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California motorcycle driving test = killer!

post #1 of 44
Thread Starter 

I went to the DMV today to take the motorcycle driving test and get my motorcycle license.  After sitting behind a line of cars waiting for their tests for about 45 minutes, I finally got my turn.

 

It turns out the test involves identifying the various controls on your bike, then doing a little course.  The course involves weaving between a few cones, then going around a circle twice, then back through the cones.  Sounds easy right?  Hardly!

 

The cone weaving was pretty easy, but the circle part is nuts.  It's a circle with a small radius, and you have to keep your front wheel between two parallel lines just a foot or two apart.  The real killer part is if at any time you put your foot down once on the course, you fail the test.  Harsh!

 

So basically you have to get going the perfect speed on the circle to stay between the lines without having to put your foot down.  I don't know, maybe it's easy on a gas bike, but on my EVD it's freaking hard because the throttle is super sensitive at low speeds.  It's tough to accelerate just a little - it tends to really jump at the slightest touch.

 

So suffice it to say this test kicked my butt.  I got through the cones, then almost immediately had to put my foot down on the first turn on the circle because I couldn't get the speed just right.  I kept going around the circle for practice, and probably had to put my foot down at least a half dozen times to get around it twice.

 

I don't really get the point of the test.  It's supposed to show your control of the bike, but only at low speeds!  And the car driving test is freaking easy and barely tests driving skills at all.

 

So anyway, my permit expires in March, so I can try to pass this test again twice before then.  Hopefully with some practice I'll be able to get through it.  The whole things seems pretty ridiculous though.

post #2 of 44

Wow...I'm glad I didn't have to take that test to get my motorcycle license.  California allowed me to transfer my Virginia license after only taking the written test.

 

I suggest you look into taking a California Motorcyclist Safety Program (CMSP) class.  If you take the class, you're exempt from the skills test.  I did something very similar in Virginia and suggest it to all riders.  They provide the motorcycles and being able to practice emergency skills you'd never attempt on your own bike is invaluable.  For example, locking up the brakes on a bike.  You'll often lay the bike down when practicing, not to mention ruin tires, but everyone should have some practice with it.

 

You'll also learn a lot about motorcycle dynamics that most people have no clue about.  You should think about making the investment.

 

I get a discount off of my insurance for taking the class as well, so it eventually paid for itself.

post #3 of 44
Thread Starter 

Yeah I thought about that.  The class seems like kind of a hassle though, and there isn't one anywhere nearby.  We'll see, maybe I'll do it if I can't pass the stupid driving test.

post #4 of 44

The Sacramento class is too far for you?

 

I actually found it to be a lot of fun.

 

Let us know how the next test goes.

 

CMSP Course locations

post #5 of 44
Thread Starter 

Well it's 13 miles away.  If they provide the motorcycles I guess it would be feasible.  $250 though - blah!

post #6 of 44

I took the test yesterday and it was a joke.  When do you ever have to drive watching your front tire?  I got through the first part but not the 2nd part, and got the DQ because my front tire went out of the lines. 

post #7 of 44
Thread Starter 

Oh it's a completely stupid test.  It's frustrating because it doesn't actually prove anything.  If you're maneuvering slowly, one of the benefits of a motorcycle is that you can put your foot down for stability.  So to DQ you for putting your foot down makes no sense.  Like yesterday I was making a turn on a bit of an icy road, and guess what I did to stabilize my scooter?  I put my foot down!

 

And to make you ride in this perfect circle at slow speeds - when are you ever going to have to do that, and what good would it do?

 

It's just so arbitrary.  Very frustrating.


Edited by dana1981 - Sat, 20 Dec 2008 04:12:32 GMT
post #8 of 44

dana, in getting a car license we have a test on an uphill, that one must come to a stop, then be able to hold the vehicle stationary without the brakes, and this is required  with automatic or manual transmission.  One must not roll back as little as 25 cm nor pull ahead by the same distance. The vehicle must remain stationary for at least 3 seconds.

 

Many drivers have complained that this is something one should not do, so why test to be sure one can do it. So they changed the test so that the testee now has to be able to start on a hill 5 times without rolling back once, and no stalling, which seems like an entirely reasonable thing to have to be able to do.

 

If you think you could pass the test with a gas powered bike, why not use that to get your license? You do not have to qualify explicitly on the same vehicle you plan to use, do you?

