Archive for the ‘motorcycle training’ Category

Rider Training Tweaks Proposed By Training Vendors

Monday, January 15th, 2018
CSP MOST meeting

The CSP’s first stakeholder engagement meeting.

The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) held its first stakeholder engagement meeting Friday, with about 20 people present, as it takes over control of the Colorado Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program (MOST) from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Essentially the meeting presented an opportunity for the organizations that provide rider training to propose tweaks to the program to help bring regulatory concepts into line with on-the-ground reality.

The first–and most extensive–discussion was on allowing larger bikes to be used in the Beginning Rider Course (BRC). Current limitations say no more than 350cc but it was argued that the limit should be raised to 500cc. The gist of the argument was that if most riders are going to actually get out on the road on larger bikes, why shouldn’t they be trained on the bikes they’re actually going to ride? It was agreed that the training vendors need to continue to have smaller training bikes on hand for those trainees who need them, but for those capable of handling larger bikes, why not make that an option?

As I understand it, there is also the consideration that the Harley-Davidson training programs all use larger bikes and thus are currently excluded from participation with MOST due to the 350cc limitation.

Also raised was the requirement that Rider Coaches be 21 years of age. The point made was that while there may not be a lot of 18-year-olds who you would want to trust as a Rider Coach, in the few cases where you would, why not allow it? This is especially important because there is currently a shortage of Rider Coaches in the Colorado and opening it up a little more could help. It was also suggested that the requirement that a Rider Coach training in Colorado must hold a Colorado driver’s license be amended.

This opened up the issue that some of the specifics vendors deal with are written in law while others are only regulatory in nature. CSP personnel at the meeting made it clear they want to get a solid year under their belts running MOST before they start talking about proposing legislative changes. The consensus at the meeting was that that was reasonable but that these sorts of issues ought to be presented as a package when the time comes.

Another suggestion was to try to have the law rewritten so as to reference the curriculum in use. That way, it would not be necessary to change the law every time the curriculum changes. Apparently, however, there are some limitations on citing outside sources “by reference” because there is the possibility that those sources might call for something contrary to state law. There do appear to be workarounds in this regard, though.

That brings us to the point in the meeting where Bruce Downs, state coordinator for ABATE of Colorado, took the floor to present a series of tweaks and revisions that his organization (of which I am a member) would like to see made. I’ll go over all that in my next post.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if all your leathers match.

Refreshing And Enhancing Skills In The Experienced Rider Course

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Bob (left) and Will, the other students in my ERC.

I took the Experienced Rider Course (ERC) once before. In fact, it was the first rider training course I ever took. Since then I’ve also taken the Beginning Rider Course twice, a dirtbike riding course, and I did the Rider Coach Training course, although I never worked as a Rider Coach. Here’s a tip: it never hurts to take a riding course–you always learn something new and improve existing skills.

The primary focus of this ERC I did on Friday was tight maneuvering. That wasn’t all, of course. The overall point is to learn to be a better rider everywhere. But if you can handle a big bike in tight quarters, handling that same bike in the wide open spaces is just that much easier. And sometimes that extra bit of control can make all the difference.

So I’ll get right to it. The number one thing I got out of this course was understanding what it takes to make a big bike make a really tight turn. Maybe you’ve seen these riders doing circles on big baggers that you couldn’t even dream of doing on a little 250. How the heck do they do that?

Don’t think I’m going to claim that I can do that now. But I am a little closer.

Bob, the instructor, talked about counter-weighting. If you need to lean the bike way over you also need to move your body the other direction to balance that out. Counter-weighting. To do this you put your weight on the outside peg and lean way back.

But the thing that got me was his instruction to keep your inside arm straight. Think about that. You’re turning left, you’ve got that left grip tucked in close to your body, and yet you need to keep your arm straight. If that’s not going to keep your weight off to the other side nothing will.

Fact is, I wasn’t sure it was even possible. I mean, OK, let’s say you’re riding a sport bike with little clip-ons. That seems doable. But my CB750 has a steer-horn handlebar that is 31 inches from tip to tip, and sitting upright in the saddle with the wheel turned as far as it can go the grip is about five inches from my stomach. I’m supposed to keep that arm straight?!

