Earning an M1 License with the CHP California Motorcycle Safety Program

In recent years, a strong desire to obtain my motorcycle license has gradually settled in me. This pressure reached a crescendo recently after visiting a motorcycle track where my friend tested his new Ohvale GP-2 racer. Plus, with a motorcycle endorsement on my driver’s license, I can review fun bikes and potentially even buy a DIY project (in what little free time I can scrounge outside of my current Mitsubishi Montero plans, Porsche Cayenne and 914).


When I reviewed a Vintage Electric Shelby e-bike earlier this month, the timing never looked better. Compared to my obsession with road cycling, the e-bike made for easy travel around West Los Angeles, dodging traffic (not to mention breaking a sweat) while hitting speeds my own thighs simply couldn’t create. this thumb throttle. A motorcycle sounds even better – literally – but given my amateur status, I decided to sign up for an approved California Highway Patrol California Motorcycle Safety Program course to learn to drive a motorcycle before leaving the DMV.


Classroom session first

A company called Drive Motorcycle Clutch gave me the closest and fastest opportunity. After browsing the website and shelling out over $350, the learning experience began with an in-class session held at BMW Motorcycles Long Beach– clearly hoping to sell bikes or gear to beginners – where instructor Carl Evans explained to our group all the safety risks of motorcycling versus riding a car. Evans reinforced the benefits of helmet design, retro-reflective fabrics and armored garments constructed from abrasion-resistant materials, then also walked us through how to actually control a modern motorcycle, from even how to turn on contact with the use of the various buttons and levers, and finally, the techniques of balance and direction necessary to move, stay in motion and stop without falling.


Clutch focuses on the CHP program with clever acronyms that take the concept of defensive driving to a new level. In fact, safe motorcycle riding can be considered aggressive riding, as riders need to be extra careful when surrounded by massive and unforgiving cars, trucks, and SUVs on the road. Examples include always following AAA guidance, a circular progression between awareness, evaluation and action. And when cornering, follow the acronym SPAT, which stands for Speed, Position, Aim and Turn.

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On the way to the range

All the theory in the world doesn’t go that far, however, and after a few hours Evans sent us to a nearby parking lot for an afternoon of real-life driving. The class split into bikes based on inseam size, although I headed for a BMW G 310 R because the suspension looked the coolest of anything available. Also, I thought a relatively sporty design might allow for a more similar stance to my road bike frame, unlike the cruisers and adventure bikes also available.


Later, I researched my bike and learned that the entry-level G 310 R pumps out 34 horsepower out of a 313cc, water-cooled single. Electronic ignition, ABS brakes and adjustable clutch and brake levers also contribute to the model’s everyday handling and ease of use for an educational tool.

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First motorcycle acclimatization exercises

The day on the range begins with a review of the physical controls. First, we climbed aboard with our right hand squeezing the front brake lever. Next, we went over the ignition key and switches, fuel cut, clutch lever, shifter, rear brake pedal and kickstand. Eventually, we turned the key, fired up the little single, then cut the fuel, applied the front brake again, and sped back down.


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Slow and steady progress

The initiation process began with drills designed to teach new riders about clutch slip. With the transmission first and the clutch lever pulled all the way, we rocked the bike back, onto our heels, then released the clutch enough to move forward about six to eight inches before pulling again. on the clutch. After rehearsing the rockabye a few times, our instructors trained us to slowly walk the bike under its own power for about 100 feet and back again.

These small steps helped those in our class who not only had never ridden a motorcycle before, but had never driven a car with a shifter. Many stalls have occurred, as the art of clutch and throttle feathering still produces in newcomers.

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Picking up speed, little by little

Finally, we proceeded with a progression of exercises intended to reveal the capabilities of the motorcycle, as well as the effects that the steering, throttle, clutch and brakes produce on a two-wheeled motor vehicle. The brakes probably surprised me the most, as the BMW’s actual acceleration seemed quite moderate, but simply applying the front brake and stepping on the rear brake pedal produced an immediate weight transfer to the front wheel and almost stopped the bike. That feeling probably stuck out a little more foreign to me than I’d hoped because so many other students had trouble getting past even 10 miles per hour so I never really experienced repeated use of the normal braking force.


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Take turns Take turns

Eventually, the instructors walked us through more exercises, introducing long, fast corners that taught us vision, tougher straight-line ABS braking tests, and low-speed turns with early attempts at off-balance. from the body. A few hours later, the riding portion of the day was over and we headed back for a recap with Evans in the classroom. After about another hour of reviewing everything taught in the morning session and how the lessons applied to real life, Evans handed out a 50-question multiple-choice test that takes about an hour. half hour. I went through each question twice and handed in the answer sheet knowing that I answered at least 90% correct. Turns out I only missed one, and Evans and I both joked about the ambiguous grammar in the question that led to my selection of C over B.

The lesson was adjourned for the evening after the written test, then resumed on the riding grounds the following afternoon. Probably the biggest surprise for me in the whole experience came when we regrouped for more riding and so many of the students who struggled the day before showed a marked improvement in their ability to ride faster, more smoothly and without incessant stalling. Just one night of processing the previous day’s lessons clearly made a huge difference.

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Come back for another day

This second day of driving we picked up the pace and practiced more advanced maneuvers, then came the final driving test, which basically included some of the drills we were already familiar with, but this time with point deductions. and timing thrown into the mix. To my surprise, every student passed, although the instructors were quick to point out that often one or two fail the riding part.

For students who pass the written and riding tests, Clutch sends the DMV DL 389 form by mail within 10 days. The DL 389 allows students to skip another driving test when applying for their motorcycle endorsement, so the only steps I had left after I received the form were navigating the boring DMV website and then taking a another in-person written test. I also submitted the forms for my real ID, although my entire visit to the DMV was less than an hour because I had made a reservation and brought all the proper documents.


Somewhat embarrassingly, I failed my first visit to the DMV’s written motorcycle test. I only reviewed the CMSP materials and brochures beforehand, rather than the study guides available on the DMV website, and many of the questions included different diagrams that we never studied, as well as strategies specifically different driving styles that were directly at odds with the lessons I learned at Clutch. But fortunately, the law allows three attempts and I succeeded the second time. Now I can’t wait to get out there and hone my skills while riding in the real world, rather than in a parking lot.

Whether I’ll ever buy my own bike is still a question, but I really want to find some good protective gear ASAP, because a new rider seems even more likely to need armor than someone with years of experience. I also need to expand my range of ridden bikes, whether by borrowing from friends, receiving media loans, or renting through sites like the Runners share application. Dirt bikes can also get into the mix. Only then, after much experience, will I feel confident enough to buy my own and experience the full thrill of two-wheeled motorcycle freedom.

Sources: clutchmotorcycletraining.com, motorcyclesafetyca.com, longbeachbmwmotorcycles.com, bmwmotorcycles.com, dmv.ca.gov and riders-share.com.


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