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Risk Hierarchy: Information - Rider Ed - Driver Ed - Conspicuity - Bike Defect - Ultra-Defensive Riding - Crash Avoidance - Injury Mitigation - Crash Scene
Biker Education and Training
At Bikesafer.com, we believe that training, taken early and often, and skills practice are the best way to learn the skills to control our risk factors out in the street. Like everything you do on a bike, this can and should be fun.
- Should You Ride?
- Biker Psych
- Basic Training
- First Bike
- Exper. Course
- Advanced Course
- Track Days
Between single-bike accidents and multi-vehicle crashes where rider skills issues were a contributory factor, all the information shows that rider training is the single biggest thing we can do to control our risks. Let's take it from the top, when you first decide to ride.
Should you ride a motorcycle? It's not for everyone.
It's useful to understand the psychology of riding.
If you are returning to riding, you're a 'retread'.
OK, you decided you want to ride. Next step is Basic Training.
Once you complete training and get your motorcycle license, it is time to consider your first motorycle purchase.
Then we need to practice our basic emergency skills to keep them current, and study up on defensive riding strategies.
After a year, or about 5000 miles, or when you get a new cycle, it's time for Experienced (or Intermediate) Rider Course (ERC) training.
To stay fresh, avoid repeating the same year of experience multiple years in a row, and learn new skills, you can take Advanced training.
Our training review page has independent reviews of training courses, books and videos.
Pillion passengers need training too.
To satisfy that need for speed, take it to track days at your local motorsports venue, and learn valuable riding skills.
If you want to take training, and can't afford it, try RidersU.org. They are a registered charity that finances training for needy riders.
Finally, whatever training you get, remember hubris - don't make yourself less safe
Should you ride a motorcycle?
Fair question. Motorcycles are not for everyone. They are a lot of fun, a huge thrill. But they are dangerous, uncomfortable and need constant care and attention.
Here's Neatorama with a tongue in cheek quote from British automotive TV star, Jeremy Clarkson on riding a sooter.
And here's a page on why you should ride a bike, from the UK Moto Guzzi rider's club.
Motorcycles need a lot of maintenance. Rear tires usually wear out every 8000 to 10000 miles, for example, and the other maintenance intervals are short. A poorly maintained bike is a death trap. There is very little mechanical redundancy on a bike. You can't skimp on preventative maintenance. Most federal safety standards that apply to cars are not for motorcycles.
OK, we at Bikesafer made our decisions. You can very easily be killed or worse on a bike. You have to decide this life-changing issue for yourself. Please take your time about it.
If you decide to ride, also decide to do it right. Check out Brittany Morrow's experience and resolve to get some good personal protection equipment and wear it every ride. (We cover safety gear in our Injury Mitigation section, with stealth tips for those who don't want to be obvious about it). Decide to get properly trained and to make a study of defensive riding. You are already in the right place for that, bookmark us.
Make some promises to yourself.
If you decide to ride, the next step is Basic Training.
What makes bikers tick? We've been talking with a lot of very accomplished riders and trainers recently, and we asked them all the same question about biker psychology and it's relationship to safety.
Lee Parks (of Total Control) thinks that bikers are risk takers, in the noble tradition of the species. We possess the gene that led us out of the trees and to the top of the food chain. He also points out that the successful risk takers in prehistory and later are the ones who intelligently managed their risk factors. The mammoth hunters who went wild-assed at their prey with spears got tusk-skewered, the ones who figured out how to drive the beasts over a cliff ate well, got laid and stayed in the gene pool. Our ancestors.
There is a strong tradition of rule-breaking, outlaw mentality among bikers. But these dudes take pride in the fact that they are 'one percenters' and are probably fewer than that. Lots of bikers like to break some of the rules, speed a bit, pop a wheelie, but in the eyes of the true hard-core outlaws, riders who try to look like them are 'wannabees' and get no respect.
