Graduated Driver’s License, Yes or No?

Some people take to riding motorcycles like a fish to water. Others struggle with it and are as a result without a considerable amount of training, experience and confidence a danger to themselves and others. Right now in the province of Alberta anyone can walk into any dealership and purchase any motorcycle without any formal rules in relation to that rider’s experience compared to the bike’s performance. In my career as a motorcycle sales professional I’ve spoken to literally countless new riders who bring an ‘experienced rider’ friend with them into the dealership to make sure they purchase the right bike. It never fails to absolutely stun me how much horrible advice is dolled out in an effort to get this freshly licensed (and often unlicensed) person to buy a bike that can ‘keep up’ with the group of experienced riders he intends to ride with. In an effort to quell such idiotic advice some provincial governments have initiated a Graduated Driver’s License, or G.D.L. No that’s not a sandwich.

It should be noted that quite intentionally I purposefully quizzed experienced riders familiar with motorcycles, riding and the powersport industry as a whole in an effort to gain what might arguable be interpreted as an educated stance. Two main arguments seemed to come to the forefront and in spite of the rather heated debate I was entertained by they are not dissimilar in that they share a common theme.

The more obvious position taken is to govern a new riders access to displacement. As you would expect there are differing opinions as to the ratio of time in the saddle vs. cubic centimeters or inches but the point is the same; more proven experience equals more displacement. But is experience alone enough? The more stringent of the bunch state that once you’ve accumulated an unspecified number of ticket & at-fault accident free consecutive months you would be expected to then pass a written and/or practical riding test designed to challenge your improved skills. Only then would you graduate into more
displacement. It was suggested in one conversation I had that the road to a formal Class 6 and the tested & proven ability to safely ride a motorcycle of 1000 plus cc’s would take approximately three to five years.

A similar argument is to govern a newbie through limiting his access to horsepower. Specifically a manufacturer’s rated and published horsepower output. Seemingly the two sides are saying the same thing given displacement typically equals horsepower. Unfortunately it’s not that simple given the amount of raw power being cranked out of a current Japanese in-line four cylinder motor! For example the standard 103 cubic inch Harley-Davidson motor translates into 1690cc’s and according to several online sources produces roughly 83hp. Compare that to a Honda CBR600RR at only 599cc’s and a generally accepted output of 118hp! I’m not here to debate the accuracy and variables of horsepower ratings or where it’s measured from. I’m simply illustrating that with today’s technology it doesn’t take much displacement to generate a staggering amount of horsepower.

There are other positions that I’ll continue to explore & investigate for coming blogs but in the meantime please, as always feel encouraged and invited to share your thoughts, opinions, questions and ideas. Until then…keep riding.

  1. Chris Jackson 5 years ago

    I don’t think a gdl would work based on hp or displacement. I do think making a defensive riding course mandatory would be a good start The problem with a gdl is, like you said, some people taking to motorcycle like fish to water. Some kids start riding dirt bikes when they’re still toddlers. Should these people be restricted because other people received bad advice on what kind of bike to ride? We can have similar rules to cars…no riding after dark and whatever else they have. I was licensed well before these rules came out so I don’t know very many of them.

    Even big bikes can go slow. It’s up to the rider to gauge their skill levels…it’s not up to their friends.

  2. Tom Wild 5 years ago

    Like Patrick I have worked in the motorcycle industry for many years. I believe in some form of graduated licensing or at least a defensive motorcycle driving course. When something goes wrong on a bike the risk of injury is greater. I was talking with a father and his 15 year old daughter on a new bike purchase. He wanted her to get a new 883 Sportster. She was absolutely dead set on a new Ninja. I told her that the ninja was the wrong bike for her because of her lack of experience. She wanted the Ninja because it looked cool and her friends thought it was cool. She had never driven a motorcycle before other than an older 90cc Honda trail bike. She was angry and stormed out of the dealership. Her father thanked me and said she needed to hear it from someone other than himself. Its not about policing the good drivers it’s more about reducing risk. It’s about developing your confidence on a motorcycle and growing with the sport. We have all had those “oh-oh” moments while riding and i believe it’s been my experience that has prevented an accident.

  3. John Jenkins 5 years ago

    Being a motorcycle instructor, I am all for making a new rider safer. Saying that, do I think the GDL will do that? Not a chance. I can teach you how to ride, but I cannot teach you how to think. If your going to do stupid things while you ride, there is no way a GDL is going to change that.

    That being said, I do believe there should be some restrictions on new riders. Riding at night is dangerous at the best of times, but putting a new rider in that scenario can add a whole new list of dangers. Also, taking passengers while inexperienced yourself only spells trouble. The dynamics of the bike now change dramatically. If you don’t have the experience riding solo and knowing your bike, adding that extra weight changes everything about the handling.

    With regards to motor size, well that’s just silly. As stated in your blog, a 600cc engine from Japan makes more then 3 times the power of a v-twin. That solves nothing. Increasing the penalty on a road infraction in the first 2 years of riding, now makes more sense. If it hurts the wallet, it usually has more effect. If that means not riding because you were stupid, so be it. It just makes you realize that the road does not belong to you. It is there for everyone. Driving/riding is a privilege, not a right. If you cannot abide by the laws, you shouldn’t be out there. Limiting the size of bike in hopes that it will keep you from speeding is not the answer. Education and experience are the key to a long riding career.

    It is my opinion that instead of a GDL, make it mandatory to take a recognized motorcycle safety course before anyone can have the option to ride on the streets. You learn so much in a short period of time, that by taking the course you gain the knowledge and hopefully the respect of what power to weight ratio is. Yes, motor size will assist in keeping you from those 200km/h tickets, but the average speed limit in city limits are well below the capacity of “beginner bikes”.

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