Learning to drive a car requires a good teacher or a good driving school, it’s no different for Bikers.
A bike is a roaring mechanical beast and like every other beast, to domesticate it means you need to learn how to tame it. A good biker must have learnt how to tame the beast. This knowledge isn’t hereditary or divine, it’s taught.
This is the foundation of an intriguing lifestyle as a biker, so it was only right we delved into this.
Training adults of all ages on how to be in total control when they mount their beasts is not an easy task. So speaking to someone who does this regularly was very important.
I found out about Safe Rider Motorcycle School on Instagram and reached out to the founder and a certified motorcycle instructor. Here’s how our chat went
What’s your name?
So my name is Ayotunde Oluwole, popularly known as Sugarr or AySugarr. I’m a motorcycle safety training instructor and also a photographer.
Cool, as an instructor I would assume you ride as well, how long have you been riding?
I’ve been riding for about 23 years now, started riding in 1999.
Oh wow, that’s a long time. So where did the idea of a riding school come from?
Oh that’s a tricky one. It emanated from two things really. While I was in the University, I used to have people come to me, asking me to teach them how to ride. In my mind, I didn’t think I was in the right place to teach people, I mean I was a university student I didn’t even know what to do with myself.
There was also the issue of “Okay, whose bike are you guys going to use to learn?”, because it for sure wasn’t going to be mine. So that was how it was at the time. Then going through Uni, being a young rider with other young riders around me and even some older ones we used to do a lot of crazy stuff. They used to be very reckless on their bikes. There were accidents, some fatal, some just really bad and they were mostly due to negligence or recklessness on the part of the rider. There was just a general lack of care for road rules and regulations.
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So the idea of setting up a riding school for me, was a way to give back and share my knowledge. I wanted to be a doctor initially, I wanted to help people and save lives so for me it feels like I’m still doing that. Helping people, saving lives by teaching people how to ride safely on Nigerian roads.
You’ve answered my next question basically, but why do you teach?
Like I said, it was my way of giving back, like a service to society. It’s my little way of helping to save lives. I know a lot of people want to learn how to ride motorcycles but don’t know how to go about it and there are those that do have the courage to get on a motorcycle but don’t have the full knowledge of how to go about it safely.
There’s something I say, courage should be knowledge that has done its research and said its prayers. Courage should always be fueled by knowledge. Courage should not be a thing of “okay, I’ve always wanted to do this so I’m just go do it without proper information or education”, that’s not courage, that’s stupidity.
So when people say they want to ride and just go out to ask a mechanic or an okada man to put them through the controls, that’s not nearly enough knowledge. That’s not how to ride safely, that’s just how to move a motorcycle. There’s so much more information to learn and that is what I bring to the table.
Your driving school, Safe Rider has been up for how long now?
Safe Rider has been in existence since 2011, so that’s about 11 years now. It hasn’t always been known as Safe Rider as we’ve gone through a lot of rebranding over the years. We started as Stalwart Motorcycle School, and then we became Pro-Wheels Riding School but then my partner at the time relocated so I had to rebrand and that’s when Safe Rider began.
11 years is a very long time, can you estimate how many riders have passed through your school in that time?
Hmm.. Give or take I should have trained about 200 riders. Maybe even 250.
That’s not bad at all. I need to know, do you ride with a crew currently?
No I don’t ride with a particular group but I have trained a number of students who have gone on to join different groups or even started theirs. One of such groups is Bad Gang (Bikers with Attitude and Determination), that’s a club that came out of the school with members from my Alumni group. About 80-90% of riders in that group were trained by me. So indirectly I ride with all these people but I’m not a part of the club or crew.
I ride as a Safe Rider and they ride with me.
Okay say I join the school with plans to learn how to ride, what’s the process like?
So once you reach out to us on Instagram and you register for the course, it’s pretty much a run through. First things first, psychology. We have to know the psychology of the rider. Finding out why you want to ride a motorcycle. This is a important question that every potential rider needs to answer. You don’t just teach someone how to ride, you have to find out why exactly the person wants to ride a motorcycle. That information helps as an instructor to know how to go about training that particular student. It also helps to pick out what type of motorcycle that student should ride.
If you’re gonna be a commuter, you should get a nimble, small engine bike that can go through traffic very easily and won’t overheat in traffic. Easy to maneuver especially when you’re fatigued in traffic after a long day at work. If you’re gonna travel around the country often, then a touring bike is the one for you so you can go off-road based on our terrain in Nigeria. So basically it’s a full routine of questions that are important. You don’t just register and get on a bike immediately.
The first class is pretty much a very interactive class where we try to get to know each other. We work as a team, trying to encourage a spirit of brotherhood amongst the students. That’s how the school is, it’s a family… A Safe Rider family.
We try to encourage the brotherhood, we’re always taking care of each other. The most important part of our training is to learn that every accident is your fault. The best rider is the rider who gets home every day and that’s what’s most important.
So after we get to understand your psyche, you get to learn about the various types of motorcycles, so you have an idea of what kind of motorcycle you intend to buy. Then we go through all the courses, we work on your balance, if you’ve had any sort of riding experience. Motorcycle or Bicycle. If you’ve got bicycle experience, you pay less since you already have some sort of knowledge.
Once this is sorted, we go through a series of obstacle tests, slow maneuvers, defensive riding and lastly we teach you how to use the emergency braking and slow riding. Slow riding is very important especially because we’re in Nigeria, you’ll ride in traffic a lot so you need to learn how to ride really slowly and in reality, it’s like the most important part of riding. Anybody can twist the throttle and ride fast but not everybody can go slowly, and as we all know stopping is the most important part of riding.
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Knowing how to stop once you’ve accelerated is super important.
That’s very detailed. Safe Rider itself, what’s it about?
Safe Rider is all about riding safe like the name implies. The reason why the biking culture is growing in Lagos and Nigeria as a whole now is because there are a lot more safe riders on the roads. They’re preaching the gospel of safe riding.
Families are more accepting now because we’re not having any issues, or as many accidents and fatalities like we used to. I’ve trained a number of couples, also had students who have become couples and are married now. I’ve had families accept riders whereas before we used to have a lot of families who would never agree with the riding. Now there are people who even bring their family members to the school to meet me and they can see that it’s a safe responsible space and they now even develop interests in riding.
I’ve trained people in their 50s and 60s. They’ll say its something they’ve always wanted to do but they wanted to have the family first so now the kids are all grown, they can pick this up. There’s something I always tell people when they say it’s on my bucket list. Riding is for life. It shouldn’t be something you put on a bucket list, it is a way of life.
That’s pretty much what Safe Rider is all about. It’s just as the name implies, it’s about getting home every day. It’s about knowing that the most important thing is not about being right on the street, but being safe on the street.
You see a reckless driver, you don’t have to try to show him that you’re this expert rider. Instead, you just let him go because you have to get home to your family safe. That what it’s about. Not about proving your skills to anybody, not about road rage, it’s just about getting home safe.