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Learn How To Ride a Motorcycle - Part 1

By Walter F. Kern

Formal training is now required

Motorcycle forums on the Internet have been heating up with messages about learning how to ride a motorcycle. Just 18 years ago when I first took up motorcycling, there was little information around about classes that one might take to learn to ride. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) existed but was not well known. This was a good six years before most people had even heard of the Internet. My local Honda dealer certainly didn't know about the MSF. The 800 number was finally found in one of my motorcycle magazines and arrangements were made to attend the beginner's class.

Today, with the emergence of the Internet and the existence of many motorcycle Web sites including this one, access to information about the MSF is more abundant. New riders still want to learn how to ride safely. Many of them frequent Internet motorcycle forums that readily discuss training and the MSF.

I once received an email from a rider getting back into motorcycling after a 20 year absence. Excerpts from this email are given below to show you what real people are doing and thinking about regarding motorcycle training. After the email are excerpts from forum threads about MSF courses. Finally, here is a link to the MSF so you can pursue your own training.

There is a difference of opinion among forum members regarding their own experiences with MSF training. Some loved it. Some hated it. Some failed but want to try again. Some got thrown out. My own experiences were positive but there are elements of a military operation embedded in the MSF training. It is not easy and you may get yelled at a lot but the objective is to make you aware of what you are doing wrong on the range closed course so you won't make as many mistakes on the street. After 18 years my head still rings with the words of my female instructor: "Keep your head up, keep your head up, keep your head up!" The words you hear from your own range instructors may be different but heed them. They will save your life.

Email from js in Arizona:

"Thank you very much for all of the informative articles on motorcycle safety. It has been about 20 years since I've been on a motorcycle and I thought that taking an MSF class would be very beneficial. For the past several weeks I have been reading anything and everything I could find relating to safety, including your tips.

Today I went to pick up my new Honda Shadow VLX. I felt somewhat intimidated by this motorcycle. It was not just the fact that I had not ridden in so long but this is also the biggest bike I have ever owned. I told the salesman that I wanted to get the feel of it before venturing out into traffic.

The engine was purring contentedly as I swung my leg over the bike and strapped on my helmet. The overriding thought going through my mind was, 'take it slow and don't get killed on this thing!' I straightened the bike up and raised the kick stand. Putting it in 1st gear I very gingerly turned the throttle until the rpms increased just slightly while letting out the clutch. The bike began to roll forward and I immediately applied both brakes bringing it to a stop. So far so good, I thought. Now the big test, a left hand turn around a concrete street divider. There was a truck parked in a driveway just past the curve with its flashers on, obviously making a delivery. As I slowly began rolling and just started to make my turn, to my horror I saw his backup lights come on. Hitting both brakes, I came to a quick stop but I had forgotten to pull in the clutch and the bike died, leaning at a precarious angle.

Many of your safety tips came back to me as I was driving home. I am looking forward to taking the MSF class and learning how to 'start' riding a motorcycle the correct way." -- js from Arizona

Now read Page 2 to see what motorcycle forum members have said about MSF training.

=> Page 2: More about MSF training

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