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Thursday, March 4, 2010

Advanced Trike/Sidecar Course

Several folks wanted to know what I thought about the advanced course, so here’s a bit about it. Email me if you have specific questions:

There were only five of us in the class—two others, who had signed up, withdrew. This is ordinarily a one day course combining classroom presentations with driving on the range. However, due to the shortened daylight hours, rain, etc., management decided to split it up into a Friday evening classroom, Saturday driving on the course program.

Finding South Seattle Community College—where both the Friday and Saturday activities were held—was a snap due to the nice lady residing inside my GPS giving me precise and strict directions. I turned when she said to do so and I fretted when she was dismayed at my stupidity, demonstrated when I went by her designated corner, forcing her to “recalculate” and give me U-turn instructions.

At any rate, the Friday evening experience went until 9:30 PM. We worked our way through an instructional handbook provided by the instructors and, since we had such a small group, there was plenty of time to share experiences and ask specific questions. The evening ended with a 50 question written exam covering material from the discussions and the handbook. I missed one question—something about when to lean into a curve when driving a sidecar rig…oh, well, 98% was acceptable.

In our group we had one other person with a Tri Glide, one on a BMW sidecar rig, one with a brand new Cam-Am Spyder that has two wheels up front with one very large rear driving wheel, and one young woman riding a scooter trike with a canopy that went from front to rear with two wheels on the rear and a tiny front wheel. These trikes/sidecar all handled the course differently and I enjoyed watching the various capabilities of the machines and their riders.

We experienced locking up both front and rear brakes in a “panic”/controlled stop—and that was psychologically difficult for me to do, at first (I’m used to working hard to NEVER lock up the brakes on my previous two-wheeled bikes); stopping fast without locking up, swerving around a barrier at faster and faster speeds, riding in figure eights around pylons and staying close but not hitting the cones, and a few other fun activities rounded out the day. Learning to intentionally make the rear wheels slide around a corner (by accelerating while also lightly breaking the front wheel) was a new thing for me and kind of a neat new skill.

At the end of several hours doing this for practice, we were individually evaluated doing it for real. All of us “passed” and were awarded the Advanced Trike/Sidecar Course certificate along with a nice sticker/decal for our helmets. Again, I earned only one demerit--because I wasn’t going fast enough into one braking exercise. All in all, not bad for an old guy.

I skipped the basic trike/sidecar course since I had taken both basic and experienced rider courses on my two-wheelers, and have put a few hundred miles on the trike, gaining some experience and competence on this strange handling machine. I had hoped for a bit more of a challenging “advanced” course; I’m pretty sure that the stopping, swerving and other exercises were probably the same activities experienced in the basic course. I guess the greatest value in the course for me was learning more about the Tri Glide’s capabilities in cornering and stopping.

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