It’s a Privilege, not a Right

As a motorcycle riding instructor I would run both Learner and Pre-Provisional training courses. My job was to equip students with enough practical skill and theoretical knowledge to allow them to obtain the appropriate licence.

The Learner students were usually novices, but every now and then I’d have someone with a bit of experience. The reason I dealt with experienced riders on these courses was due to current legislation mandating compulsory training for anyone wanting to ride on a public road or in National Parks.

The training was conducted in strict accordance with an established syllabus, and that syllabus was inflexible. It was structured in such a way that everyone received the same amount of theoretical and practical training and a pre-determined amount of time on the bike.

The riding component of the course started with “Mount and Dismount” and concluded with a “Simulated Road Ride”. The activities in between gradually built confidence and good physical techniques and were assessed. As the course was competency-based, the students were required to reach a certain standard in each activity before being allowed to proceed to the next.

Often I would have people on my courses with many years experience on dirt bikes, experience gained through riding on farms or private property. Sometimes they would be dirt-bike racers who simply hadn’t ever needed a road licence.

They were the bane of my existence.

Complete Novices know nothing about handling a motorcycle. The good thing is that they know they know nothing. Someone with a bit of time on a bike, however, often thinks he knows everything.

“Experienced” riders usually come with habits. A habit, once learned, is very difficult to unlearn. The problem is that some habits are bad, and bad habits can kill.

Trying to get someone to change a habit, no matter how important that change may be, can be impossible.

For example, the syllabus says four fingers must be used to apply the front brake, as this provides maximum strength and maximum feel. I’d ask the “experienced” riders to use four fingers and they’d crack up laughing.

I’d ask them to sit with their right foot on the brake pedal and their left foot down – the so-called “Ready” position – and they’d just ignore me.

The same disdain was shown to almost every thing I tried to teach. Turns, gear-changes, cornering – all met with indifference. The theoretical subjects were met with even more resistance.

Their behavior was incredible. I was trying to give them some new and possibly life-saving information, and all they wanted to do was scream around on the back wheel.

Why they felt the need to behave in this manner escaped me. It was as if they felt a licence was their right – something to be obtained simply by turning up.

They’d never win though, after all, it was my signature on the certificate.


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