Learning to ride a motorcycle…in a parking lot

In a few days we will be taking a 10 day trip to Belize. For part of the trip we will be staying in Hopkins Village, which is a small beach town on the coast.  We love the beach, but the cool thing about this particular spot is that it is convenient to the mainland, which offers a range of potential activities.  So in preparation, we decided to take a class to get our motorcycle licenses.  The idea being that we will be able to do a lot more exploring on a motorcycle than if we tried to ride bicycles for 60 miles a day on dirt roads.

We did a quick google  search and found jerseyrider.com which offered a three day course at our local community college. So for about 300 dollars each, and assuming we passed the course, by Sunday night we would have our motorcycle licenses.

MSF- Real Life Recess

Friday night was the classroom session. We arrived promptly at 5:45 and after some brief introductions with 7 other potential riders, we dove into the course book.  Not the most exciting stuff, but considering that we both knew next to nothing about motorcycles, it was pretty informative.  Thee hours later and it was time to go home.

Basic Rider Course book- Real Life Recess

Phil studying on Friday night

Riding Day!

Saturday morning  we woke up to a cold and steady rain.  But that wouldn’t stop us. Outfitted in a motley assortment of sweatshirts and rain jackets we donned our borrowed helmets and mounted the school’s motorcycles.

Phil with helmet- Real Life Recess

We highly recommend Jersey Riders course for novice riders. They teach the basics- and I mean BASICS- of riding. The instructors are kind and have the patience of a saint. Neither of us had ever ridden before or even knew how to drive a manual transmission. Figuring out how to work the clutch and shift was a constant struggle. We must have stalled out a hundred times in those two days and we kept expecting the instructors to lose their cool or tell us we needed more help than a weekend course could provide but they simply smiled, told us to take a breath and restart the bikes.

We spent most of Saturday and Sunday on the “riding course” (an empty parking lot of the college decorated with safety cones) learning how to control the bikes in the “friction zone,” how to swerve around an obstacle, how to ride over an obstacle, and most importantly- how to stop quickly and smoothly.

ACCC Jersey Rider course- Real Life Recess

Parking lot turned into a riding course


Sunday’s road test included elements of everything we’d learned: turning in a small area, getting up to second gear quickly then swerving around a cone, taking a wide turn, and making a quick stop. Megan outscored me just a bit on the road test. The written test was a piece of cake and the instructors went over everything again afterwards to make sure any lingering questions we had were answered.

We passed!

Rider permit-Real Life Recess

Just take this to the DMV and they add the motorcycle endorsement to your driver’s license


Though by no means experts, we are at least licensed riders and feel comfortable enough to test our new skills by renting motorcycles for a day or two in Belize.  We’ve already reserved our bikes with www.alternateadventures.com in Hopkins Village.

We’d really like to ride an hour or so inland to St. Herman’s Blue Hole National Park near Belmopan. That would give us a chance to see some of the Cayo District from the Hummingbird Highway. Though we never really got above second gear on the riding course, we feel somewhat confident that we’ll be okay riding in Belize’s country side because of the very sparse traffic and lack of stop lights. I guess we’ll find out soon enough!


About the author

Phil Nagengast

would rather be outside soaking up the sun or in a gym working out. Phil also makes an occasional effort to keep Megan in line.


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© 2014 Megan Rodden and Phil Nagengast.