Steve Garets of TEAM OREGON believes that bikers have a victim mentality. They blame cage drivers for all crashes, and this causes a fatalistic attitude and failure to take control of our risk factors. I thought of the local rider who tail-ended a car, blamed the cage driver, and on almost the exact anniversary of the first crash, tail-ended another car, this time totaling his ride and doing some hospital time. He blamed both drivers for the crashes and his denial probably contributed to the second crash. Victim mentality and denial, in this case, allowed this biker to avoid responsibility for controlling his risks, and prevented him from learning from his mistakes. Experience was useless to him.
Hurt was brilliant and his study produced major benefits. He did help popularize the fact that three quarters of his accidents were the cage drivers fault. This may have helped create a victim culture of fatalistic whiners who refuse to seize control of their rides, and pathetically await their fate at the hands of the next lazy cage driver that comes their way.
We say: we are not victims. We control our rides and manage our risks. We spot problems before they arise and we are ready with the skills for whatever life throws at us.
It was suggested that bikers have a death wish. It seems to us that this would be a self-correcting problem, but maybe bikers with death wishes account for some of the statistics. Suicide by bike? Look at the stats for bikers who crash on the way home from the dealer. We don't have to worry about that with live bikers. So we'll forget it.
Jerry Palladino, of 'Ride like a Pro' brought up fear (Lee Parks did too). Fear, or freezing up when confronted with danger, can be countered by training and practice, the knowledge that you have the skills to handle the situation.
Muscle memory drives the response to imminent danger, and that means training and regular practice of a few essential skills. There is no time to make this up when the problem is on top of you.
Biker 'Fashion' Victims
We also thought about riding buddies who are victims of biker 'fashion' - guys who don't wear helmets, or wear half-helmets even though they know full-face helmets give better protection, or who ride wearing t-shirts or inadequate gear. One buddy won't ride on the local base where he works, because he thinks he looks like a dork in the mandatory ANSI hi-viz vest and protective gear. Joey Redmon of 'Ride like a Pro', North Carolina has a motto, "Dress for the crash, not the ride" inspired by this phenomonen. All we have to say about gear is Brittany Morrow.
We think there's hope for these riders, and, in a rational world, bikers who don't like to wear protection ought to be even more motivated to pilot our risk hierarchy so as to avoid crashes.
90 percent of what's in Bikesafer.com is in your head, and if you are worried about peer pressure from your riding buddies, unless they've been studying us too, they'll never spot that you've been getting training, or that you are riding ultra-defensively, or that you are taking responsibility for your ride.
We also have some stealth options in our safety gear section.
Think about it: are your riding buddies are exerting peer pressure to ride unprotected? Could they be mistaken? Or maybe you can help them see the benefits of at least improving their defensive riding skills.
Either way, Bikesafer still has something for you, and, by choosing not to use adequate protection, you have doubled up on the ultra-defensive riding stakes.
Risk Takers with no Tradition of Risk Management
So where is the intersection of biker psychology and bike safety? It comes back to bikers are risk takers. It's a tiny remnant of a proud genetic heritage, in an over-regulated culture which values comfort and an illusion of safety. But our ancestors also had traditions and techniques of managing risk, and in our 120 years or so of motorcycle history, it seems we failed to develop a well accepted and rational culture of biker risk management. Instead we seem to have come up with a bunch of dumb myths, see motorcyclecruiser.com on bike myths.
There are a lot of enforcers and researchers out there that want us to be safe their way, and they don't mind pushing governors and lame restrictions on us. That won't work, most of them aren't bikers. We need to do for ourselves, so they won't come up with an excuse to add regulation and enforcement.
See our note on hubris. It's not just bikers, anybody who takes risk management measures tends to take additional risks in other areas, and don't always come out ahead in the exchange.
Cognitive science suggests that our ability to multitask is limited by the working memory we have available. Overloading our working memory can have disastrous consequences for a rider. Management of this limited cognitive resource is vital while learning to ride. See our page on paying attention.
BikeSafer PhilosophyWe can take control of our rides, take responsibility for our outcomes, ride rationally, develop the skills needed to counteract fear in dangerous situations and still have a blast on our bikes. In fact, it's more fun this way. Not saying we can't throw over the rules from time to time (that's part of being risk takers), but we'll do what we can to limit our exposure to risk. Which is what bikesafer.com is all about.
