the trip, seeing as the motorcycles were old, carbureted models (at least the Honda Shadows were) which had no fuel gauge and a switch to reserve (a bit of foreshadowing for my 3rd session, but I digress). For what ever reason, the gas station near the start point was closed, and we could not get fueled up, so off we went to continue our journey. Now remember, I said that practice helps you get used to your tight turns… and I missed practice? Well this is where it bit me. On the way out of the parking lot of the closed gas station, I over shot my turn, skidding out, and almost slamming into the rider beside me, which would have put him into another lane… The instructor told me after the ride, that he was about to shut the ride down then and there as he thought I was not ready. However he decided instead of turning around, we would hit the back roads and give me a chance to warm up that way. I thanked him for his decision as I aced the rest of the ride, including exiting the parking lot of the next gas station we went to.
After the ride finished, I booked my next session, which was a week later (seems they do no want you to book back to back) and it went off without a hitch, no issues at all, perfect ride. The next session, however, was not so perfect. On my 3rd session, which was wonderful up until the last leg of the ride, ended with me running out of gas on the highway, minutes away from our destination. The bike started to putter and I all of a sudden had no acceleration. I pulled over, and the sweeper (last rider in the group) followed with me and asked if everything was ok. I explain the situation, and started the bike back up, seemed fine, and got back on the highway. A few moments later, it started to putter again, full loss of throttle. I pulled over again, this time coasting up to the group who had pulled over after seeing me on the shoulder from my previous loss of power. Explained my situation to the instructor, and he said to start it up again and stay on the shoulder till we get back to the shop. Well, the bike never started… Checked the reserve switch, last one to fill it forgot to set it back, so the bike was completely drained of fuel, about one click from the destination. After finally making it back to the shop (I pushed the bike for about 30m before the instructors took over) and a couple of liters of water, I booked my 4th and final session.
Now, for the previous sessions, I was always in the middle of the pack, position two, three or four. For this ride, I was placed in 5th, also know as the Sweeper. Normally the sweeper is the first to change lanes (to block the rest of traffic so the other riders can safely change lanes and stay in the group) and general keeps the group together. Now, a 300 pound man, on a four speed Shadow does not make a very fast vehicle… I could easily fall behind… and that is what happened… A car got in between us right off the bat. As a group of 5 we make a single vehicle. We stop together, start together, move as one… Well not with a freaking car in between… took me about 5 minutes to rejoin the group. And this was not the first issue… no… The rider in position four was a little slow to start, often waiting for the rest of the group to move before he even took his foot off the ground. I, on the other hand, was trying to move with the group, and would often have to break, and in some cases stall, because he was so slow on the take off (not anticipating the move like everyone else). This bit me in the ass hard. I stalled at a turn with an on coming car. Now, not worry, there way a stop sign and I was in no danger, but I wanted to catch up as I was losing the group. So I started my bike and made the turn fast, too fast, went very wide, and clipped the curb with the bike. My heart went through the roof… I could have been seriously injured had I been going just a little faster. And for what? cuz I was in a rush to join the group? I was lectured on this after my instructors made sure I was ok. “Never try and catch up, take your time and be safe”… They also mentioned that had I been alone, it more than likely would not have happened as I would not have been in a rush to rejoin the group. On the bright side, I never dropped the bike, and I handled it like a pro. Took a few seconds after I clipped the curb, stopped the bike, centered myself, and started off again without issue for the last half the ride.
At the end, they told us we could pick up our attestations at the office the next day (a little piece of paper saying I took the course and passed) and to, if not already done, book our closed course test with the ministry. Now, most of the riders who started this year, were auto entered into the queue for the test, and at this point some were booked for July and August. However, as I started 2 years ago, I was not in the system. This meant (or so I thought) I would not get in till end of August at the earliest.. being May 30th at the time, waiting 3 months would be killer.
When I went to go pick up my attestation the next day, I asked the receptionist, who handed me my stamped atestation, that I was not in the queue for the test yet. She gave me the number of another employee of Morty’s and to call her to book me in (It’s always best to go through Morty’s, as they have better pull with the ministry than I would have, plus you need to go to an outlet that Morty’s has bike rentals), I paid my Bike rental fee and left.
