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My MSF experience (a few weeks ago) was very much like Annette's: I'm a short, lightweight, older rider with no previous motorcycle experience. However, I am an experienced bicycle commuter and have driven a manual transmission car for 30 years. That was apparently insufficient. I was so anxious about failing (and falling!) I panicked on the tight figure eights on the second day, and voluntarily left early (I was advised I could not take the test if I didn't have all the exercises in the right order, so no time to recover).

I was handicapped from the start by a class range that had a steep side-slope. Steep enough it'd be a real challenge for me to do the slow, tight moves on my grocery-laden bicycle. The very first exercise involves turning the bike around in neutral (which I could never, ever find), but having to repeatedly push the bike uphill to turn around exhausted me. I was so distracted and struggled to master the friction zone and throttle in simple cross-range driving. (Tiny hands don't help!) I also didn't extend the sidestand all the way after the first exercise and the bike tipped over. To my deep embarrassment, the instructor called the whole class over to show them how to pick up the bike.

Bike #2 ran much worse than bike #1, the gears clunked horribly at certain parts of the friction zone (different from the pitch you get with popping the clutch). I never mastered this. The instruction never separated the skills to master individually before mixing them together. So I remained uncoordinated on slow twisty moves through day 1 and tipped over again (though fast stopping, shifting, and countersteering was a breeze). No opportunity to warm up on day 2 with simple laps just amped up the anxiety.

I was devastated for several days, but now I'm more angry and determined to learn on my own. (I have since acquired my own Rebel 250 which feels good underneath me.) I will not be trying the MSF class again—no insurance discount and it's $200 (no discount for retaking it or anything). I think being small and lightweight makes it harder to learn everything. Small hands, short reach, little weight to throw around, no height to catch a tipover. I got no individual instruction, and everything was too fast-paced with no time for catching up. Overall, there would have been 10 hours of on-range instruction time (not including the test), of which I did 8.5, which just seems bonkers to me.

TrishD
Raleigh, NC
Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Editor Response
Hi Trish. As a MSF RiderCoach and site manager myself, I have lived your story many times. I sympathize with your issues—you are probably right, that everything is harder for smaller people—although very tall people have issues as well. But you hung in there a long time and I'm sure learned a ton from the 8.5 hours you spent on a motorcycle.

At this point, you can take what you learned to practice on your own motorcycle, which can be set up to fit you perfectly. Without the stress of keeping up with the class, practice the friction zone, shifting, and stopping, and controlling the motorcycle. Once you gain a little speed, practice pressing to lean and stopping more quickly.

Once you have more confidence and practice, I would urge you to try the class again. In some states you can use your own bike, so long as it meets the specifications—which yours does. The other option is to ask around for a recommendation for some private lessons.

Keep on practicing! You will get better every time you ride. Good luck! We are all routing you on.
Tricia Szulewski, Associate Editor
I was an instructor for 19 years and recently retired from teaching. I have had students I had to pull out of the pond at the end our range pass and I have "experienced" riders fail miserably. I won't say I have heard all the excuses but I have heard quite a few.

A few items to think about when taking this BRC class. One, this is a class, not one-on-one training. Normally, about the time you think you might be understanding the skill they are showing you on the exercise, they move on the the next exercise. Although each exercise has a "recommended" time, it needs to be run until most of the students have shown proficiency in the skill being taught. But if you run all the exercises over the time, you are going to be out on the range in the dark. And most of the students, along with the RiderCoaches are going to be too exhausted to learn.

Two, listen to what the RiderCoaches are saying. You are probably going to hear some things and think "they are a bunch of looney tunes, that can't possibly work." A good example of this is "you go where you look." Try to practice and do what they are saying.

Three, be realistic about why you are doing this. If you are being pressured by a significant other to get your own bike, you probably shouldn't be taking the class. You have got to have the fire in your gut to want to learn how to ride. This class has been developed and evolved over very many years, but it is still no cake walk. It is a very demanding two days. You have got to have that fire to get through it.

Four, consider the time of year you are taking the class. If you are taking it in the middle of the summer, expect temperatures to be at least 10 degrees hotter on the asphalt than what the air temperature is. Plus, you're going to be in riding gear. If you are not used to the heat, I would recommend taking it in the spring or fall.

I can't speak to the quality of RiderCoaches. Some are there for the money but most of them are there to teach you how to ride a motorcycle. But even the patient RiderCoaches have to council out students. Please remember that we are responsible for the safety of each and every student out there. If we have one student who is putting the other students at risk and we have tried some one-on-one time with them, then it may be time to send you home. It is for your safety too.

Riding a motorcycle is a thrill that I haven't found a replacement for in 36 years. It has sucked more money out of my wallet than anything else I have done. But it isn't for everybody. But if you have got that fire, then by all means, take the class. If you don't make it, take it again. Just do it.

George
Cleveland, TN
Saturday, July 16, 2016
I see that this original post is from 2013 and I am so hopeful that the writer didn't give up and went on to ride. I am 55 and started my journey this year. My husband rides and gave me the gift of a weekend certification course for my birthday. I didn't feel comfortable going into that course without any prior experience except being in the back so I did some research and found an intro course. It was a three-hour course that gave you bike basics. At the end of three hours we were starting and stopping and switching to second gear. I was smiling cheek to cheek.

At the weekend course I have never been so terrified. I came dangerously close to taking out a large dumpster but miraculously got it together in time. I passed. After that I still didn't feel confident enough for the road so my very patient husband took me to a parking lot. Next day a little farther to subdivisions. Well I realized I wasn't ready when I forgot my training, didn't look past the curve but looked straight at the curb, went over it and dumps my bike. Felt like an idiot, had to have help to pick it up off my legs, gas spilling all over me like my shame. Shook myself off and got myself back to the parking lot to practice.

I am determined to conquer this. It is way too much fun not to. I hope to be posting next year that at age 56 that I now consider myself a seasoned rider. My advice: don't be afraid to practice in the parking lot until you are unconsciously competent. And remember to smile. It's so much fun!

Theresa O'Connell
Whitby, ON, Canada
Monday, July 11, 2016
Don't give up! I failed it twice—same reason twice! I was discouraged. The second time I choose a different location with different instructors and they were amazing! The first instructors I had I didn't care for. The second time I took it, it was great. The third time was a charm. I truly think the instructors make a huge difference in the class. I had no riding experience. I started out on a Harley Sportster 1200.

Jen
Surprise, AZ
Thursday, May 26, 2016
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