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Riding Right: You Flunked! Now What?

Advice for dealing with failing the MSF class

By Susan Rzepka Orion


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Congratulations! You flunked the basic rider course. No, really, this is great news. Why? Because you have some experience, a really good idea of what you're getting yourself into and a clear assessment of your basic skills at this point. The rider course provided you with all the basic tools you'll need to become a safe, responsible rider. And if you still have the desire and motivation to become a licensed motorcyclist, it's highly likely you'll become one sooner or later.   

Many first-time riders fail the MSF course, but just as many go on to become confident and experienced riders.
Many first-time riders fail the MSF course, but just as many go on to become confident and experienced riders.

Think about the last time you tried to pick up a new sport. Maybe it was golf, softball or even bowling. Were you an expert right out of the box? Or did you slice the ball way off the fairway, swing wildly at the pitch and strike out, or dump a heavy bowling ball right into the gutter? Even if you did shoot an occasional par, hit a home run or manage to roll a strike or spare, your game left lots of room for improvement. In playing the game or taking a lesson, you learned what worked and what didn't, and you came away from the experience with some idea of how you might improve next time out.

So it is with motorcycling. Maybe you don't yet have the skill to swerve around a hazard or stop within the recommended distance for your speed. Maybe you haven't quite figured out how to maneuver your motorcycle in limited spaces, and maybe cornering still makes you nervous. You flunked. So what do you do now?  

The MSF Basic Rider Course, pictured here, provides proven and time-tested curriculum in the training of riding a motorcycle.
The MSF Basic Rider Course, pictured here, provides proven and time-tested curriculum in the training of riding a motorcycle.

Retake the Course
As a RiderCoach, I often have to tell my students that they did not pass the safety course. In most cases, this is the result of failing the skill evaluation. The skill evaluation at the end of the course is nothing more than a snapshot view of your skills at one particular point in time. Four major skills are assessed: limited space maneuvers, swerving, cornering and the ability to stop quickly. When you make errors in the execution of these skills, you rack up points. Too many points, and you don't pass. When that happens, I usually recommend you retake the course, where you'll get more practice on a starter bike under the supervision of a trained RiderCoach.  

Students practice drills during the MSF Basic Rider Course.
Students practice drills during the MSF Basic Rider Course.

When Jan and Tanisha learned they had failed, they were both disappointed, but not surprised. Jan, a brand-new rider who was afraid to take a corner or swerve at speed, was a little relieved that she didn't pass. "I'm still uncomfortable with the idea of going out on the road," she said. She repeated the class, and although her cornering technique still needed work, Jan passed the second time around with skills adequate for licensing.

Tanisha, who had been a longtime passenger on her boyfriend's Harley, took the class with him. She felt more confident learning on the small bike she used in class than she did trying to learn on his 1200. "It's harder than it looks," she confided, "and my boyfriend has no patience." Tanisha also repeated the class, this time without her boyfriend, and passed with a perfect score the second time around.  

Tune Up and Test
If you own or have access to a bike, you can practice, with or without someone you know, then take your state's licensing exam. When I learned how to ride, my state would not waive the exam on completion of the MSF course, pass or fail. Although I did not pass the class, I loved the experience of riding. I bought a starter bike and practiced each evening in a church parking lot near my house for six weeks before taking the state test. I set up cone weaves, practiced quick stops, executed swerves and got real road experience. At the exam site, I watched several guys drop their cruisers in the dreaded U-turn box. I was scared, but I was prepared. The basic rider course had given me the tools I needed to work on my skills and boost my confidence. I walked away with a motorcycle license and a big smile on my face.  

With a little more practice, you'll be ready to hit the road.
With a little more practice, you'll be ready to hit the road.

When you don't pass, it just means you're not ready to be licensed. You need more practice time. As a complete beginner in a basic rider course, you spent a whopping 16 to 25 hours learning how to ride. That's not a lot of time to get your skills up to speed. Pass or fail, if you plan to ride, you're going to have to put in more time or give up the idea of becoming a safe motorcyclist.   

I always tell my students to ask themselves these questions at the start of a rider course: What do I know about motorcycling now? What are my skills? Where is my confidence level? At the end of the course, I ask my students the same questions. It's a process, and it takes practice. Celebrate your successes. Have patience with yourself. Because the more you ride, the better it gets. 




About the Author

Susan Rzepka Orion is a certified MSF RiderCoach and Rider’s Edge Instructor who loves to ride, write and help others who want to do the same. You can find her on the road on her Yamaha V Star 1100 Custom or on the Web at WritingWays.com.
Related Articles
Riding Right: You Passed! Now What?
Riding Right: Finding the Best Riding Position for You
Riding Right: What to Consider When Buying Your First Motorcycle

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Reader Comments


Thank you so much for this article. I failed the riding portion of MSF today and discouraged. With this encouragement I will practice a lot and take the class again. I was never on a bike before yesterday and could not do what was required in the class.

Linda
Corpus Christi, TX
Sunday, March 23, 2014
Thank you for a great website. I've always wanted to ride a motorcycle and after five years on scooters, I purchased a motorbike but I'm a little scared but excited.

It's great to see that other people have had the same experience. I went to a Honda training centre (main one for training here) and the tool who tried to train me kept yelling at me and treating me as a "special" student. After one hour and my $220, he suggested that I watch YouTube videos.

I'm over 40 now and I don't intend to take any crap. I've had a lovely female instructor who happen to own a motorcycle shop and we rode 22 km down the highway etc., but I still need a lot of practice and despite what people say, I'm getting the hand of it - so there!

I'm not mechanical but awhile ago, I took flying lessons. It's the same. You just take it one step at a time, practice, practice and don't listen to the negative "noise!"

Thanks again everyone!


Marge
Sydney, Australia
Saturday, November 09, 2013
Thank you all so much for your "disclosures" (I am a therapist...).

I just took my MSF course last weekend. I already had my motorcycle and was so excited to start riding. Although I passed the course, I too cried both days, even after passing. The reason? I was afraid of my new bike.

I had wonderful instructors actually but also couldn't do the figure 8 (we called it a double U-turn), and was afraid to go fast through the corners. Most of my fellow bikers also had experience - or were very young and had no fear.

Your stories have helped me so much; I'm going to keep practicing because I don't have to impress anyone but myself, and nor does any other lady who wants to ride.

Sandi Robbins
Fort Collins, CO
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I flunked my first test. It was then that I realized not all rider training schools are equal. I did not learn the basics. The motto was "go out and practice." Since then I bought a 250XT Yamaha so I could practice. My boyfriend has given me some lessons in the parking lot but I am considering taking the course with another training school as private lessons with an instructor are also costly. My experience at the first school has been very frustrating. I just know I can't give up. I want to ride.

Lynda G.
Toronto, ON, Canada
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
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