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Taking the BRC -- A Journal


  • Taking the BRC -- A Journal

    My BRC was at Honda in Alpharetta, Georgia....

    Friday, 6 pm to 10 pm

    They checked our picture IDs upon arriving, handed out a workbook, various brochures and stuff, and a list of questions with the name of another student written on it. You had to find that student and get the answers to the questions listed. That was kinda neat cuz you could easily get to know someone else and it got everyone chatting. Being that bikes were the theme to the weekend, it wasn't hard to find things in common. I met Cynthia who owns a Honda Aero 750 and had put 1,500 miles on it.

    I came with my girlfriend, Nancy, who has never ridden and was mainly there cuz she thought this would be fun. A no-risk taker like me thinks that's nuts.

    There were a total of 11 students, counting the one guy who showed up about 20 minutes late [a big no-no – he was very lucky they let him into the class], eight of us being women. That was pretty kewl! They run two classes at the same time and I noticed later on the range that the other class was all men with the exception of one woman. I was sure glad to be in the class I was in.

    We went over material in the workbook that we would be tested on later combined with short videos. The videos were actually pretty good. The instructors [there were two] told us what to expect over the next two days. We would be out on the range the first day from 8 am to 3 pm with a one-hour lunch break. From 3 pm to 6 pm we would go over material in the workbook, which covered what we needed to know on the written test. The last day we would be out on the range from 8 pm until 2:30 pm when the skills test would begin. After the skills test we would take the written test and be done by 6 pm.

    Saturday, 8 am to 6 pm

    Our first day on the range we began by being assigned to a specific motorcycle. We would use the same one the whole time. All the bikes were 250 Honda Nighthawks, and boy are they twitchy in first gear. I didn't like that at all. The Nighthawk is about 150 lbs lighter than my bike so it was easier to learn on cuz I could hold it up whenever I screwed up. I think it would have helped my confidence level a lot if I had started learning on a lighter bike. I didn't like the seat though. For my short legs a seat that is shaped like a typical bicycle seat fits me better. These seats were kinda square shaped. The clutch and the brake were really hard to pull in. By the second day several gals had bruises on their left hand and our wrists were sore. It hurts for me to type this.

    We sat on the bikes and went over FINE-CC and Engine Cut-Off/Key/Fuel. The first thing we did on our bikes was to learn how to duck walk our bikes in the friction zone across the range and back. Even though they gave me a bike with a lower seat, my legs still were still struggling to turn my bike around after I got across the range. Randy [an instructor] had to give me a push each time. /sigh

    Then we rode around the perimeter in both directions. Later on we even got to practice shifting into third around the perimeter. Once, when we were going through maneuvers where we had to shift up and down a lot, I got a cramp in my left foot. Ugh. I missed my forward pegs. As the day went on we went through all of the basics. I guess I did okay. I had problems with my right hand turns though. Not too surprising. I think I'm looking ahead of my turn but I don't think I'm looking far enough. I have to focus very hard on that and then I do much better. Plus I think I forgot to lean.

    On my left hand turns I was pretty good. One time I just shot out of the left hand turn and missed going through a pair of markers and one of the instructors said I was doing what dirt bike riders like to do. I guess I was leaned over pretty good.

    We put our bikes away at 3 pm sharp and did more work in the workbook until 6 pm. Nancy wanted to go out to dinner, but I was tired and felt like I was wearing the range on my face. All I wanted to do was go home, take a shower, and chill. We also had to use this time to study for the written test we would take the next day. And I got sun burnt. It was in the high 60's but it sure felt a lot hotter on that tar surface we were riding on. None of us could imagine having to do this in July and August in 'Hotlanta.' It must be brutal. The instructors said they really have to watch students carefully for dehydration. There was a huge cooler full of ice cold water on the range. That was nice. But it's not like you get to hop off your bike to get a drink.

    Sunday, 8 am to 6 pm

    I was worried about the last day. I knew they were going to crank things up a notch and I figured how well I did throughout the day would be a good indicator how well I'd do on the skills test. And it was hotter out than the day before. Ugh.

    The first thing they showed us was The Box. Actually I was glad to get this bad boy out of the way early. If that was the last thing we had to do before the skills test it would have blown my confidence for the test. I've read and seen different ways that you enter and exit The Box. The instructors had you enter along the right side of The Box making a left hand U-turn shifting your weight on the seat to the right, then crossing over the middle of The Box shifting your weight back onto the seat, then making a U-turn to the right shifting your weight to the left on the seat, and exiting out of The Box along the left side of the box at the opposite end you came in. My right hand turn would end up with me coasting across the range. I swear. I would just freeze the handlebars even though my head was turned in the right direction. Looking back on it I'll bet I wasn't really looking where I wanted to go. I mean looking exactly where I need to end up, not five feet in front of me. Ugh. There was one other person that struggled a little worse than I did, and she was the one that had ridden the Dragon's Tale. Go figure.