So why is bike safety the bastard stepchild of the industry? Maybe because there's no profit in it.
Returning Riders - Retreads
Possibly the biggest social phenomonen among motorcycle riders is the retread group. There is even a club for us.
A typical retread is a biker who rode during his youth and gave up the motorcycle under pressure of family responsibility and budget constraints during his child-rearing years.
In the fullness of time, as children completed education and 'empty nest' conditions arose, many former bikers get back into riding.
We gotta admit, most of those responsible for this site are retreads.
The issue of training for retreads is a bit awkward. ET took the BRC and found that it was very helpful, but a shorter version, omitting a lot of the basic controls part, would have done as well. He also took the MSF Experienced Rider Course. This is shorter and has about the right amount of range exercises, but omitted a lot of the classroom work on defensive riding, which is essential for the retread.
We recommend that retreads take the basic training again, because a lot has changed since we rode in our youth, and we are probably starting out on a whole new type of riding. Our reaction times, eyesight and general health has changed, and we've been driving cages too much.
The bikes have changed, too. We will probably ride a bigger and fastel bike than you had when you were young, and road conditions, gear and almost everything have changed a lot.
We would like to see training organizations develop courses geared for the retread. The MSF has a 'Seasoned Rider' curriculum, which is a classroom-based offering not widely available, but it can be offered by any MSF-accredited training organization and would be if a group requested it.
If you are very motivated, you could maybe get by with studying Bikesafer and taking an Experienced Rider Course, but check your state DOT regulations which specifies what the licensing requirements are, and bear in mind that you need to own a bike for most ERCs.
Other older riders, who have been riding for a long time, overestimate their skill levels, and neglect training. Here's Jerry Palladino's take on older riders. Jerry, a former bike cop and trainer, thinks that skill levels have deteriorated in the last twenty years.
Basic Training (BRC)
A typical Basic Rider Course (BRC) takes place over about three days, often a weekend, from Friday evening to Sunday. It has classroom sessions to go over the basic controls of the motorcycle and how to use them, some basic riding strategies emphasizing defensive riding and regulatory issues.
The range exercises start out with basic control exercises, mainly clutch and throttle and brakes. They continue with turning, cone weaves, s-turns and swerves, braking exercises, u-turns and varius simple maneuvers. The range exercises are generally tightly supervised and safety is a big consideration. Here's ET's detailed review of the MSF's BRC.
The ability to ride a regular, unpowered bicycle is a pre-requisite. You won't get much out of the course without that. Most basic courses have lax requirments for protective gear during training. Helmets, eye protection, boots and gloves are usually required, but a cotton shirt and jeans are considered OK. This is inadequate, we strongly recommend wearing abrasion-resistant pants and jacket, and armor. See rockthegear.org and check out Britney Morrow's road rash. ET mentions that he low-sided during a basic course and would have been hurt except for knee armor.
Training courses are provided by state organizations in Oregon, Idaho and Illinois, and by MSF and its affiliates in most of the other states.
Rider's Edge is Harley Davidson's version of the MSF's Basic Rider Course. It uses the same curriculum, but there is a extra couple of hours of range riding time, as each of the exercises are 30 minutes long. There are some additional classroom exercises. There is also a marketing session when the HD dealer will try very hard to sell you a bike, and usually a socializing component. The Rider's Edge classes are usually taught on (almost) 500 cc Buell Blast motorcycles, whereas the regular MSF classes are usually taught on smaller bikes in the 125cc to 250cc range. Our 'First Bike' feature explains why the Buell Blast might not be the best bike for a first time rider to train on. Here's MSgroup.org on the differences between Rider's Edge and the basic BRC.
Most branches of the military offer various levels of training, which is usually mandatory and which varies by institution and sometimes by location. Your chain of command will have details.
In most states, training is not mandatory and it is possible to obtain your motorcycle license or endorsement by taking a skills and a written test. We recommend taking a BRC anyway.
We caution against hubris, as always when you do something to improve safety. It is common to get a sense of false security which can kill.
In particular, new riders are very much at risk. Taking a Basic Rider Course, while essential, does not give you enough skills to survive on the road. You need to study and practice in relatively safe environents before venturing out onto city streets or major highways. And a BRC is just the start, you need additional training, skills practice and study your whole riding life.
