is where I'll chronicle my adventures in motorcycling.

VA Motorcycle Road Skills Test Exercise One

For this test you start with your front wheel on the T on the bottom-right part of the course. You ride towards the top-right corner and make a tight left turn, staying within the yellow lines. You then ride to the bottom-left part of the course and stop with your front tire in the 3' X 5' box.

The sharp left turn seems impossible if you are new to riding. It would seem you need to go really slowly, or that you have to turn the handlebars sharply to make the turn. However, what you need to do is lean the bike. Leaning is what makes this kind of sharp turn possible. You put pressure on the left handle bar to push it down, and the bike will begin to turn that way. Be sure to try this in the open first, without regard for any lines. Get to know the bike and how to make it react and turn the way you want. Then practice within the lines. Keep your speed up enough to stay upright, or you will dump the bike.

Stopping in the box sounds easy, but it takes some practice. Additionally, as best I can tell from one of my testers, you have to stop with your front wheel entirely in the box, not just with where the rubber meets the road in the box. After I stopped, my tester put his foot on the line of the box and raised his foot up, as if checking to see if I had broken the plane. Keep your speed nice and low while approaching, though don't stop too early, because you aren't allowed to put your foot down or restart.

VA Motorcycle Road Skills Test Exercise Two

For this test you start at the T on the bottom-left part of the course. You get rolling, and then weave between the cones. You go to the left of the first cone, to the right of the second, to the left of the third, and so on. After you get past the last cone, you turn to the right and head back towards the bottom-right part of the course. Then once your front wheel is within yellow lines at the bottom of the course, you make a tight right-hand turn. The turn has to be completed within the inner yellow line for bikes under 500cc, or within the outer yellow line for bikes over 500cc.

Once again the turning parts of this test step may seem impossible. Even more than the first step, you have to be comfortable leaning the bike to make turns. For the cones you have to lean hard one way, then be able to lean hard the other way for the next cone. Keep your speed low but moving, and use the clutch and gas to stay at a steady speed. The cones are 12' apart and offset by 3' for the test, but practice with larger spacing at first. I started at 18' with 0' offset. After getting the basic technique down, I moved the cones closer and increased the offset. Instead of buying cones, I used 2" metal washers wrapped in masking tape. All you need is something that will give you a visual cue (and something that won't cause you to crash if you hit it).

For the U-turn maneuver make sure you know the size of your bike's engine. Most street legal bikes start at 600cc, but smaller bikes and street legal dirt bikes may be smaller. You start your U-turn inside the yellow 'U', and all you have to do is complete the turn within the yellow 'U', you don't have to also stop within the 'U'. I was almost failed for not stopping in the yellow 'U', but a supervisor corrected the person administering the test. Don't go riding off too far, but don't crash trying to take the turn too tightly to try to stop in the yellow 'U'.

For the above two test steps you only get one shot to try each step. You get points off for putting a foot down or hitting a line, and if you get too many points off you fail. If you fail to complete step one, you can't go on to step two. For steps three and four, the examnier will generally give you two shots at it. These two steps deal with taking measurements of your reaction, so there is some leeway allowed. But beware, my test administrator told me that you can repeat the second two steps, but she didn't say how many times. So after I didn't do test step three correctly the first time, I just tried again. After I didn't do it correctly the second time, I figured I'd get another shot. But I was failed. Although I wasn't told that repeat only meant repeat once, that's what they held to.

VA Motorcycle Road Skills Test Exercise Three

This step tests your ability to stop quickly, which is dependent on your ability to use both brakes to stop, rather than just the rear brake. You start at a 'T' towards the top of the course, get up to speed, and then when you cross the red line, you start braking. They measure how long it takes you between two points and measure your stopping distance. They then look up numbers on a chart to compute if you stopped quickly enough for the speed at which you were traveling.

Pay attention to how fast they say you need to be going. You'll really have to give it some gas to get up to the speed. You then have to hold that speed until you cross the line and start braking. To brake properly, be sure to apply both the rear brake and the front brake. It is OK to have some skidding occur. Once you come to a stop, put your foot down and steady the bike, staying right where you stopped. Let them take the measurement. If they fail you after the first time, ask politely if you can try it again.

VA Motorcycle Road Skills Test Exercise Four

This step tests your ability to swerve at speed, as if avoiding car that has unexpectedly stopped in front of you. You start at the 'T' at the top of the course and ride towards the examiner, who is standing near the red line drawn in the stopping test measurement marks. As you ride up, the examiner will indicate which way you should turn. Turn in that direction and stay within the red lines. Come to a stop before the end of the course.

Ignore the yellow lines for this step entirely. Although they are shown on the DMV test layout document, they are not used for this step. The main point is to turn before the 7' red line, and stay within the 15' red lines.

Be sure to bring a copy of the DVM test layout document that explains the purpose of each test step. It may come in handy if you need to discuss a point with the examiner. If you think it is needed, don't be afraid to ask to speak to supervisor. That is entirely your right. Be respectful and polite, but don't let them dismiss you or your concerns. Don't accept subjective judgments. The DMV test layout document states: "The procedures used to score your performance are objective." Pass or fail, be sure to thank everyone you deal with and shake hands.

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