I couldn't understand it. Yesterday I was so confident and excited about riding a motorcycle. Today, all I could think about was the exam. I haven't been tested on anything since college and memories of my driving test at 16 years old came back to haunt me. You see, I failed my driver's test the first time around. I had practiced and practiced and felt completely ready to take my license, but when it came time to be tested and judged, my nerves got the best of me. During our motorcycle driving test on day two of our training, all that drama came flooding back from my teenage years. It turns out, I'm not good in test situations.
Let the Stress Begin…
We arrived at the Ontario Place parking lot first thing in the morning just as we had the day before. But this time, I was full of anxiety. What if I can't do the obstacles that they put in front of me? What if I fall over for no apparent reason?
Sure enough, my insecurities got the best of me and I made mistakes all day long. The Ontario Motor Roads division of Ontario Tourism has been with us every step of the way and they were filming our progress. Dave looked confident and at ease while I struggled. I started stressing out about the fact that I kept messing up in front of the cameras and asked the instructors if we could have them walk away for awhile. Nobody heard my pleas until I finally yelled, “stop filming me.” (something I wish I didn't do in retrospect, but when stress happens, there's no stopping how you react.) I felt like I was in some sort of reality show and I was the Omarosa of the group!
A few minutes later, I had tears in my eyes as our instructor Ginny gave me a pep talk. We had a 15 minute break where I went to the car to get my confidence back. I didn't understand why I felt so much anxiety, but I couldn't put my feelings aside, the more I tried to calm down, the more stressed out I got. Then a wonderful fellow student named Emily came over to see how I was doing. When she explained that she was feeling a bit of stress herself, I felt much better. Dave said the same thing to me in the car, but I think I needed to hear it from a stranger. Within a few minutes I was smiling again and ready for the second half of the morning.
My driving got much better and I became more confident. I have no problems with actually riding the bike. I feel confident in my skills, but passing the test, that's what I worried about. We had only this one weekend to get it right. The next week we'd be in Ireland and after that we are supposed to start our practice rides and summer travel itinerary. It wasn't like we could just come back the following weekend and try again. This was our one chance to pass. With each task, I felt that I was already being graded and the instructors were deciding right then and there who was suitable to ride the bike. I know that wasn't the case, but my brain wouldn't turn off that thought. “Uh oh” it would say when I stopped too late or made a wide turn, “they see you aren't doing a good job and will remember this!”
The end of the Morning
After spending the morning practicing our skills, we took an hour away from it all for lunch. I needed to get away to clear my mind for the exam because right after lunch we were going to go through the test route and then start the examination. While away, I Suddenly felt more confident and ready. I have a tendency to freak out hours before things and then when show time comes, I relax. Dave is opposite. He is relaxed all day long until the moment we have to do something.
Whenever we have a speaking engagement, I spend my morning panicking and worrying. I say things like “I forget everything we're talking about, that joke isn't funny!” And then once I enter the venue I calm down and get ready, while Dave loses his calm feelings and takes over the stress where I left off. He becomes quiet and starts to fret the closer we get to the task. Exam day was no different. He said he was starting to feel nervous while I suddenly felt ready to go!
I volunteered to go first. I might as well not prolong the agony right?
I went through the first 4 of 8 obstacles and felt amazing! I don't think I made an error and felt like I had the test in the bag. As soon as Dave started his ride, he fell into his usual confident self and did perfectly as well!
The next obstacle was going around the corner. This was my specialty, I've never missed this one during practice. I got into gear, picked up speed and started around the corner but I took it too wide and hit a pylon. Damn! I've never missed this one before.
Being a perfectionist is not a good trait to have when taking the exam. I knew I lost a point and now I was mad at myself. Our instructor Ginny told us all that we'd all most likely lose a point or two on our tests, but told us to make sure to brush them off, “Don't worry about a few mistakes, you are allowed some mistakes.” Why couldn't I brush it off? I had 11 points in total to lose and only 3 more obstacles to go. I should pass with flying colours.
Dave went through the corner beautifully and I was so proud of him. He was made to ride.
The next task was emergency stopping. This was another great one for me. After struggling through ‘S' turns during practice in the morning, our next lesson was emergency stopping. I remember our other instructor Leah saying to me, “I think you found your strength!” During the exam though, I took it too slow and didn't get into second gear speed. I had to go again, but faster.
I felt like I was competing at Wimbleton for final match point but if I double fault, I'd lose. This was the same, I was allowed a second chance, but if I didn't do it perfect, I'd fail. I turned the throttle and gained speed coming to a perfect emergency stop within the cones.
Yay! I did it.
Then I proceeded to drive off and stalled the bike. Ugh, another point gone. I hadn't stalled the bike all afternoon, why did I start now?
We had two more tasks and I was shaking at this time. The nerves had come back full force. I talked with the camera guys telling them, “I think I just failed” They were encouraging and told me there are a lot of points to be lost, don't worry.
So, after catching my breath, I got back into line and finished off the last two obstacles with no errors. I knew I passed, but I was pissed off with myself for making stupid mistakes. I'm a better rider than that!
I think Dave got a perfect score. I didn't see him make one mistake. But when all is said and done, we both passed and we're both equally certified. If the cameras and tourism Ontario weren't there, I know I'd walk away feeling good, but knowing that I was doing this for a story, and for the camera, and I wasn't perfect made me mad. It's a severe personality disfunction to want perfection. While everyone else was celebrating passing their motorcycle license, all I could dwell on was my mistakes.
To make matters worse, they took my perfection frustrations as insecurity in riding a motorcycle. We were informed by Ontario Motorsports that Ginny said I lacked confidence. She said I had the skills, but needed to gain confidence in riding. But I know that now that the test is over, I'll be riding with gusto, but it's impossible to prove that to them without them seeing it for themselves. During our last conversation Honda offered to have me train on an automatic bike. Their words were, “this will help you with confidence.” I was not happy about this. There is no way I'm using an automatic bike. If I'm going to ride a motorcycle, I'm going to ride it properly. Now that the testing's over, I'm ready to drive.
Follow along each Monday as the Motorcycle Diaries continue….
ThePlanetD’s Ontario adventures are in partnership with Ontario Travel and Outdoor Ontario….
MotorSoul Driving School runs motorcycle training courses for all skill levels all summer long.
Parts Canada is the national distributor of aftermarket parts and accessories for the Canadian power sports industry. They are exclusive to many brands including our amazing HJC helmets and Alpinestars boots, pants, jackets and gloves.