Weekend 1… learning to Ride


CMG student intern, Adam Semple comes from a dirt bike riding background but had not made the leap from the dirt to the road, until now. With his head full of thoughts of riding the latest and greatest test machines (dreamer), Adam was more than keen to get his motorcycle licence and explore life on the open road.

Always on the look out for ways to exploit foolish youth, Editor ‘Arris saw an opportunity to get the kid to write about his exploits from non-rider to riding god. Something we all went through once or (hopefully) are just about to for the first time. But first things first, what’s the best way to get your licence? School of course, courtesy of Safety Services Nova Scotia.

Photos: Adam Semple

It’s my first weekend back in the saddle. I’m at the only place you can run into four men in full-blown mid-life crisis, two overly cautious women and two hotheaded young guns … You guessed it – I’m at motorcycle training for a weekend of instructional videos from the early ‘90s, abused small-displacement bikes and a riding course similar to what I would presume one would use for training circus bears on mini bikes.

I knew the weekend would be full of entertainment when it started with a conversation with two older men who had never ridden a motorcycle about buying their first bikes. “What are you starting on?”

“A 1500, You could buy a 750 and then a 900, but what a waste.” This coming from a man who had trouble keeping a Suzuki GN125 under control.

After spending Day One in the classroom, we headed outside for Day Two, where the moment of truth had dawned on us, the motorcycle selection. Our choices? The almighty Honda CRF150F or the mini cruiser Suzuki GN125. Ok, so both bikes tend to stall with a good drop of the clutch instead of popping up the front end, but for some of the new riders, it was more than enough.

Being of an off-road background, my feet quickly lined up aside a CRF150F for the start of a weekend jammed pack with adrenaline … So maybe not that much adrenaline, but as with any motorcycle, my heart gets all warm and funny the second I get to turn that key.

What to ride? Adam picked the dirt bike ...
What to ride? Adam picked the dirt bike …

The instructors gave us an hour or two of what I like to call “motorcycle appreciation,” which consists of pairing up and pushing your partner from checkpoint to checkpoint around a course made out of cones. This proved to be the most challenging action of the weekend, as many people were unaware that you cannot push someone on a motorcycle from the side and expect the motorcycle go straight.

The instructors were very helpful when it came to coaching people on an individual level when they saw soon-to-be riders of the real world struggling. They were also quick to point out my bad habits. Given my pesky off-road background, I had a few, like pumping the throttle and hovering over the brakes. The worst part was, they didn’t understand my statement that staff of CMG can do no wrong; we are motorcycle gods and never fail tests or wreck bikes. Mostly.

Although driving in a circle becomes boring after hours on end it is definitely a hand workout after being told to ride the clutch most of the weekend.  But hey, there is nothing like the excitement of driving a motorcycle in a parking lot for 16 hours, weaving in and out of cones in 25-degree heat. If there is one important thing to take away from a motorcycle course, it’s that motorcycle jacket vents are not effective when your top speed is 25km/h.

Adam's following the fine CMG tradition of starting with the Konker KSM 200
Adam’s following the fine CMG tradition of starting with the Konker KSM 200

All in all it was a weekend that knocked the rust off and helped me bring together my experience of off-road riding and combine with my driving experience, which is an exciting moment in a 21-year-old’s life. Fortunately for society, I am somewhat of a rarity in my age segment, as I am one who will not be purchasing a superbike as my first motorcycle. In fact ‘Arris has lent me the CMG Konker to get some road miles under my belt, though I don’t think I‘ll get a go at his BMW F800GSA long termer …

I would like to thank Safety Services Nova Scotia and the brilliant crew Deon, Henry, and Brenton for the course, which was even better for hearing their stories and having them just be real human beings who love to ride and see others succeed. The results broke the CMG curse as I managed to scrape by with 0 demerits and no wrecked motorcycles … though I swear it wasn’t for a lack of trying.


  1. And here I am an older guy with too many years of riding road bikes learning how to ride off road bikes. For sure off road riding is a whole other skill set and for sure also more skill intensive. I’m sure your off road experience will serve you well on the road and make you way less a liability than an out of shape dude with a 1500cc boat anchor that he can barely keep upright.
    Ironically you could probably be teaching those riding instructors how to drift, jump over obstacles and survive deep mud and sand.

  2. Just a note to say that While Safety Services offers a safe riding course, and of course a course is the best way to learn ( sorry, no pun intended), the Canada Safety Council has been offering the only National program since 1974, called “Gearing Up”. This motorcycle training program is still available in Nova Scotia, in both Bridgewater and Kingston / Greenwood. The instructors of this program, of which I am one, are also very dedicated, experienced, and committed to the training of not only new riders, but also riders returning to biking ( Refresher course) and those wishing to take their skills to a higher level ( Skilled / Advanced Motorcycle program). While we may be only in 2 sites in Nova Scotia, our programs are taught with the same tested curriculum as other locations across the country. However, I do commend all instructors of all programs that give up their weekends from doing their own riding so that others may learn how to become safer and more competent riders, and therefore saving lives. Isn’t that what it is all about?

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