One last word: if you fail your basic course, consider that riding a bike might not be for you. You have the option of taking the course again, or, in some states, testing out at your local DMV, but take it from us that the BRC test standard is fairly loose, and if you can't hack it the first time, you are more likely to have life-threatening difficulties while riding. We don't think the data is clear, but there are some studies out there which suggest that those who take the BRC more than once have very high chances of being in a crash in the following year. This is why we recommend delaying your first bike puchase until after you pass the course, so that you don't have a lot of cash invested in the process. Maybe avoid mentioning it to too many of your buddies, so you don't have a lot of explaining to do if you change your mind.
While we 100% recommend a BRC for new riders, please be aware that training has its risks, and there is about a one in half million chance that you might be killed during training. The training organization will make every effort to prevent injury. Here's our analysis of one irresponsible blog which, erroneously in our opinion, is skeptical about the efficacy of BRC and the MSF in particular. We put this in so you have all the information, but we totally support basic training for riders. Skipping training is very likely to kill you. Here's some support for this view, from an unlikely source: MSgroup.org. Although they have hosted vitriolic, anti-MSF postings in the past, when push comes to shove, they recommend that novices and retreads take the course.
If you want to take training, and can't afford it, try RidersU.org. They are a registered charity that finances training for needy riders.
Now you are ready to get your first bike
Your First Bike
We recommend that you take the a basic rider course and get your motorcycle license before getting your motorcycle. About 20% of participants in basic training fail the course and end up not getting a motorcycle, and research indicates that they probably shouldn't. Buying your cycle before doing the course adds a level of commitment that makes it harder to move on and give up the motorcycle idea.
Even with training, you are in the highest-risk categories in the first six months of owning any motorcycle, and in your first few years of riding. Without training you are dead meat. A beginner crashing his motorcycle on on the way home from the dealer is a cliche. It took me about 5 seconds to find this example from a couple of days ago.
The choice of a first ride is important. Here's Chuckhawks.com's excellent article on the subject. We recommend you get a smaller bike, in the 250 cc class or smaller at first. You should probably get it used. You should avoid fairings and a lot of bells and whistles. Fittings and accessories get bashed around a lot when you drop your bike, and your first bike will be trashed inside a couple of years. Tupperware (fairings) are notoriously expensive to replace. We like 'naked' (standard) bikes and small cruisers.
Ok, what you really want is a 150 MPH sports bike or a 950-lb cruiser, and this isn't it, but big and/or fast bikes are not good to learn on. They are hard to control in some situations. Assume you will outgrow your first motorcycle in a year or so, and sell it for scrap in the end. Control your machismo. (Read our Biker Psych page for more on that).
When you are buying a used motorcycle, bring someone knowledgeable about bikes, or have it checked by a motorcycle mechanic, to ensure it is safe and technically sound. Here's Adam Glass's very useful article on buying a used motorcycle, if you want to do it solo. Sit on the cycle and make sure you can get both feet flat on the ground when in the saddle. Make sure the handlebars are in a comfortable position (no ape hangers or clip-ons). The handlebars should have a moderate rise and the forks should have a modest rake. Handlebars can be adjusted a bit to suit you, but there are limits.
If you decide to buy a new motorcycle for your first ride, be aware that motorcycle salesmen make a tiny commission on the small bike you need, usually as little as $10 (ten dollars). An honest sales person will realize that if he takes care of you now and sells you a modest, first-timer cycle, that you will be back in a year or two to trade it in and buy a bigger motorcycle, and that you'll be spending money on accessories, gear and service all your riding life. But some dealers don't carry cycles suitable for first timers,and others will try to up-sell, so be prepared to hold out and insist on what you want. If need be, go to another dealer. If you make it known that you will do this, maybe they'll do right.
Reserve some of your budget for your personal safety equipment - helmet, seasonally appropriate riding jacket/pants or coverall, gloves and boots with protection. Our injury mitigation section has more. You are probably going to take a spill fairly soon, so the protection will be used. If you need some incentive, check out Brittany Morrow's story.
