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Archive for November, 2018

End of the road – Humber College to shutdown motorcycle training

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It came to me as a rumour through the grapevine. The rumour was later confirmed by another node on my grapevine: Humber College in Toronto, operating what has generally been acknowledged to be the largest motorcycle training operation in Ontario (if not all of Canada, although I do not have figures), will be making 2019 its final season.

I started working as a motorcycle instructor while attending Georgian College in Barrie and worked on Georgian’s program for five years. At the time Georgian’s was a small operation with 15 or 20 students per weekend course. After a move to Toronto and an instructing hiatus of two years I went back to work as an instructor at Humber, where I eventually graduated to senior instructor. I gave up motorcycle training with a move to Paris, Ontario 10 years ago and eventual retirement.

When I worked at Humber their program was big, with three training locations, a pool of over 100 instructors and up to 100 students on any given summer weekend. We also did smaller weekday courses and offered refresher courses. We had a fleet of bikes. When I started at Humber we had a bunch of Yamaha singles. Later we had 250 Viragos and Vino scooters. On a busy weekend the motorcycle training would take up most of the main parking lot.

The decision to axe the motorcycle program was based on falling enrolment and increasing costs. I think that there are more factors involved.

Demographics

I have written about this subject before:

Where will new riders come from?

David Booth and Boomer Bikers

The average age of motorcyclists is going up by a decade every decade. That would seem to indicate that there are no new, young riders out there. The younger generation would also appear uninterested in car ownership and by extension motorcycle ownership, although scooters were “cool” for a while. Older riders re-entering motorcycling may already have an M licence.

Bike size and cost

Bike sales in Canada have been steady for a few years now according to figures made available by the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council (MMIC). Almost 50% of bikes sold are large displacement, heavyweight machines. These machines are expensive.

When I worked at Georgian College we had a fleet of 125 cc trainers. I understand that at Humber they currently have a fleet of the new, smaller Harleys. (You know, the ones that aren’t selling…) New riders of all ages turn their noses up at smaller bikes, even if they do not possess the skills to handle a large, powerful bike. It’s all part of our instant gratification addiction as a society along with a bit of macho BS about not wanting to be seen on a “girlie” bike. If it takes an expert rider to handle a big, powerful bike then it is assumed that if you are on a big, powerful bike you must be an expert rider. Faulty logic at work, but the fact is that the demand for bigger bikes has driven up the cost of a training bike fleet.

Insurance

Ever since Bob Rae’s provincial government instituted no-fault insurance back in the early 90s the cost of bike insurance has soared. A major factor is “medical” coverage. In the old days if some dim-witted cage jockey took you out on your motorcycle they were often found to be at fault and their insurance company had to pay you. The cost of driving dumbness was spread over all car insurance policies. Since the implementation of no-fault insurance, when you are taken out by the same dim-witted cage jockey while you are riding your motorcycle your own insurance company has to pay your medical expenses. The cost of car driver dumbness is spread over all motorcycle insurance policies, which are far fewer in number.

Back in the mid-80s insurance on my Suzuki GS1100G was $180 a year. Now it is routine to pay more than that per month for bike insurance. For many people, insurance costs make bike ownership an expensive luxury. For more and more people, learning to ride is not worth it.

Safety

For many potential riders the risk of injury when riding far outweighs the benefits of the freedom of the open road. This is not an illusion. The road is not so open any more. The volume of traffic on our streets and highways has grown enormously since I started riding. Gridlock is a way of life for city riders. When I lived in Toronto it was common for a relaxing ride out of town on a sunny summer Sunday to be entirely undone by the miserable ride back into town Sunday night.

RIP “Humber Rider”

 

All these factors have come together here in the second decade of the 21st Century like a perfect storm to sink the flagship Humber Motorcycle Training Program after a run spanning three decades. I will still have my memories of good times shared with my fellow instructors and the legions of riders that we trained. It will be a sad day when the last cone is packed away.

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November 24th, 2018 at 7:18 pm

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