Back to (driving) school: Getting A-license

Until now I have been licensed to drive motorcycles under power of 35 kW so I have had so called A2-license. My CB500F is actually made for that license class. This spring I took a project to get the biggest motorcycle driving license that I can get: A-license. I could have done it last year too, but then I would have had to do driving tests again and it would have been more expensive (and more difficult). But this spring I’ve had my A2-license for two years and I can get the A-license only by just attending a couple of theory and driving lessons. Easy! And fun!

Sidenote: I drove A2-license at the age of 23. If I had been 24 years old I could have driven the big A-license right away (I just couldn’t wait!)

Theory lessons

Class room

It’s stupid to call them “theory lessons”.. it was more of a conversation between me and my teacher because I was the only “student” in the class. We talked about how driving has been during these two years, have I had any problems etc. It was easy for the teacher because I’ve actually been riding many kilometers and gained experience whereas some people coming to this same course haven’t driven at all. I shared my stories of my trips and our track days etc.

One thing the teacher wanted to remind me about was braking with a motorcycle and braking distances. That’s something we sometimes forget if everything is going great. We might not pay attention to safety distance until we really need them. Other questions he asked were: “Which stops faster: a car or a motorcycle?”, “How much does the front tire brake and what about the rear tire?” Good stuff to think about!

Driving lessons

The course included 5 driving hours and the teacher suggested we drive them all at once. Benefit from that would be that we can drive further away to one bigger training area and drive some curvy roads at the same time.

My driving day was 13th of June and the day started at 12:30. Weather forecast predicted rain and thunder around 17:00 so I put on my textile outfit waterproof lining on it just in case. I got to wear my outfit, but my helmet was replaced with the school’s helmet because it had an intercom on it.

The bike was a golden Honda Hornet (600cc) from year ~2007. So about double the horsepower I have on my CB500F. Sitting in the saddle I reached the ground with my toes so just enough for me to ride the bike. Didn’t feel very secure with it though! I noticed two things right away:

1) This bike had a really different riding posture compared to my naked bike. The foot pegs situated higher so it was more of a sport bike riding posture.

2) The seat was wider.

Other than that (controls, handlebar..) it was pretty much the same as my bike. They’re both Hondas so of course Hondas are alike! One minor difference was that blinker button and honk were other way round. On my bike blinker is underneath the honk and on this Hornet blinker was on top of the honk. Caused me to honk accidentally once!

Hornet and my teachers’ (there was also a to-be-teacher with us) bikes.

I’m not the most technical person and I don’t know much about motorcycles technically so I can’t really say anything about the technical difference. In my opinion turning the Hornet in slow speed was more difficult or it didn’t feel as smooth as with the CB500F. Well the bikes have a 10 year gap between them so of course there would be some technical difference! In faster speed handling the bike was feeling more familiar.

First I took couple laps on the parking area next to the school and got used to handling the bike. It didn’t took very long and then we headed towards Riihimäki because there would be this bigger training area (Riihimäen Ajoharjoittelukeskus) for motorcycles (and cars). Everything went quite smoothly in my opinion. Hornet was nice to ride. We rode some small curvy roads, highway and one small dirt road. The dirt road wasn’t the worst dirt road I’ve ridden so it was quite easy. On highway I got to speed up a little, feel the horsepower and steadiness of the bike.

On training track

On the training track I got to practice the handling tasks we usually have in driving school: driving slowly, yielding, emergency braking… There was also this big roundabout to practice continuous curve. Slow driving was good and the teacher kept reminding about looking in the direction where I’m going. Sometimes I forget it even though it’s very important!

Emergency braking was okay too. Once I started to lift up my foot from the peg too soon and almost tripped the bike over because of that, but otherwise it was fun. Hornet had combined ABS brakes meaning if I really step on the rear brake it will start braking with the front brake too. Useful in real emergency situations, but better just to imagine they don’t exist and use the front brake normally.

Yielding was awful. I can’t really do it with my bike either so it was a disaster with this bike. Need more practice! Though now I know where the problem is (beside in my head): I need to look where I’m going, not stare on the freaking cones (easily said than done)!

Light rain started when we were riding the continuous curve so I felt really cautious turning the bike. Anyway I think it went pretty good even though there wasn’t much of a leaning angle.

On the way back home it started to rain more and more so we took almost the shortest way back. Too bad because we would have gone to practice braking on dirt roads, I think.. Well, I can practice that on my own too!

Here’s two videos of the slow driving part:

The feeling afterwards

After the lesson I took my CB500F to ride it home. Now I really noticed the difference in the riding posture! It felt like my feet are almost touching the ground and the seat was narrower. It took some time to get used to my little bike, but I learnt to appreciate him in a new way. It was heaven to reach the ground properly again!

After riding the Hornet I was hurting from the backside of my knees, elbows and lower back. Well of course we had ridden like 4+ hours which is a long time, but with my bikey my places don’t get that sore.

Am I getting a bigger bike now?

For me getting the A-license doesn’t mean I’m buying a bigger bike. I love my CB500F and just an idea of selling him makes me sad! Of course you should never say never, but that’s the way I feel at the moment. Even though I’m not buying a bigger bike I still dream of test driving different bikes… If I ever have the courage to do so.

Then why did I get the A-license? Honestly, just to get it out of the way. I felt like if I don’t do it now I might not ever do it. Also I’m financially secure now (if somebody’s interested, the price tag was almost 500€) so I felt comfortable paying for it and who knows how Finnish law regulations are going to change in the future; now it was pretty simple to get the A-license.

Not only did I get to test drive a Honda Hornet, I got good tips which I can use when I’m driving my bike!

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