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I am so relieved to find this thread. I have never ridden a motorcycle or driven a standard shift car, but I rode as a passenger more than 30 years ago. I took an MSF course and barely made it past lunch. But I crashed into a fence and my bike went down the embankment. Luckily the safety bars on the teaching bike—a Harley-Davidson Street 500—kept me from being pinned. I was asked to leave, but I would have anyway, since I was so shaken.

I'm bruised and sore, but my ego is more bruised. The shame and embarrassment is still strong today. I agree with Annette from Phoenix—I appreciate that this is a course and not private tutoring, but the exercises went very fast, and it was hard for me to master the clutch/throttle combo, along with shifting. Granted, I am an old dog at 52 (didn't think that before yesterday, but...), so I guess I wasn't picking up on skills as quickly as others. My classmates were great and encouraging (4 out of 10 of us were women, and very supportive, as were all the men).

One of the instructors was super kind and helpful, but the other one was less patient, and when I didn't successfully shift into 2nd gear from 1st, he immediately threatened me about being kicked out of the class if I didn't do the exercise successfully. I appreciated that I needed to complete it, but I just needed some time to practice—I wasn't intentionally being difficult, and the way he said it did not help my confidence. I am still shaken, and this thread is helping me be ok with the fact that I need time to practice (although with no bike, not sure how). I still want to learn to ride, but wondering if I should give it up. This thread is making me see that some people just learn more slowly, and it's ok. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

Tina
Atlanta, GA
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Editor Response
Hi Tina,
Thank you for sharing your story, and know that there is no shame in trying something new and not being a master at it right away. I would in no way call you an old dog either!

Here's my suggestion once you've healed and feel ready to jump back into the saddle: Call the Harley-Davidson Academy manager—the person who signed you up for the class—and let her or him know that you are still interested in learning but had particular trouble shifting. Ask if the dealership has a Jumpstart trainer, and request some personalized time and instruction on it. The Jumpstart trainer allows you to sit on, start, and shift a motorcycle without having to worry about balancing or going anywhere. If the dealership is interested in your future business, they will be happy to help you in your quest to ride.

You should also let them know your opinions about the coaches you had. A good RiderCoach is always interested in learning about how they can be a more effective trainer.

Good luck and stick with it!
Tricia Szulewski, Editor
I, too, tried the MSF BRC course and was asked to leave before the end of the course. I had never tried to control a motorcycle before the class. In retrospect, the coach was right. It was way too hot (May) and I wasn't getting the techniques quickly. Everyone else in the class had been riding for years (illegally) and there was no way I could learn what they'd been doing for years. However, my heartburn is that I was told over and over—they will teach you to ride. No problem. Everyone finishes with their endorsement. So it is the false advertising that I have significant heartburn with. Meanwhile, my husband bought me a Honda Grom and I discovered "motojitsu" so am practicing at my own pace to get the techniques. When I feel ready, I will try again but think they really should be more truthful about what is expected at the course before they steal your hard earned cash.

C. Gandee
Orange Park, FL
Sunday, September 8, 2019
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
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