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Motorcycle Training Diary, July 2006, Part 1

A melodrama in five parts.


I have this idea that I'd like commute to work (15 miles one way) and tool around town on a powered two wheel vehicle. I'd really like something relatively light and easy to transport, and I don't think I want to be able to take long trips or travel at highway speeds.

The optimum would appear to be an electric powered bicycle, for low noise, low environmental impact, and ease of use, but they are hard to find and have range issues, often not being viable for more than a few miles between charges.

Next would be a gas-powered bicycle, or moped. These are fairly common but are generally considered to be little more than toys for teenage boys, so they may be underpowered and undersized for an adult male. I should know, because I have a moped I'm using to commute to work already.

Next come scooters, which can be had in a wide range of styles and engine configurations. Some have automatic clutches, like a moped, while others come with a standard transmission with handlebar clutch and shift pedal, like a motorcycle.

Last in the two-wheel category are the motorcycles. There are basically two types for road use. The low slung, rather heavy cruisers and touring bikes, and the higher-set sport and dual use bikes. These are focused on people who want the travel, challenge, and lifestyle benefits. Rather more than I need for my commuting needs.

A scooter is what I think I want, but to drive either a scooter or a motorcycle legally I need a motorcycle license.

Part One, The Written Test

So, I've decided I will eventually want to upgrade from the moped to a scooter. The adventure begins.

I know I need to have a motorcycle license to drive a scooter, so back in April, 2006, I asked around and find out how that works. It all starts with a $25 payment to Ohio BMV for a motorcycle license application kit. That turns out to be an operator manual and a form.

When you are ready to take a written test, you take the form to a testing station and take the test on a computer. It was also strongly recommended by everyone I talked to that I sign up for a state-run training course where they provide a bike and teach you how to ride it. That costs $25 too.

So, in April I bought the kit and signed up for the course to be given at the end of July, which was then the next available set of course dates.

Then July arrived, I scheduled a vacation at the end of the month, and got going on the license stuff. I had skimmed the book, so for sure I was ready for the learners permit written test.

The closest testing center was the Clermont County testing site in Batavia. I checked the location and phone number in the back of the guide that came with the kit, and double checked that on the web. Those two sources were in agreement, but they did not have the hours so I called the number to make sure the office was open at lunchtime. Good thing I did, because the phone number had changed. I called the new number and got the hours, said thanks, and then hung up. At that point my many years of experience kicked in and I called the number again and asked in they were still at the location indicated on the website and in the printed materials. Lo and behold, they’ve moved across town! The clerk on the phone gave me detailed directions and I was good to go.

At lunch, my mealtime companions and I responded to questions drawn from the motorcycle learners guide and did what we could to sharpen my wits. I left lunch a bit early to go and take the test.

At the testing station I had to take a number when I arrived. I got lucky number 13. When I arrived there were lots of people sitting around, and about 10 people at computers taking tests. I was called in about 10 minutes, and done with the test about 15 minutes later.

It was a good thing we'd done the review at lunchtime. The test, administered by computer, is constructed so that you are done as soon as you have answered 30 questions correctly, out of a possible total of 40. My palms were getting a bit sweaty as I answered the 39th question and was released from the test.

As I left there were only three people left – three very care-worn women, possibly waiting for teenage children to finish their tests.

Now it was time to see about the course.

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