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BMW Motorrad: This driver learns to ride a motorcycle for the first time

2017-06-21 07:15

TRAINING WHEELS: BMW South Africa's Motorrad training is an eye-opening experience. Image: Charlen Raymond

Charlen Raymond

Zwartkops Raceway - For all the perceived dangers associated with riding a motorbike, the prospect of obtaining my bike license and riding a steel horse has always been very tempting.

Being one with the bike with nothing but openness around me as I prod along with a smile hidden behind a helmet… that’s the stuff day-dreams are made of! I’ve been in conversations where riders speak of their bikes and their two-wheel lifestyle with great admiration and I've always wanted to share that feeling.

So when BMW South Africa’s Motorrad division extended an invitation my way to come and experience their novice training, I knew that this is an opportunity I couldn't pass.

One with the bike

The training was divided into two sections: one covering the basics of riding a bike and the other slightly more advanced riding. Both sections had mandatory theory sessions, explaining the intricacies of a motorbike’s controls, which control should be used in tandem with what and what might/could happen when it’s not done correctly.

For driver who's never ridden a bike, it was daunting to take in all the instructions.

The BMW Motorrad instructors introduced the class to the Yamaha 250cc steeds which we'd ride but not before allowing us to feel the weight and seating position of a GS 1200. Sure, the weight of the latter is higher than that of the training bikes, but it gave a pretty good idea of how to approach and handle a bigger motorbike. In addition, we were also taught how to mount and dismount a bike and how we should position the steering column when performing the action.

READ: Updated BMW R1200 GS bike range - New Rallye, Exclusive in SA

Finally it was time to get acquainted with the training wheels. I mounted my iron stallion and performed the starting ritual: ignition on, clutch in, neutral, bit of throttle, turn the key. With the bike firing, I engaged first gear, slowly released the clutch and brake, and opened the throttle ever so slightly. And boom! I stalled. This occurred a few more times, but I finally managed to pull-away and be able to stop the bike without stalling. The instructors then opened the gates to the Zwartkops pit lane and gave the cue to ride down the length of the pits, going up to third gear, braking and doing the same on the run back.

The training provided instills a greater sense of confidence for novice riders.

Ride, lean, accelerate

Following lunch, preparations for the second session began. In a sense the games were over as the instructors turned up the notch; explaining the importance of riding on the right side of a lane, how leaning the bike can ease cornering, and why it’s imperative not to stall the bike.

The riders headed out to another part of the track where the instructors made the necessary precautions for the more intense part of the training. We kicked things off by picking a “fallen” F800 GS off the ground. With your back towards the bike and you positioned in the saddle, we used our legs as leverage as we tried getting the bike back on its wheels.

READ: Reader's BMW GS 800 bike trip to the Cedar Mountains

Avid MotoGP followers will recall how riders, following a crash, will attempt to pick their bikes up while facing it. Not only is this the wrong way of doing it (blame it on the adrenaline, perhaps?), but you also put yourself at risk of getting hurt. But a motorbike remains heavy and the F800 GS weighs in excess of 200kg! So imagine the input if you’re not used to it.

The day drew to a close with various braking and balancing tests.

And I’m glad to report that not once did I fall of my steel chariot!

#ThinkBike

Perhaps the biggest insight the training gave me was how intense and demanding riding a motorbike really is. Sure you eventually will become accustomed to controls but the hard part is navigating traffic and sharing a road network with motorists that sometimes fail to #ThinkBike.

Not all drivers are guilty of this but understanding the intricacies of being a rider will definitely make you more aware of the two-wheel brigade.

I know I’m definitely more aware than what I was prior to the training.

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