Riding a motorcycle requires a special set of skills and knowledge. While training is not mandatory in all Canadian provinces (it is in Quebec since July 2000), attending a reputable riding school can get you your licence faster and significantly lower your insurance premium by making you a safer rider.
Naturally, one does not become a fully licenced rider overnight. There are a couple of steps to go through and, although the nomenclature, time frames and specifics vary across the country, the system basically works the same way.
|Photo: Sébastien D'Amour
In Quebec, for instance, aspiring riders go from a 6R (1 month) and 6A
(11 months) learner's licence to an official Class 6 rider's licence. Ontario's Graduated Licensing System consists of three classes: M1 (60 days), M2 (minimum 18 months) and M. Meanwhile, British Columbia has 6L/8L (30 days) and 6/8 classes.
In all cases, apprentices must be at least 16 (with parental consent) or 18 years old and successively pass a knowledge test, skills test and road test. There's a waiting period involved when one fails any of those tests.
Not all riding schools and other motorcycle training providers are recognized or approved by their respective provincial government. The ones that are, however, rely on certified instructors with a lot of experience on two wheels. Most of them have a wide selection of motorcycles from various types and brands at your disposal (which you can often rent for your final exam on the road, by the way).
Some training sessions are given over a single weekend, others over a 3- to 4-week period. Flexible scheduling and learning pace helps meet students' needs. The theoretical portion covers the Highway Safety Code, signalling, basic laws of physics, rider vision and sight, techniques and manoeuvres specific to motorcycle riding, adverse conditions and emergency situations, among other topics.
Practice time is when you go out on a secure (closed) area and work on starting and stopping, balancing, shifting, braking, low-speed riding, decision making, collision avoidance and other emergency manœuvres. Of course, you are required to wear a helmet, preferably with a visor or protective goggles, along with specific riding attire such as gloves, a long-sleeve jacket, full-length pants, and either boots or rigid shoes.
A standard motorcycle training course that leads to a full riding licence averages nearly $700 (taxes included) in Quebec, compared to roughly $400 in Ontario through the Rider Training Institute or the Ottawa Safety Council's Gearing Up program. In British Columbia, Learn to Ride Motorcycle Training Ltd. is slightly cheaper ($550) for about the same number of hours as in Quebec, while Cyclelogics offers a 36-hour course at $750.
Incidentally, many schools provide additional training in and out of the classroom for new and intermediate riders who simply want to become better on the road, former riders whose skills need to be refreshed after a long hiatus, or even people who look for maintenance tips. Prices may vary from a few dozen bucks to hundreds of dollars. Some places offer private sessions at an extra cost, too. Others, like Mecaglisse, organize track days and special riding courses for sport bike owners who want to experience the joys of the track and racing.
In addition to your motorcycle course, you can improve your chances to pass the road test by reading various publications including ''Operating a motorcycle'' by the Société de l'assurance automobile du Québec
and "The Official Motorcycle Handbook'' by the Ontario Ministry of Transportation. You should also consider assessing your knowledge online