Guess what? It can be done. I couldn’t go it right off, but we went around again and again and I kept pushing myself and after awhile it happened. I’ve never made tighter turns with that bike in my life. I admit that the thought of putting weight on my outside peg never crossed my mind, though I suspect that happened naturally.

Most of the rest of the course was a refresh. We practiced techniques I know but maybe was a little rusty with. But then, I’ve taken this course before, as well as others. If you haven’t ever taken a riding course there’s probably a ton of stuff you’ve never learned. I don’t care if you’ve been riding 40 years I bet you’d learn something new. And you’ll be a better rider.

Is there any reason in the world that that would not be a good thing?

Biker Quote for Today

I hate being sexy but I’m a biker, so I can’t help it.

A Homecoming Of Sorts For The Experienced Rider Course

Monday, July 3rd, 2017
motorcycle training course

Bob sets up cones on the course for the next exercise.

I’ve always been a big proponent of rider training and that led to an offer for me to take another course at no charge. The assumed quid pro quo was that I would then write about it. Well, of course I would, I write about just about everything in my life that involves motorcycles.

So on Friday I went up to Thornton to BLACK B.A.G. for the ERC, or perhaps it is now considered the BRC2. I’m not totally clear on this but I believe the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s old Experienced Rider Course has been totally revised and what had been the ERC is now considered the Beginning Rider Course 2. Doesn’t matter.

There were three in my class: me, Bob, and Will. Bob rode dirt bikes as a kid but hadn’t ridden anything after about age 25 until in November he bought a Kawasaki KLR 650. He took the BRC then and was back now for the ERC/BRC2. Will is a National Guardsman who needed rider training certification in order to be allowed to ride his V-Max on base.

The instructor is also Bob. And Bob is a good instructor. He inserts enough humor to keep things fun and he has developed effective techniques for eliciting participation from the students. Participation requires attention and thinking, and those enhance learning.

Knowing I was going to be doing tight maneuvers and, who knows, might even drop the bike at some point, it was easy for me to decide which bike to take. Both the Concours and V-Strom are tall bikes with big gas tanks up high. I rode my CB750 because it is lower and has a much lower center of gravity.

What I didn’t think about until I got there was that this was sort of a homecoming. I lived up on the north side of town, in unincorporated Adams County,for 17 years before moving to southeast Denver 21 years ago. When I bought my first motorcycle ever, my 1980 Honda CB750 Custom, this was where I lived. I learned to ride on that bike and when it came time to get my motorcycle accreditation on my drivers license I went to the Motor Vehicle office in this very shopping center where BLACK B.A.G. now operates. I took, and passed (on my second try), the riding skills test on this very motorcycle that I was there on for training on Friday. This is where it all started.

There’s no question I’m a much better rider now that way back then. A lot of that is simply experience, but there’s a good bit of it that is due to all the rider training courses I’ve taken over the years. We talked, for instance, about making U-turns on narrow roads. My buddies in the OFMC universally do Y-turns, jockeying back and forth, while I slip the clutch, ride the rear brake, and easily ride the U-turn at walking speed. I learned that in these classes.

So what did I get out of this latest one? I’ll get into that in my next post.

Biker Quote for Today

Some take drugs, some drink bottles. I solve my problems by twisting throttles.

Trail Braking Or Dragging The Brake?

Monday, January 18th, 2016
Bikes On A Curve

When trail braking, keep a little pressure on the front brake.

I’ve written a number of times about trail braking but the last time I did I got a note from Dan with some surprising information. Dan said he was familiar with trail braking but his definition of it was totally different than mine. He sent along a link to an article by Nick Ienatsch that explained what trail braking is and how it works.

I did some quick Googling to see what showed up on a search and sure enough, the bulk of what I found fit Dan’s idea of trail braking. The best I could find about the technique I called by that name was “dragging the rear brake.”

Obviously I found this very interesting. What I have called “trail braking,” the practice of revving the engine while slipping the clutch and applying some rear brake, was brought to my attention by an instructor in a Beginning Rider Course, and that is what he called it. So that is what I have called it ever since.

