Crossing the bridge & passing the Japanese motorcycle exam
A short note about the infamous highly-feared obstacle waiting for you at the driving exam polygon, with an advice that will grant you the passing points!
I've never had a conversation about Japanese motorcycle exam that didn't include at least a few minutes about the dreadful bridge that you need to pass extremely slowly, holding a straight line, certainly without falling off. The bridge is nothing but a metal plank lifted only a few cm from the floor, about 30 cm wide and a few meters long.
In fact, there is so much talk and mystery circulating around that bridge, that most of us develop a phobic approach to it and expect to fail (like everyone else). You are told in school that this step is the greatest elimination point and that some people continuously fail at it. We know a bunch of foreign riders who have had a license and drove in their home country for years, but fell off the bridge during the Japanese exam - and often entirely gave up on riding here.
Falling off the bridge is a great punch to one's ego
During the driving lesson, you only have about 2 tries to do it. And the first time, you'll think about all the negative experiences you heard and read about, therefore your failing probability increases.
Once you pass the assignments in school, you practice the acquired
'tricks' on your own, and learn new ones with the instructor when
scheduled. I was uncomfortable with the bridge, but somehow managed to pass it during the second try of the first bridge-including lesson. The instructor marked this task complete and we moved on. During the following lessons, I didn't feel confident on the bridge, and even though I've had more successful passes than fails, something just felt strange. At one instance of my practice, I failed. The tire slipped from the narrow bridge halfway, and caught one of the instructor's attention. I circled around and returned for next try. This time I passed, balanced the bike well. As I reached the other side, I saw instructor's astonished facial expression. He asked me if I always cross the bridge like this. Uhhhm... I guess so. He was surprised I ever managed to cross it that way, as it's just WRONG. And here's what he taught me:
So what's the RIGHT WAY TO DRIVE A NARROW STRAIGHT LINE?
- Look straight. Don't look down, it doesn't help!
- Don't balance the bike with your body. Don't twist your shoulders and put weight on one side or another.
- Squeeze the bike with your knees. Keep your knees together at all times. It's not a racing circuit, no knee drops needed here.
- Hold the clutch half-way, to slow down the bike, balance it, and prevent the engine stop.
- Don't use the front brake at any time. To slow down, regulate the speed using the leg brake.
- Concentrate on the clutch and the throttle. Use acceleration to keep in balance, and half-clutch to maintain stability slow movement.
- And here's the main part: If bike gets out of balance, get it back on track with short and fast movements of the steering bar. Like this:
Here's a reference video. To make it harder, the policeman is standing up:
And a video of a king who managed to expand his bridge crossing so long, that it even gets boring to ride or watch at some point:
After you try the correct way, you figure out it's not hard at all. And even though many people say the opposite, I'm pretty sure you'll utilize this skill sooner than later. Passing between the long queues of cars during weekend congestion? This gets you covered!
Now don't burn bridges because of an initial failure, rather try again and get that license!