Mind, Body, Motorcycle: Getting Geared Up For Safety
By Jill Dunphy
Shortly after the November/December issue of the WOW magazine found its way into mailboxes across the country, a member in Texas contacted me and thanked me for the safety tips I’ve been sharing. We exchanged a few more messages, which led me to ask her if there was a specific topic she’d like me to cover in future issues. Without hesitation, Rachel Hunt responded with a very enthusiastic “YES!” and a suggestion for discussing the benefit of training beyond the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Course (BRC) that many of us have taken. If you haven’t been following Rachel’s journey in the blog posts that she shares on our internal Facebook page, she took the BRC course in February 2016, and practiced slow speed maneuvers similar to those taught in class on her own for several months. She completed the MSF Experienced Rider Course only seven months later, which prompted her to suggest the topic. I was more than excited to oblige.
Why is continuing your motorcycle education so important? We can buy the best gear in the world, which will protect us in the event of an accident, but gear doesn’t exactly make us safer riders, and it doesn’t stop accidents from happening. The only thing that will make us safer riders, and help prevent accidents, is practice. While one can argue that we practice our skills anytime we are on our motorcycles, it’s only through consciously and repeatedly practicing a maneuver that we develop the muscle memory necessary to execute those maneuvers quickly enough to avoid a collision or other accident. Rachel exclaimed, “riding in a straight line is so easy that we often believe we are more skilled than we really are. Slow speed maneuvers, tight turns, and obstacle avoidance are crucial skills that we rarely practice during regular riding.”
Practicing those maneuvers under the supervision of a trained instructor allows us to catch and stop bad habits before they become engrained in our minds. Advanced training allows us to become more vigilant by proactively developing presence of mind, visual alertness, and defensive habits. It allows us to develop our own skills while operating our own motorcycles, and also understand the attitudes and behavior of other riders and motorists.
There are several options available to us to practice and advance our skills in fun ways. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation offers several classes in categories designed to develop increasing levels of skills following their “Starting the Ride” courses that include the BRC: Continuing the Ride, Improving the Ride, and Mastering the Ride. Each set of courses builds on the skills and proficiencies learned in the preceding set. Continuing the Ride builds on the basic skills learned in the BRC course, and focuses on getting newer riders out safely on the streets. Courses under Improving the Ride help riders develop hazard awareness and crash avoidance skills, and introduce new cornering and tight maneuver techniques. Mastering the Ride courses introduce concepts in visual awareness, and allow riders to practice advanced cornering and braking skills on a closed course. Other Mastering the Ride courses focus on group riding formations and strategies, and also covers road captain advice. Rachel said that she took the ERC course to practice her riding skills beyond the beginner level, and that it reinforced to her how important it is to practice basic riding drills. She also learned that, after watching and practicing techniques in a popular riding technique DVD, that she was actually overusing the rear brake and clutch, so she was thankful to have caught this and learned alternate techniques.
Skills can be developed in ways other than attending an MSF course, too; plenty of riders whom I’ve met either in person or online through WOW and other riding groups enjoy learning and developing skills by participating in cornering classes, track schools, and dirt bike or off-road riding courses. Veronica Rowan with Gold Country Riders has attended multiple track instruction courses, and says: “Additional rider education through a track school, or a track day that provides instruction, can add to a rider’s safety because it offers a space where the rider can work on a particular skill, or set of skills. Track schools/days are great for this because there are few variables to deal with. The track doesn’t change from lap to lap, so you see the same course (road) over and over again. This gives the rider the opportunity to work on a particular skill or skill set in a (somewhat) static environment. The thing to remember is that while track riding is to always ride with a plan. If there is a specific skill that you think you can improve, work on that one thing purposefully until it becomes muscle memory.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself! However you choose to practice your skills, investing in practice allows everyone to benefit, and you could even save a life – possibly your own.
See page 6 for the complete article…