Four years ago, I was walking past Motoretta in Toronto and saw that they were having a sale on brand new 49cc TNG Venice scooters. I was hesitant, but on a whim I bought one. Then there remained the sorry task of acquiring the appropriate licence to drive the thing.
In Ontario, for a bike of less than 50cc displacement, one can get what’s called a Low Speed Motorcycle (LSM) licence. That was my target. Being quite nervous about operating such a potentially dangerous device, I paid for a safety class with the Rider Training Institute, which would include a licencing test.
The fine folks at RTI convinced me, instead, to go for a full-speed motorcycle licence. This meant testing on a real motorbike with manual gears. I’m not a speed freak, and I get physically flustered when stressed, which means I am prone to forget how to use manual gears in a testing environment. Even so, by some miracle, I passed my M1 exit exam on a full motorcycle back in 2010:
Here we are, four years later, and it’s time to get my full M licence, via the exam called the “M2 exit“. Since 2010, my TNG Venice was stolen, and my ride of choice is a 125cc Yamaha Vino. The thing is, the M2 exit requires a highway component, and I’ve been hesitant to have that experience. I’m not a speed freak. I have no desire to do 120 km/h on a motorcycle. And I certainly have no desire to give up my automatic transmission 125cc scooter to be tested on a manual transmission motorcycle (again), knowing that my stress will probably cause me to mess up the gear changes and stall the bike.
I was pleased to discover that many testing locations in Ontario will accommodate a slower bike. Anything above about 100cc can do 80 kph, which makes it a full speed motorcycle. But if you can’t get it up to 100 kph, your bike is not rated for a 400 series highway. Thus, they will test you on a lesser highway.
So I went for my M2 exit test at the Walkley Ave location in Ottawa in late August, after having been assured that they would find a highway solution for my 125cc bike, thus relieving me of the anxiety of riding on a 400 series highway.
Well, I arrived, paid by fee, met the examiner, did a bike check, then was told that because my tail light was cracked, I had forfeited my fee and would not be allowed to do the exam. (The frustrating part of that is that the folks clearly saw the crack in my tail light well before processing my payment. Bastards.)
So I did a cheap-ass fix of my tail light, using $12 of materials from Canadian Tire, and rescheduled a new test (with a new fee) for last week.
Now, I’ll be honest. Before the test, I looked online to see if anyone had published the unofficial route of the M2 exit test. The examiners try to keep it private so that it’s a bit of a surprise for the examinees. But one kind soul had written about his/her experience on a motorcycle forum. I took those instructions and went over the route a few times before my test. If I hadn’t, I fear I would have made some foolish mistakes and would have failed.
But I passed.
So in the spirit of giving back to the online community, I thought I would publish my testing route here. Ready? Here goes.
1. So the test began at the Walkley drivetest centre. I met the examiners near the back of the centre where the truck testing is done. I was fitted with an earpiece that fit into the ear of my choice, and a receiver that was tucked into my inside jacket pocket. (I don’t know what they would have done if I hadn’t had an inside pocket.) Two examiners are in a chase car, which will drive behind me. Instructions will be sent to me over the ear piece. I was told that lane choice was entirely up to me. In other words, they would tell me where to go, but it was up to me how to get there.
2. I pulled out onto Walkley, turning left across the median. My first mistake was turning directly into the right lane. I was told later that I should have entered the left lane first, then signalled, then moved to the right lane. Of course, this is true. But, as we all know, everyone moves directly to the lane they want, if it is safe to do so.
3. I knew that we were headed for the left turn onto Airport Parkway, since the internet had told me that. So after a block, I moved to the left lane to prepare for that turn. After the test, the examiner would tell me that it was a mistake to move to the left lane, since the right lane is the driving lane. Of course, this is true. But I couldn’t reveal that I knew that a left turn was upcoming.
4. I turned onto Airport Parkway, and was reminded twice that the speed limit is 80 kph. I was doing 60 kph when I merged, since there was no traffic. I was told later that this was a mistake, since I must always merge at the speed of the highway. Frankly, I don’t like merging that fast when there is no traffic. But point taken.
5. I was diligent in maintaining lane position (i.e., tire track) with lots and lots and lots of head movement. The examiner congratulated me later for head movement, though I felt like an idiot looking around so much.
6. There was lots of construction on the Parkway, with lots of posted temporary speed changes. I followed these diligently, and was later congratulated for it.
7. I exited onto Hunt Club, and was told to turn right. I was careful to stop before the line, even though it meant having slightly reduced visibility of the oncoming traffic.
8. After continuing on Hunt Club for a few blocks, I was told to turn right onto a residential street (with speed reduction, of course).
9. Very soon after, I was told to simulate an emergency roadside stop. The internet had warned me that they would try to trick me into stopping in front of a fire hydrant. Sure enough, the request came just as the most convenient stop location was by a hydrant. I drove past it, at which point the examiner screamed in my ear, “I said, emergency roadside stop!”
10. For a roadside stop, one must pull up close to the curb and parallel, turn off the engine, put down the kick stand, and step away from the bike. They look for head movement and signalling.
I did this, and was told to get back on the bike and continue driving. But my bike wouldn’t start! It really was an emergency roadside stop!
After messing with the kickstarter for a while (frantically), I got the bike started. I was careful to signal, show a lot of head movement checking traffic, then continued on my way.
11. After testing my stopping at several stop sign intersections (during which they looked for traffic reading, non-moving of the base foot, tire track positioning, and bike positioning), I made my first really noticeable error. During a right turn, I positioned the bike diagonally across the lane, as one would do for a very wide lane. But the examiner did not think the lane width warranted such positioning. I would have been better off in the left tire track.
12. Eventually I was asked to turn left back onto Hunt Club. I made the mistake of stopping once at the light, then re-positioning myself in the centre of the intersection to wait out the oncoming traffic, as I would have done in a car. I still wonder whether I lost a mark there for technically moving my left foot (base foot) from the original stop to the in-the-intersection stop.
13. I continued on in the left lane, as I knew (from the internet) that I would be re-entering the Parkway. I got an earful about this from the examiner later, as once again I should have moved to the right lane as the driving lane. But I couldn’t admit that I knew we were heading for a left turn up ahead.
14. I merged onto the Parkway at full speed (80 kph) this time. The examiner later said that the second merge is what allowed him to ignore the slowness of the first merge.
15. I took the first exit to Walkley and was told to turn right. This was also an awkward moment, since to stop before the line (as is required) means not being fully able to see the oncoming traffic. So even though the way was probably clear during the red light, I waited for a green light before completing my turn.
16. I stayed in the right lane all the way until we returned to the testing centre. The difficult part here was maintaining a constant speed under 50 kph.
The examiner would later express confusion that I knew to stay in the proper right lane on the way back. (The truth is that I knew we were heading back to the test centre, which would be a right turn.)
And I passed. But not without 8 errors:
- Watch the speed limits and don’t go more than 3 kph above the limit, or more than 5 kph under the limit.
- Lots and lots and lots of head movement, even if you feel like an idiot.
- Whenever possible, keep to the right lane.