I passed my Motorcycle Safety Foundation Basic Rider Safety Course at Gail’s Harley-Davidson (the Rider’s Edge). With flying colors, I might add – one of only two people in the class that nailed a perfect score on the riding part of the exam. That doesn’t get me extra points but it does make me feel like I kinda actually might know what I’m doing.
If you have not taken a rider safety course certified by the MSF I would encourage you to. It’s $300 (at least mine was) but it’s well worth every penny in my book. I started out not having any idea how to ride a motorcycle and never having been on one before, period. I went from there to proficient on the basics and able to ride my bike anywhere and feel comfortable doing so (although I have to get my bike checked out before I’ll leave the neighborhood), plus I got a discount on my motorcycle insurance for having taken the course. Bonus.
It’s a three-day class (all day Tuesday-Thursday), but was well worth the time investment. We spent about 40-50% of the time actually on the bike (we rode Buell Blasts) and the rest in the classroom. The weather was perfect for us (a little chilly in the morning; awesome in the afternoon) and our instructor – Dan – was clearly one of the best at what he does.
The class we had was a mix – there were two of us that had never ridden before and one who’d been riding for years so it’s not really just for beginners. That being said, we started at the beginning with proper mounts/dismounts, safety checks and starting it up. Then it was slipping the clutch, riding the friction zone and getting the bike to move in the right direction. Not too long after that we were weaving in and out of cones and shifting gears.
Day two was more practice on fundamentals and then things like turning and braking. By the middle of day two’s riding I was actually comfortable that I wasn’t going to wipe out when I leaned the bike over – to the point I got very comfortable making and accelerating out of turns. Unfortunately the double-U-turn portion perplexed me – after about ten tries I still couldn’t keep my bike between the lines without putting my foot down.
Day three was the evaluation (the riding portion of the test) after we did some fast braking, turning and swerving practice. Fast braking I had down; cornering I had down (even got an award for the best cornering!); swerving I had down. My biggest fear was the low-speed maneuverability (those double-U-turns in the box) – I felt comfortable with the rest of the evaluation stuff but was afraid I’d bomb that piece. Two practice runs before the evaluation started did nothing to dispel that – one I had to put my foot down on and the second I ran outside the box. But lo and behold when all the pressure was on I managed to pull it off flawlessly.
I don’t actually have my license yet (I have to take the written portion at the Lees Summit or Raytown DMV and they were closed before I got there Thursday), but I’m still taking my Shadow out for rides around the neighborhood to get comfortable with her. She’s definitely an easier bike to ride (better friction zone, more comfortable riding position) but it’s got forward controls instead of mid controls so it’s still different. I’ve got about 2 hours on the Shadow vs. 10 or so on the Blast so I’m still trying to learn the nuances. By Tuesday I expect to be taking myself up to Volleyball Beach on two wheels, not four, however.
A new chapter in my life, and one that I’m excited for. Riding a motorcycle has always been something I’ve wanted to do and now I have the chance to do it.
Happy birthday to me, indeed.