Today was the first day of my ten days of Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) RiderCoach training. The training is taking place in Hutchinson, MN which is about 75 miles or an hour and 45 minutes from my house, so I’m staying in a hotel. It’s my first time in Hutchinson. It seems alright so far.
The training starts by taking the Basic Rider Course (BRC) over two days with classroom in the morning and then range work on the motorcycle afterwards. the idea is to see how a BRC is run, and to get some recent experience as a participant. The following two weekends will be learning how to coach/teach the material.
Our coaches today were Jay and Steve. Both of them are very experienced and have been RiderCoaches for more than ten years. One of the first things I liked is that they broke us into three small groups, each seated at groups of tables. Each of the tables had small 1:12 miniature motorcycles models on the table. Very cool. My table had an FJR (Yamaha), the other tables had an Aprilia and a Ninja. Jay also had a little dirtbike in the back which came in handy when talking about the different kinds of bikes. I’m going to copy him. It is a great excuse to buy some toys!
Late in the morning, we went out onto the range for the on bike exercises. The weather wasn’t cooperating and was spitting a fine mist at 45F. Over the course of the day, the misting turning into actual rain. It didn’t warm up either. All of the other participants being experienced riders, had rain gear. We all looked like bananas especially me in my yellow one-piece rain suit! Tomorrow should be warmer and hopefully sunnier.
There were a few different bikes to choose from: Suzuki GZ250, Suzuki TU250X, Suzuki DR200, and a Yamaha TW200. I picked the TW200 as I’ve always wanted to ride one of those and all of the TU250Xs were taken. I think I took my BRC on a DR200. The TW200 is a fun little bike. I wanted to ride it into the dirt at the end of the parking lot, but that wasn’t allowed.
I was surprised how much I improved over the course of the day. We ran through the first nine of the seventeen BRC range exercises. My favorite parts were the slow speed maneuvers – the swerving, the pause and goes, and the clutch control zones.
The swerving exercises were going through various offset weaves and inline weaves of cones. I found the trick for me was to pick a good speed and then maintain it as I was going through. It was also helpful to start the turn for the next cone as soon as I arrived at a cone. It was fun.
The pause and goes were a set of cones where you’re supposed to slow, check for traffic, but not stop. No putting a foot down either. I took it as a chance to practice something I like doing on the road which is to come to a complete stop with my feet on the pegs and sit there for a count of at least two. Two things which makes this easier are to relax and to balance the clutch/throttle. Clutch full in, and you’ll have to put a foot down. Same with the throttle closed. It’s fun! You should try it!
The clutch control zones were a pair of parallel lines and the object was to go as slow as possible while only using the clutch and throttle. I found it best to stop at the beginning and then crawl through modulating the clutch and throttle in the friction zone. No cheating by coasting either with the clutch pulled in or the clutch all the way out. I was surprised how slow I was able to go by the end of the day. I think I could go slower if I dragged the rear brake slightly.
Despite the pouring rain, I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. The other future RiderCoaches all seem like great people too. I’m looking forward to working with them more. Jay and Steve were also great. I hope I will be half as good as them. There is the other half of the BRC tomorrow and then we’ll be back Thursday for the beginning of the RiderCoach Prep Course (RCPC).