With the pandemic shutting Taiwan off from the world, many people who might otherwise go traveling are looking for new places to spend their energy. For some middle-aged and retired folks, that means fulfilling long-mothballed ambitions. We made a trip to a motorcycle school in New Taipei that''s had a windfall of older students. Lots of middle-aged people who never had time to learn before are now determined to get in the saddle.

Changing gears while hitting the accelerator, Mr. Liao廖 works in delivery. Now 46, he’s just acquired a new motorcycle for a cool NT$500,000. On his days off, he goes to riding school. He can’t wait to get his license and take to the open road.

Mr. Liao

Motorcycle student

It''ll be more convenient to go out and have fun, and there’ll be less traffic too.

Mr. Lai retired last year. Almost 60, the Taoyuan native also comes to this motorcycle class in Banqiao District, New Taipei. He’s dreaming of a round-the-island tour.

Mr. Lai

Motorcycle student

I’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle all round the island. I saw people riding motorcycles when I was young and it seemed so cool.

The pandemic and Taiwan’s closed borders made many people slow down and rethink their lives. That’s led lots of middle-aged folk to renew their passion for youthful dreams like bikes. This motorcycle school has a 50% uptick in enrollments, with lots more students in their fifties and sixties. In December they bought new bikes to cater to that demographic.

Chen Po-ting

Motorcycle riding instructor

The seat height is about 8 centimeters lower than the typical seat height.

The first test is riding round a circle. Then you must ride along a beam for more than seven seconds. Finally there’s changing gears and swerving. Students practice all these moves over and over again. When they fall, they get up and start over.

Chen Tzung-min

Motorcycle riding instructor

We had a gentleman over 70 years old come to our class and get his license. He said he wasn’t planning to go out on his bike, he just wanted to get the license, which was something he’d wanted to achieve his whole life.

Lots of these students have reached a point in life where they have more money and free time than they had in their youth. It’s an unexpected windfall for motorcycle schools, who never thought their student body would shift this way. The pandemic exerts its strange devices once again.