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Are You a Thrill-Seeker? Seek Safety First

Posted May. 30, 2007 03:06,   


“That isn’t how I taught you. Your feet are too far apart and your legs should be closer to the vehicle. Not to mention your arms are too stiff!”

It is the morning of May 27 at the Jamsil Speed Track where I am taking lessons on two-wheeled vehicles. Instructor Kim Hyun (34) is furious. I am on a Roadwin motorcycle, and even though it only has an engine displacement of 124cc (cubic centimeters), I’m still running into a lot of trouble.

As a seasoned veteran who drove 40km between home and work on a 650cc bike for the past two years, how much more embarrassing could I get?

Even So-Called Veterans Are Only Novices-

The speed track is located at Jamsil’s Tancheon Public Parking Lot. It was designed by Korean motorcycle manufacturer Daelim Motors and is specifically used for motorcycle sports and training.

This is the only motorcycle-training center for license holders in Korea. Since 1985 to the present, over 800,000 people have been trained here.

For first-timers, there is a 10-hour introductory course offered, as well as a two-and-a-half hour “advanced techniques” course. I signed up for the latter.

After light warm-ups, I did three laps around the training track, which had plenty of curves as well as straight segments. Then Kim Hyun, a 10-year motorcycle vet and instructor of five years, graded me.

With 100 being the perfect score, he gave me a 50 for riding posture, 50 for vision placement on curve segments, 60 for throttle (similar to the car’s accelerator) control, and 60 for lower-gear control. I barely cleared the novice level.

“Driving techniques for two-wheeled vehicles and automobiles are completely different, but in Korea, automobile license holders are allowed to drive motorcycles under 125cc. That is a big mistake,” Instructor Kim criticized.

Actually, the driving license issued for motorcycles with engine displacements 125cc and above can be acquired after a very standard test.

Injuries due to motorcycle accidents can be easily reduced or minimized with the use of safety gear, such as helmets or knee guards. But lessons in motorcycle safety are extremely inadequate.

Automobile Licenses are Not Motorcycle Licenses-

It is not an exaggeration that motorcycle culture in Korea has taken a wrong turn. Riders are at risk and people do not turn to them with a kind eye. Their comments vary from, “That’s dangerous,” and “they’re like gangsters,” to “that is the cause of air pollution!”

After two and a half hours of training with instructor Kim, I became a much safer rider. Lee Ki-heon (54, doctor) wants to learn how to ride big “American-style” choppers, so he obtained a license and is taking the introductory course at the Jamsil track. He admitted that “[he] didn’t know it was this difficult to ride a motorcycle, but it’s not enough to make me want to quit!” He also said, “A lot of people are against the idea, but there are many advantages to getting around on motorcycles.”