When I got home and called the number, the woman on the other end was already in the system looking up dates for another rider, but the dates were too soon for them as they were still in the course. They date? June 2nd… 2 days away… “I’ll take it!” I screamed with joy… seriously, I screamed… Here I am thinking I have to wait till August, and here is this woman who managed to get me in the same week… Hell yeah I screamed! The next step was to see if Morty (the owner of Morty’s) could fit me in for a test prep course. The problem was Morty was on the road teaching a Drivers Ed class (They do cars as well).
That night I heard from Morty, the next opportunity he saw was to have the prep course the same day as the test. This would have been perfect, except for two reasons. One, I work, and could not take the whole day off. My test was at 2pm on the north side of the island, and I had booked the afternoon off already. The prep course would have been at 12:00 noon for one hour, leavening me only an hour to get from Vaudreuil to the SAAQ on Henri-bourassa, (now Google says this is a 38 minute drive… LIES, with construction and traffic, good luck, it also says that from my house to Vaudreuil its 34 minutes, yet it took us an hour to get there… Fuck Google Maps), so I asked if there was anything else. He rechecked the schedule and managed to fit me in the night before, from 7:00-8:00PM…
Now during the practice we went over the seven tasks of the test.
- First, Second, First STOP! (so they can make sure you know how to switch gears, very important)
- Slow speed Slalom (so they know you can counter balance your bike, again, very important)
- Slow Race (hard to explain, but basically try and go as slow as you can over a certain distance in no less than 5.5 seconds, shows them you can ride in bumper to bumper traffic without having to put your foot down)
- 2nd gear long fast turn (To show you can control your bike around a turn)
- Sharp Right hand turn (to show you can exit onto a road properly, flash back to first session on the road with no practice)
- Obstacle Avoidance (shows you can counter steer quickly)
- Emergency Stop (try not to stall)
Now, I did OK for the most part, the odd time I took the long fast turn too fast and missed the apex gate (think Ski slalom, need to in between the flags, or gate… except mine were pilons). The sharp right turn was a hard, I can turn on a dime going left, but right hand turns are not easy as that is where your throttle is, and you need to give gas to the engine or it will stall… And stall a few times I did… Most of my issue was making slow turns and the engine stalling, this was because the choke was not having it that day and kept starving the engine… Stall on the test though… not a good idea. The last thing I had to remember was to not slam the back break on the emergency stop, causing the back tire to lock and skid… I did this maybe 5 out of 9 times… I knew what I had to do, but didn’t do it the majority of times. Now everything else was good, the slalom was on key, the obstacle avoidance was fine, first second first and a stop, no problem. I was set for the next day… All I had to remember was to take the long turn slow, pop out of second into first for the next test, and DO NOT LOCK THE BACK TIRE!
So next day was test day, I got there nice and early, about 1:30PM I went in, I don’t get called till about 2:15PM, and by the time our group (four of us) was to be tested, it was almost 3PM. I rented the old Boulevard S40, single piston ~650CC engine, as that is what I had practiced on the night before. I asked the gentleman from Morty’s if the carburetor and choke were warmed up so as not to stall, he assured me it was, and he was correct, but more on that later. When the instructor called us over, she explained the course in detail, in both French and English, as I really only understand English, and one of the others only spoke French. Now I already knew the course from the night before, and I felt bad as I actually understood her French descriptions (save for a few words that would not have made a difference)… so it was me who caused the test period to be extra long as she had to explain the course in both languages (oops).
