October 01, 2014 By Nicolas A. Calanoc

Zero To Hero – Honda Safety Driving Center

With the nature of motorcycles being a one man show, it is difficult to find an institution to learn how to ride a motorbike, let alone just having a dedicated facility for it. So we check on what the Honda Safety Driving Center has to offer.

Words by Nicolas A. Calanoc    Photos by Randy Silva-Netto

During the weekday, our Wheel2Wheel Editor Maynard Marcelo asked me if I was free on Sunday. Without any scheduled event to attend, I told him I was free with nothing really to do. To my surprise, he asked me if I wanted to learn how to finally ride a motorbike. I have always loved 4-wheels, especially because of the safety factor it has compared to 2-wheels. I was hesitant, but even I had to admit; if you want to go fast, it definitely has to be on 2-wheels. So since I set myself up in a situation that I couldn’t say no, I said yes to such opportunity.

The night before, I decided to hit the sack early. I remember that feeling the mixed emotions of restlessness, excitement, and a bit of fear as if I was waiting for Christmas morning wherein one knew he or she would be getting presents, but unsure about how great or disastrous it could be. I was fantasizing of speeding winding roads on 2-wheels, and it was such a feeling despite it being just a dream. Of course, like most dreams, they come in flashes and I couldn’t help but have a few visions of ending up in an accident like I would see in the news. As much as I had fears in between, I just had to remember: this is the Honda Safety Driving Center. I’m under the wing of the best of the best when it comes to learning how to ride a motorbike.

So the day finally arrived. Due to my excitement, I was one hour early for my call time. So to not waste time, I checked out the facilities available. I usually see the Honda Safety Driving Center on my way to work, but finally walking inside made me realize how impressive the facility is inside and out. Outside, they offer a controlled road environment inside their facility, simulating almost everything you will ever encounter on the road from rotundas to bridges. Inside, there were different classrooms available for teaching, from small classes to huge seminars. Evidently, it was purpose built to teach people to ride and drive in a controlled environment, and I was adrenalized to take an introduction to it.

Members of various Honda motorcycle clubs had a field day at the first ever Honda Track Day

That morning, HSDC was giving a class to various Honda Bike Clubs on what it takes to be a safe driver. Their approach was different compared to some driving schools I’ve been to. Usually other schools would just teach how to mechanically drive and cash in their earnings. In here, though, they make it a point to teach everything from the driving mechanics to driver mentality to even bike ownership. What is amazing is that HSDC makes certain that everyone who goes through their course is a completely disciplined driver. For them, the quality of their students is what matters.

There is an expression for learning that goes: “Sometimes you have to run before you learn how to walk.” Thankfully, that is not what happened. Instead, the approach was steering more to a progressive course making certain that the students have strong foundations before going to the next lesson. The instructors were more than friendly. They kept the teaching at a personal and focused level, which accelerated my learning better than expected. I also found out that these instructors compete every year in Japan in Honda’s competition between different instructors to reinforce the sharpness of the skills of every teacher. It boosted my confidence that I was learning from the best.

The Honda Safety Driving Center offer a controlled road environment inside their facility, simulating almost everything you will ever encounter on the road from rotundas to bridges.

The progression started with me riding their bicycle, making sure I got the balance of it all. Next was the same bicycle that was fitted with an electric motor, which allowed me to get used to powering the bicycle with my wrist movement instead of power from the pedal. From there, I hopped on a scooter, wherein they taught me the mechanics of how to use a scooter. It was fairly easy to learn, but I am sure that I will need more practice to get it to a level of second nature. Luckily, because of my quick learning ability (which I have to attribute to the way HSDC instructs its students), I was able to drive their manual motorbike, the Honda CB 110, up to 3rd gear! I know it wasn’t much compared to the seasoned bike drivers, but as someone coming from nothing, now I understand the word “freedom” bike riders refer to. And boy, what a feeling.

At the end of the day, people like Lemuel and Joy from Honda Philippines asked me about my experience. Evidently even without saying a word, my facial expressions showed how much I thoroughly enjoyed being on 2-wheels. Although as enthusiastic as I was about getting my own bike, I felt like I wasn’t ready to even own one and believed that an introduction course of roughly 6 hours wasn’t enough to give me the confidence to go out in the real world. True enough, even they agreed. Honda Safety Driving Center actually offers a 3-Day course where they will teach, examine, and test, both technical and practical, on how to be a responsible motorbike owner and rider. I still have my fears of going out with a motorbike, but I do plan to take Honda’s 3-day course and see where I end up. Whether I convert to a 2-wheeler, use both, or stay exclusively with 4-wheels, only time will tell. One thing is for sure, though, the introduction to riding a motorcycle has opened my eyes to the world of riding between wheel to wheel.

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