College offering motorcycle course here

There’s an old saying about old dogs and new tricks, but it certainly doesn’t apply to motorcyclists.
The image of the motorcyclist is changing. No longer do young, thrill-seeking riders predominate. Today, more and more middle-aged riders are taking to the road—many for the first time.
There’s even a name for these people—“rubies” (rich urban bikers)—and Confederation College, in co-operation with the Canada Safety Council, is offering this new generation of riders a chance to get it right the first time.
The Canada Safety Council (CSC) motorcycle training program has been operating since 1974 while the “Gearing Up” program first was offered at the Thunder Bay campus 10 years ago.
But Vince Stilla, director for continuing education and one of the program’s instructors, said the demand has warranted taking the program on the road, if you will.
“In Canada, motorcycle sales have more than tripled in the past few years, from 24,000 in 1996 to 76,000 in 2003,” Stilla noted in a recent newsletter.
Furthermore, the age of these new riders also is rising.
“The average age of riders in the Canada Safety Council motorcycle training program is now the late 30s—about 10 years older than a decade ago,” Stilla added.
“During the 1990s, the age of the average U.S. motorcycle buyer rose from 25 to 39 over the same period of time.”
Such people are hardly reckless. In fact, many are responsible professionals who see the motorcycle as both an efficient means of transportation and a declaration of independence.
According to Stilla’s research, the average age of a Canadian motorcycle buyer is 46 while the average rider who signs up for the course in Thunder Bay is between 40-50 years old.
Although not yet mandatory in Ontario as it is in other jurisdictions, the training program is looked upon favourably by insurance companies, so when Confederation College brought the course to Fort Frances last weekend, the 10 available spots quickly were snapped up.
One of those who took the course was Cher Pruys of Fort Frances. The 40-something professional artist and her husband recently bought a Harley-Davidson and were eager to take the course.
They weren’t disappointed.
“It’s a wonderful course,” Pruys enthused. “Anybody who’s going to ride should take it.”
The course consists of a road course and a written exam. Stilla’s team brought 10 motorcycles with them, on which the riders were taught defensive driving and escape maneuvers in the parking lot at St. Francis School before going inside the college to take the written test.
Stilla said once the riders satisfactorily completed the course, they could present the certificate to the MTO and be issued an M2 licence. Of course, they still have to take the ministry road test, but after this program, it should be a walk in the park, he remarked.
Stilla added the course is becoming more and more popular. It has been running since May and will continue through to September. “We anticipate we’ll do 200 [riders] this year,” he predicted.
Stilla also said the decline in motorcycle fatalities over recent years is a direct result of “Gearing Up” and he expects the trend to continue.
For instance, in 2001, there were 161 motorcycle fatalities on Canadian roads—representing 5.8 percent of all road fatalities. This represents a substantial decline from 1983, when motorcyclists accounted for 10.7 percent.
“I’m so glad I took it,” stressed Pruys. “I wouldn’t want to ride without it.”