I was able to take the motorcycle safety class that I wanted. 2 days on a motorcycle when you aren’t used to it will wear you out! The class I took was from the RIDE instructors. Its a variation of the MSF basic riders course, and I took the class at the Harley dealership in Pelham.
It was raining as I drove to the class location, and continued to rain on and off until 10:30 or so. The rain wasn’t heavy, and didn’t stop us from doing anything. There were 5 men and 3 women in the class, and the instructors weren’t being jerks to folks. They knew I have a scooter, and are cool with it. One of the other ladies has a Honda Reflex that she rides regularly, and had just gotten a Harley Softtail. We were riding Honda Rebels, little 250cc bikes. We were schooled not only on the maneuvers they wanted us to do, but on proper mounting and dismounting of the bikes. We spent a good chunk of time on the bike, learning where the clutch engaged and disengaged, as well as the slow speed maneuvers, the straight weave, 90 degree turns and offset turns. We even managed to start working on shifting gears. I managed to get the bike into 3rd gear and back down!
We had one person go down late the first day in the class, as we were coming back from a break and doing offset weaves. I was a bit disconcerted by it, but the rider picked up the bike and got back on it and kept going with the exercise. After class was over, and most everyone else had gone, one of the instructors was riding his Harley RoadKing through some of the cones for the course, doing the offset weaves on it. I was impressed.
After fighting the clutch and not finding neutral the first day, I was able to find neutral much more often on the second day. I still was fighting the clutch all day long. The instructors knew I was a scooter rider with an automatic transmission, so I have a feeling they gave me more latitude on my clutch handling – say rather my gear shifting skills than they gave the folks who had just bought motorcycles. If I am going to be doing any regular MC riding, I think I’ll be getting a pair of MC boots that are made more for that and don’t have quite so distinct a tread pattern as my hiking boots. They work well for me with the scooter footboard, but fighting the foot pegs on a regular basis is not on my list of things to do.
Nobody had an attitude about what we were learning, so everyone in class was open to actually learn something. Most folks, if they’ve ridden, either hadn’t ridden recently or were there to see about learning something new. Some were very new to it. Nobody was flunked, and everybody seemed to be willing to listen and adjust what they were doing within the limits of what they were physically capable of. I noticed that I was starting out much more tired on the second day, and that I was having problems with fatigue in some exercises in the morning. This afternoon as we were working on swerves and emergency braking at the end of the day I saw that I was making some stupid mistakes from fatigue. Nothing horrid in itself, but not something I would do if I was fresh and sharp. And I was recognizing that it was not right. I was semi joking around with folks about learning the clutch and now needing a couple hundred hours to get good and comfortable with shifting gears.
The nice thing about this particular class is that the instructors make themselves available by phone and email afterward and you have the option of riding another class in the future for no charge when there is an empty seat.
I really would like to take my scooter and ride the course of cones they had. I’ll be taking some of the ones I have and setting up a course in a parking lot and practicing the weaves and obstacle avoidance swerves, as well as emergency braking for sure. I got up to 25 MPH on the last day. I was joking with DH about it, and saying that now I was a real MC rider. I could shift gears up and down. If nothing else, I feel confident now that if we were out riding on DH’s Ural and something happened to him, I could get us home without any major mishap.
Of course everyone asked if I was planning on moving up to a MC. I told most folks that I wasn’t planning on getting anything now. After the entire class was over when I was asked that, I told them that I really wanted to get proficient with my scooter first. I couldn’t say for the future, but that option is open for me. And that DH is looking at possibly getting either a trail bike or a dual sport bike, and that would be one I would be happy to pick up and ride more than the Ural.
My shoulders, forearms and wrists ached and hurt after the class. I spent more time working the clutch than I’ve done with my left hand in a very long time.