What Nick Ienatsch describes is something quite different. You can read his article via that link above but basically the idea, as I understand it, is for when you go into a curve at highway speed. You always want to shed excess speed while still mostly upright, before you initiate your lean, but in trail braking you don’t fully release the front brake. You maintain slight pressure so that if the curve turns tighter than expected you can squeeze a little tighter to shed some more speed. If you have no brake pressure applied and then add a bunch you can get yourself in trouble. If you already are applying some pressure and just increase that a little, then things are likely to go more smoothly.

That’s a really interesting concept for me in more ways than one. When I first learned to ride I was told, and for years everything I read said, do not apply the front brake in a curve–you’ll high-side. And truth be told, I violated that dictum many times because from time to time I found myself in turns that were tighter than anticipated and what else was I supposed to do? Run off the road? I’ve always been extremely careful and cautious in doing so, and I’ve never had any problem.

It’s only in the last few years that I did finally read something saying that braking in the curve is a viable option, as long as executed properly, and that felt like a vindication. And now that I understand the concept I’m eager to experiment and master this technique.

So I guess I won’t call dragging the rear brake “trail braking” any more. But you can bet I’ll continue using the technique for making slow speed U-turns easy. And maybe some day the guys I ride with will finally ask me how it is that I can make these turns so much more easily than they can, and maybe then those old dogs will finally learn a new trick.

Biker Quote for Today

The only people who wear helmets are pansies, nerds, and anyone who wants to live when the idiot next to you doesn’t check his blind spot when changing lanes.

Response On MOST Discussion

Saturday, May 9th, 2015
beginning rider course

A beginning rider course.

One big difference between doing this blog and writing for a newspaper is that at a newspaper I would need to take a lot of time talking to people on all sides of an issue before sitting down to write what would hopefully be an article that distills conflicting views down into something approaching the truth. Even now, with a lot more time available, I’m not going to spend entire days tracking down this kind of comprehensive information. And with a fast-breaking story like this anti-MOST bill, I would have ended up not publishing anything until long after the matter was decided. So I get comments from one person and present them and then get rebuttal from someone else and present that. Gradually I get more expert in the subject myself and can discuss my understanding of what the truth of the matter is, but in the meantime I do my best to present all sides.

With that lead-in, I got an email Friday from Terry Howard, no longer with ABATE but now with Motorcyclists Advocacy of Colorado, who has had a lot of experience with the MOST program and rider training issues. She had this to say in response to what I’ve published about the late bill to kill the MOST program.
Hi Ken,

I just read your article and I am not sure where people are getting their information from, but it is incorrect information. I helped Mr. Parks write the bid for the MOST administrative program. Nothing can be further from the truth about a Total Control training monopoly! A monopoly is what MSF has in Colorado today. ALL rider training licensing courses in Colorado use MSF. In fact, Total Control Training is the ONLY company that would admin the program in Colorado with a choice of curriculum. They have the staff to provide Q&A for 3 different curricula. If the bid were to be awarded to Total Control Training, schools can teach MSF and/or Total Control. It is not a one or nothing deal.

I applaud Mr. Parks for asking for an endorsement from SMSA. We can ask why no one else has ever bothered to do this. While SMSA is not an accrediting agency, they are composed of state motorcycle safety administrators, so I would think their review would hold some credibility. Where could you find a better group of people to review a curriculum? MSF can do the same thing, they just haven’t.

While I understand that the Senate bill had the SMSA component in there, Mr. Parks was not aware of this until it was written in the bill. Mr. Parks had no contact with the senator whatsoever. Someone else must have suggested that wording to Senator Sonnenberg.

I like the Total Control Training program. When I found out that they had licensing courses I was quite interested in learning more about it. After learning that Texas, Maryland, US Navy, and the US Marine Corp all are using this curriculum, I felt it should be explored in Colorado. Anyone that knows me (including MOST staff) is well aware that I have always been a proponent for a second curriculum that would address riding conditions in Colorado more in depth than what the MSF curriculum does. I will admit when I first met Lee Parks I wasn’t really sure about him. After taking the time to speak with him and work with him over the past couple of years, I can say this man truly believes in his work and I have the utmost respect for him. He is passionate about motorcycle safety and training. He is always striving to improve his program and takes suggestions from instructors in the field. I told Lee that I would be happy to bring his curriculum to MOST to go through the approval process. Which is exactly what one of his instructors and I did back in early March.

