From now until March 31, 2017, 10 scholarships are available for new riders who want to take the beginning motorcycle training class, as well as experienced riders who want to take advanced rider training. All the details are here.
Whether you’re just thinking about riding, or if you’ve been riding for a few seasons and are ready to learn some advanced techniques for staying safe on the road, Women Riders Now has plenty of reading material for you in our Safe Riding Tips section
For on-bike training, there are a number of classes available no matter what your skill level is. Beginners, inexperienced, self-taught, and less-confident riders should begin with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic RiderCourses (BRC, BRC2) or similar. For those who’ve mastered the BRC2 techniques on your own motorcycle, the MSF has developed another class just for you.
The ARC includes self-assessment, risk management, rider behavior, riding strategies, and overall skill development—with emphasis on braking, cornering, and swerving.
The one day, Advanced RiderCourse (ARC) is the public, modified version of the MSF Military Sportbike RiderCourse, which was developed when studies showed veterans and active military personnel were taking extreme risks on their motorcycles that were well above their riding skill level.
Modified to incorporate all kinds of motorcycles, you don’t need a sportbike to benefit from the ARC; the techniques and information taught can be applied to all kinds of street motorcycles, including cruisers and tourers.
Leaving my MSF RiderCoach shirt at home to be a student for the day, I hopped on a Kawasaki Ninja 1000 on the first warm spring day of the year and rode to class. Riders of all levels of experience and riding style arrived at the classroom that morning with the same goal in mind—to learn and practice the ARC’s advanced sportbike techniques. That’s me in the white Fly Racing Georgia II jacket
—the only woman in the class. I was happily surprised that one of Connecticut’s few women RiderCoaches, Barbara Bucholtz, was teaching that day.
The morning was dedicated to classroom training, with our two RiderCoaches, Barbara and Mike tag-teaming the instruction. A Powerpoint presentation provided visual aids, and nine double-sided handouts were given out throughout the morning.
First, we completed a self-assessment and shared our findings with our classmates. Tallying up our sensation-seeking score, assessing our risk behaviors, riding skill level, how influenced we are from peer pressure, and a few other behaviors led into discussion about how risk factors combine to cause crashes. Since the ARC was developed, the BRC has been updated, and similar self-assessment lessons are now discussed there as well.
We then talked about cornering paths, delayed apex strategies, and about how shifting your weight affects available traction. Emphasis was given to bending forward and in (with the lean), as opposed to using a hang-off riding position, since this is a street riding class. Hanging off your motorcycle on the road is a good way to cause attention to the fact that you’re trying to ride extremely fast.
After cornering, we went into braking and swerving, and how to effectively manage your time and space restrictions. Understanding available traction, two-fingered trail braking, and again how shifting body weight affects traction were key points in the unit.
After the technique and physics lesson, the class focused on safety and risk, rider perception, rider behavior, and understanding our risk offset, circling back to first lesson of the day—self-assessment. The main point here is that so long as your skill level exceeds your risk-taking level, you will have an acceptable margin of safety.
The higher your skill and lower your level of risk-taking is,
the safer you will be.
After lunch, we were anxious to get out on our bikes and start the eight range exercises, which took the rest of the afternoon to complete. The Ninja was accompanied by another sportbike, a Yamaha R1, but all the other students’ bikes were cruisers, standards, and touring bikes. Mike demonstrated half of the exercises with his Suzuki GSX-R, while Barbara confirmed how smooth her Star V Star 1300 Tourer could complete the objectives of the other exercises.
I love hands on training! Mike made sure that my arms were relaxed and my body positioning was correct.
We began the riding portion of the class with basic control practice. Using the counterweight technique around offset cones was a good way to warm up our tires and ourselves.
After our tires were warmed up
, quick stops were next, similar to the ones we use in the BRCs. Only part two of the ARC exercise adds an “evade” lane to move over to after the quick stop.
The Ninja was equipped with ABS, and it felt like I was cheating, because I could squeeze and press the brakes as hard and fast as I could without an inkling of a skid. If you were wondering whether or not to spend the extra money on ABS when buying a new bike, do it!
In real life, if we need to brake hard to avoid something, there’s likely to be someone behind you who can’t stop as quickly. We practiced braking hard while the motorcycle was straight and the handlebars were squared, then “evaded” by immediately swerving to get out of the pathway.
Then, we had to swerve again to get back into the original path of travel.
Next we watched Barbara stop her V Star quickly at a set speed, then do it again, adding a one second delay to her reaction time. This was designed to show us how much farther the bike will stop with just a moment’s hesitation. She repeated the demo again, this time going faster, which really extended the distance before getting the bike to stop safely. We didn’t practice this exercise; the visual demo was all we needed to understand the importance of SEEing (Search, Evaluate, Execute) as far ahead as possible. This is also an exercise that has become part of the new BRC’s updated curriculum.
The fourth exercise consisted of two circles, one small and one large. We practiced two styles of body positioning on both circles, then added a swerve to the smaller circle, and a braking point on the larger one. At the brake point, we practiced scrubbing off speed by using the two-fingered trail braking technique.
A static on-bike demonstration was given before we began to show the two body positions we discussed in class; leaning with the bike, and bending forward and in.
Here, I learned that positioning my body forward and down reduces the amount of bike lean, giving the tires more surface area. And surface area = traction.
Being able to scrub off speed while in a lean is an invaluable skill for sporty riding.
Swerving while in a curve requires extra pressure on the handgrips, first in the direction of the swerve, then even more pressure to get back into the curve.
We continued to practice and build upon these skills for the remaining exercises. The next involved cornering and swerving, so that we’d learn to use each upper body position properly. Then, multiple curves reinforced the SEE strategy and provided more practice using the two body positions, smooth weight transfer, and overall control.
The decreasing radius curve exercise was the most fun for me, and uses all the skills we’d been practicing, along with a quick stop after the last curve.
Our final exercise layout was a small oval on the inside of the range, surrounded by a large, perimeter circle. All the riders are sent out to ride both circles in the same direction at the same time, crossing over in the middle of the straightaway. It was a small slice of real-world mayhem, but actually was quite effective for riders trying to select safe gaps, and use signals before merging into traffic.
The last ARC exercise, gap analysis, is designed to reorient riders in preparation to leave the safety of the range and head out onto the street again.
It was a long day, and my head has been swimming with all the information I took away from the ARC. Many of the techniques and lessons I already practice regularly, as all good MSF RiderCoaches do. But some were new or just reiterated, which made it well worth the sacrifice of just one day out of my life. After all, I may get that day, and many more back in return.
To find a class near you, visit msf-usa.org
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