Thoughts on MSF Basic Riding Course - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 04:30 AM Thread Starter
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Thoughts on MSF Basic Riding Course

Spent Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday at an MSF Basic Rider Course Class. Since we have a number of new folks getting back in to riding, I thought that I should post some comments.

Since this is just an opinion, a little about my background.

Like so many of you, I grew up riding about everything. If it had a motor, I weaseled my way on it. Mini bikes, dirt bikes, trials, heck, I rocked a Tote Goat. How's that for old school !

Rode a Vulcan in my twenties and that was my only transportation for three years up in the Bellevue/Seattle area. You haven't lived until you're riding up hill in Seattle and a washing machine rolls out of the back of a pickup in front of you.

Raced motocross for 3-4 years about as seriously as you can at the local/regional level. I was not fast, but man, no one could out-crash me.

Spent 18 months racing wheelchairs and crutches after 4 surgeries for a compound fib/tib break.

Haven't been on a bike in 25 years. Got tired of riding the couch. I asked my wife if I could have a 20 year old girlfriend. She told me not until I learned how to properly feed and water the one I got. Soooo, cue the Versys purchase.

Why I took the Rider Course.

1) I'm not fond of the DMV. The thought of having some cantankerous person test me that may or may have ever ridden a motorcycle did not sound appealing. Here in Tennessee, you can circumvent both the written and the on-bike test by taking a certified rider safety course.

2) Having not been on a bike in 25 years, and a street bike in 30, I was a little bit intimidated at the thought of trying to stay alive. Inattentive drivers were bad enough in the 80's and we didn't have cell phones and texting.

3) While I have ridden extensively, my reflexes and balance are not what they used to be. Working on skills in a closed environment sounded a lot more appealing than baptism by fire.

With all that diatribe behind me, here's how the class went.

FRIDAY NIGHT - 6-10 PM

Get acquainted time and book work. We had 12 people in class. It really was a hodge podge. 2 kids that were under 18. 2 women. 3 people there tired of riding dirty. 1 guy who's entire lifetime experience consisted of 30 minutes in a parking lot with his buddies bike. And a number of older guys (40+ up to 70). Both lifetime riding vets and people like me getting back in.

Book work consisted of what you'd expect. Control identification, pre trip inspection, riding gear, statistics, etc.

SATURDAY 8-5

About another 1.5 hours of book work. Most of it about making wise choices and how to deal with issues when things go bad on the road.

Finally, Bike Time ! The instructor went through asking everybody what they wanted to ride. Everything was 300cc's or less. A number of mini cruisers, Dual Sports, and mini Sport Bikes. Personally, I wanted something tall that was vaguely similar to the Versys' saddle height. When he got to me, he just said, "you can ride anything right?. Hop on the GW250 over there."

I did NOT want a sport bike layout. The saddle height cant be any more than about 27 inches on that thing and I have a 33 inch inseam. That said, I fell in love with that little bike. Zippy, predictable, and stop on a flippin dime braking. I bonded with this bike ! I sure hope a used one doesn't show up for sale in town.

We started with mounting and starting a bike from a safety perspective. Then moved in to some clutch friction zone drills. Stone cold basic stuff, although I had no idea how important the clutch stuff was going to be to pass the class.

Lots of first and second gear work. Riding, cornering, braking, engine braking, etc. Again, all basic stuff. That said, the exercises were not particularly easy at times. Slow speed stuff means no gyro wheel effect so controlling the bikes in tight parameters was challenging. Interesting, not a single person said they were bored.

Sunday 8-5

A quick written test consisting of 30 questions. The test was easy of you studied. Very difficult if you spent Saturday night with frosty adult beverages.

Back on the bikes at 9AM. More cornering, braking, etc. Throttle control and clutch control. For awhile it felt like I was trying out for the Cali CHP motorcycle drill team. counter-steering at mild speed, evasive maneuvering, choosing escape routes, and emergency braking in turns. All this while monster rain storms came through making our nice dry surface a war zone of deep puddles and muddy spots. Emergency braking was especially harrowing. I lost traction with the front wheel more than once and had to let off and reapply. Thankfully, I never went down. No one wants to be the chucklehead that goes down in class.

One of the things I really liked was the instructors telling everyone that they were on their own path and that we needed to challenge ourselves. Not be stupid. Not take chances. But push ourselves. Twice I had the instructors stop me and tell me to get in to corners hotter to make the exercises more challenging. That helped my confidence immensely. I scared myself a little more than once, even at these mild speeds.

