I'd like to introduce you to Nancy and her pretty blue Yamaha Vino. I met Nancy and her scooter when she came to retest on the skills test. Nancy had not passed the first time. Students under a certain score threshold are given the opportunity to try it again. Nancy was joining our group as they took their skill test for the first time.
The scooter arrived at the range on the back of a pickup. Busy coaching my students, I didn't watch the unloading process closely. I did notice it was odd that the ramp being used was a long 2 X 4. The pickup was quite tall. Unloading the scooter went well. Later on, when it was being reloaded, there were a couple of hairy moments. So much so that Jeff, who was auditing the class and whom you met here a few posts ago, felt compelled to run over and help to steady the scooter.
We send the students for a 15 minute break prior to conducting the skills test. During this time we run a warm-up exercise for students joining us for the retest. I introduced myself to Nancy. I could tell she was quite nervous. Most of them are. Understandably, of course. My first self-imposed task is to try to put the students more at ease.
In the last three years or so I've noticed something interesting about my rapport with students. It seems I've developed this ability to quickly and easily bond with middle-aged and older women. It's both satisfying and scary. Being able to bond with students is useful. An increasing number of students fall into the above named category. I feel more effective with these students. On the other hand, what does it say about me? That gray in my sideburns only happens because my helmet rubs and damages the hair follicles. Really.
Nancy bought the scooter to be, in her words, "A garage sale Mama."
Students often have this huge mental struggle with the offset cone weave. Nancy was no exception. She claimed to have failed the test because of it. What's interesting is that nobody can fail on one given exercise. A student can have up to 20 points and pass. The most points a student can get in one exercise, short of outright dropping the bike, is 10. I've seen a couple of 8 point scores but even the weak students usually only score about 6. Even at 8 points in the cone weave, there's still 12 to burn in other places.
If a student fails the evaluation it's because there's a demonstrated general lack of control. It might be just nerves or a lack of ability. The evaluation and scoring discussion and its relevance can take up several posts. The important part for this post is that the cone weave gets most of the blame. Maybe it's the reputation floating around there from failed DMV tests. Whatever the reason, it's become the "Dreaded Cone Weave"!
So we finish the warmup for Nancy. Her scooter is parked in staging at the back of the group. Now Nancy tells me that she never successfully completed the cone weave when she took the class. She also stated that she really wished the instructors would have ridden her scooter in the weave so she could see it. I don't know if what she said about not being successful was true or not. I was not there. That's all I can say about that.
There's a few minutes left in the break. So I put on helmet and gloves. Nancy gives me permission to ride the weave on the Vino. Which I do. Quite successfully, I might add. I put the bike back in line. Here's where the bending the rules part comes in. I know some instructors are reading this. I'm probably busted. It was nice teaching while it lasted!
We're told that retests are there to do exactly that, not to retrain. However, I'm faced with a woman who is going to be on the streets legally the next day if she passes. Does she really have the low speed control she'll need for riding a 150cc scooter? Does she have the confidence that she can control the scooter? Confidence counts for a lot when a rider faces making a critical decision. Do I follow policy to the letter or do I satisfy myself as a professional that this woman leaves with a very important skill? I can't take long but I decide to give it a quick shot. My coaching can't be nearly as long as my blog posts!
Nancy is still geared up. I tell her to ride the weave and let me watch. I observe that she is doing two things detrimental to her success. She's waiting too long to initiate the next lean. All the while she's also rolling on the throttle and gaining too much speed. I give her two pieces of coaching. Short and sweet. Maybe my long blog posts are a release from having to give two or three word coaching tips on the range!
I tell Nancy to start thinking about the next lean as soon as the front tire clears the cone. I also show her how to roll a little bit of throttle then plant her thumb on a flat spot to keep it steady. I had watched two runs. I coached her after that. Her next run was successful. That's all the time we had. By the way, that same advice works really well for big cruisers. More on that in the next post.
When the students were leaving staging to get in line, I patted Nancy on the shoulder. I told her, "don't accelerate, just lean". She nailed a perfect offset cone weave in the eval. Nancy also passed the whole test with a decent score. The picture above was taken after I told Nancy she passed. Can you see her beaming?
I think all Nancy needed was confidence. Conquering a personal demon does a lot for that. It's amazing how a mental block can screw up everything else. I decided helping her face the challenge was a worthwhile pursuit. What I observed about her other skills during the eval confirmed that. She had a good foundation. We just needed to shore up a corner of it some.
On a side note, I'd urge anyone teaching motorcycle safety classes to spend some time on a scooter. I know that quite a number of readers here ride scooters. Reading your blogs and your comments has helped me tremendously. Let me offer my sincere thanks for what you have shared. I feel I have a much better awareness of the validity and value of scooters in the riding world because of it. I take them and their riders very seriously. So much so that I have gone and ridden several different models on my own. Begging, borrowing, and stealing all along the way! More people are bringing scooters to classes. Instructors owe it to their students to learn the quirks and differences. In some ways they're more twitchy. In other ways, they seem to take longer to respond. Having a good understanding is part of being truly professional, in my humble opinion. Ok, maybe not so humble. Whatever.
All in all, it was a win-win situation. Both Nancy and I came away with positive experiences. I wish her all the joy in the world as she enters the two wheeled world as a full fledged member!
Miles and smiles,