A Moto License BEFORE a Car License?
(Well just maybe….read on)

As I was driving through my neighborhood the other day, as a cager, I sort of had the world’s smallest epiphany!

Making my way around a very European and Un-American roundabout, I had kept my gaze focused all the way to my left and alternated this view repeatedly with my right towards entering traffic. It was almost as if I was riding on my motorcycle!

You see, I was not only peering or scanning straight ahead with only a casual attention paid to my left or right as I used to prior to learning how to ride all things moto, but I was also searching very far in the distance beyond the turning circle or the curve! Like so many skills that I have learned, painfully acquired and adopted into my cycle repertoire, this particular one has seamlessly graduated into my car driving.

It made me smile while realizing this! What other skills had I incorporated into my Cager driving….? It was definitely worth pondering. I pulled the car over to think about it, jot some notes down. Sometimes our physical bodies adapt and utilize skills so effortlessly from one actiivity to another that it causes one to question your habits, skills and attitudes while driving or riding your bike.

Scrambling scribbled notes down, my mind kept pulling parallels that I hadn’t put down on paper before.

Just the mere act of pulling over to the side of the road had changed! Yep- it was true! After being a biker I understand that when I park a car to the side of the road I make sure that I give enough room for traffic or other bikes to get by! Also when in the city, I make sure to check the driver’s side mirror prior to opening my door in anticipation of a possible oncoming car or bike.

I wrote down more skills and knowledge absorbed from biking.

(Side Note: When I entered the Washington State Motorcycle Safety course- I hated it. Having already acquired a motorcycle, I had been riding on the street already and commuting. I thought that I had nothing to learn or gain! I will admit here and now that at the time of the class I was oblivious to such basics as to what counter-steering was! This is how cocky WE ALL CAN BE! Thank your local, patient and caring Motorcycle Instructors!)

What else had my driving skills gained through motorcycles! The list continued. Hmmm…..what do I do now while driving a car that I hadn’t done prior to learning to handle a bike? Wow- it hit me! Almost everything! From how I approach driving a car for the first part of the day, how I highway drive and how I care about driving around other vehicles- especially my fellow bikers!

Prior to getting into my car for a real drive, just as I learned in Motorcycle Safety class, I check the tires, give the car a walk around, pay attention to the car’s oil and gas levels, spy the vehicle’s mirrors and glass as well as make sure I have everything that I need as a driver to make the ride safer and more comfortable. Examples include: Emergency gear in the back, cold gear for longer trips (In case of getting stuck), sunglasses for shiny days, tools, patch kit/tire repair, inflator and the list goes on! Did they teach me these things back in the day when I got a car license? Nope!

There are countless examples of skills and knowlege osmosis gained from motorbike riding while driving our caged vehicles down the road. Nowadays when I am traveling down the state roadway along a curve and I see a motorcycle approaching at a distance from the oncoming lane, I definitely widen my approach and give them plenty of room. I also make sure that I don’t blind oncoming motorcyclists with my high beams. With the advent and usage of overly powerful LED car headlights, this is something that we should all be concerned about as motorcyclists. There is brightening up our way to see down the road, and then there is blinding each other to the point of oblivion! (Enter the “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night” song here)

When driving in the rain or on hills generally while following BOTH motorcycles and cars, I now give them plenty of room to get started. I also never assume that just because someone is on a Dual-Sport 1000cc bike that he or she can make it over a construction plate or obstacle easily.

After learning to shift, clutch and countless engine and combination braking techniques, I appreciate listening to the engine of a motorcycle a lot more, and, thus I now listen to ALL vehicle engines a lot more. How does this help you may ask? Well it saved Motosquirrel money when realizing something wasn’t shifting correctly on my (Yes automatic) car from 1st gear into 2nd. I was able to get it checked, corrected and fixed right away without it costing thousands of dollars! Because of this engine whisperer/listening ability I can anticipate things like a distant Semi-Truck engine breaking while on the highway or when another motorcycle is coming up from behind or in trouble etc.

Because I am especially concerned about tire pressure on the motorcycle, I have become very aware of the tire pressures I see on cars as I encounter them on the roadway. Why stay behind an over-loaded truck whose tires are going to tear, slip or sneaker a flying object into your car? (Just like when on your bike).

When I can, as a driver, I look out for other cars and motorcyclists who need help. When I was first riding a bike I had to learn the choke and letting it warm up etc. On one particular ride, I had thought that I had run out of gas. Thankfully, all I needed to do was put the tank on reserve. But this challenged me to consider how I would move it in case of an emergency. Would I need to have straps, extra tools and, perhaps, a way to strap it down onto a delivery or tow vehicle?- These are all questions that Motosquirrel feels regular car drivers should have answers to. It is all too convenient to say “No Problem- I’ve got triple A!”. Which brings up a story of witnessing many folks in a multiple accident where there wasn’t ENOUGH triple A tow-trucks around due to it being a holiday! Be prepared people!

Did I mention that I now no longer shoot the windshield wiper cleaning fluid pump of my car while whizzing down the roadway unless I am positive that there are absolutely NO cars behind me?- Another derivitive of motorcycle riding. How about making sure that all loads on top of my car are secure! This translates well from both Motorcycles AND cars. We don’t want to lose anything off of our bikes, BUT we especially don’t want to be hit by any loosed debris flying off of a vehicle and hitting us while riding. Makes for an F’d up day! Also, I try to avoid hitting major potholes or divots in the road so as not to crack my wheels (When possible). Did I mention that I pay attention a lot more to how my car’s tires contact patch is sustained or hydroplaning in wet weather- another result of motorcycle experience…….or NOT assuming that what I see at a distance at night is an oncoming car with one headlight (or two at a much greater distance), but, perhaps, a motorbike approaching either slowly or at a great speed? Also what about NOT over-driving what my headlights can illuminate at night so that I may stop in time…………

The list goes on and on and……….on!

I am now of the opinion that people need to get a small CC’d motorcycle license PRIOR to driving their four wheeled monsters!

The skills, knowledge, appreciation of your and other peoples vehicles as well as improving your ride, safety, speed and efficiency are invaluable and too numerable to mention!

Learn to ride a motorcycle and get back to me!