Lethal Threat / Learning to Ride a Motorcycle, The right and Wrong Way – Part 1

Lethal Threat / Learning to Ride a Motorcycle, The Right and Wrong Way – Part 1

When I was a kid there was always somebody with a mini bike racing around the neighborhood.  This was my first exposure to a two wheeled vehicle with an engine.  My 10 year old friend, Eddie, told me to hop on the back, and off we went tearing down the street on his two wheeled beast.  No helmets, almost hitting a telephone pole and then cutting out in front of a moving car, I remember that ride 45 years later, like it was yesterday.  From that moment on I knew the thrills of riding a motorcycle was in my blood.

Fast forward to the late 1980’s, when I decided it was time to get my first motorcycle.  Looking back I just dove into the whole venture without giving it much thought.  Before we go into picking your first motorcycle, let’s talk about the do’s and don’ts of learning to ride a motorcycle.  If you were like me, you already had friends who were riding.  I was told it is easy.  If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a motorcycle.  This theory may work if you want to ride a scooter or moped, but you need more than your average bicycle riding skills if you want to ride a motorcycle.  First advise I was told was to get a motorcycle learners permit at DMV.  I went down to my local Motor Vehicles office, took my 20 written question test, and passed.  I was given a learners permit that allowed me to learn to ride a motorcycle under the instruction and supervision of a licensed motorcycle operator between sun up and sun down. This permit would expire within a year from the date of issue.  I had one year to learn to ride and make an appointment for a road test to get my motorcycle license.

My friends who were already riding, told me I was set.  Don’t worry about the road test, I would be fine with just the learner’s permit.  Remember this was the 1980’s, rules were meant to be broken.  I had plenty of offers from friends to teach me how to ride, but nobody wanted to let me learn on their motorcycle.  This was a problem.  I guess they were not so sure about their teaching skills or me as a quick study.  These were guys with little patience, so I figured better go about learning to ride another way.  There are plenty of schools to learn how to drive a car, but in those day not too many motorcycle riding schools.  I found one in Brooklyn called the Ferrari Driving School, yes this is the name of the school.  The school has been giving motorcycle training courses since 1968 and is still open today.

It was a two day course, an hour or so of classroom time showing videos of the joys, and crashes of riding motorcycles.  If you were still into the idea of learning to ride after the videos, it was off to Floyd Bennett Field, an airfield for the Navy during World War 2, a huge place, with nothing really to crash into.  On the ride to the field with the class in a van, we all speculated what type of motorcycle we would be learning on, maybe a Honda or a Harley?  The instructor driving us just grinned.   The motorcycles we would learn on were not much bigger than my friend’s mini bike.  They had found the smallest motorcycles to teach us on.  One step above a moped.  We were taught the basic skills of starting and stopping a motorcycle, balance needed to ride at slow speeds, shifting, breaking, figure eights and turning.  At the end of two full days of the course, you had at least been taught the basics of not killing yourself on a motorcycle.

Today, once you finish a motorcycle training course, the motorcycle drivers test is given by the school and you receive your license upon successful completion of the course.  After I completed the course in the 1980’s you still had to set up an appointment with the DMV for your motorcycle road test, a complicated task for somebody who just wanted to ride.  So back then to get your motorcycle license you made an appointment, you had to show up with a motorcycle driven by somebody with a motorcycle license and a car with a licensed driver.  The DMV tester would follow you in the car while you rode the motorcycle in front of the car.  Beeps of the horn would signal you to either turn left or right.  Hand signals had to be used while driving the bike.  The test took about 20 minutes.  Out of the six guys that were taking the test, the same day as me,  I was the only one that passed.   


Getting a motorcycle license and going through all the hassle of the road test was more than my friends wanted to deal with.  Out of the guys I rode with, who rode a lot longer than me, I was the only one with a motorcycle driver’s license.  I still wonder to this day, if they ever bother to get their motorcycle driver’s license.  This is something I don’t suggest, get your motorcycle license!  Eventually you will have to deal with the police while riding and no motorcycle license will get you a hefty ticket and an impounded motorcycle.  They left my friend on the side of the road, once they impounded his motorcycle for operating without a motorcycle driver’s license.   

Tell us about your learning experience.

Next week, will talk about picking your first bike and starting to ride once you received your motorcycle license.





  • Lowell

    My parents were dead set against me riding a motorcycle when I was a kid. So when I was 16 I used to sneak out my friends father’s bike which was a 750 Virago. I think about this now and I must have been insane cause with little more than 10 minutes of instruction from my friend, I was out on the public roads ridings his dad’s bike. No gear on whatsoever, and his dad had no idea this was all happening.
    After the first successful ride, I found myself over at the house taking the bike out whenever I could. We never did tell his dad…Thank god I never wrecked the bike!

  • jere

    Well written and brought up some memories of my 1st solo ride at age 5 on a 1969 beneli 50…. I’m still riding today and enjoy it almost as much as ripping up fields back then.

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