If your gear is not bright and conspicuous, consider getting an ANSI vest in dayglo and high-vis. We recommend getting a white or bright-colored helmet, which have proven survival benefits. We also like full-face helmets, for the same reason. If you are in a no-helmet-law state, wear a helmet anyway. Even if you plan not to wear protection eventually, use it during the critical first six months (and maybe you'll get to like it).
Consider also making some of the bike improvements in our conspicuity section. You're going to need all the help you can get. You and your bike need to be as visible as possible, especially as your first small motorcycle has a tiny profile.
After training, while setting your bike up the way you like it, and in your initial adventures on your new motorcycle, you will periodically get over-confident and this is very dangerous.
When riding at first, avoid busy city streets. Practice in suburban roads, parking lots or rural byways until you have the controls sussed out and can control the cycle and simultaneously deploy the S-E-E strategies. Study this entire website and understand the importance of training and ultra-defensive riding strategies. Riding a motorcycle requires a lot of multitasking, and you need to learn a lasagna of skills at various levels to stand a chance of survival on busy city streets or rural highways.
We'll repeat this last concept, it is important. Riding a motorcycle safely requires multitasking. It needs motor skills, cognitive skills and reasoning processes stacked pretty high in your consciousness. You need:
- motor skills learned as 'muscle memory' for driving the motorcycle
- cognitive skills for seeing and evaluating objects and threats
- reasoning skills for analyzing the traffic and situational awareness,
Until you have all this figured out, there is a risk of overrunning your short term memory capabilities. This may result in one or more of these important processes being abandoned, or even in a 'panic-mode' freeze up. Either of these events can cause a crash. The trick is to practice the motor skills so they are in 'muscle memory'. You won't have to think when you use them, which makes your limited short term memory slots available for the cognitive and reasoning processes. Eventually, some of the cognitive processes become routine also. But you will always have to pay riding your bike your full attention.
When you feel comfortable enough to ride at moderate speeds on secondary rural highways, consider looking for a riding group (not sports riders) to ride with.
Not by half, we are sorry to say. These courses are what they are: they qualify you to do maneuvers in a parking lot.
We consider it essential to regularly practice emergency skills, to study up on defensive riding techniques, and to get more advanced training on a periodic basis.
We take our cue from the three major groups of professional bikers: bike cops, racing riders and bike couriers. Motor police have training exercises every month or so. Racing riders have very advanced training. The couriers we have met take a constant interest in safety issues and are usually a mine of information.
The basic accident avoidance techniques of emergency stopping and swerving around an obstacle are essential on-bike training.
Two important skills can be practiced on the road, as recommended in the MSF Basic RiderCourse.
Emergency braking should be practiced carefully. Our emergency braking page gives optimal instructions for braking, and we need to use the same braking procedures when we stop regularly as when we stop for an emergency. This will help get our emergency braking into muscle memory. Brake optimally every time and slowly build up your braking skills, keeping it under your bike's wheel lock points.
It is possible to practice this on the road, by braking more aggressively than required for yellow lights, when conditions (weather, traction, following traffic, etc) allow this to be done safely. With practice, you can probably learn to stop in less than 150 feet from 60 MPH, including reaction time, in optimal conditions. This will put you in the top one percent of riders. Take it slowly, brake progressively and keep it within your and your bike's limits as you build up your skills. Follow the instructions given in your BRT and ERT, and the emergency braking page. Avoid front or rear wheel lock, but be ready to handle either if they happen. This is difficult, as wheel lock is just a touch past optimal braking force. When braking in wet or other poor traction conditions, remember that your bike will react very differently, and you can expect to take at least 25 percent longer to brake in the wet.
The difficulty of braking optimally can't be over-emphasized. Just a touch past optimal braking force comes front or back wheel brake lock. These can be recovered - a front lock should be countered by letting off the front brake momentarily, and reapplying the brake after the wheel regains traction. A failure here will cause a low-side crash. The recommendation for a rear lock is to keep the lock and ride it to a stop. Letting off a rear brake lock can be catastrophic. If the rear wheel is not perfectly aligned, releasing the brake lock will cause a very violent, high-side crash, and you will be hurt bad. We repeat, in a rear wheel lock, you must keep the lock and ride it home to a standstill, unless you know the wheels are perfectly aligned.