 

 

post #9 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by donfletcher:

If you think you could pass the test with a gas powered bike, why not use that to get your license? You do not have to qualify explicitly on the same vehicle you plan to use, do you? 

 

 

I think you can take the test on any registered bike, but I don't own a gas one or know how to ride one.  I think they're a bit more complicated, as everyone who rides mine says 'all I need to do is twist the throttle?'.  Gas bikes have weird stuff like clutches and whatnot.

 

I'm guessing the test would be easier on a gas bike, but I don't have access to one.  Anyway, I've been practicing a bit on mine and will hopefully be able to pass it eventually.

post #10 of 44

Dana, the ability to perform low speed maneuvers on a motorcycle is a valid measure of your abilities and experience.  Rider errors become very evident at low speeds.  Essential skills include being able to stop and go without putting down your feet, emergency stop keeping your rear brake engaged (only one foot down), emergency swerve, balance skills (demonstrated by pylon slalom), tight turning as demonstrated by the "lollipop" and varius radius turns.  All of these skills are drilled in the MSF basic and experienced rider courses. 

 

I took the experienced rider course in November in Alemeda in my very un-green 750 lb 1500 cc Suzuki Boulevard C90 cruiser.  I practice the DMV lollipop repeatedly even though I have had my license for over 32 years because I think the course is a fair measurement of skill.  Keep practicing and learning.  Your exposure on a motorcycle and especially the low visibilty electric scooter you're on is very different from a car.  The MSF course can help you better appreciate those risks, how to mitigate them, and help you acquire the needed basic skills to be safe.

 

Here is a bike that pushes the limits for that DMV lollipop.

 

post #11 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

Well it's 13 miles away.  If they provide the motorcycles I guess it would be feasible.  $250 though - blah!

 

The basic rider course is done on motorcycles supplied by the CAER MSF course.  They use 250 cc motorcycles that are designed to be easy to use and control.  An important part of the basic course is the classroom time.  Anyway, completion of the course can qualify you for discounts on insurance and some gear.  Highly recommended. 

 

Is 13 miles outside your range for the scooter?

post #12 of 44
Thread Starter 

No, the range is generally around 30 miles.  If I had to ride there, ride it around for the class, and then ride home, I probably wouldn't have sufficient range.

 

I still don't agree that the DMV test is a good measure of the necessary skills.  Swerving to avoid potential hazards I understand - that's fine.  Riding around in a little circle makes no sense whatsoever.  And you essentially don't need any skills to obtain a driver's license for a car.

 

I don't have any problem demonstrating my riding skills.  I've narrowly avoided a couple of accidents on my moped with cars whose drivers weren't paying attention.  But the circle thing just bugs me because it's completely arbitrary and makes no sense at all.  Not only are you never going to need to ride around in a little circle twice at slow speeds, but if you do have to, in reality there's nothing wrong with needing to put your foot down in the process.

post #13 of 44

Oh Dana, how much experience do you have on a bike?  Hey take that bloody course, if not for yourself for people who care about you.  I did our version course here and it was money well spent.  When finished I was amazed at what I could do with a bike.

post #14 of 44
Thread Starter 

A bit over a year on my mopeds combined.  And I'm not taking the bloody class unless I can't pass the bloody test.

post #15 of 44

I grew up around motorcycles and got my endorsement at 16.  I took the MSF course, and I believe the $250 covers the class that provides the motorcycles, at least it did here.  When I got my EVD it took me a while to adjust, it just doesn't maneuver the same, and the acceleration is way off.  The u-turn in the width of 2 parking spaces killed me too, but I finally did it, however, I wouldn't even attempt that one on my EVD!  It is way to heavy and way to difficult to maneuver at those low speeds.

 

I have to recommend the class to you as well, it was well worth it, and has probably saved my life a time or two, they train you to avoid accidents and stupid drivers, in fact the instructor would play chicken with us and jump out in front of us while driving just to make sure we could swerve at the last minute (pretty scary but effective).

 

Good Luck!!

post #16 of 44

Dana, I'm curious because I have never driven anything like the EVD; when maneuvering at speed, are you aware of countersteering being effective?  If so, about what speed does it kick in for you.

 

As far as driving the lollipop goes, there are basic techniques for low speed maneuvers that are part of the course, and will enable you to easily do this.  Summarized it amounts to slow, look, push and roll.  Other aids include counter-balancing and using a trailing brake while maintaining throttle to keep the bike upright and aligned.


