Motorcycle School: Essential for Not Dying Immediately
A few days ago, our friends over at Jalopnik outlined why the world of motorcycle journalism is broken. They cited the journalists being in cahoots with the manufacturers, and essentially just regurgitating press releases on the newest, greatest sport bike that will surely kill half the state of Florida by the second month of it being out. We agreed with their assessment. Unbeknownst to them at the time, we were already in the process of bringing you better motorcycle coverage as you may have seen earlier this week. That said, while going through this topic, one of the most popular questions that we thought we would answer is, “What do you do if you want to start riding?” RELATED: Check out Deus Ex Machnia's newest sidecar Cafe racer
At any given moment, there are countless suggestions online on the best way to start riding a motorcycle. You’ll also get another million or so more ways from your buddies. But here’s the thing, if you want to start riding, and I mean riding properly, you’ll want to take a class.
Now, I must admit, I was "that guy" when I first hopped onto a bike when I was 18 years old. I didn’t have many friends who rode telling me to go take a class, and at the time, I can safely say I had a death wish. All I knew was that I wanted to go fast. Nevertheless, after years of waiting, and putting it off, I recently took a Motorcycle Safety Class. I learned a lot.
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At this point, you might be asking, if you rode for that long and you’re not dead, why should I take the class? Good question, first and foremost, it teaches you the art of the slow. When riding a bike, faster equals more stability. Motorcycles are designed to stay upright at speed, and as such, you’re far less likely to topple over at 50 miles per hour. However, when traveling at slow speeds in parking lots, or up the street, or 85% of where you’ll be riding, you don’t have inertia working for you. Thus, it is very easy to lay your bike down. Motorcycle schools generally don’t go above 15-20 miles per hour throughout the course. And most of the time, you’re actually going around at only 5-10 miles per hour, which means you get extremely comfortable traveling at these low speeds.
Being able to maneuver a motorcycle at slow speed is astronomically harder than at higher speeds. You really feel the weight of the motorcycle, and given that most street bikes can range from anywhere between 350 lbs. to almost 1,000 lbs. for the big Harley’s, this instruction is extremely useful for anyone that wants to get out and ride. However, it’s not just learning about the weight of the bike, or how to maneuver at low speed, it’s also about learning how to react in a bad situation safely so you do enjoy a lifetime of the open road.
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Let’s be honest, 75% of drivers out there could not care less about motorcycle riders. If you’ve been riding long enough, you know this as fact. And within that 75% who don’t care, 90% of those people are not paying attention while they’re driving. This means bad situations tend to crop up quickly and you’re going to need to know what to do in those situations.
Being taught how to panic brake safely, and swerve around obstacles is one of the most essential things a rider can learn. And it’s something that you can’t just perfect out on the road. The class is a controlled environment, it takes away much of the danger that you would encounter on the road if you’re just trying to learn it by yourself. However, the instructors will make it a priority to instill a level of fear in you so that their instruction becomes muscle memory.
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The class itself is divided into two parts over the course of three days. First is the classroom, where you’ll learn about the concepts and laws that you must abide by for your state. This leads to the range, where the instructors will teach you how to operate a motorcycle safely. Classes usually are on a bi-weekly schedule and prices range depending on the state. My class in California was through Top Gun, and it cost me around $260. You’ll also need a good pair of gloves, which you can find on Revzilla for dirt cheap, and a good pair of above-the-ankle boots. During my class, a woman dropped a bike onto her ankle, and managed to escape with only a few bumps and bruises due to the fact that she had above those boots. If not, she would have likely broken her ankle. Everything else, like helmets and motorcycles, will be provided.
At the end of the class, you’ll take both a written and practical test if your class issues DMV waivers. The waiver essentially is a pass for the DMV’s skills portion, or the riding part of your license test. The DMV’s riding test is almost impossible to pass, even if you’ve been riding for 30 years. For that reason, I highly recommend you find a class that issues it. You’ll still have to take the written portion for the DMV, but save yourself the headache and get the waiver.
For those wanting to learn to ride, a class is truly essential to staying alive long enough to enjoy riding a motorcycle. I was lucky and got through those first few years unscathed, but it could have easily been different. Therefore, if you want to ride, go online, find a reputable school, and be prepared to learn and have a fun time. It’s worth every cent...and it could save your life.
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