Trials and Tribulations of Learning to Ride a Motorbike

Draped in leathers. Hair flowing in the breeze. Looking very cool. Images of the cult film Easy Rider manifest in my mind. But for me, trials and tribulations are many when learning to ride a motorbike.

In the past, my only experience on a motorbike was as a pillion (passenger). The longing to be in control and riding a motorbike myself manifested itself slowly, but first, a little background.

Riding a bicycle

As the third child in a family of four children, I never even owned a bicycle. My older sister and first-born in the family enjoyed this privilege.

Sharing this highly in-demand bike amongst four siblings meant hopping on this precious bike maybe half a dozen times if not less and teaching myself, which I didn’t do well.

Later when in high school and as the daughter of a farmer, a super cool Quad bike was available. Although, sharing this amongst five – including my father – meant that I rarely used the bike.

The desire

Fast-forward to 2010 and the burning desire to learn how to ride a motorbike blistered strongly in my brain. Powerful enough to actually enquire about lessons and setting the wheels in motion for the goal to obtain my licence – serious stuff.


Booking the training

A little research online and I find myself checking out the State-certified Q-Ride 3-day course with Team Moto – although training is done through the Motorcycle Riding School in Brisbane’s south side.

I live on the north side of the city so it’s around an hour’s drive to get to the riding school. Regardless of this, I book the expensive lessons – they’re all expensive, especially if you’re a first-timer.

motorbike, training, Brisbane, Australia
Photo credit: Neil Lintern

The state of Queensland requires you to complete two or three phases for a licence, depending on the power of the motorbike you wish to ride.

Phase one

Obtain RE Learner Licence and commence training or if you already are proficient in the skill of riding, then go straight for the riding test.

Phase two

Upgrade to RE Licence, which is restricted for an engine capacity of not more than 660mL (power-to-weight ratio not exceeding 150kW/t) and must be held for two years.

Phase three

Upgrade to the unrestricted R Licence to ride any size motorbike that your heart desires.


Training days

I’ve heard that if you can master riding a bicycle then it’s much easier to master riding a motorbike.

Since I never mastered this skill, nervous, and apprehensive, I don’t find it easy on the first day of training.

Some in my class as my instructor are naturals and beautiful to watch, gliding up and down the deserted road as if they’re floating through air – this is not me…

motorbike, training, Brisbane, Australia
Photo credit: Neil Lintern

Instead, dropping the bike several times throughout the 9am-4pm training day, something in my brain isn’t clicking for the knack I need to master.

I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m a slow learner when it comes to riding a motorbike, unlike learning how to drive a car. Slowly after a couple of training days, my instructor clicks to what I’m doing wrong.

motorbike, training, Brisbane, Australia
Photo credit: Neil Lintern

When riding a motorbike, “never look down as this is where the bike will go – always look up and ahead in the distance”. Obvious? Not to me during this time. Why the instructor doesn’t teach this tip at the start is beyond me and it would save much angst and time, especially when my natural instinct is to look down.

Finally, the something in my brain clicks and I’m able to complete the Slalom and slow Figure Eights.

For the non-bikers that don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this video by DanDan the Fireman. Although this is American, it’s the same as our training.

Last training day

After a few days of training, riding in all weathers including pouring rain whilst sloshing around on the seat with a sodden jean crotch, today is the last day. The instructor needs to confirm if I’m ready to take the test.

The morning is going well and around 10am it’s time for the Slalom exercise.

With too much speed up and on 3rd gear, I’m really enjoying the Slalom until coming around the corner, not even thinking to drop back to 2nd. The bike starts to lean over precariously and I’m too slow to counteract this motion.

I drop the bike. Damn.

Trapped under the bike, my left hand is still holding the clutch. Uncanny how heavy a small 250cc bike is when you’re under it…

Me: “can’t move the bike, my hand hurts”

Instructor: “get up and keep riding, stop exaggerating”

Me: “I’m trying but I really can’t get the bike up…”

Reluctantly, the instructor wanders over to pick my bike up and tells me to get back on, which I do finishing the rest of the day.

Throughout the day, an excruciating jolt of pain runs through my hand so much so that I can’t move the indicator light with my left hand. Instead, steadying the bike with my left hand and crossing my right hand over, I turn on the indicator when required – not safe.

The day can’t finish soon enough when 4pm rolls around. I’m advised that I’m ready for my test.

Gingerly removing my leather glove, my hand is painful and swollen but still drive home.


Revelation

The next day at work, colleagues urge me to see a doctor as they’re certain that my thumb is more than a sprain.

An X-ray and scan confirm a “Gamekeepers Thumb”, also known as Skier’s Thumb. Never breaking any bones before, I don’t realist that I’ve broken anything.

Because some bone and ligaments are torn from my thumb bone, this needs surgery and not the usual plaster cast. So, I’m booked in for surgery on Friday then back to work on Monday.

Surgery

At my hospital bed, the surgeon advises that the surgery ‘went well’, of course.

