I have already referenced the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s excellent Basic Rider Course (BRC) in an earlier post, an experience I recommend in the strongest possible terms for anyone starting out on two wheels. But the MSF also offers an Experienced Rider Course, and Robin and I had the privilege of taking this outstanding one-day class last week, through the auspices of LORE Motorcycle Education in Topsham, Maine.
We are especially grateful to rider coach John and his very capable assistants Cindy and Willie for the tremendous instruction, critique and practice we received during this class. One of the most significant differences between the ERC and the Basic Course is that, for the ERC, you ride your own bike! Therefore, the practice and skill-building you get is directly applicable to the machine you are riding every day.
So, yes, this post is about safety on two wheels, and as John put it so well at the end of the course, this class should be full — because everybody who rides needs to take it. One of the things that has always interested me about learning skills of any kind is that, left to our own devices, we develop habits which might sometimes be less than ideal. The ERC shows you these habits and then attempts to train you out of them. Therefore, this class should be on the “to-do” list for anyone who rides regularly. And I know that many of the folks who might read this blog are not riders, but don’t worry — I’ll have some motorbike safety tips for you here, too!
For example, I had no idea that I was sticking my legs out when turning at slow speeds! Pointless, and unstabilizing to the bike, but there it was. Robin learned about hard braking, and how much of each brake (front and rear) to use. And we both had to practice tight turns, emergency swerves, and braking.
The class alternated skills practice with a helpful review and discussion of issues pertinent to riding on two wheels — things like stopping distances, and risk avoidance, and lane management to minimize hazards (motorists might not know that bikers divide the lane into three parts, and always should be choosing which third of the lane keeps them safest at any given moment). And always, Cindy and Willie were there with John to answer questions, demonstrate skills, and provoke discussion.
**all photos in this post courtesy of Jill Hodgdon
So, in summary, this was a tremendous class and I highly recommend it to anybody who rides a motorbike. But for those of you do NOT ride a motorbike, there are some motorcycle safety tips you should know, too!
* Never share a lane with a motorbike — we need all of it to avoid hazards like debris or gravel or oil on the road, or to prepare to crest a hill or approach a curve.
* The majority of motorbike crashes come at the rider from the front, because a driver turns left across the biker’s path. The second biggest cause of crashes is motorists pulling out from side streets into the biker’s path. This is because motorbikes are much more difficult for drivers to see, both because they are smaller and because drivers are typically looking for cars. So please, LOOK TWICE!
* Rain reduces traction for a motorbike, which means we need to go more slowly to stay safe. Please be patient if driving behind a biker in the rain.
* Give bikers lots of room at night. We can’t see as well, and you can’t see us as well as during the daytime. Again, this means that we need to travel more slowly. Honestly, my headlight on low beam can’t illuminate the road for me much beyond 45MPH. If I’m riding in traffic at night, I need to slow down to make it home safely. So please, help us out!
And again — I can’t overstate how helpful the ERC has been for us. If you ride, sign up for the class! And if you know someone who rides, consider giving the class as a gift — the information and skills contained in this class are priceless! Thanks again to John, Cindy and Willie for a tremendous experience all around! (And to Jill for lunch, too!)