Gotta Scoot

A foray into the world of the 2-wheeled amateur

19 July 2007 Mind your Ps!

Last week, the unthinkable happened: the Roads and Traffic Authority of New South Wales, Australia issued me with a license to kill.

Well, not really, but kinda…

In most parts of Australia, after one has been on a learners license for three months or more, one soon knows the delights of the Provisional Driver Training Program. Such was my joy on Thursday, when I took the TGB to the local range (no shooting here, mind you!) to submit myself to a grueling eight and a half hours.

And what a session! There was cone-weaving (certainly not to be advised after you’ve had a few…), u-turning, breaking at breakneck speeds, swerving to miss tennis balls, and of course, riding around in traffic wearing a florescent yellow vest (the generous size of which would have enabled most wearers to adopt this garment as an evening dress or toga).

Bad jokes aside though, these days are about as important as life can get, especially when you consider that you’re learning how to stop yourself from being squashed on the tarmac like an overripe tomato by a truckie who just plain didn’t see you. Being a teacher, I really have a penchant for understanding theories and applying them in practice.

One such theory – the famous “3 second rule” – really makes a lot of sense. I mean, how can any of us know for sure that the person we might otherwise be tailing from a distance of one car-lenghth (if that) isn’t going to have a heart attack, epileptic fit, or perhaps just stop the car suddenly for some reason unknown to us? And yet – look at the road – how far away is the average car from the one in front, pelting down the motorway at 110km? OK – so I’ll be the dork who sticks to the left lane and has an olympic swimming pool between me and the guy in front of me.

Funny how all the young twenty-something men with whom I did the course just jumped on their souped-up bikes that afternoon and roared off to the RTA to collect their new licenses – tailing, speeding, revving at the lights and generally showing complete disregard for just about everything we learned that day! Or am I just overly sensitive?

Perhaps it’s the commonsense of you guys out there in the blogosphere that keeps those of us who really want to live safe?

July 19, 2007 Posted by | Learner riders | 1 Comment

10 April 2007 Maiden Voyage

What an incredibly long day it’s been. After so many hours of riding, getting lost, discovering new streets and different ways of looking at the same trees; after the smiles, the thrill of racing off the mark at traffic lights, the stopping off at the roadside to take a photo – after all this and much more, how hard it is to sit down and put into words what an amazing day it’s been.

I could barely contain my excitement this morning when I finished my knowledge test at the RTA and was finally handed my shiny new gold license with a “R LRN” appended to the “C” underneath the “class of license” category. Who would have thought that it all came down to having a few letters on the license? …not to mention this swanky looking L on the back of the scoot.

I imagine that any biker or scooterist will tell you the same thing – nothing compares to that first ride, the maiden voyage if you will. Unfortunately, living in the heart of sydney “urban” Parramatta suburbia, I can’t pretend to have ridden off into the countryside, past mountains and lakes and beaches with gleaming white sand. All of that will come with time and practice, so stay tuned to this blog! 😉

My journey with the humble supermarket and an interesting discovery. Yes, that’s right – I needed soy milk, damn it! and I wasn’t going to get in that car and drive when the new scoot beckoned. Anyway, I dexterously navigated through the back roads and even onto a main road before arriving at the local IGA carpark. Not being trained in the ways of scooter parking, I navigated my quietly purring TGB through the maize of cars, looking to conservatively park in an ordinary car space, before spying this motorcycle which had been defiantly parked over painted caption on the tarmac which read NO PARKING. What a valuable discovery: ‘no parking’ means parking for a scooter! Thumbing my nose at the ‘tin tops’ around me (only pretend smugness at this stage), I maneuvered my scoot alongside the bike. Later on, when I returned from the supermarket, the bike was gone and the gaping ‘NO PARKING’ remained.’