I have copied him on this email and I am suggesting to you to get his point of view. I know you are only reporting what has been stated to you. I also know you well enough that you would like the other side of the story, so please email Lee. Get the full story. So many people out there seem to jump to conclusions without going to the source to find out exactly what the intentions are. So many folks are, dare I use the word “afraid” of change, that they panic without knowing all the facts. My comment to the training companies, before you get in a tizzy, learn all the facts and quit listening to rumor.

Thanks Ken, I always appreciate your interest and pursuit in getting information out to motorcyclists.

I’ll tell you where this matter leaves me: I look forward eagerly to the definitive exposition of this whole business that Matt Wessels is working on. It will be a while yet. Matt is getting married soon so he can be excused for not making this his top priority. But at this point I don’t think there’s any rush. I certainly do hope he has it ready to go before the next legislative session, however.

Biker Quote for Today

Gear: Because walking away in disgust beats riding away in an ambulance.

Motorcycle Organizations Turning Against MOST

Monday, February 2nd, 2015
Motorcycle Riding Course

Even the pros need training and practice, as this officer has demonstrated.

Some motorcycle groups never supported the MOST program in the first place but now even those that have are turning against it. Look for it to be an issue at the state capitol this session and next.

MOST, or Colorado’s Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program, was created to make motorcycle rider training more affordable, with the expectation that lower costs would encourage more riders to get trained. In order to fund this, an extra $2 is tacked onto the motorcycle registration fees we all pay each year. While some riders have objected to paying out of their pocket for someone else’s benefit, others have been willing to pay the extra to make riding safer and, by doing that, forestall any moves by legislators to reinstate Colorado’s helmet law.

Of the money raised by this $2 fee, 15 percent of it has been earmarked for the administrative costs of operating the program. The rest is to be used to reduce training costs for students.

Now, ABATE of Colorado and others are upset that the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), which administers MOST, has put out a request for proposals with the intent to bring on a contractor to oversee MOST. And the money to pay that contractor would come out of the 85 percent that is supposed to go for training, not the 15 percent for administration.

ABATE’s legislative liaison, Stump, explained that they feel it is too late to be getting a bill in this session that would terminate the $2 fee, although that is definitely a likelihood for next session. In the meantime, efforts are being made to have legislators put pressure on the MOST bureaucrats to justify their intended use of this money in ways not specified in the legislation.

One fly in this ointment, however, seems to be that the actual legislation was not specific about this intent. While the debate and discussion at the time MOST was created clearly held reducing rider training costs as the intent, that wording never made it into the bill.

We’ll see now how much influence motorcyclists have with the state legislature.

(Not related to MOST, but regarding rider training, if you’re in England and want to feel more confident riding there, they do have rider training companies over there, too. We suggest visiting London Motorcycle Training.)

Biker Quote for Today

A smart rider knows what he knows, a wise rider knows what he does not know.

Imagine If You Could Really Ride That Thing

Friday, September 26th, 2014
motorcycles on a dirt road

Can you ride a U-turn on this road?

Some of the OFMC took a fall ride in the hills recently and we ended up in a situation that really got me thinking.

We went up Golden Gate Canyon and there was a spot where we came to a dirt road that a friend of Bill’s lives up. Bill had said that if the road wasn’t too bad he wanted to take a quick run up there and see his friend’s place. So we turned onto the road and stopped to survey the situation.

Now, Dennis made it clear he had no intention of going up this road under any circumstances. Dennis is short and can barely get to the ground with his tip-toes on his big Harley, and he refuses to do any dirt, ever. He and whoever else would just wait for whoever did go to return.

I was on my Honda so I was game to go; would have been a different story if I had been on the Concours. That Connie hates gravel.

We checked it out, though, and right away there was a pretty good uphill. As Dennis said, if that was the worst of it, it wouldn’t be too bad. If that was the best of it, it would be terrible. Bill, on his Harley, decided not to try it.