Testing consisted of emergency braking at a decent clip, emergency braking in a turn, counter-steering to avoid obstacles while remaining on the throttle, Some ultra slow speed figure 8 stuff in a rectangle the size of a postage stamp. My butt was moving around the seat like I was riding seated-trials.

All this was graded while watching to ensure we were using both breaks, down-shifting through deceleration, etc. in our watery parking lot lot/mud pit.

I spoke with a couple of the lifetime riding vets afterwards. All agreed that they learned some things and felt the course was worth every penny.

For me, I can say that I learned a tremendous amount. I shook off all the cob webs. And I have a different perspective on riding perception and making wise riding choices. My emergency braking technique has improved by leaps and bounds. I felt this alone is potentially life saving.

Personally, I think this course should be mandatory to get your endorsement. I witnessed a number of riders that rode adeptly in class until we simulated something bad happening. More than once these exercises simulated someone's likely demise for choosing poorly.

For new riders or people just getting back in. Take this course. The cost is cheaper than a ride in an ambulance or checking in to the ER. For long time vets, consider an advanced class and add to your skill set.

For me, this class has allowed me to forget about thinking about the operation of the bike and focus on staying upright and unscathed on the road.

Oh and thanks to the little GW250, I passed ! I'm stomping in to the DMV this morning (like I have a big pickle), slapping my certificate on the counter, and demanding my endorsement !

Rain or shine today, I RIDE !

2014 Versys 650 in glorious Kawasaki Green

Last edited by Zoomie; 07-13-2015 at 04:41 AM.
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post #2 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 05:16 AM
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I agree, this class should be mandatory. I started riding late in life (40+) and I don't think I would have started at all if not for the MSF class being available. It was well worth the money and a lot of fun.
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post #3 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 06:16 AM
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I think the msf should replace the license test in all states. it's mandatory for all military.
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post #4 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 06:38 AM
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That sounds very similar to the course I took a couple years ago, rain included.

And I agree with your thoughts on it being mandatory.

Now after a couple years I'm considering the 2nd MSF class or maybe a beginner track day.

Mitch
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post #5 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 06:47 AM
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I agree that it should be mandatory. Everyone, regardless of skill or experience can take something away from the class.
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post #6 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 07:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoomie View Post
Spent Friday night, all day Saturday and all day Sunday at an MSF Basic Rider Course Class.
Nice write up.
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post #7 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 09:56 AM
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Yup mandatory... for sure.

Related: The state of Maryland just removed the parallel parking portion of the driving test because too many people were falling it...? Meanwhile in Germany you have to take like 40+ hours of driver training and it ends up costing almost $2k for a drivers license... Shall we look at some statistics? haha

For the safety of you and others driving classes should be mandatory for sure.

+1 good write up.

2008 Versys 650

Been riding 8 or 9 years, and have owned 8 or 9 bikes; its an addiction I can't quit...
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post #8 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 10:10 AM
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Good on you for taking the course. My wife took it in the pouring rain also some years ago. Thanks for the great write up!

I spent most of my money on bikes, booze and broads. The rest I wasted.

I'd like to have a bad day, just to see what it feels like.
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post #9 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 10:34 AM
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I believe everyone should take the class as there are some real idiots out there.

However, I have also taken the UK CBT class, which allows you to ride using L plates (pretty much a learners permit here) and it was 20 times better. The class was a lot more in depth. instead of saying look through the corner they taught you how to look through a corner and how to combine body positioning and trail breaking to make you a more efficient, aware, and safer rider. The class was also much smaller so the instructor could spend much more time with each student.

I think the MSF course is a great introduction but could do with some tweaking.
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post #10 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 12:07 PM
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GREAT write-up!

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post #11 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GiantAntCowboy View Post
Related: The state of Maryland just removed the parallel parking portion of the driving test because too many people were falling it...?
da fuu? man I got out of Maryland just in time

the md driving test was already stupid easy, I took it in a station wagon and passed first try.
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post #12 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 01:28 PM Thread Starter
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I think the msf should replace the license test in all states. it's mandatory for all military.
I agree.

In spite of the fact that it is just a basic course, it could make a difference to fair number of riders.