Swerving can safely be done on the road in a single lane, by practicing on road debris, manhole covers and the like. Or you can take it to an empty parking lot and practice cone weaves. The thing to remember here is, if on the road, stay in your lane, and don't use your brakes while swerving.
Here's a video from Capt. Crash.
Swerving is simple. First countersteer in one direction, pass the obstacle, then countersteer in the other direction to resume your previous direction of travel. It should be done without braking and with suspension in a neutral position, if possible, so that the suspension has travel available up or down to deal with road irregularities without instability.
If you need to combine emergency braking and swerving, first do one and then the other, it's two separate things. You would prefer to swerve first without braking, then brake later, rather than the other way around.
Parking Lot Skills Practice.
If you have taken a Basic or Experienced Rider Course, or the Ride like a Pro training, and you remember the basic instructions of looking and turning your head where you plan to go, the friction zone, using the rear brake in control mode, and counter weighting, you are ready to practice in a parking lot. If not, then take a course, or use one of the books or videos in our training reviews page to review or develop the skills you need. Then you can use our links below to practice in an empty parking lot.
Choose a parking lot that has a clean surface, and pick a quiet corner where you won't be disturbed by cages. This probably works better if you bring a buddy, he will help you sort out form problems and can dial 911 if there is a problem. If you are a member of a riding group, why not make it a group event and have some fun.
Some professional trainers like to video riders doing range maneuvers as it helps with review later. Make sure that the parking lot surface is free of gravel and trash, and use tennis balls cut on half, or flat-top cones, as markers. The cones can be bought online or in discount store sporting departments.
Parking Lot Practice on the Cheap
Captain Crash kindly posted this link on our blog, from Idaho Star motorcycle training organization. It has a set of skills exercises that can be done using regular parking lot markings and a few cones, complete with directions, coaching tips and troubleshooting guide. This is probably the cheapest and simplest way to practice in a parking lot.
Police-style Parking lot Practice
We have resources in our training reviews page for setting up your own parking lot exercises, which is something you could do cheaply with a couple of riding buddies. Here's our 'Ride like a Pro' book review., and the DVD review. Either the book or the video has enough instructions for someone who has had basic training or to set up their own range exercises, using some chalk, a tape and some halved tennis balls or flat cones. The book and video are actually coordinated so you would get extra benefit from having both. Or you could sign up for his course in one of his franchise locations. There's also a practice guide on the Ride like a Pro site, and Jerry's series of articles on form and technique. We like the way the Ride like a Pro folks have set up their resources, from free to DIY media to range courses.
Paladino's range layouts are a little harder to set up than the Idaho Star, but his resources are much deeper.
BRC Range Exercises
Daytona Motorcycle Training has published the MSF BRC range layouts, so you could, if you prefer the MSF course range layouts, set them up from here. They are complicated, but you can always sign up for their ERC if you need extra tutoring, so there is backup.
Skills Practice Summary
We need to say again: riding skills are essential, especially if you find yourself in an imminent crash situation. But we much prefer to practice ultra-defensive riding, so we never get there. If you do some training or practice, remember that hubris - over confidence - applies. In most crash situations the rider has less than two seconds to react.
Bikesafer.com is your resource for studying up on technique and defensive topics. We invite you to use us like a dog for finding safety projects. Consider us part of your continuing bike education, or follow our links to other safety-related sites.
Every now and then, you should sign up for some advanced training, our on-line training map will guide you. Bikers are like sharks, we need to keep swimming to survive. Advanced training, of the flavor you fancy, is the way to keep learning new skills.
Experiened Rider Training
Basic Rider Training is essential when starting out to ride. Trainers will freely admit that, while essential, the BRC is not sufficient training for real road conditions.
For more advanced riders, we recommend an Experienced Rider Course (ERC), available from the same locations. Riders work on essential skills in maneuvering, counter-steering and swerving to avoid problems, emergency braking and additional range-based exercises.