Instead of pins, his new technique involves drilling through the bone, threading fine stainless steel wire through the bone from one side of my thumb to the other, then fastening everything back together on the other side with a tensioning button.

The rigid cast runs from my hand up past my elbow. Seems overkill for a broken thumb.

So I can get back on my bike soon? “No, not for another 3 months.”

To my surprise, the very next day the rigid cast is cut off and replaced with a removable purple (very cool) hand-cast but not before the Physiotherapist exercises my thumb.

Aren’t broken bones supposed to be left alone in one position for weeks?

Apparently not – another new technique.

Gamekeeper's thumb, motorbike, training, Brisbane, Australia
Swelling reducing (Photo credit: Neil Lintern)

For a few months, weekly visits to the Physiotherapist sees the plaster removed every week, enduring painful exercises with my thumb before replacing the plaster. As the swelling reduces, another plaster is refitted. I also have a series of daily exercises I need to complete.

The worse part of all this is that my partner organised a surprise birthday present in two weeks.

The present? An incredible 25-minute Jet Fighter plane ride!

I’m worried that I won’t be allowed to go up in the jet with a hand fresh from surgery. Jet Fighter Post to follow next week.

Removing the wire

“You may feel a little pain whilst I remove the wire” 

Without anaesthetic, the surgeon snips off the button then rips out the wire running through my thumb’s bone that’s been there for 3 months. You don’t want to hear what came out of my mouth!

During the operation, he tightened the button too tight causing an ulcer beneath the button. For this, a course of antibiotics is prescribed to stop the ulcer becoming infected and any infection travelling back through the wire’s track into my bone.

I always thought he was a horse doctor.

Nine years later, my now deformed thumb works at 50% and aches during the winter, but I do have a great part trick.


Conquering the bike

Finally, after three months of convalescing my thumb, I head out to the training school once more. My quest today is to conquer the bike.

Completing the day’s training without dropping the bike or any hick-ups, I’m ready to take the test.

RE Licence

The day of testing arrives. This involves passing some theory initially, before heading out on the bike.

Completing all the required exercises, standards, and riding for the day, I pass!

A slip of paper with the school’s approval, applying for my RE Licence, and I’m free to ride any bike that’s under 650cc.

motorbike, training, Brisbane, Australia
Photo credit: Neil Lintern

During one of the first rides with my new licence, I’m pulled over by a cop. Checking my licence and realising it’s brand spanking new, he cautions: “ride with more confidence!” – seriously?

motorbike, training, Brisbane, Australia
Photo credit: Neil Lintern

Since 2010? I’ve been busy travelling to different countries so, not much opportunity to ride a motorbike. Only a one-day hire of a step-through in Trinidad (Bolivia), a scooter in Khao Lak (Thailand) for a couple of months, a one-day embarrassing eBike hire in Myanmar (Burma). You definitely experience crazy traffic in these three countries.


Your turn

Know how to ride a motorbike? Take lessons? If so, share your experience below. What type of bike do you own?

Visit Nilla’s Photography for more global images. More posts at Image Earth Travel.

Walton, Somerset, England, Europe
A 2019 update! Photo credit: Neil Lintern

46 thoughts on “Trials and Tribulations of Learning to Ride a Motorbike

Add yours

  1. Your indomitable spirit is commendable.. It is quite rare to see ladies ride a bike, rarer to see them take controls of a 650cc beast.. 😉 You might be one of the rarest ladies to conquer a bike post your surgery. Amazing and equally Inspiring..!!
    Would love to see you ride a Litre Class beast one day and share your experiences of being in control of the beast.. I haven’t had the opportunity to ride one beyond 550cc.
    Cheers to you Madam..!! Keep inspiring.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, ha, thanks for the vote of confidence!
      My thumb is a constant reminder of my “indomitable spirit” 😉
      I haven’t ridden a bike for some years now so I’ve probably forgotten many of the skills.
      Thank you for your kind feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Haha.. But my vote won’t change.. Loved your story..!! More power to you.. 🙂
      Like seeing women who succeed in empowering themselves and do what they want.. Thank you once again for sharing your story.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Thank you so much for your kind words – really means a lot.
      I love to try everything – we’ve only got one shot at life and nothing to lose.
      Check out my post this Sunday, which is the start of my journey of building a boat – hope you like Chapter 1. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    4. You are most welcome Madam.. 😊
      You are right, we live only once.. So we should make it count.. 😀
      Great to know that you will be building a boat ⛵ ..
      Would love to read your experiences.. 😀
      (Have had my own share of getting “acceleration shockwave” aboard a giant waterbus in the Netherlands, which reminded me of the Turin Metro) .. 😉
      Excited about your new boat.. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    5. Yes, I read that post and I’m sure I left a comment on that one also.

