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.
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.
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 05:41 AM.