I must admit, writing this several hours later, the rest of the day is a blur. I suppose this is a kind of paradox – that remember being acutely aware of everything around me, but now that I’m home typing this, it’s hard to recall what I was thinking. I remember riding around back streets and getting rather lost. I remember numerous smiles from pedestrians (especially the ladies) as I flew by with the false impression of going somewhere important. I remember freezing in the middle of the day when it was 24 degrees celsius! I remember the sense of solitude that doesn’t even come close to driving in the car alone. I began to experience what Steve Williams means when he says, “I ride for the heightened awareness of the world and life.”

I’m so amazed that even in the most mundane such awareness might be possible.

April 11, 2007 Posted by | Learner riders | 4 Comments

9 April 2007 Famous last words on the eve of metamorphossis

 

It’s the eve of my rider’s knowledge test and, like a petulant child, I can neither abate my excitement nor speak civilly to those around me. Tomorrow marks the beginning of my life as a rider and, having waited so long for this day to come, I’ve blown up all expectations. I’ve been furiously reading every blog from the many scooter enthusiasts all around the world. I’ve been pouring through reviews in the Australian Scooter magazine affirming my choice of the TGB and rubbing my hands with mirthful glee in the possibilities that 150cc has to offer. Finally, I’ve been dreaming most nights about all of the amazing getaways I’ll have when I’m finally a proficient rider. It seems to me that the beaches, mountains, lakes and countryside won’t be the same when I’m out in the open air zooming by on two wheels. But then, I’ll have to wait till tomorrow before I can begin to describe those kinds of experiences.

 

It’s been really hard these past few days – especially since finishing the rider training program – not to just jump on the TGB and ride off into the great beyond. The possibility of that police car around the corner, the check for the non-existent license and subsequent barring of any riding (and possibly driving) privileges for a period of time has, however, been enough of a deterrent. Nonetheless, I’ve still buzzed around our unit car park at least once a day, much to the chagrin of my lovely neighbors (it won’t be a problem after tomorrow, folks!).

 

Today, my long-time friend Brendan came over and jumped on. He has neither car nor bike license, but seemed to manage well enough!

 

 

 

 

 

I keep trying to persuade him to join me in my new endevours, but he and his girlfriend Yasmin seem to prefer, like most, the idea of a car.

Anyway, I’ve studied probably much more than I ever did for my driver Ls (over 12 years ago, at the impressionable age of 16) but at least it will save me the time and money involved in having to attempt the test more than once. In other words, after more than 5 hours doing the practice tests and reading the motorcycle manuals I feel that I am guaranteed success, but of course, one never knows!

 

Thanks so much to scooterists and non-scooterists alike who have read and supported this beginner blog with your comments and moral support. If you haven’t familiarised yourself with what else is out there, please check out my blogroll for some other great scooter-related reads.

April 9, 2007 Posted by | Learner riders | Leave a comment

5 April 2007 You gotta ride before you can ride…

Tonight the unthinkable happened… Felicity and I were declared “competent” enough to venture out into the world on 2-wheels. After two grueling evenings subsisting on muesli bars, the occasional sushi roll and the thrill that only comes with putting around (and when I say “around” I literally mean around and around and around a space the size of a small ice-skating rink), we do indeed have what it takes to be learner scooterists.

 

So what was the experience like? Let’s start with the décor, shall we? Not many places can boast such splendid alfresco dining right underneath one of Sydney’s most established motor ways. It was the perfect start to this special evening… Behold, the training centre in Clyde, Australia:

 

Ok – I’m being a tad sarcastic, and really, that isn’t entirely fair. Despite the nagging sensation of feeling like I’m back at school (well, that isn’t hard since, as a school teacher I spend most of my time there and had been at school an hour before arriving at the training centre) I must be honest and admit that we novice riders learned more about what’s going on on the road than many drivers learn in twenty years of driving experience.

