‘Slow is smooth; smooth is fast’ wins the day

I am the last guy in a gaggle of five dudes on Honda EX5s motorcycles. Most are rock steady, keeping a straight line. Others, not so.

The lead guy approaches a bend. He sticks out his right arm, his bike is now wobbling because of the sudden shift in the centre of gravity. He manages to correct it quickly and starts moving his right hand up and down.

The rest of us take his lead. Soon, arms are flailing, and bikes are wobbling about as we struggle to keep a straight line – all the while trying to remember to steer the bike, indicate, maintain our separation, and execute the left turn. Sensory overload overcomes some of us and they start veering off into the sunset.

From afar, we looked like a gaggle of uncoordinated, earth-bound fat geese, struggling to get airborne.

In the real world, flapping your arms about at a traffic light or before taking a bend would elicit stares, or worse, howls of laughter and derision.

But for reasons that are still unclear to me, it is an essential part of the practical tests for the Class B2 and B motorcycle licences.

If you’ve been operating a motor vehicle for over 30 years, you would have accumulated some bad habits. Weaning off them can be tough. The great philosopher Yoda once said: “You must unlearn what you have learnt”.

The best way to rid yourself of these bad habits is to approach these classes with a clean sheet of paper – like this was your first rodeo.

The Class B course requires 16 hours of practical instructions. The instructors will tell you that there are certain things that are non-negotiable, as far as the Road Transport Department examiners are concerned.

They include hand signals before executing a turn, resting with your left foot (your right foot should always be on the foot brake), and the CITO, for Cermin, Isyarat, Toleh, and Olahgerak sweep. Miss any of these, and points will be deducted.

Failure to stop at Stop signs, obey traffic lights, and signal or indicate before executing a turn or overtaking, will earn you an automatic cut. You’d have to repeat the test.

The 16 hours of instruction stresses on repetitions. As long as you follow the script, muscle memory will kick in once you strap yourself in for the Big Show. At least, that’s the theory.

Admittedly, some of the protocols seem farcical, comical, even. One of the modules in Phase Two of the Class B motorcycle licence is RPM/RSM or Rutin Pemeriksaan Motor/Rutin Sebelum Menunggang (Vehicle Inspection Routine/Pre-ride Routine).

The first involves going through a 14-point checklist – in front of the examiners – to make sure that the motorcycle, with the engine off, is in optimal condition. A nightmare for those with a fear of public speaking.

This includes checking the tyre pressure and treads on both wheels, that the signals and main lights are in good condition, confirming that the registration number on the vehicle corresponds with the number on the road tax, that the rubber gasket on the fuel cap is intact, that the chain is not too taut, not too loose, that the side mirrors are in good condition, that leads to the battery are securely connected, and so on, ad infinitum.

I was under the impression that I would be doing this on my own, watched intently by the RTD examiners. I wasn’t counting on five people mouthing off: “Lampu hadapan dalam keadaan baik dan tidak pecah… Tekanan angin dan bunga tayar depan mencukupi dan dalam keadaan baik… Getah penutup tangki minyak tidak pecah dan dalam keadaan baik, paras minyak mencukupi…” all at the same time.

The din was overpowering. I couldn’t hear myself think, and was convinced that I had left out some items.

Once you’re good to go, you swing a leg over the bike, fire her up, and head on to the start of the course. Here, under the watchful gaze of the examiners, is where you conduct the RSM or Pre-ride Routine.

This is where you deploy the side stand, get off the bike, and with the engine running, make sure that all the lights and blinkers are working, do a quick walkaround to make sure everything is in order, get back on the bike, check that the front and rear brakes are functioning, and then check and adjust your side mirrors.

Then off you go. Once I made it through the first hurdle – the ‘titi’ – I knew I was in the home stretch. But I made sure not to get ahead of myself, and instead, approached each obstacle slowly, deliberately, and methodically. The US Navy SEALs mantra of ‘Slow is smooth; smooth is fast’ kept playing in my head.

Within 20 minutes, I was done. I had completed both Phase II and III of the test. The driving school’s faculty staff herded us all into a holding pen, where we swapped stories. It was here that I learnt that if you botched the test, the examiners called you out on the spot.

When they handed me my result slips, I saw that I had scored 40/45 for Phase II, and 38/40 for Phase III. I couldn’t get out of there fast enough to celebrate.

Now for the hard part. Time to figure out which bike to buy.

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