So we needed to turn around and get back on the main road. You can see in that photo above where we were and what turning around would entail.

Now, none of these guys is a novice rider. They’ve all been riding longer than me and Dennis especially has probably logged more miles on a motorcycle than the rest of us combined. But I have one advantage over all of them: I have taken both the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Beginning Rider Course and the Experienced Rider Course (now called the Advanced Rider Course). Plus, I trained to become a rider coach, although I never ended up doing that.

So without saying anything to them, I decided I would go first and lead by example, doing a riding turnaround. You can see in the road ahead where it gets a bit wider, and I rode up there and then used trail braking to make a slow, careful U-turn and then cruised on back to where they were sitting, waiting for their turns.

And this is the thing. With all their riding experience, none of these guys knows anything about trail braking. I watched as each one rode up to the wide spot and started making a turn, then stopped, backed up a little, and then completed their Y-turns. Of course this was especially hard for Dennis with his short legs. Pushing back–on gravel–when you can barely reach the ground is not easy.

Hey guys, it might surprise you how much you could learn if you took something like the Advanced Rider Course. Did watching me not make you think at all about improving your riding skills?

So what is trail braking, some of you might ask. It’s really simple. As you go into a slow motion turn, you rev the throttle a little to keep the bike from stalling and–primarily–to generate some gyroscopic force to keep the bike upright. But of course the last thing you want to do is go fast, so you also apply gentle pressure to your rear brake. The result of all this is that you have excellent control of the bike while moving at walking speed and you just stroll right on around. It really is as simple as it sounds. And you know what? They teach trail braking in the Advanced Rider Course.

I didn’t say anything to anyone that day but at some point I will. Not that I expect any of them to take the course. These are old dogs who aren’t interested in new tricks. But maybe if I explain to them what trail braking is, they might try that on their own. Maybe.

Biker Quote for Today

“But officer, bikes fall over if they aren’t going fast.”

RawHyde Adventures Opens Second Training Facility Here

Monday, December 16th, 2013
motorcycle riding in the dirt

The dirt is calling me.

My introduction to RawHyde Adventures was excitement followed by disappointment. Back a few years ago when being the National Motorcycle Examiner was a viable gig I was contacted by someone asking if I’d be interested in participating in a media event at their then only facility out in California. This was to be–I don’t remember–a four or five day session where they would put us up and feed us and give us several days of off-road training. All I would have to do would be get myself there and get home. Of course I said yes instantly.

It didn’t pan out. This was a short-notice event and while I was totally flexible and able to leap in an instant, apparently the folks working for the more traditional magazines and such could not drop everything and go. It got canceled. I was bummed.

Well, just Sunday I discovered that as of June RawHyde has opened a Colorado facility. I can’t tell from their website just where exactly they are; all it says is “Located high in the Rocky Mountains on the Continental Divide Trail, in the heart of the best Adventure Riding in America.” So it’s somewhere up there in the hills.

If you’re looking to get some training for adventure riding–this is not just riding dirt, it’s more ambitious–RawHyde seems to have a pretty good program. The classes or whatever they call them are:

  • Intro to Adventure Training Camp
  • The Next Step Training Camp
  • Rocky Mountain Adventure Ride
  • High Rockies Adventure Ride
  • The Continental Divide Ride

And they say coming soon, the Triple Nickel Test Ride Program. Not sure what that is.

It looks good. The intro unit is described as, “For experienced street riders wanting to get comfortable in the dirt.” Here’s what they say it will include:

  • An introduction to dirt riding techniques and the top mistakes people make
  • Body position for effective off-road riding
  • Throttle, brake and clutch techniques
  • Weight-shift techniques for steering
  • Balance techniques
  • Turning technique using counterbalancing
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • How to control front and rear wheel skids
  • Hard Acceleration technique on dirt and gravel
  • Hill Climbing
  • Descending steep hills in a controlled manner
  • How to ride in Sand and Gravel
  • How to recover from a stall on a steep hill
  • How to turn around, fully loaded on a steep hill

That sounds like that would about do it. Where do I sign up? And how much does it cost?