ERCs are generally taken on the rider's own bike, and this is also a good way to get used to a new bike in a controlled environment.
Most ERCs are a one-day course, taken almost entirely on the range, with a small classroom component. The MSF's ERC is basically a rerun of the last day of range exercises from the BRC, with a little additional work.
Where to find Experienced or Intermediate Rider Training
Find an experienced rider course in your state in our clickable state training map, and if it's not there, it is probably in the MSF training page. We welcome the new development by Total Control who have been offering advanced training but has recently opened an intermediate level course in Troy, NY.
In our education and training pages, we use the term 'Experienced Rider' in the MSF sense, which is a course for a rider with experience of 5000 miles and maybe a year. When we say 'Experienced' we really mean an intermediate level.
Do we believe that the currently available experienced rider training is sufficient training for a biker?
Advanced Rider Training
Basic training and Experienced Rider Course, with some additional study and practice, will get us over the first few years of riding. By the time we have 10,000 miles or so under our belts, maybe it's time to expand our horizons. Locate advanced training here.
Professional bikers tend to fall in four groups - Competition racers, motorcycle cops, bike couriers and product testers. Of these, race types and motorcycle cops provide advanced training. I'd love to see training by London bike couriers, and I have talked to some of them. They have a great attitude to safety, but don't do special training, as far as I know.
Motorcycle police style training is a tougher, tighter version of the sort of range exercises you already saw during Basic Training. Most bike cops get some of this training every month or so. The main benefit is to build up confidence and allow you to perform maneuvers and emergency evasions without fear. You are unlikely to be able to take this training every month, like a bike cop, but you can take the training at a vendor like 'Ride like a Pro' or buy the book or video, and practice in an empty parking lot. All it takes is a tape measure, some chalk and markers - half tennis balls do fine. If you get up on these skills, and practice them fairly often, you will have good emergency skills.
Race-based training has several flavors, and are generaly focussed on getting around turns more efficiently. Some of it is actually performed on a track and is intended for sports bike enthusiasts, but courses like Lee Parks Total Control tailors the techniques for regular riders and the training is usually done in a large flat area. It is counter-intuitive, but being able to get your bike around a turn, racer-style, can enhance safety and leave you a large chunk of road in case you run into an emergency. Or you could just do it faster without screwing up, if that's your preference. There is a value to that skill. There are also more advanced, even higher-level training courses available.
MSF has created an advanced riding course, the MSRC, for the military (Army and Navy), aimed at sports riders. It is working on its civilian Advanced Rider Course, Sportbike Techniques(ARC-ST), which will be aimed at all types of motorcycles,despite the name. So far, most of the activity has been in training the trainers, with some pilot and early-adapter sessions in Troy, NY, Colorado, North Carolina and various other places. The MSF claims good results from its military courses, and prelimnary comment about the one-day ARC-ST is very positive. We'll be watching this development closely as it rolls out. Here's a review from DucatiNewsToday.com.
There is also touring-based training, where the training is imparted during a road trip.
Training plans are very personal, and advanced training is an adventure, and fun too. There's a lot out there and no reason not to enjoy them all.
Other possible sources for advanced training include trainer training (getting educated to be a trainer in a safety organization like MSF) or lead rider training in a riding group.
See our clickable state map to find advanced training providers.
Hubris still applies.
Training and Resource Reviews
Here, we review training courses, and materials like books and videos. This is a new feature in Bikesafer.com and we plan to add new items very soon.
Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) and their affiliates are the largest training provider in the USA. Their Basic Rider Course has trained more than two million riders since 2002. ET reviews a presentation of the BRC at cyclesafety.net in Memphis, Sept 4th to 6th, 2009.
Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Clinic at Dragon Safe, TN. This is their Advanced Level 1 course. Reviewed by ET, July 18th 2009.
MSF's intermediate training offering, the Experienced RiderCourse, is intended as a revision exercise for people who took the BRC six months or a year previously. ET took the course in June 2008 and reviews it here.
Book Reviews.'Ride like a Pro, the Book', by Jerry "Motorman" Palladino. Reviewed by ET, July 22 2009.
