First, I passed the motorcycle driving exam, which means I now have a license for driving the biggest and heaviest bikes. I was nervous but managed to keep quite calm even though my heart was beating at 180 all the time. The examinator simply said something like “well, that was full points on everything”, and it took a second or two for me to understand that I actually passed.
When I got home I called on an ad for the previously mentioned bike, Suzuki VL 800 Volusia from 2001 (or Suzuki Intruder Volusia as it was called that particular year even though it has very little do do with the rest of the Intruder family). Two hours later my friend Alex came and picked me up on his new Harley Davidson Night Train, and we went to see the bike in the ad.
Since I had only been riding sport/sport-touring bikes before, it was quite a big change to be seated as low as on the Volusia, and the wide handlebar took some getting used to as well. But I loved it. And the sound! After a 10 minute test run I came back with a grin on my face. “I’ll take it. Definitely.”
Papers were signed, money were exchanged and I was on my way home with my brand new bike.
The seller was kind enough to follow me home in a car so that I could get the original exhaust pipes with me, and after a short stop at home to drop them off, we went out riding again. We met up with Lasse and his girlfriend, and we took a long nice trip to Ekerö. After an extremely nice swim we went back, I think we were gone for about 3 hours total.
Couldn’t be happier with the license, the bike and everything. Awesome day.
Tomorrow it is time again for the motorcycle exam. I think I’m even more nervous this time, partly because my vacation starts next week and it is almost entirely planned based on bike driving. So if I fail again I really don’t know what to do this summer. Exam times are still hard to come buy, so I might not get another try until mid August or September.
I’m way to wound up to sleep now, but I’ve got to try. Big day tomorrow.
I’ve been pretty much settled for buying a Suzuki Marauder 800 when I get my motorcycle driver’s license (final exam – again – in 11 days).
However, after reading a bunch of reviews, particularly one at Motorcycle Cruiser, I’ve decided to change my goals to a Suzuki Volusia 800 instead, with the Honda A.C.E Shadow 750 as a secondary choice.
The Volusia does not only have a much better comfort, both for driver and passenger, it also handles better, is stronger and has less vibrations. The fact that it has a shaft drive instead of a chain also means that I’ll save about 1500SEK a year in maintenance cost. It is however more expensive to buy, but in the long run you will gain on it.
I am now up to about twice the price of a bike since what I planned this spring, and I’m not sure if I can afford a Volusia at the moment. A third option is to buy a smaller Kawasaki EN 500 for about 20’000 SEK less this season, and aim for a Volusia or similar next year instead. That would also give me time to get more comfortable with the Stockholm traffic, and damaging the bike wouldn’t cost as much.
Tomorrow I have the final exam for my motorcycle driver’s license. Would gladly have done it much earlier, but the schedule both for my driving school and the transport agency has been full, so few slots for both practice and examination.
I think (and hope) that I’ll pass, I’m fairly confident in handling the bike, but I’m really afraid I will miss something simple and fail due to that. Like missing a speed limit sign or forgetting to check the blind spot when changing lanes.
Today I went shopping for almost 9k SEK – Motorcycle gear is expensive!
At first I was going to get Condura/Gore Tex or some other water resistant fabric, but none of the clothes fit well due to my build. Or actually, one jacket fit really well, but it wasn’t water resistant and I couldn’t find any matching pants. So I decided to step up in price a bit and go for leather. Even though it’s not very water resistant and can be really warm in the summer, it’s both safe and very good looking. Plus, it matches the kind of bike I’m going to ride much better!
When I got home I called on the bike I’ve been setting my mind on, a Suzuki VZ800 Marauder from 1998. It was still available, and if I pass the license exam I will go and hopefully pick it up tomorrow.
So two outcomes are possible:
1. I fail the exam and have to wait another month or so for a new try.
2. I come home in the afternoon, riding my new bike in my brand new clothes.
Today I took the practical safety education course, which is since this year a mandatory step before you can take the written or practical exam for the motorcycle driving license. This was held at Gillingebanan.
We started with some introduction in a classroom, talking about our previous experiences and what we hoped to learn today. Shortly thereafter, we changed into driving clothes provided by them. Since this is a new education, everything was brand spanking new, from clothes to the bikes. A nice change from the clothes at Slussens trafikskola, where most of the gear have seen better day (and it’s not uncommon that when you take on the jacket it is still moist and sweaty from the previous driver – even if you have the first pass of the day.
The bikes we drove were Honda CB600FA Hornet, a 600cc bike with over 100 horsepower, about 10 hp more than the Suzuki GSX 750 that I’m used to from driving school – but with less weight. Fun bike! It also has ABS brakes which was a new experience for me. Just a few days ago I locked the front wheel brake when going in 70 km/h (about 45mph). This was at the end of the brake path, but it was still quite scary to feel it slide without being able to fully control it. Today I hit the brakes hard when going in 110 km/h (70mph), and with full control. ABS can add a bit to the length of the brake path, but it is so much nicer to use, not having to worry about locking the brakes!
We also learned about different turning techniques, most of which I knew from before. But it was surprising how much you could turn just by pressing your feet down on the foot pegs while letting go of the handlebar completely with your hands. My favorite is however still using counter-steering; pushing the handlebar forward on the right side if you want to turn to the right and vice versa. It’s also most effective if you want to turn quickly to avoid an obstacle.