Edited by cirquerider - Wed, 07 Jan 2009 17:07:29 GMT
post #17 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider:

Dana, I'm curious because I have never driven anything like the EVD; when maneuvering at speed, are you aware of countersteering being effective?  If so, about what speed does it kick in for you.

 


 

I'm not familiar with that terminology.  What exactly is "countersteering"?

post #18 of 44

Countersteering is used on motorcycles and bicycles to make directional changes.  Being aware of countersteering physics enables you to be safer and more agile on a bike.  Once you are going more than 15 miles per hour or so, steering is no longer a matter of twisting the handlebars in the direction you want to go; instead we press the handlebars and lean into the turn.  In effect, if I want to go left, I press on the left handlebar which actually turns the wheel right, but it quickly puts the bike into a left leaned turn.  If you have ever played with gyroscopes or a spinning bicycle wheel in your hands, you know that when you change the direction, it causes the wheel to tilt.

 

Here is a youtube video that explains it:

 

post #19 of 44

Sorry, didn't see the post above until after I posted...but anyways...

 

That must be the whole idea of "push left go left."  When you press the handle in the direction you want to turn instead of actually turning the handlebars in that direction.  (If you want to curve to the right, press on the right handlebar instead of pulling) 

 

In my opinion, it seems to be a little higher speed required for the R martin, but before it I had only driven small 250s that weigh less than half of the R Martin.  So it is probably a comfort thing for me, not wanting to lean at lower speeds.  I would say at about 30, maybe a little below depending on the curve, I think it really depends on whether or not there is room to accelerate out of the curve.  Even for just changing lanes at 25-30mph it is effective 

--that is my experience if any of that made sense, its kind of confusing really. It has been icy here, so I haven't driven in a few days, but now I'm interested to see what my speed typically is


Edited by srj0385 - Wed, 07 Jan 2009 19:45:31 GMT
post #20 of 44
Thread Starter 

Oh I gotcha.  Yeah this might work on the EVD going 20 mph, I doubt any slower than that.  I don't think it would work for the low speeds necessary for the circle in the skills test.  It's something I do rather subconsciously when going around curves at 20-30 mph.

post #21 of 44

In reality countersteering and gyroscopic stability are effective at as little as 5 to 8 MPH.  The bike is much more stable at this speed, than under 5 mph.  Prove me wrong.  The idea in a tight low speed maneuver is to try to execute it at just a bit greater than walking speed which is more stable and look ahead through your turn and look for your exit.  The bike goes where you eyes and head go.  If you look down or at the center of the circle, you will over steer and put your foot down.  If you look a couple seconds ahead where you want to be, you will more likely end up there.  Whether its cones or a circle or traffic, keep scanning ahead and don't fixate on a target. 

 

A second strategy is counter-weight.  The bike wants to fall to the inside of a turn in a slow speed maneuver.  by shifting your weight to the outside of the turn (sit to the left side of the saddle for a right turn) you counter-balance that tendency and improve your balance in the turn.  It works.

 

A third strategy, more relevant to piston driven motorcycles is to keep the engine reved and use a light trailing brake and clutch modulation.  In your case you can only apply throttle and light braking.  This keeps you moving forward at a steady pace and because you are at countersteering speed, acceleration banks you into the turn more and braking straightens you up.  Wow! 

 

Now going back to where this conversation started; why might it be a good idea to take the MSF basic rider course?  Because you will learn this stuff that you haven't thought of or been aware of; you will practice it to understand how it works; and it will make you a better, safer driver.  That test was designed to show you your skill deficiencies.  You nedd to learn from that lesson and quit being so stubborn as to blame the test rather than the driver.


Edited by cirquerider - Wed, 07 Jan 2009 23:44:32 GMT
post #22 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider:

 

A third strategy, more relevant to piston driven motorcycles is to keep the engine reved and use a light trailing brake and clutch modulation.  In your case you can only apply throttle and light braking.  This keeps you moving forward at a steady pace and because you are at countersteering speed, accelleration banks you into the turn more and braking straightens you up.  Wow! 


 

Applying the brakes kills the throttle completely on the EVD.  I actually had an electronics problem where for some reason the bike thought the brakes were constantly engaged and had to walk the bike home and get a technician to come out and reset it.  So basically you can't use both throttle and brakes at the same time.

 

The counter-balance isn't a bad idea.  I'll have to try that out for the circling.  I do the look where you're going thing though.