Oh yeah, cost. Get out your wallet, cause it ain’t cheap. If you ride your own bike (they do have rentals) the sign-up is $1,395. Ouch. Some people obviously have more money than I do. Maybe you.

What you get for that money is a two and one-half day program, food and beverages, three nights lodging, and a T-shirt. And not just any food. “All meals prepared by Cordon Bleu trained Chefs.”

So, wow. Wow, I’d really like to do this. Wow, I really don’t have that kind of money. Hey RawHyde, if you want to do a media event to help publicize the fact that you’ve got this new operation running, give me a call. I’ll say yes in a heartbeat once again. I’ll even bring my own bike.

Biker Quote for Today

That hill doesn’t look too hard… go first!

Track Day Opportunity at High Plains Raceway

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Racers at High Plains Raceway

Have you ever whined that you’d really like to see how fast your bike can go but you don’t want to risk the ticket? Stop your whining, here’s your chance.

Erico Motorsports just announced that they are sponsoring two track days at High Plains Raceway, out east near Byers. The dates are June 4 and August 6.

The charge to just go out on the track is $250. For an extra Benjamin Erico offers “a ton of coaching from Team Erico to include classroom time. Yeah, we’re not pros but I’ll bet we can get you going much faster, staying much safer, and having a blast riding your bike how it was intended.”

Of course, you’ve got to have all the gear, and you need to drain your coolant and replace it with water. They’ll be serving breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and the track will be ready to at 8:30.

If you’re interested, you’ll need to contact John at He’s also there to answer any questions you might have and provide complete information.

I did a track day once and I have to tell you, it was humbling. There were the folks who knew they belonged in the beginner group and then some of us who couldn’t conceive that we should be in that lowly position. I went out with the mid-level group and promptly found myself the slowest guy on the track, by a long shot. But I had fun and maybe I learned enough to get at least a bit better. It definitely made me a lot more respectful of the skill those guys have who go really, really fast.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Clock ticks as Michigan’s Snyder weighs helmet repeal

Biker Quote for Today

Whoever said money can’t buy happiness has never owned a sportbike.

AMA Staff Put Heads Together, Offer Their Experience

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

bikers at Yosemite

Most of us have learned a lot of lessons in motorcycling by doing things that make us say, “Oops, I guess I won’t do that again.” It’s called experience.

Well, the folks who work for the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) have between them an awful lot of experience. And somebody got the idea for them all to collect the tips they have picked up along the way and offer their wisdom to all riders. The result is the Rider Resources page on the AMA website. It’s worth a look.

The page has three sections, Riding, Wrenching, and Learning. Each section offers a variety of articles on different topics. For instance, under Riding they offer “33 Secrets for Smart Touring,” “Tips for Crossing the Border,” and “Keeping Warm.” Under Wrenching the topics include such as “Used-Bike Buying Checklist” and “The Bike Stopped. Now What?” “Books We Love to Read” and “Riding With Disabilities” are two of the topics under Learning.

A lot of the info is sure to be stuff most of us already know, though newbies will find it very helpful. A lot is not such common knowledge. For instance, among the 33 touring tips are some jewels like this: If you’re nearing the end of your riding day and want to set yourself up for a quick getaway in the morning, consider riding to the far side of the next city you reach before you stop for the night, eliminating urban traffic the next morning.

At the same time, I find it amusing that the piece on what to do if the bike stops on you doesn’t mention what is probably one of the biggest reasons for this sort of occurrence: the kill switch. Who among us hasn’t had the experience of the bike either dying or failing to start and after beating our heads against the wall for . . . how long? . . . realizing it was just the kill switch. It happened to me one time when I reached over to engage my throttle lock and inadvertently hit that switch. I was stopped there by the side of the road for 15 minutes before it dawned on me.

That shortcoming aside, however, a whole bunch of riders offering their best advice has to have something of value for just about any rider. Take a look and see what you can learn.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Custom motorcycles to tour, one to be given away

Biker Quote for Today

You know you’re becoming addicted to riding when you crash your bicycle when you lock up the tire because you were trying to use the brake as a clutch lever.