      The boat building was a long time ago and haven’t been living on a boat for 10 years. Many people asked me to write about this time in my life, soI’ve finally got around to doing this at last. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Now, you riding a bike somehow was no surprise to me 🙂 My days ended riding after an accident as a pillion, nearly two months in hospital with compressed vertebras and significant bruising. I used to love riding my little scooter, not quite as cool as yours. Still love hearing the roar of a bike don’t want to ride them now. Good on you for taking lessons. Everyone should. I think the system of gaining your license is far better now. Fun post, Nilla.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What an awful experience, but it’s not surprising as sadly, loads of riders have bike accidents. usually, it’s the fault of a car not seeing the bike, but then some bikers are mad.
      Is the system In NZ similar to Oz? You need to have your driver’s licence first and that takes a while these days.

      Like

  3. I used to ride pillion on my ex s kawasaki 500 and before that he had a dirt bike yamaha 75 or the like which i had a go on, went over some bumps panicked and thought the accelerator was the brake. i came off unhurt. Years later, I had a motorbike lesson in Thailand by my friend, but never drove one on my own there, only as a passenger. Good to hear about some of your other life experiences Nilla x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gill. Sounds like you’ve dabbled in a little bike riding, Do you enjoy it? Lucky you came off unscathed.
      Maybe it’s time you went for your licence? 😉
      Ha, ha, I’ve started writing more about another life – building a boat and sailing so stay tuned… x

      Like

    1. Ha, ha, I’m a bit hard-headed but always up for a challenge. 😉 Really need to get on a bike as it’s been too long now…
      Check back on Sunday for my next post on an incredible Jet Fighter ride!

      Like

  4. I’m sorry for your thumb!
    I was in love with motorbikes after my first ride as a passenger in my 6th grade😁 But I’ve never been able to learn how to ride when my brother bought one for me later. I don’t remember having a riding school nearby, and my native city was built on 7 hills.. so you might guess why I was never able to do it. Then I moved out shortly and my brother and I ended up our little ” bike affair”. And OHH boy! they are so heavy!!!! LOL

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ha, ha, great bike story Christie!
      Maybe it’s time to revisit this love affair?
      Yes, they can be heavy and the one in this post belongs to my partner. I have to stand on my tippy toes as it’s too high for me, so it’s not great stopping up hills.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hmm.. as appealing as it sounds, I think I will leave it as a “love at first sight”, cherishing the nostalgic feelings with all my good fingers😊
      Happy New Year Nilla, all the best in 2020!

      Liked by 1 person

    3. I’m impressed. I didn’t learn to ride a bicycle until I was in my 20s, so i wonder what learning to ride a bike would be like. I’m sorry to hear about your thumb and the resulting surgery, but happy it healed well. Congratulations on learning to ride and passing all your licensing exams.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Hi Kimberlie, thanks for your feedback and sharing your experience. You sounds as though you were also a later started in life with bikes.
      The surgery didn’t heal well as I only have 50% usage of my thumb and it now looks deformed, but a great party trick! 😉

      Like

  5. It is truly inspiring to know that you tried again even after the injury followed by surgery within few months and “conquered the bike”. 🙂
    I feel safe driving a car than riding a bike considering the really crazy traffic in here, and I just can’t imagine how fatal it would be if I fall from a bike.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for the wonderful feedback Megala – I never like to give up “test dura” (Italian for hard head or stubborn!) 😉
      Traffic is crazy in Italy also so haven’t ridden a bike here or driven a car yet…
      Wishing you a wonderful 2020!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. WOW that’s awesome bike🏍️ learning journey.

    Actually I’m a big fan of bike🏍️ so I learned to ride bike when I was 12👨 years old and before that I used to hold accelerator when my dad and I went outside. My dad take care of changing gears and clutch.😁

    It was easy for me to ride bike because I’m very good at cycling🚲. I was the first one in my colony who learn to ride bike at the age of 12.

    I never fell from bike but bike falls many times. It’s because whenever I got to know that I’m falling down I instantly get off from my bike and remains safe but everytime the indicators get damaged 😁.

    It gives me too much joy😍 to drive bike. It’s like one of my favorite things to do. Whenever I went outside with my friends and if anyone not want to drive then I’m the happiest😂 person because I get a chance to drive bike.

    After some years when we get a car🚗 then I was very eager to drive it. So, I learned to drive car when I was 17. Thanks to my dad who teach me driving.

    Your learning journey is too good. Hope still you are enjoying your bike riding.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Piyush, thanks for taking the time to share your personal experience and I’m impressed you learned to ride a motorbike when you were 12.
      Ha, ha, I had to laugh when you said your bike falls from you and not the other way around – good reflexes!
      It sounds as though you have a very patient dad – lucky you…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Not like that.In Japan,it takes about 2-3 months to get a license for motorbike if you work as full time.
    We learn how to drive more carefully by one to one lesson.Not only technical skills but also rules of drives.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds quite tough.

      We also learn the theory and rules of the road but those lessons don’t last as long as in Japan. Also in Australia, you can’t get a motorbike license unless you first have a provisional or open car licence and held either for at least one year, so the rules of the road are learnt first for the car licence.

      Liked by 1 person

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