Edited by dana1981 - Wed, 7 Jan 2009 23:47:01 UTC
post #23 of 44

The electric scooter certainly presents challenges you wouldn't have on a I.C. powered unit.  It didn't occur to me the brake and power would be interlocked, but that makes sense.  All the rotating parts in an IC engine (cams, flywheel, crankshaft) contribute to stability that you don't have.  I think the hardest thing for me to deal with on the EVD would be the limited range.  On top of that, I have the advantage of visibility on my bike with nearly 1/2 ton of mass, three driving lights, air horns and engine noise. 

 

Give some of the ideas above a try and practice in a safe location.  Good luck with the test!

post #24 of 44
Thread Starter 

Thanks Cirque.  Range isn't a problem for me because I just use it for commuting and the occasional errand.  In fact I forgot to plug it in at work today and was able to get home on the single charge.  It's a pretty sweet ride too - super quiet.

post #25 of 44

anybody who says the test is an accurate summation of skills required for operating a motorcycle is dillusional.  a permit in the state of california allows you to drive anywhere but on the freeway.  that being the case why would not be a necessity to have those skills for a permit. if by getting a license i am allowed to utilize the freeway, wouldnt it make sense to test higher speed/freeway moves. i took my 2007 yamaha r6 to check out the course, i walked the bike through and the bikes turn radius with the bars buried does not allow you to reamain inside the lines. the test is a farce unless you are on a chopper/cruiser bike, its a scam to get your $250 from the safety course. compared to the dmv test, the course test is pathetically easy!

post #26 of 44
Thread Starter 

Well the problem is that the DMV can't test very high speed stuff, because unlike in a car, they can't ride along with you.  Nobody would take the job riding on the bitch seat at high speeds with a person just taking the motorcycle license test.  Besides which, my moped doesn't go highway speeds anyway.

 

What they should do is test something like accident avoidance at medium speeds, or control, or something like that.  The low speed stuff is just silly to me.  Really the problem is just that it's hard to test motorcycle riding ability, especially in the small space that the DMV can set aside for the test.  But that's no excuse for the ridiculously small circle they make you ride around.  You gotta come up with a better test than that.

post #27 of 44
Thread Starter 

Well I almost passed it the second time.  I got 3/4 of the way around the second rotation around the circle.  Problem is, the ground isn't flat.  So I was slowing down, and I couldn't hit the sweet spot on my throttle where it will accelerate without lurching forward.  So I lost it at the very end.

 

Then I let the DMV test guy - who also rides motorcycles - try it, and he couldn't do it either.  So at least it's not me!  He had the same problem - throttle is just too sensitive.

 

Hopefully I'll get it next time around.  I think I just need to do it a bit faster so I don't slow down too much on that darn upslope at the end of the stupid ciricle.

post #28 of 44
Quote:
Originally Posted by dana1981:

Well I almost passed it the second time.  I got 3/4 of the way around the second rotation around the circle.  Problem is, the ground isn't flat.  So I was slowing down, and I couldn't hit the sweet spot on my throttle where it will accelerate without lurching forward.  So I lost it at the very end.

 

Then I let the DMV test guy - who also rides motorcycles - try it, and he couldn't do it either.  So at least it's not me!  He had the same problem - throttle is just too sensitive.

 

Hopefully I'll get it next time around.  I think I just need to do it a bit faster so I don't slow down too much on that darn upslope at the end of the stupid ciricle.

 

Have you considered taking the test on a small gasoline-powered motorcycle that is easier to control in that driving test?  It's like a driving test, where you can use any vehicle you want, not the one you will actually be using.  You could probably rent one, or borrow one, or take one for a test drive. 

 

Just a thought.

 

post #29 of 44
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by gcnp58:

 

Have you considered taking the test on a small gasoline-powered motorcycle that is easier to control in that driving test?  It's like a driving test, where you can use any vehicle you want, not the one you will actually be using.  You could probably rent one, or borrow one, or take one for a test drive. 

 

Just a thought.

 

 

Yeah, but I don't know anyone who has a scooter or where to rent one.  Too much of a hassle - I know eventually I'll be able to pass it on mine.  I went to the DMV one Sunday and practiced on the course and was able to pass it most of the time.  Just didn't get it this time, but hopefully next time.

post #30 of 44

I once took the MSF course in Walnut, CA--the one in Mt. San Antonio College and I paid $150 for the course before I turned 21. It was a real stupid class. There were two instructors and they taught a class of 30 students with big-ass microphones screaming at you at the top of their lungs if you're not doing what they tell you not to do, like the thing about target fixation.