Now out of the four, I was last. and we were not allowed to test our bikes till the person in front of us was on the test course. So I had about 20 minutes to kill, wondering if I was going to pass, or if the bike was set up properly, as I had said before, stalling on the test was not a good thing, you lose a lot of points for stalling. But I went through the course in my head to build my confidence, after all I had a hour practice the night before. One two one stop, slalom, slow race, wide turn, tight turn, dodge left, dodge right (we had to do step six twice, once each direction) and emergency stop… Over an over I went trough it to pass the time. Finally number three was on the course and I headed towards my S40. Got on, turned the key, and nothing… it wouldn’t turn on… It had power, as I could see the hazard lights flashing on the dash… but no power to the engine… I check the key, and I had it on auxiliary power and not in the “On” position, so set the key back one position, and we had ignition! Revved the engine a bit to see if she would idle nicely, and she did. Took a few laps around the very small space we were given to practice (got my left and right slow turns in). On one of my test laps I noted that number three was on the first run of step 6, my time was coming soon, sooner than I thought though, as when I came around that lap, I saw number three on the ground, and his bike (a sports bike) was on the ground beside him… Number three had dropped his bike… That was an automatic fail. Do not pass go, do not collect $200… Bye Bye. I felt bad, but then again, the guy didn’t have the advantage of a prep class, or very much experience on a sports bike. All he had was the course, and a few years on off-road bikes. So it was a recipe for disaster. So now, it was my turn. I revved the engine one more time to make sure when it went to idle, it purred… still good.
The instructor motioned me to head onto the closed track and I stopped at the line for the first segment of the test. One two one stop… Oh wait,,, left right left first… have to remember left right left (again, if you do not look both ways, heavy loss of points). She tells me to go, and I perform the maneuver. Next the slalom, again, executed perfectly, on to the slow race, slow as I can go. On to the long fast turn… Shit, too fast, missed the apex gate, touched the outer line… (Oh, let me explain that, the closed course is bordered by a very thick line, you pass that line, first time, buy buy points, second time, auto fail. It shows you have no control over your bike… Drop your bike, no control over your bike, bye bye.. like number three.. refuse to do a segment of the test, auto fail, but that wouldn’t apply to me, as I was going all the way… On back to the test)… I did not cross it, just touched it…, but got it together and passed though the end gate. Now on to the tight right turn, I had some issues with it last night, but for the test, it was three times as wide as the prep, had absolutely no issue at all as I managed to do it in the tight space on the prep course, doing it in the test was a breeze. On to the Obstacle avoidance, as you have to do it twice, if you fuck up on one, you get the second chance to pass. You cannot anticipate (throttle down) or break at all, you have to gun it. Swerve left, I anticipated, shit… come back around swerve right, no problem. On to the emergency stop… up to 25Km/h, hit the breaks too early, AND slammed the back break… skidded a bit but was it noticeable? All I can hear is my instructor Phil screaming “DON’T LOCK YOUR BACK TIRE!” from the night before…
The test was done… I knew I screwed up in a few places… would it be enough to pass or did I fail I thought to myself. I park the bike and make my way to the tester’s cabinet on the track. I explain I knew I screwed up, and she asked me to explain. I told her about the the missed apex, and she told me about hitting the line, I told her about breaking early on the Emergency stop, she told me I skidded (yup, it was noticeable) AND she told me I was too fast on the slow race. I did it in 4.7 seconds, to fast. So now I am thinking, 3 out of 7 obstacles failed, you can only lose 25% of your points… shit, I failed. The tester than said “I am sorry to tell you this, but we will see you next year for your exit exam”… I was confused… Then she smiled and said “You passed, just be careful of your breaks”…
WOO HOO! I PASSED… and now I have my license. Just need a bike.
Ok, a quick tidbit on the difference between Ontario and Quebec in regards to how you get your license. In Quebec as mentioned, you need an attestation before getting your license, this is achieved by completing 16 hours on a closed track, and 10 hours on the road. Only then can you get your learners. In Ontario, (now I may have this wrong, I will have to ask my buddy the correct order) you do your knowledge test, then you can ride, on the road, no experience needed, here is your “M1” license, have at ‘er. When you go for your “M2” you get the closed course portion, where they finally teach you how to ride properly… at slow speeds… Then you are back on the road… Then finally, when it comes time for your M2 exit (full class M) They teach you the on road portion of how to properly ride in a group and how to be a sweeper… So before you are taught HOW to ride on the road, you have already been riding for 2 years picking up bad habits. I am so glad I learned in Quebec… They do it right, learn everything before you hit the road on your own.
Anyway, I am super excited as I am going to look for my bike this weekend (On my birthday!)… Looking to get a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Custom (2020 if I can, cheaper)