 

We flitted back and forth between this small demountable “classroom” which had the odd aroma of some lemony-fresh scent that some enthusiastic cleaner had sprayed (and then must have sprayed again several times more than the pack recommended) and the charm that only florescent lighting can bring:

 

When the range finally called, we ambled outside to mount our trusty mechanical steeds and maneuver taxing twists and turns around pylons, witch’s hats and arbitrary lines. Our driving instructor, Steve, was nothing short of amazing. At all times, he dexterously navigated through the pitfalls and pinnacles of the evenings – a tasteful joke here, a stern reminder there… I can genuinely say that I felt humbled as a teacher. Here was a man whose job it was to turn over five complete novices wanting to learn how to seriously put themselves and others on the road at risk; here was his job to make them competent and do so in the space of seven hours, before starting with the next group, and the next one, from scratch, again and again. OK – some things I do at school are routine, but never that routine. What I think I found remarkable about Steve is that his job made him a real lifesaver, and he never let the routine dampen that awareness. On the contrary, he really showed that he cared very much about our well-being and the fact that we were about to embark on a journey that was for him (and would be soon for us) a real passion.

 

At the end of the night there was nothing left to do but pose for the camera. Smile, Fe!

 

 

…oh, and I did have to pop my certificate on the mantelpiece and admire it… only a few times.

 

Ls, Ls – here we come! What a pity we have to get through this Easter long weekend without being able to jump on our TGB! At least we’re one step closer.

April 5, 2007 Posted by | Learner riders | 4 Comments

01/04/2007 Introductions all round

Hi everyone! Welcome to my new blog. In the interests of reading convenience, I’ll try to keep it catchy and brief, but as I spend most of my writing life churning out essays for the various courses I’ve studied at university, it may take a while before I adjust to the new (and very cool) environment of the blog. Today I decided to start a blog primarily about my new scooter, and in so doing, share my experiences, discoveries and insights about changing from 4 wheels to 2. I’ve been truly inspired by a number of scooter and motorcycle blogs that I’ve been reading fairly avidly over the past few months. Two that particularly come to mind are Scooter in the Sticks and Big Guy Small Scooter. Let me just say that if you’re a scooter enthusiast (and perhaps a part-time philosopher like me), you need to have a look at these!

So, to get everything started then – first of all, let me introduce my scoot, photographed stylishly amid the backdrop of a generous neighbor’s charmingly dilapidated carport, replete with a whopping crack in the pavement and a back fence that has seen better days.

Isn’t it pretty?

my new scoot

Before you ask, no it doesn’t have a name, and no, I don’t think I’ll bother with one! At least for the time being, I can’t profess to a wealth of 2-wheeled experience. Actually, to be truthful, I don’t yet have a license… but I’m working on it! Before you begin – I only zoomed around the block once… ok, well, twice… and there weren’t any cars around… and I was only doing 20km/hr. Anyway, finger’s crossed, by the end of the week, I’ll have a big yellow L-plate attached to my number plate, then I can really go places.

So how did this incredibly stylish sports machine wind up in my possession, you ask? Well, it all began not long ago at a school disco. These places of excitement and wonder – where you may be lucky enough to have a first kiss and be asked out onto the dance floor – are absolutely dead boring when you happen to be a teacher at the tail-end of an 11 hour day with frankly better things to do than tell adolescent girls that no they can’t go into the hall unless they go and change, and yes that skirt is too short – no arguing, young lady!

Anyway, so there I am wandering around sipping a bottle of water that the boys at our local brother school made me pay for (the nerve… they should be paying me overtime!) Then I hear the obnoxiously loud roar of an engine, and a colleague/friend of mine Mark pulls up in leather on a beast with two gigantic wheels and a blinding headlight.

“Wow!” I remember saying to myself. “I wanna do that when I have my mid-life crisis!”

I’ve always been one for starting things early. So at 28, here I am with a TGB 101R 150cc sports scooter chained to a pole in our unit car park. All it took was the photo of this guy cruising on the highway (thanks www.scootersales.com.au) and I was desperate to hand over the cash.

tgb on the highway

No, that’s not me… yet!

April 3, 2007 Posted by | Learner riders | 2 Comments