I couldn't believe how many riders I saw doing idiotic things on the way home. I played hide and go seek with a Ninja rider in my blind spot for 6 miles. Freaked me out. I spent more time looking for him in my mirrors than paying attention to the road. I sped up. I slowed down. The guy was a hidden speed bump and I was looking for him !

2014 Versys 650 in glorious Kawasaki Green
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post #13 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 01:35 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gnarshread View Post
I believe everyone should take the class as there are some real idiots out there.

However, I have also taken the UK CBT class, which allows you to ride using L plates (pretty much a learners permit here) and it was 20 times better. The class was a lot more in depth. instead of saying look through the corner they taught you how to look through a corner and how to combine body positioning and trail breaking to make you a more efficient, aware, and safer rider. The class was also much smaller so the instructor could spend much more time with each student.

I think the MSF course is a great introduction but could do with some tweaking.
Based on my limited knowledge of Germany and the UK, I think our courses pale by comparison. So few U.S. riders take any type of class. Most lessons/skills are learned at the expense of close calls, skin, or worse.......... the death of another rider.

The last thing we need in this country is additional regulation. That said, it would be nice if there were at least deep insurance incentives. Maybe across all policies as motorcycle insurance is inexpensive. Anything to incent us all to invest in defensive riding.

2014 Versys 650 in glorious Kawasaki Green
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post #14 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 02:26 PM
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I took the MSP Advanced Rider class in May, 8 hours instead of 24, BYOB, also in the rain. It was fantastic and I learned a LOT, wound up being the only rider that day to get 100% on the written and all 5? 6? Driving tests. The Versys drinks up that course like 20 year old scotch.

I use clutch control very often now, my father who has been riding since the 60's swears that it's destroying the bike and I shouldn't do it. I admonish him that they don't make them like they used to and let him go ride his Harley.
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post #15 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-13-2015, 07:31 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by AdventureSeeker View Post
I took the MSP Advanced Rider class in May, 8 hours instead of 24, BYOB, also in the rain. It was fantastic and I learned a LOT, wound up being the only rider that day to get 100% on the written and all 5? 6? Driving tests. The Versys drinks up that course like 20 year old scotch.

I use clutch control very often now, my father who has been riding since the 60's swears that it's destroying the bike and I shouldn't do it. I admonish him that they don't make them like they used to and let him go ride his Harley.
I thought that they had lost their minds when they first explained it.

Just shows how far bikes have come.

2014 Versys 650 in glorious Kawasaki Green
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post #16 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-28-2015, 06:23 PM
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Zoomie - Excellent post! And I couldn't agree more. I started riding when I was 55 y.o. so the MSF course was a no brainer. I also agree with many of you who recommend more advanced training.

Here's another thing that I've fantasized about. Let's make every cage driver take this course!
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post #17 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-28-2015, 07:12 PM
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Yeah, I'm going to take one to bypass the CA driving requirement. It would be tough on the tall balls motorcycle going tip-toe slow,

Plus let your insurance company know so you can get a deduction in insurance!

Any small tips on driving could easily save your life. Trial and error on a motorcycle has it's drawbacks for sure. The more you know, the greater chances you forget basic essentials that are the highest priority of all. It will be my first and I'm looking forward to it. Of course, if I could get the same benefits from the race course class someone recently went to, boy wouldn't that be a hoot?! Yee Haw!
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post #18 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-29-2015, 02:34 AM
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The basic Riders Safety course is mandatory in Oregon to get a motorcycle endorsement. I had to take it to get my endorsement, but regardless it would be good to take just to brush up on the basic skills (break some bad habits). It has been three years since I took the course, I should look into taking another one.

Last edited by JJTynan; 07-29-2015 at 02:44 AM.
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post #19 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-29-2015, 09:49 AM
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Quote:
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I think the msf should replace the license test in all states. it's mandatory for all military.
I agree with this 100%.
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post #20 of 23 (permalink) Old 07-29-2015, 12:21 PM
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Good on any rider that seeks to improve.

Cali has dumped MSF after determining that the data didn't show the improvements they expected.

It's been replaced here by new programs run by Total Control and I'm glad. New program, new curriculum, and hopefully better. While I enjoyed the BRC and learned a few things the ERC should have been so much better than it was and instead ended with me deciding I'd never take another MSF course.

If you're going for some state requirement you obviously are limited to what the state endorses but if not do some research on what training is available in your area.
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