This is what they’ll tell you: Every single driver on the road is trying to kill you on your motorcycle.
Cell phone conversations can kill you. Blind spots. Road rage.
What you do have control over, the instructors say, can mean the difference between death, injury, close calls and simply watching the danger from a safe distance.
The Naples Motorcycle Riding School training course is one of three licensed schools of its kind active in Southwest Florida.
“Right now, if you are 21 years old and you take your bike to the DMV and take their test, you can get a license,” says school owner Brooke Lefkow. “The state has realized that a lot of people are getting their licenses without the sufficient training. By July of next year, regardless of their age, everyone will be required to get the full-blown basic riding class.”
The three-night class starts in the classroom and ends up behind the handlebars of the school’s motorcycles. From the scratches and dents, you can tell the 125-cc to 250-cc bikes have hit the pavement on numerous occasions.
“Even if you fall, it is better to fall here,” laughs Rita Griggs, a 58-year-old nurse from Naples in between exercises in emergency stopping last Saturday in the parking lot at Germain Arena.
A friend encouraged Griggs to learn to ride.
“She’s been telling me, ‘You can do this,’ ” says Griggs, with her helmet in hand. “I am finding that I really can. I wouldn’t have ever had the confidence to try to ride a motorcycle without this class. My kids don’t even know what to think.”
Students range from 18-year-old boys forced to take the class after getting a ticket to women such as Griggs who are looking to expand their comfort zone.
At the end of the class on Sunday, exams are given individually to each student. Many pass. Some do not. Those who pass receive a wallet-sized certificate of completion, which they will present to the Florida DMV to have “Motorcycle Also” added to the bottom of their driver’s license. The card also grants discounts on helmets and other gear at certain motorcycle shops and discounts on insurance.
“I make it explicitly clear when people leave this class that no one is an expert rider,” Lefkow says. “They have a much clearer realization of the risks.
“If someone doesn’t appear they are going to be safe on the motorcycle — even if they pass the test — I make it very clear that if they continue to ride the way they are riding, their days are numbered.”
For more information on the Naples Motorcycle Riding School call (239) 495-5749 or go online to www.naplesmotorcycleschool.com.