Not too long before we sat at our table over our cups of hot chocolate at the Happy Goat Café (one of my favourite spots for a coffee), dusk had fallen. The winter wind whistled against the windows and made us cherish the warmth of our drinks.
Peter was in his final semester of college and told me not only of his passion for motorcycles, but also about his desire to be an architect. His plan, he shared with me, will take six years, but he is on the way to his dream. He now has a diploma in the Architectural Technician program from Algonquin College and is currently working at Richcraft Homes as an Architectural Technician.
When he is not working, he spends his time riding motorcycles and swing dancing.
When asked what his dream job would be, he said that it would be to either become a residential architect or motorcycle designer. He also explained that the two are ‘not mutually exclusive’ as he can work on motorcycles over the weekend.
His interest to become an architect began when one of his high school teachers recommended an architect course. This opened up the possibility of architecture for him as a career, rather than just a hobby. When asked why he preferred residential to industrial architecture, he said ‘a good house is important to keep stress away and have a space you can enjoy being in. That helps you not become over stressed and allows you to always have a place you can go to reset yourself.’ I definitely agree and when the time comes where I want to design mine, I’ll know who to call.
My next question was a bit of an obvious one for someone whose dream job is to build houses… what would yours look like? His response made me laugh and reminded me of my brother and dad who are both car guys. He said that he would like to find an enormous warehouse and convert the top level into living space while the bottom portion would be used as a garage for his motorcycles.
The beginnings of a passion
I don’t know about you, but my parents would not be okay with me driving a motorcycle at 16. They aren’t quite okay with my desire to own and drive one even now. Peter’s father on the other hand was one of the primary reasons why he became interested in motorcycles. His dad, he told me, drove a moped at 16 and has been riding motorcycles ever since.
When most teenagers turn 16 years old, they run (or have someone else drive them) to take their G1 test so they can drive a car. Well, Peter did something much different. He passed his M1 and M2 (the tests required to drive a motorcycle) and automatically received his G1.
Peter explained that he owned his first car before a motorcycle, but did buy one soon afterwards.
His current motorcycle is a 1986 Ninja 1000 that he bought for $500 two years ago. He explained that it was in extremely rough condition and ‘if I wanted the bike to run, I had to do the work myself’. This led to the other portion of his passion of working on and repairing motorcycles. He prefers German or Japanese motorcycles that are from the 80s or 90s because they have simpler parts. While he favours working on older bikes because he doesn’t feel as bad about taking them apart compared, he does still like the newer models quite a lot.
When asked why he prefers motorcycles to cars, he explained ‘driving a car is about the destination, riding a bike is about the journey,’ ‘you just get to ride.’ Peter impressed on me that riding a motorcycle was more about the experience than the destination. When working on a bike, he said, the engine is also more accessible than a car, which makes it easier to improve.
How to Start Riding
Lately there has been a large amount of bad press surrounding driving a motorcycle because of several recent crashes. Transport Canada says that motorcyclists only made up 10.8% of fatalities by road users in 2015, but when you consider that there are only so many months when there is no snow on the ground, that is still quite a lot. It can be dangerous, but I’ve been told by Peter that it’s worth it and there are quite a few things you can do as a driver to maintain your safety before starting and once you’re on a motorcycle.
One of the first things in almost every article I have read about driving or being a passenger on a motorcycle is that before starting out, it is an absolute necessity to have the proper equipment. In our interview, Peter explains that having equipment that fits and is comfortable can make the difference between an enjoyable ride and an uncomfortable one. So what safety equipment do you need? I’m glad you asked!
The most important piece of equipment you need is a helmet. When picking a helmet, the Highway Traffic Act says that you need to have a DOT (Department of Transportation) or ECE (Economic Commissions for Europe) approved helmet. A DOT or ECE certified helmet essentially means that the helmet has been through and passed rigorous impact tests. Check out The Bike Bandit page for more information on what’s included in the testing process.
While motorcycle jackets aren’t required by law, they are a necessity to prevent you from looking like a giant piece of road rash if you ever fall off of your bike. These jackets are designed specifically with extra padding to protect elbows and shoulders; the parts of your body that are most likely to hit the ground first should you ever fall. There are a variety of different types of jackets, but a T-shirt is definitely not a recommended choice of attire when riding. Not to mention, with this weather, you might find yourself freezing cold and drenched to the bone while out for a ride.
Types of Motorcycles
Motorcycles come in almost as many shapes and sizes as cars. When picking a motorcycle, Peter explained that it’s important to know what you would like to do when riding. Heading to work? Maybe, a commuter’s motorcycle would be best. Driving through the Gatineau Hills? A sports bike might give you what you’re looking for when riding. Ever dreamed of going cross country on a motorcycle? I definitely have that to check off my bucket list and maybe a cruiser would be ideal. Overall, picking a bike is largely dependent on the purpose of use. Check out Revzilla.com
How to Ride a Motorcycle
So now that you have the safety equipment and type of desired bike, the next step is learning how to actually drive a motorcycle. One of the most important things that I’ve learned about riding a motorcycle is ALWAYS look where you want to go. This is a great metaphor for life, actually. Regardless if you’re on or off the road, this is really important for staying upright and moving in the right direction.
Across the country, the Canada Safety Council offers the Gear Up course for beginners. This course teaches beginners the intricacies to riding a motorcycle, defensive driving techniques and how to properly operate a motorcycle, all under the supervision and teachings of an accredited motorcyclist instructor. I’m definitely planning on taking the course before I start riding.
Driving a motorcycle is far more complex than an explanation of a few sentences or even a short video and I strongly suggest practicing in an empty parking lot before hitting the open road. The video posted below, does however, give you a brief overview on the different parts of a motorcycle, how to start it as well and the basics of shifting gears. Check it out for more information.
I cannot wait to own my very first motorcycle and start driving and my conversation with Peter fueled that dream even more.
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