The idea of needing a motorcycle license was a bit intimidating to me, to the point where I spent time researching bikes I could legally ride without one.
I was almost able to make that work. I loved the idea of a 50cc machine and the possibility of operating in the moped class. I was even willing to accept the underpowered status and get off the road when someone was behind me. But in New Hampshire, mopeds are limited to 2 horsepower, 30 MPH on flat terrain, and cannot shift. Automatic shifting is OK. The 50cc Honda Ruckus reportedly has 5 horsepower at 8000 RPM. I could see myself always pushing the limits of legality with 50cc scooter. I felt like the withering bureaucratic onslaught, in this case the DMV, was keeping me from my simple mode of transportation.
I assumed I would take a safety course and get my license that way, but when it came down to it, we bought the motorcycle and I had no license, and it was easier to just get a permit and start riding. New Hampshire has a digital motorcycle manual and I studied that pretty well and went down to Concord and applied for the permit.
You take a computerized test based on the manual and the clerk handling my case said, “People who don’t read the manual don’t pass the test.”
Fortunately for me the test was multiple choice and I am hard to defeat when I’m up against multiple choice. There were 25 questions and you had to get at least 20 correct. You could skip questions, which would effectively just move them to the end of the list.
There were some close calls with at least two good answers and I had to fall back on, “Why would they include this question? And what would they want the answer to be?”
In the end, I didn’t miss any and didn’t skip any so after the 20th question, I was done. I got my permit, good for 45 days, during which time I needed to take a riding skills test to get the actual license.
I’m busy building a retirement home so I had to fit in riding as best I could. The F650 is slightly heavy for me and slightly tall for me and it is not the smoothest thing at slow speeds with the clutch fully engaged. And frankly, it was scary riding it at first. I had lost whatever skill I ever had from 40 years ago. I didn’t know what the riding test was going to consist of and couldn’t find out, except to read about other states. The weeks began to slip by. At some point, I just made an appointment in order to avoid running out of time. They give the test on Thursdays and I left room to come back a week later if I failed the first attempt. I was getting way out of my comfort zone.
My appointment was at 9:00 A.M. and by some stroke of luck I arrived about 45 minutes early. Some riders were already being tested ahead of me and I was able to check in, get in the queue, and then watch what they were doing.
The first exercise required you to weave between 5 cones spaced 12 feet apart, then make a left U-turn inside a boundary and stop with your front wheel inside a 3-foot square box.
The second exercise had you starting from stop at the entrance to a tight right-turn, L-shaped lane 6′ wide with cones on the corners. Make the right turn while staying inside the lines then make a right U-turn inside a boundary.
The third exercise had you accelerate from stop to about 15-20 miles per hour and then brake hard after crossing a line. Your speed and stopping distance were computed and scored.
The final test was similar to the third, but you swerved around an obstacle instead of stopping.
10 demerits and you fail. Fall over on the bike and you fail. 2 demerits for putting your foot down, stalling, etc.
I thought I had a 50-50 chance of passing. The riders were all male in this case, all younger than I am, and some of them failed. But I was encouraged by a very wide guy ahead of me. He didn’t look capable of riding a motorcycle but he sat on a small cruiser and somehow he could make that bike do whatever he wanted, and at slow speed.
As I started towards the cones, my foot went down automatically, but the official either didn’t see it or didn’t give the demerits because it was before the cones. I made it through the cones okay. I rode the clutch, tried to keep my head up and avoid losing it. I U-turned and stopped with front wheel in the square. I made the tight right turn okay, barely. I got 2 demerits in the hard braking test. He made me repeat the swerve because I wasn’t going fast enough. Then he shook my hand. I had passed!
I noticed the guy after me was using a big, new Harley cruiser. I know he failed because he never came into the DMV building to pick up his license but the guy after him did. I felt bad for the Harley guy, but I could easily understand how it happened.
As for me, it was a big upper to have an actual motorcycle license and I felt very lucky to have passed. I could now ride anywhere in the country, on any public road, at night, take a passenger, on any size motorcycle. All this despite being barely able to ride the F650, a legal moving chunk of public danger. I would have to be super-careful.