 

The first time I took this course, I drove the bike into the ground because I honestly did not know how to operate a motorcycle. Since it was a motorcycle training course of sorts, I figured that they would start from scratch and walk me through it. Nope. They did not. They assumed that everybody taking the course had some experience riding a motorcycle and more or less, started from that assumption. Right from the get-go, I knew then that there was not a chance in hell that I would pass the course. Everybody else taking the course that day were veteran motorcyclists or had some form of dirt-biking experience. I was the only person who did not know how to drive one nor have I had any experience riding an ordinary bicycle. So the whole idea of balancing two wheels on a road was foreign and new to me.

 

So I ended up dropping the bike two dozen times throughout the course. I did not make it past the "driving around in a circle" that day and that's just barely the third part of the training. That's just right after you learn how to use the clutch without any throttling. They would make you literally use the clutch to move the bike forward while you are allowed to use your feet to balance the bike in a straight line. They would make you do this back and forth two times.

 

After dropping the bike for the umpteenth time during the circle run, my instructor advised me to take the course another time as I am slowing down everybody else. So I did.

 

The second time I took the course, they were screaming at me with their microphones across the parking lot (since the driving exercise took place in the parking lot) to stop fixating my eyes on the ground, because then I'll drive my motorcycle into the ground. That's the idea--whether it has any merit is up for debate. Their screaming actually distracted me to what I was doing in front of me and I inevitably drove my bike into the ground. They walked up to me and told me, "See? You drove into the ground because you were fixing your eyes to the ground. Stare up and look into the turn and the rest will follow." I got back on, took what they said into account, and drove on.

 

I wasn't looking at the ground. I was looking at the handlebars and making sure that I have the right seating position, the right amount of throttling, and the right amount of leaning and turning of the handlebars. It's distracting when I have someone scream at me telling me not to do those things. It's kind of like, "Uhhh, I'm trying to learn here and you screaming at me isn't helping me learn this any faster."

 

This time around, I got to the "cone-weaving" part of the training course. By this time, I was supposed to have learned how to change to second gear. The exercise was ridiculous. They only gave us two tries to learn how to change to second gear. They told us it was simple. While your riding, ease off the throtlling, pull in the clutch, shift your gear lever with your left foot, easy the clutch back on, and then throttle again. I tried that. Didn't work on both runs. My bike remained at first gear. It was a piece of turd Honda Nighthawk 250. I told them that I did what they said and it didn't change gears. They said that they don't have time to walk each of us through individually and that they would have to move on to the next exercise.

 

Ok... I thought. What's the point of this course if you don't properly teach us how to operate the functions of a motorcycle? I understand that the course is intended to teach you what is safe riding but if I don't know how to even use the motorcycle, no amount of teaching me techniques of safe riding would make me a safe rider.

 

We moved on to the next course. It was riding in circles and weaving. I was told at the beginning of class that I was allowed to drive ahead of my classmates if one of them was driving slower than usual and if there was adequate room to fit myself ahead of the motorcyclist in front of me. I did precisely this in this exercise and one of the instructors flagged me for putting my classmates and myself in danger. He had me flick off the kill-switch and told me that I was excused from the course. I told him what he had said to us at the beginning of the course. He denied it. I was pissed at this point and I told him, "Hey fool, I wasn't the one who said that it was safe to drive ahead if it can be done safely. You said that! " And then he was like, "Get out of here! I'm not going to listen to this" and he starts to walk off. And I said, "Well, I'm sorry if you have poor teaching skills but that's not my problem!" And then he turns around and says, "I'm not going to sign your papers and I'm going to tell the other instructor not to sign your papers so don't even think of coming back!"

 

Ever since then, I never gone back to that school to take that course. Ever since then, I've been very hesitant to take the MSF course again because if the instructors there are such douche bags, what's to say of the instructors from other schools?

 

I personally cannot ever recommend taking the MSF course from Mt. SAC unless those instructors are fired. I remember them quite distinctly. One is a white guy, heavy mustache/beard, long blonde hair, skinny, about 5'6. The other is a bald mexican guy, 5'8", a light clean-shaven beard, and he drives a red/black Honda CBR600RR. If they are still teaching there, I don't suggest taking the course with those two as your instructors.


Edited by tallius - Sat, 07 Feb 2009 05:20:38 GMT


Edited by tallius - Tue, 24 Feb 2009 22:41:10 GMT
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