When Being an Engineer Isn't Helpful: Kansas Motorcycle Test

As I think most of you know, I picked up a Piaggio Fly 150. I need to get my motorcycle learner’s permit and/or my license. There’s an on-road motorcycle course that’s being offered here in town that I’m considering taking that waves the need to take the motorcycle skills test - haven’t decided on that yet.

I’ve taken the written test—the only part that is required for the permit—twice. And failed both times. You can miss 5. The first was 6, the second was 7. They’re both BS, though I would have been sort of surprised had I passed it on the first try. I hadn’t even opened the “manual” once.

So what questions have I missed. Here’s the first one: You following a car and the car following you is crowding you… what do you do?

  1. Slow down
  2. Speed up
  3. Pass the car in front of you
  4. Make rude gestures at the driver behind you while swerving from side to try to force them off of the road

Ok—so the last one I made up, but it was something as obviously wrong as that. So, what would you do? I chose “Pass the car in front of you”. You’re following another car, so you’re at a safe distance, right? Closing that gap means you are then being unsafe. Slowing down is passive aggressive and you’ve got an ass driving behind you since he’s tailgating so there’s no telling how he’ll react. That leaves passing the car in front of you.

Nope. According to the great state of Kansas, you’re supposed to speed up. Ok… no problem. In all fairness I hadn’t looked at the driver’s manual so I wasn’t expecting to pass it. I figured I would flip through the book then take it again. I took it again yesterday. This time the score was worst, but I’m almost ready to say screw it on principle because of the two that I missed that threw me over the limit.

So here’s the two questions I missed:

What is the best way to be seen at night?

  1. Wear a retroreflective vest
  2. Wear fluorescent clothing
  3. Wear a white helmet with an yellow star
  4. Wear a cape made of the stars and bars and have your radio playing Sweet Home Alabama at at least 100 decimals

Yeah - we do things a little different in Kansas. ;-) If you know anything about the history of the state, you mark the last one off. Though it might get you some attention, we’re a free state. And well, the helmet with a star is just silly.

So you can obviously narrow it down to the first two. I had never heard of “retroreflective” until I saw it on this test. I assumed it was a made up word and went with fluorescent. Should have known better just from the “reflective”, but I overanalyzed it and went with B. Tonight I checked the handbook. The phrase “retroreflective” doesn’t appear at all! Reflective yes, the five letters that make up “retro” in that order do not. Period. The question is bogus.

The next question I missed that I take issue with is thus:

What happens when your rear tire goes flat?

Before I so you the answers, remember that I’m a programmer. My title is “Staff Engineer”. I approach things in a very (non-?)practical manner. I don’t look for what happens in practice, but what should happen. Now, here’s the answers.

  1. You will loose control
  2. You will loose power to the rear wheel
  3. Martians will invade your head
  4. The rear of the bike will start to wobble uncontrollably

Here’s how that process goes in my mind. Martians aren’t interested in my brain ‘cause I have a flat tire, that’s off. You don’t automatically loose control, so that’s off. Loose power, or start to wobble? Well, if you deflate a tire while putting uniform pressure on it, it will just deflate down to the rim. Though if you deflate it, you loose traction which causes you to loose power—at least until you strip the wheel down to the rim and start riding on the rim.

Back and forth it goes. I finally go with loose power based solely on the engineer in me. Just because you loose air pressure does not mean the wheel wobbles. I could set this experiment up in a lab and prove it. Provide a slight deviation in how pressure is applied, then it wobbles. Yes, I give you that, but the question doesn’t mention that your passenger is turning their head so they can pick their nose. There is no qualifications, so I am left to assume they want the proper answer. You loose traction due to the deflation which causes you to loose power—at least temporarily—to the rear wheel.