    We learned how to execute evasive action by pressing our handle bars either to the right or the left. I really did well here. That's fun. I also liked going around the cones. Except for the ones that were staggered far apart. I found out later that I needed to look way down the end of the line of cones keeping the nearby ones in my peripheral vision not looking to the second one like I did when they were lined up in a row. I found out we would not be tested on this so I just filed that away to practice on later. /whew

    We learned how to do a quick stop. We would shift our bikes into second gear and at the markers hit the brakes, front and rear, pulling in the clutch, and shifting to first and stopping with our left foot down first. I did very well here. At one point the instructors placed 2 x 4's all around the perimeter and we got to practice riding over them. That wasn't so bad, but you better remember to hang onto your handlebars since you have to throttle up and stand up on your pegs just before you go over the object. All in all I was sweating The Box and right hand turns.

    When it was time to do the skills test we were told there were four skills we would be tested on. That was a relief. With everything they ran us through for those the two days I imagined us having to go through a lengthy course of some kind. They got The Box out of the way first. I was glad. It was good for me to get that out of the way. Those that did a good job before went over the lines now. I was ninth in line. I was kinda glad to be towards the end of the line so I could see this done over and over again and coach myself on what to remember to do. The gal in front of me was the person that was worse than me in The Box. She could not maneuver the first turn. She ended up a ways into the range, came way back in and could not get her bike to turn right. She just road off and got back into the end of the line. They let you have a second chance if you botch things up, which was pretty kewl since a lot of people who do good all weekend can choke during the test. So they told her she had to finish the exercise and somehow she got her bike to go through those exit points of The Box. Then it was my turn. I went very slowly and did okay with my left turn and shifting my weight....for me. My front tire went over the line. On my right turn I shifted my weight late cuz I was so focused on starring through the exit points that I forgot. I did go out of The Box and then back in but at least I made it! It was the best I had done all day. I learned later that you got one point off for each time the bike crossed over a line, which ended up being five points for me.

    Skills one and two were a combined exercise. Once you exited The Box you shifted into second gear, getting to a speed of between 12 and 18 mph, and did the evasive press on your handle bars to the right around an imaginary bus marked by cones and then stop. You were told whether or not to continue to the next skill. So far so good.

    The third skill was to do a quick stop from second gear, between 12 and 18 mph. I got some points taken off of this because I didn't stop short enough. Nuts. I do it great all day and now blech. I realized later that I had misinterpreted the directions. When Scott [the other instructor] said we needed to be sure our bikes stopped past the markers I took that to mean our bikes needed to be past the markers before you applied the breaks. I didn't stop the bike 'at' the markers I stopped when I thought the bike was 'through' the markers. Lost some points there. Durn.

    The last skill was making two right hand turns. That would figure. You had to use the SLPR technique through two right hand turns and it was timed. You had to aim your bike to stay within two parallel lines that curved to the right at two corners. The width of this 'corridor' was about 1/3rd of a lane of roadway so you had to be accurate. I decided not to worry about the lines and trust in looking through the turn. The second right turn bent back towards the center of the range and you had to be sure to roll on your throttle when coming out of that turn. One guy would have gotten a perfect score but for that rolling the throttle part. I saw one gal cross the line at the end of this 'corridor' and learned later she got 10 points taken off because that was considered running off the road. Dang. I did good on this amazingly enough.

    At about 4 pm we go back to the classroom to take the written test. Before we do Randy says he's got good news and bad news about the skills test. He told us everyone passed except one and he couldn't tell us who. You could have heard a pin drop. Our eyes were as wide as a deer's in the headlights. They he says he was just kidding, we all passed. I could have snatched him bald-headed. Relieved we finished up our workbook on substance abuse and then took the written test. It was 50 questions. They did a good job preparing you for the test. I was glad though that I had taken the time to review the material Saturday night. I missed one. Nancy got a 100! Kewl!

    Randy told anyone who wanted to know how they scored on each skill. The deal is if you get more than 20 points taken off you fail. I got 17 points. I was within 4 points of failing and that really bothered me, especially thinking back on my quick stop. My score should have been a lot better. Dumb dumb dumb. My friend Nancy did pretty good for her first time on a bike. She got 15 points off. She was perusing through bike brochures the whole weekend. heh

    When I got home I told my husband to line up the margaritas! I had asked him earlier in the week that if I didn't pass would he still love me. He said no. Geez. Talk about pressure! Anyway, I'm sure glad it's all over. It was intense and exhausting. We were all just beat by the last day.

    Do I feel more confident? Yes. It will be interesting to me to see how what I've learned translates to my heavier bike, but the way this course was set up you really practiced practiced practiced each safety skill. All in all I feel like I've done more than pass tests. I feel like I've accomplished a major feat.
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