So. One day, you are in your car and you look up and ZOOOOoooommmm, a motorcycle zips by. As you watch the chrome twinkle and fade you look out over the hood of your non-denominational crud coated car and think to yourself, 'I want to do that.' Which slowly becomes, 'I can do that, I mean really? How hard can that be?'
PRESTO-DIGITALIS! You've decided to become a motorcyclist. Later, after dinner and a relaxing beverage, you decide it's time to tell your--(circle one please) Wife-Husband-Girlfriend-Boyfriend-Companion-Longtime Companion-Passed Out Roomie-Stray Cat That Snuck in the Window-Jay Leno (he'll understand!)--that you're gonna get a bike.
'Not on your life!' Spits a finger waggling Stray.
'But I'll take a class!' Says you (wondering how a pizza thieving tabby became your "In Case of Emergency" contact).
'What are THEY gonna teach you?' Says the Stray as it rifles through your empty pizza boxes and all those Jack in the Box wax papers you've nibbled a little past wax to get all the cheese.
Good question! What are THEY going to teach you?
Allow me to illuminate.
The VAST majority of training in the US uses the Motorcycle Safety Foundation cirriculum. The beginner's course is called the "Basic Rider Course" and usually starts on Friday night with classroom component, continues Saturday with Range (on bike) training for 4 hours, 4 more hours of classroom, then completes on Sunday with 4 hours of riding and a short classroom session. (BRC student manual is here: http://www.msf-usa.org/CurriculumMat...ndbook2009.pdf Times may vary from state to state and from provider to provider. As always, there's a test at the end...2 in fact; a Knowledge Evaluation and a Skill Evaluation.
The Evaluations is where the fear and confusion start. Allow me to disallow you of some illusions by addressing some common misconceptions about ANY sound motorcycle cirriculum:
1. The MSF/BRC is NOT designed to get you a license. It just isn't. It's designed to teach you sound fundamental operation of a motorcycle. On point, the MSF:BRC is designed to:
A. Teach that motorcycling is a risky business--AND you manage that risk.
B. Teach you basic operations. Starting, Shifting, Braking, Cornering, Swerving.
C. Teach you baslc Street Strategies; things like "See and be Seen", lane positioning, space cushions, traction issues, SEE (Search, Evaluate, Execute)...
D. Allow you to practice riding and emergency manuvers in a controlled environment.
2. The MSF/BRC IS designed for complete newcomers. It just is. The design is so you actually learn how to SIT on a bike. This is ground-up, first time, never done it before training. You will find people in your course who might have some level of experience but the COURSE is designed with utter, total, complete rookies in mind. You do NOT need any prior coaching, private lessons, or riding experience to be succussful in the BRC. The only thing you need to do before your course is any pre-reading that your course supplier sends to you or directs you to.
3. You do NOT need to buy gear or anything special to take Beginner training. You've probably got what you need in your closet:
A. Long sleeved shirt or coat.
B. Long pants (over the ankle...no capris!).
C. Over the finger gloves. A pair of leather work gloves will do.
D. Sturdy, over the ankle shoes. Some will let you go with a pair leather hightops, the best? Maybe a lightweight hiking boot. If you're not sure? Bring them with you to your first classroom session and ASK. (Better to find out Friday night than Saturday morning.)
E. Eye protection. Sunglasses are usually acceptable.
One question you'll hear a lot is: "Do I need a helmet?" Quick answer? NO. Every place I've ever seen or heard about has 'loaner' helmets they will let you use. Don't be upset if they ask you to wear a hair net when you use it...they're not worried about you--it's the last person that wore it they're worried about...
4. Chow. You will be given breaks. Bring something to eat. Yeah, it's only 4 hours on a bike but that's gonna be 6 to 10 miles of riding. Potentially in hot or cold weather. Bring snacks and a sports drink if you want one. The course provider will have water on hand but not much else. Like riding, you take a lot of responsibility for yourself. In my case, as an insulin dependant Diabetic, I make sure I have everything I need: insulin, snacks, hydration, glucose monitor--you're going for a long motorcycle ride in a small parking lot--might as well treat it for what it is.
5. Passing or Failing the course. Here's the tough one. What does passing really mean? What does failing really mean?
Passing means--you performed well on the evaluation! You did it. You proved some proficiency at operating a motorcycle. Many states have decided that passing the MSF:BRC evaluations (both Knowledge Eval and Skills Eval) is good enough to waive a state skills evaluation, you will probably still need to take the state's written examination. This is where some of the confusion starts for this WHOLE adventure. The MSF:BRC isn't designed to get you a waiver--it's designed to equip you with basic skills and strategy. The Skill and Knowledge Evaluations test is to see if you RETAINED those skills. States, seeing you've retained those skills and that knowledge (retained them for about, what? An hour?) often waive thier skills test.
Yeah, passing means you're parking lot devil. You've NOT been in traffic. You've NOT traveled more than 25mph and you're NOT ready for that big crosscountry adventure. You're ready to ride around in a parking lot where everyone goes the same direction...
You do have a basic skill set to build on, a firm foundation to launch a motorcycling career on. You're off to a good start.
What does failing mean? It could mean many things! It could mean you had a bad day. It could mean you panicked during the evaluation (better on the range than the road). It could mean you need more practice.
Failing does not mean you're a bad person.
Failing does not mean you're a loser.
Failing does not mean you can't learn to ride.
What failing means is that you may need another whack at the apple. You CAN retake the course. You can look for one on one instruction. Heck, you might even realize that you're a passenger--not a driver. Most importantly failing the course means you need to get inside your own head and figure out what you really want to do--then chase it.
A word of caution in all this: if you're taking training from someone who guarantees you'll get your license? Get out. It's in thier interest to lie to you--to tell you that you're ready when you're not. Would you want a Doctor cutting on you who had gone to a school that guaranteed everyone who entered would graduate? Me neither.
Everyone learns to ride for their own reasons. True story: Last year I was giving a lady the 'good news' that she had passed the skills eval. I asked her "what next, getting your license?" She answered:
"No, I was looking at a list of things I had written down; a list of things I was going to do before I was 40. Learning to ride a motorcycle was one of them. My 40th is next week. Now? I've learned to ride! Thanks!"
Nice lady. Good day.