'Total Control High Performance Street Riding Techniques' by Lee Parks. Reviewed by ET, July 29 2009.
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Guide to Motorcycling Excellence, reviewed by ET, November 18th 2009.
Roadcraft, the Police Rider's Handbook to Better Motorcycling by Philip Coyne. ET reviews the UK police rider's manual.
'Proficient Motorcycling, the Ultimate Guide to Riding Well', by David Hough. Reviewed by ET, January 19th 2010.
DVD and Video Reviews.
'Ride like a Pro, the DVD', by Jerry "Motorman" Palladino. Reviewed by ET, September 24 2009
Pillion passengers are a safety issue on motorcycles. Poor briefing can endanger the passenger, driver and bike. Here's the UK-based Motorcycle News on pillion riding.
Some motorcycle dealers will provide a pillion passenger orientation session.
Some advanced training courses allow pillion passengers to participate. Check with the training vendor. We are unable to find any specific pillion training in the US. Please check the link above and instruct your passenger accordingly.
The rider/driver should have some experience on the motorcycle before taking a passenger, like a year or 5K miles. The passenger should be briefed on procedures beforehand.
The motorcycle will handle differently with a passenger, including longer braking distances and different center of gravity. You will need to adjust the suspension preload (see the Motorcycle News article for more).
The passenger may need to be cautioned against hot parts, including pipes and brake rotors.
There is a disturbing trend in rural motorcycle accidents, where the bike goes off the road, for the paramedics to find the rider, but not the pillion passenger. Read our blog posting on the subject.
Of course, the passenger needs full protective gear, just like the driver.
Motorcycles are fast and fun, more so these days than ever. If you have a sport bike capable of speeds of 150 or better, it's no fun to ride in today's congested streets and highways. It's not so much speed that kills, more like differences in speed.
But we have a need for speed.
If you come up behind a cage that's doing 50, when you are doing 150, assuming the cage driver is paying attention, you'll travel almost 600 feet between one look in the mirror and the next. Chances are, he'll never see you coming, and with sloppy driver habits, he could change lanes, stop short, open a door or throw a breech block out the window as you pass. Not to mention, fast-weaving sports bikes really PO the citizenry.
The best information I saw on track days is Lee Parks chapter in Total Control, the book. It has great information on everything from finding a track to getting you and your bike ready, and you will need to brush up on his cornering technique to keep up with the pack at the track.
Track Day Locations
For locations of track days, see kawiforums.com or sportrider.com or just search online for track days near your town. You could also ask around or check your local track web site. Prices vary, expect to shell out something like a c-note.
Prepping the Motorcycle
You will have to prep your bike for the track. Lee also covers this, or see sportrider.com. Different track day organizations have different requirements, but you may have to tape or remove glass and plastic lenses and mirrors, remove parts like kickstands, wire oil drain plugs and other critical fasteners, replace coolant with water or other items as specified by the track day organization. It's usually a good idea to plan to trailer your bike to the track day, you'll be glad you did if you have a bad crash.
This prep is in addition to an especially tough pre-ride inspection, and you might end up doing an extra oil change or accelerating regular PM. You'll need plenty of meat on your tires and brake shoes. The track organization will specify tire pressures, which will probably be on the low side, and you may want to get good hybrid road/track tires.
The organization will specify protective gear, see our mitigation chapter for that. At a minimum, you'll need a Snell-approved full-face helmet, a decent suit of leathers (or joining combinations) with full armor, boots and gloves. When it comes to prepping yourself, maybe you'll need some track-based training. See our national training map for availability near you.
The track day organizers may provide various training and/or mentoring services, and may organize riders by skill level and impose other disciplines.
Fun, fun, fun...
You will learn more than you ever thought you could about you and your bike, and have as much fun as is possible with your clothes on.
Track days are addictive. It's a short step to having an extra bike for track days, stripped for action. Don't say we didn't warn you.
Satisfying your need for speed on the track will make you a better rider, because of the skills you learn, and because maybe you mightn't be bothered to push it so hard on the street.
There are those who caution against track days and sports-style training: see msgroup on the subject. We say: if you are going to ride fast, do it on the track.