Reaction time, line of sight and other things were also demonstrated and discussed, and the general feeling was very good. The teachers were very happy and enthusiastic, which is also contagious in a good way.
It was however very warm, and a lot of discussions were between driving sessions where we just turned off the bikes and opened the helmets (flip-up type). So in the heat from the sun in black, warm clothes you got soaking wet.
At the end of the day there were some more discussions in the classroom, and a few of us also got to drive a virtual motorcycle. It was a mock-up bike with a seat, a fully equipped handlebar and foot pegs with brake and gear pedals. This was in turn hooked up to a computer connected to a projector and speakers, and you got to drive around in a 3D environment with a lot of common dangers. I almost hit a door that was flung open right in front of me, but managed to brake in time. One of the other students crashed several times, and it was a good lessons of common hidden dangers.
All in all, it was a very good experience. I learned some new stuff, and I had fun.
Tomorrow I’m taking the written exam, and after that I have only the practical exam left.
I have now been driving for a couple of weeks and am really making progress.
I have my written exam in about two weeks and I’m pretty confident that I will do well there. 65 questions in 50 minutes, where you have to have at least 52 correct answers.
The practical exam, which you can’t schedule until you have passed the written exam, has five parts.
It starts with a security check for the bike where you have to know how to check the all vital parts of the electrical system, breaks, wheels & tires, bearings and a bunch of other stuff.
After that is a low speed driving test, which looks something like this:
The above should be done as slow as possible, no faster than you normally walk. I’ve got most of it under control, but needs some more polishing before final tests. For some reason I keep forgetting to keep my eyes up in the distance, which you need to do for proper balance (like a line dancer). I also need to remember to squeeze my thighs to the gas tank, to keep the body and bike balance together.
The high speed part looks like this:
Last time I tried this I instinctively used the front brake when turning around the last cone, and since the bike was leaning so much to be able to turn in that narrow space, I of course crashed. The knee pad took the blunt of the force, and I tore the fabric of the pants tore open (belonged to the traffic school). However, I strained my arm either when falling or when lifting the bike up (dry weight is 220kg/485lbs). That was about a week ago, and it still hurts a bit when lifting stuff. Anyway, need some more practice for this part.
After this comes the brake test, where you have to demonstrate hard, controlled brakes from 70km/h (45mph) and 90km/h (55mph), using both front and back brakes. I haven’t actually tried at those speeds yet, but I often lock the back brake (ABS not allowed) and forget to look up, same as in the low speed test, when braking from 50km/h (30mph). So some more practice needed here as well.
Last out is the traffic test, where you drive both inside and outside of a city towards a given target or directions given by radio through a variety of roads and streets with different traffic intensity. You will be judged by your driving position, selection of gear, attention, Eco driving and how you technically handle the bike. This part takes about 25 minutes.
But before I can even take the written exam, I have to take (and pass) a practical safety education, where you for 5 hours will be tested and teached about hard accelerations, braking from high speeds and driving independently. The idea is to learn not to overestimate your ability and the dangers of different road types. Gravel is a bitch in curves! This is scheduled one day before the written exam, so if I don’t pass I have to redo it. And pay another 1925 SEK for this, and another couple of hundred SEK for the written exam, which I will have to reschedule. Taking a driver’s license in Sweden is expensive, and most people spend at least 15000-20000 SEK altogether. Which is too bad, since then you don’t have any money left to buy a bike. 😉
Speaking of bikes, I have refined my wishlist a bit, and the following bikes are now the most interesting:
These bikes all have the look I’m after, and even the smallest of them have well enough performance for a first bike. And even if many cc’s and a fat sound from the pipes are fun, they are not that important to me. More important for my first bike is maneuverability, reliability, comfort and price. I mean, after a year or two I can always trade up to 1600 cc if I feel I suddenly need to compensate for something. 😉
I have now finally signed up for motorcycle driving lessons at Slussens Trafikskola, and paid for 10x80min lessons in advance. I get money back for unused lessons, but a better price if I pay bulk. First driving lesson is in 4 weeks, and it might be earlier if the weather allows it. In three weeks I will also attend a 3½ hour safety lesson that is mandatory for the license.
I’m also considering buying som gear from C.A.F.D Motorcycle Armor, who has very good prices for clothes that apparently is made in the same factory and by the same people as Arlen Ness, just without the brand. I am however a bit skeptic to buying gear for several thousand without testing them first. But when on a tight budget (I still need a bike!), there is only so much you can afford. If anyone have any other suggestions for cheap but good motorcycle gear (preferably in the Stockholm region), please leave a comment.
Regarding bikes, I have decided to wait with buying one until after getting my license. I have nobody to really practice driving with nearby, and it would mostly stand outside waiting for me without being used. Plus I can’t really afford one now unless I get one really cheap.
Anyway, I have narrowed down my list of potential bikes to the following (in order of probability due to availability and price):
Kawasaki EN 500/750 Vulcan
Suzuki LS 650 Savage
Honda Shadow 600
Yamaha XVS Dragstar 650
Honda Black Widow 750
I have three requirements: It shouldn’t be to old (aiming for 1998-2001), it shouldn’t be to pricey (30’000 SEK is MAX what I will be able to afford, if even that), and it should have or be able to have a sissy bar since I will take M on vacations with it. Also, the lower the better as I’m not too tall.