The sunshine has many motorcyclists polishing their chrome and taking advantage of getting out on the open road without the chance of showers dampening the mood.
In the spirit of learning the proper techniques, the Vancouver Island Safety Council offers programs for those who have never been on a bike, as well as riders looking to give their skills a bit of a tuneup.
Stirling Bates, a senior instructor with the Safety Council, said riders can save themselves some grief by not only learning fundamental skills but also how to interact with other road users.
“One of the most encouraging parts of our program is the number of parents that send their children to us,” he said, adding that many of those parents are riders who have taken the courses. That is the number one compliment the program could get, Bates said.
While it may be the more-pleasant year-round riding conditions, or the longer, drier summers we’ve had of late, Bates said they’ve seen a modest increase in people taking their classes over the years.
“We have people as young as 16 with no car driving experience … to people in their 70s,” he said with a laugh. Sometimes instructors wonder why riders wait that long. “Everybody’s got their own story.” Those stories and experiences are often swapped when riders take a break.
While empty-nesters with time on their hands and those with more disposable income make up a certain portion of the course participants, Bates said the latest trend is for more younger riders to get involved.
“We used to get people in their late teens or early 20s, or people in their 40s and beyond.” Now, they are seeing a lot more post-secondary students and young professionals getting into it.
“I’m always surprised with the number of doctors and nurses that take our course,” Bates said, especially given the bad reputation motorcycle riding can have amongst emergency professionals. “If you do it properly, it can be very pleasurable.”
The Safety Council’s programs focus on three areas: skill building, riding proactively with space management, and a general perspective of the road that helps riders see how the decisions made by other motorists can impact them. “Then when you’re expecting them, it’s no surprise,” Bates added.
The Langford-based non-profit has lessons for novices with no riding experience and a traffic skills course for riders looking to gain real-world experience. There’s also expert rider programs for people with varying experience and skill levels who want to expand their horizons.
It’s these programs that Bates said attract riders from all over the region, Vancouver Island and sometimes the B.C. mainland.
“Training is not universally available across the province.” He said for riders in areas north or east of Hope “there’s not training available for them.”
A number of the courses are taught at Western Speedway in Langford and at Camosun College’s Interurban campus, which Bates said allows them to practice on a closed course, helping to limit the number of distractions.
At Western Speedway, he said “the worst distraction we get is Canadian geese and deer walking across.”
With new courses starting almost weekly, space is filling up quickly — and slightly earlier than usual due to the weather.
“We always encourage people to register early,” he said. While there are still some spaces in upcoming programs, Bates said that by May, there is usually about a two-and-a-half month wait for courses.
For more information go to visafetycouncil.com.