“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do…”

That’s the most common reason we hear for getting in to motorcycling. But, where to start, that’s the question. Do you get a motorcycle first, or a license, or maybe the gear? What does it cost? How “risky” is it?

You need four things:

  • A license – Class 6 or 8 in BC
  • Riding Gear
  • A motorcycle
  • Insurance

There are three stages to the licensing process. You will begin with a knowledge test at an ICBC Driver’s Services or BC Access Centre, or at an ICBC affiliate in smaller communities. The test is based on the contents of “Learn to Ride Smart”, a manual available from Driver’s Services, or downloadable online. Pass the test, and you have a restricted Class 6L (or 8L if you are GLP). The second step is a motorcycle skills test or MST. That lifts some of the restrictions, and allows you to develop your skills in traffic to prepare for the final road test. Upon successful completion of that, you have a full license, although there can be some restrictions, depending upon what motorcycle you use for the road test.

Riding gear must protect you from the elements, and in case of contact with an object or the pavement.  It must do so while allowing the movement necessary to control the motorcycle, and be within your means.  Look first in your own closest; often clothing from other activities can be re-purposed for riding.  Consider the table below when choosing gear:

Materials Abrasion Resistance Wind Protection Water Proof? Impact Protection    Cost
Denim Low Low Low Low $
Nylon Low Moderate High * Low $$
Cordura Moderate High Moderate Low $$$
Kevlar Moderate-high High Moderate Low $$$$
Leather High High Low Low $$$$$
CE Armour High low low High $$

*if coated for water repellency.

Helmets cannot be re-purposed; only motorcycling-specific helmets that meet an industry standard are legal under the MV regulations.  Look for a helmet that fits well, is suitable for the type of riding you expect to do, provides an appropriate amount of protection, and is within your budget.  Consider the following:

helmet impact zones                         helmet types

When you really need a helmet, about 1/3 of the time the first impact is to the jaw area.  Full face helmets provide the best protection; modular helmets are somewhat less, but can be opened for ventilation when stopped, and are more convenient for those that wear glasses.

Because you need a motorcycle to get through the licensing process, would it make sense to get the motorcycle first? Not necessarily. If you take training with a riding school, the motorcycle may be provided. For example, V-Twin Motorcycle Riding School provides motorcycles for training in a variety of sizes and configuration. Some schools, like V-Twin, are also certified, which means they can provide the MST as part of the training (weekends and evenings included). That means you don’t have to get a motorcycle to the exam location during business hours to take the skills test. V-Twin also supplies a motorcycle for the road test, so you can easily become a licensed rider, then decide on what bike you want to ride, and maybe even take a test ride, or take part in a motorcycle demo ride where you can test a variety of bikes.

As with auto insurance, motorcycle insurance is divided into mandatory and optional coverage.  Liability insurance is required, and can only be purchased from ICBC through an agent.  Optional coverage can include collision, theft, and other specified perils.  It is available from various companies, many of which offer discounts for taking rider training through a licensed school such as V-twin Motorcycle Riding School.  Contact your insurance agent for more information.

Liability insurance through ICBC is priced by displacement class; bikes with smaller engines cost less to insure.  Class limits are at 100 cc, 400cc, 750cc, 1150cc.  Optional coverage is priced based on a variety of factors that may vary by insurance carrier.  They may include, but not be limited to: value of the motorcycle, type or use, experience of the rider, installation of anti-theft devices.

Is motorcycling a “risk” sport?  It seems many in the non-riding community think so.  Risk is defined as “the chance or possibility of loss or bad consequences”.  What many perceive as “risky” about motorcycling is in fact vulnerability; the consequences of an incident can be severe.  We believe it is important to manage risk; reduce the chance of bad consequences.  As a new rider, there are many ways you can do that.

Taking rider training from a qualified school like V-Twin is a very important first step.  Two major studies, the Hurt Report in the US, and MAIDS Europe, found that rider training significantly reduces the chance of an incident.  Wearing protective gear is important, and riding gear is available that can be comfortable across a wide variety of conditions, including hot summer days.  Being conspicuous in traffic, so that drivers identify you against a background of 4 wheel traffic, reduces the chance of a collision.  Not riding while impaired is also key; riding requires a much higher level of skill, including reflex, manual dexterity and balance.  Coupled with the vulnerability of a rider, anything that affects our skill or judgement can increase the chance of a bad consequence.