Course for New Rider — That Would Be Me — Emphasizes Safety, Mental Alertness

Despite having written about the powersports industry for half a year, neither this writer nor the rest of the Powersports Finance team had ever actually ridden a motorcycle.

Check that off the list.

The team took the trip to the Bronx, New York, to get a hands-on experience with riding at a Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s (MSF) Introductory Motorcycle Experience last Tuesday.

Facilitated by the Motorcycle Safety School, which holds various riding classes in the New York area, the Introductory Motorcycle Experience is meant to give those curious about riding their first taste of the vehicle. Over the course of our two-hour lesson, the Powersports Finance team learned all about the basics of motorcycles for a fee of $90 for each attendee.

“Everybody’s got to learn someway, whether they are self-taught, a friend teaches them, or they take a formal class,” Ray Ochs, the vice president of training systems at MSF, told Powersports Finance. “Obviously, we prefer the formal class because it’s well-researched and it’s got an extensive training component and a pretty extensive mental component, which means talking about riding perception and how good you are as a car driver. That’s a big part of it because bad car drivers typically make bad motorcycle riders.”

The first hour of the class was a walkthrough of the various functions and apparatuses of the bike, such as how to safely turn it on, check that it’s in neutral, and the location of the brakes and clutch.

After learning all the basics of the motorcycle, it was time to begin riding. Being an introductory course, we could only ride back in forth in a straight line to get a basic feel for how the bike moves and how to react while riding. Our instructor emphasized multiple times that riding is a very mental experience. Just keeping your eyes forward plays a crucial role in making calm, safe decisions.

“It’s more than just a physical skill,” Ochs said. “It’s a skill for the eyes and mind, more than of the hands and feet. People want to learn those hands-and-feet parts and manipulate everything, but we want to give better safety messages. We don’t want anybody getting hurt or having any incidents during the training.”

Assuming that the consumer has gotten bit by the motorcycle bug, they can then sign up for the Basic RiderCourse, MSF’s more extensive training program. Bundling a three-hour online course, a five-hour class lesson, and 10 hours of riding, the Basic RiderCourse covers the basics of operating a motorcycle and safety-oriented mental strategies for those serious about pursuing riding.

In the majority of states, the Basic RiderCourse is a “license waiver program.” The course concludes with a skill and knowledge test, which, if passed, means that a rider won’t have to do those at the Department of Motor Vehicles. The fee for a motorcycle license application varies state-to-state. For example, California, one of the most popular states for riding, charges a $35 fee vs New York, where a license application costs between $68 and $83.

On a national scale, about 30% to 40% of those who complete MSF’s training courses go on to acquire a motorcycle license. MSF also provides courses for experienced riders who wish to enhance their skill set.

This writer’s conclusion? I get why people would want to ride motorcycles. They’re fun!

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