In most cases getting up at 6.40am on a saturday morning in winter is a sin, but for my q-ride course I didn’t mind making an exception. If I passed this course it would mean that I could ride solo on Puppa wherever I wanted. Pauline and I left the house at around 7.40am (no issues with the gate closing this time cause I did it) and made our way over to Toombul. It was a chilly fresh morning which caused issues for the gloveless Pauline but luckily she has some air vents that can keep her hands warm when she is at the lights. Unfortunately for her we didn’t get many which made the ride extremely enjoyable and quick enough so that we had time to stop and warm our hands on Michel’s Patisserie coffee at Centro Toombul.
Arriving at the shipping containers in the carpark where the course is held, Pauline’s new Sportcity got some admiring glances from Andrew the course instructor. He said a lot of stuff about the mechanics of the scooter that I didn’t understand, but I gathered it meant that they had taken some of the cool stuff from the Aprilia motorbikes and used them in the scooter. He seemed impressed with it but wasn’t tempted enough to take it for a ride. Pauline then ditched me and headed off home to watch Star Trek or something.
While we were waiting for all the attendees to turn up this old dude with a helmet starting walking towards us. I was thinking that this 77 year old guy had a lot of guts if he was going to take the course but it turned out he was just here to practise on his little 50cc bug scooter. He keeps it in storage there and comes down every couple of days to scoot in safety. While we spent an hour or so doing motorcycle theory, he buzzed up and down the designated training area.
The course began with lots of paperwork and then the three of us doing the course filled out some questions regarding bikes. It asked about what to do in certain traffic conditions, where things like the clutch was on the bike and what to do to maintain your bike correctly. Andrew then pointed out things on the bike to look out for like wear on the brakes and tyres (there are cool little dots in the tread that indicate how low the tread can legally be) where the oil and hub fluid is and how to adjust your suspension.
After a short break we got on the bikes to do the course of tennis balls. We started with a figure 8, then a slow ride that you must do in more than 11 seconds, a slalom at 15-20kms, some counter steering and an emergency stop. As I’d done all that the week before I had few issues and was getting much more confident with my counter steering. I was impressed at how slow the guys on the huge motorcycles could go when they were doing their slow ride.
Another break and we had some more theory to get through. This directly related to being out on the road and your positioning in traffic. I learnt that when you are in the left lane you ride on the right hand side of the lane for better visibility for the car in front of you. However, if you are in the right lane of a two lane road you should be on the left hand side of the lane to achieve the same effect. It’s all based on the idea that people will use their right hand and rear view mirrors but rarely do the left shoulder thing. Of course as a motorcyclist you have assume that no one is ever going to look. We also discussed riding in a staggered formation when there is more than one rider. This allows everyone to have the space to brake and gives each other room so that other cars don’t muscle in on our space. All this was taught using a cool little white board.
I went for a short toilet break and when I came back I found we were all in formation. I was riding shotgun to the left of Andrew while the two other guys followed me. It was time for our ride in traffic and we each had to wear these bright yellow vests with L written on the back. You couldn’t miss us. Our ride took us out to the freeway where a red car with a trailer caused us to split up when merging but eventually he passed me and the other guys came back in to formation. The vespa kept up with them in the 100km zone but I was in no doubt that they could easily leave me behine with one flick of the wrist. We got off at the Nudgee Beach exist and did a 40km zone up the hill to Nudgee College. After a short stop where Andrew said we were doing good we headed through an 80 zone to the beach. A car with a trailer heading to the dump spoiled Andrews fun a bit as the road had a cool long bend to do counter steering on. At the end of the road we parked, had a little chat about U-Turns and then headed back. It was a really nice ride out there and I was enjoying myself a lot in the sun. Our only issue on the way back was when a car decided to turn right after waiting at the lights but didn’t indicate so Andrew beeped his horn at him. Luckily there wasn’t any real danger.
Back at the shipping containers Andrew filled out our certificates to say that we had passed. WOOOOOOHOOOOO. Pauline was there waiting to take me home because even though I had the certificate I still wasn’t a legal rider until I had the R class on my license. A visit on monday to Queensland Transport was planned. The course was a lot easier than I expected but I guess it helps that I was only going for my automatic. I would have had to have done a lot more lessons to get a motorcycle license and since I got the Vespa my patience had been used up.
On the way home Pauline and I stopped at Morgan and Wacker to see if they had any helmets or gloves. There was a gathering of Harleys out the front so we parked our little scoots beside them. Inside the store all the helmets were marked with Harley insignias so they were out of the question for wearing on a scooter (although it would be pretty funny). Pauline did like some boots for sale but wasn’t interested in the $220 price tag. We then had lunch at a Noodle store at the Breakfast Creek Wharf and they were the best noodles I think I’ve ever had. I picked thin egg, chinese, beef while Pauline had thin egg, thai, chicken. I let the guy know I was impressed and he said that he hoped to see me again. It’s the store next to the fish shop if you are ever by that way.
So now I’m very close to riding solo and becoming what Pauline calls a temporary australian. I think the course has given me enough knowledge to ride safely, but I know it isn’t enough to keep me safe. I just have to remember to enjoy myself and ALWAYS pay attention to the cars around me if I want to live a long life.